Android Game Development with GameSalad

androidgamedevelopmenttutorialHave you ever been addicted to a game on your Android phone or tablet? Have you ever thought about how cool would be to be able to create your own games? Believe it or not, by using the right tools almost anyone can create their own Android game. Even if you have no programming experience, Android game engines such as GameSalad making development relatively easy.

Even though you do not need any programming experience to create awesome 2-D games using GameSalad, you do need to have a basic understanding of how computer programs work. Specifically, the concepts of looping and conditional execution are essential to creating games using GameSalad. If you are not familiar with these terms, the Programming for Non- Programmers course is a great place to start.

What is GameSalad?

GameSalad allows just about anyone to create their own Android games by using a drag-and-drop interface. Using this interface, you can piece together your game graphically and assign behavior to the different elements (sometimes known as assets) within your game.

GameSalad isn’t just for beginners though. Many people who are familiar with coding still rely on GameSalad and similar game engines to create games because it is much quicker than manually inputting thousands of lines of code. GameSalad truly lets you focus on creating awesome games without worrying about all the technicalities.

About the only bad thing about using GameSalad is that is currently limited to 2-D games. With 3-D games becoming increasingly popular, this may seem like a significant limitation. However, many of the most popular games in the Google Play Store are 2-D games and you can create these very easily using GameSalad. It’s also worth noting that GameSalad works very well for creating games for the iPhone as well. In fact, GameSalad was originally created for OS X (the Apple OS) but it became so popular that developers created a Windows version as well.

Getting Started

Assuming you will be using a Windows machine, the first thing you need to do is download the GameSalad Creator from the GameSalad website. GameSalad is free to use although they do offer a Pro version for $299 that provides a host of additional benefits including in-app purchasing and Android publication. When you’re first getting started, however, it’s not necessary to purchase a Pro license and you can do this at any time in the future.

You also need to install the Java SDK from Oracle’s website. Follow the instructions to successfully install the Java SDK and then download the Android SDK from Google. Once again, follow the instructions to complete installation successfully. Both of these tools are free and should only take a few minutes to download and install to your machine.

Once the Android SDK has been installed successfully, open up the Android SDK Manager (which controls the Android versions downloaded to your computer) and make sure that you download the following key components:

  • Android SDK Tools

  • Android SDK Platform-tools

  • Latest Android API (currently 4.2)

  • Google USB Driver

After making sure these components are checked, click install and wait. This portion of the installation process does take some time as each component has to be downloaded and installed individually by the Android SDK Manager.

Since GameSalad was originally created for OS X, there are a couple of limitations when using Windows to create Android applications. The most notable is that the Android Viewer (used to test Android games created in GameSalad in OS X) does not work on Windows machines. Instead, you will actually install your game directly to an Android phone to perform testing and debugging. Although this isn’t hard to do, it is worth noting as you will be required to have an Android phone to successfully test your game.

You can learn more about setting up GameSalad correctly in the Introduction to Mobile Games Development course that specializes in harnessing the power of GameSalad.

Creating a Game

With your computer properly configured for Android game development, the next step is to actually create a game using GameSalad. In GameSalad, you will find a variety of templates that can be used to quickly get started.

Although you do not have to use these templates, it certainly makes it easier if you have no experience when most of the graphics have already been added. There are templates for basic Shooter games, Pong style games, and even a cross platform controller template that is compatible with both iOS and Android.

If the templates are simply not for you, you can create a new game from scratch. Although most of your game’s features can be done within the drag-and-drop interface of GameSalad, it doesn’t hurt to learn some Android programming basics. Learn Android from Scratch is a comprehensive course about manually programming in Android ‒ a skill that will be useful as you become more adept as an Android game developer.

GameSalad does provide a Marketplace where you can download game assets (sprites, backgrounds, etc.) for your games.  Alternatively, you can create your own assets using a program such as Photoshop.  You can learn more about using Photoshop in Foundations of Photoshop.

Publishing Your Game

As previously mentioned, the free version of GameSalad only allows you to publish your games in HTML5 format. This is great because it can be played via a web browser by most people and is a great way to get feedback about your game. However, since you are interested in creating an Android game, you are going to want to offer it in the Google Play Store alongside all the other popular Android games.

To do this, you will need to purchase a Pro GameSalad license for $299. This is a one-time fee and it will allow you to publish Android and iOS games which can be shared through the Google Play Store and Apple App Store respectively.

Please also note that to upload games to the Google Play Store you will need a Developer license from Google. They are only $25 as a one-time fee and this will allow you to upload as many games as you would like to the Google Play Store. Your developer license also gives you access to powerful analytical tools that allow you to track the performance of your game in terms of advertising revenue and total downloads as well as a bunch of other useful information.

GameSalad is unique because it allows anyone to start creating games right now. As your skill level progresses, you will likely pick up programming skills which you can use to create games outside of GameSalad, but the point is that you do not need to spend months learning how to program before you can start creating really cool Android games.