Review by Mark Chen, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2014

Construct 2

Standout, pro-caliber game-dev tool still great for novices

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7-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Tabbed interface lets users easily manage many elements of a game project at once; native web publishing support lets designers share their work easily.

Cons: The initial learning curve can be intimidating, and students won't learn a programming language.

Bottom Line: Robust enough for commercial games yet simple enough for a classroom with proper support, this is a stellar tool for game creation that lowers the barrier of entry without sacrificing depth.

Since the interface lets users be so self-directed, there are several possible approaches for starting a new project. Perhaps the easiest way is to open one of the sample games that comes preinstalled and play around with changing different attributes and code to see what happens. Students could individually or in groups keep thinking of new things to try, honing their skills and building their understanding along the way.

Construct 2 would shine in a month-long unit focused on game design or in an ongoing year-long project that students did in or out-of-school. Each week could feature one or two lessons on the basics of different game design fundamentals: organizing and managing a project, programming basics, setting variables, setting goals and challenges, creating compelling narratives, etc. Ideally, most of the month would be spent in workshop or studio time, allowing students to play and design (and playfully design) at their own pace.

 

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Construct 2 is a web-based 2D game creation tool that doesn't require knowledge of programming languages. It uses a paneled interface reminiscent of older Windows programs with the main panel in the middle containing a tabbed area that shows off the game’s playing area. The left-side panel contains context-specific properties for selected objects in the middle. The right-side panels show an overview of the project in a hierarchical tree and the various art and sound objects belonging to the project. Designers can drag these objects into the various game screens they’ve set up and then start programming behaviors for them.

Different game screens are kept in separate tabs in the main panel in the middle. Other tabs hold all the scripts and programming for all the events or behaviors for the screens and their objects, with one tab for each game screen. The organization this provides is most welcome: Some other game making tools require right-clicking or selecting individual objects to get at their code, making it almost impossible to find all the code associated with a complex project.

 

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Construct 2 is a great choice for students and teachers who want to get into game design. Jumping in from a blank page is pretty daunting, but, luckily, there's a lot of support available. The online portal for Construct 2 is good with lots of examples and a comprehensive manual. Official support and an active online forum are there in case anyone gets stuck or needs tips or advice. The features for publishing are also stellar: the tool can automatically publish your game across a wide range of platforms. While users won't learn a lot of code or have the ability to code directly in the tool, the flexible built-in features can help kids learn the principles of coding and design something uniquely their own.

Users benefit greatly if they come eager to dive into the sample projects or follow a plethora of online tutorials. That hacking, exploratory mindset is a good habit of mind for game design to begin with, and learning to use this interface models the kind of exploration and purposeful "messing around" that characterizes good game design. While the price tag may seem hefty, this is a powerful, high-quality tool that can help kids and adults develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to become capable game designers.

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Overall Rating
5

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Construct 2 is an easy though spare tool for getting into game design, acting as a good entryway to programming, logic, and managing a game design project.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
5

Offers numerous examples for different types of games; each can be used as templates to tweak and learn from. If students get stuck there, user-created tutorials and videos are readily available.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
5

This is one of the the more popular game creation tools out there, so there's a healthy online community users can tap for support. Online tutorials (if you use them) are great.


Common Sense Reviewer
Mark Chen Researcher

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