Easiest, most fun way to program 2D games? Flash? XNA? Some other engine?

  • Easiest, most fun way to program 2D games? Flash? XNA? Some other engine? Maxi

    this is a post detailing my search for the most enjoyable way for a hobbyist game programmer to sweeten his free time with making a game.

    My requirements: I looked at Flash first, I made a couple of small games but I'm doubtful of the performance. I would like to make a fairly large strategy game, with several hundred units fighting simultaneously, explosions and animations included. Also zoomable maps. I saw that Adobe has a new 3D API for Flash, but I don't know if that improves 2D performance aswell, I couldn't find anything related to that question on their MAX10 sessions. Would you say that Flash is a good technology for making large 2D games easily? I really like Actionscript, and I love how easy everything is in Flash. There are several engines available which make it even easier.

    I just do this for fun, and it would be even better if there were proper animation/particle editors available and if the engine I were to use, would be available for multiple platforms. (so more people can play my game once finished). I'd like to have it available on many mobile platforms aswell. (because I love touch input for some reason)

    I do know the XNA framework pretty well, but there are no good engines available for it, and it will only run on Windows, which is a huge turn off. Even bigger is, that you need to install the XNA redistributable each time you want to give the game to someone. If I use XNA, I would have to make all the tools myself, and I'd probably have to make them with WPF. (I'd love to make tools with Adobe AIR, but unfortunately the API's for image manipulation etc. are far worse in Flash, than they are in XNA/WPF.) Now, I'm aware that I could make my own engine that supports each of those platforms, but quite frankly, that would be too much work plowing through APIs. After all, I want to make a game, not an engine.

    So the question becomes: Is there maybe a cross platform (free or free to develop?) engine available that I could use for 2D development? I prefer: C#, Actionscript. I don't mind using c++ if the toolset is above average, but I highly doubt that there is something out there like that. Please prove me wrong :) So summary: I'd like to use Flash, but I don't know if it scales well enough. I'm not a scripter, I want some real APIs that I can work with inside a proper IDE.

    Just for information, I looked at several alternatives, I'm actually looking for a long time already. You'd help me a lot to make a decision finally.

    • Feature-wise the Flatredball engine would be ideal. But I tried their tools, and quite frankly, they are horrible. Absolutely unusable, I'd need to make my own for sure. I didn't look at their API, but if their tools are so bad, I'm not inclined to look further.

    • Unity3D. This one is quite nice, but I really don't need 3D, and it is quite ...a lot of work to learn. I also don't like that it is so expensive to use for different platforms and that I can only code for it through scripting. You have to buy each platform separately. The editor usability is average, the product overall is good enough for most purposes, but learning it myself would be overkill.

    • Shiva 3D. It looks good enough, but again: I don't really need 3D. The editor usability is a little worse than Unity3D in my opinion and it wasn't clear to me how to start programming. I think it requires C++ for coding, so that's a negative too. I want to have fun, and c# is fun ;)

    • SDL. Quite frankly, I'd still need to port to all those different SDL implementations. And I don't like OpenGL style programming, it's just plain ugly. And it needs c++, I know that there might be some wrappers available, but I don't like to use wrappers, because...

    • Irrlicht. A lot of features, but support seems to be low and it is aimed at enthusiasts. C# bindings get dropped repeatedly. I'm not an engine enthusiast, I just want to make a game. I don't see this happening with Irrlicht.

    • Ogre3D. Way too much work, it's just a graphics engine. Also no multiple platform support and c++.

    • Torque2D. Costs something to use, and I didn't hear a lot of good things about support and documentation. Also costs extra for each platform.

  • I've been using LÖVE for some time now and I like it a lot. You would have to learn Lua, but it is a fun little language to learn anyway. The people at the forum are extremely helpful.

  • I decided to go with Flash. The new Molehill 3D API can be used to draw 2D sprites in 3D space a lot faster as well. I see no reason why Flash shouldn't be fast enough for the game I described earlier. I'll have to build the tools myself, but I would have probably needed to do that anyway. Using AIR to build tools is also pretty neat in my opinion. Flash also has the widest reach with platforms, which is cool.

  • Pygame is by far my favorite. Since programming in python means you will program fast and since 2D things are fast to do, pygame will be fun...

  • Try Cocos2d-x. It's what I'm using for my indie game development.

    It's a tried and true OpenGL (ES) platform which has sound, physics, and even a little 3D that has been out for the iPhone for a while now, and is just coming to other platforms.

  • I'm personally a huge fan of Allegro 5, but it is a C API. Still and all, it's a simple API that get's out of your way and provides access to:

    • 2D graphics (backed by OpenGL or D3D, depending upon platfom)
    • Sound
    • Fonts (including both bitmap and TTF)
    • Input (mouse & keyboard)
    • PhysicsFS (file system virtualization)
    • Image loading

    5.1 will be adding shader support, as well.

    SDL 1.3 is also shaping up quite well. Sam seems to be done making the major API changes, and what is already in is pretty stable already. Still ... it's not even beta yet, and Allegro 5.0 is released.

    Granted, for more complex and advanced games you'd probably want to pair Allegro 5 with some sort of physics library (Box2D, for example). Still, you can get a very long way, and have a pile of fun, with nothing more than what Allegro 5, the C or C++ standard library, and your own code.

  • Since you said you like Actionscript but are looking for cross platform, take a look at HaXe + NME. HaXe is a language similar to Actionscript, but can compile to Flash, Javascript, PHP, or C++. NME is a library similar to Flash's graphics library, but runs on other platforms too. This combination allows you to compile to many different platforms.

    I've not used NME yet but my first test with HaXe+Molehill (just a few days ago) produced 60fps when rendering 10,000 16x16 rotating sprites on my laptop. I've only been using HaXe for a few days and don't have enough experience with it to be sure it's the right thing for you, but it's worth a look.

c# 2d actionscript-3
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