As a moderator on Scirra's forums and having provided support for Construct 2 since its early days, I've seen my fair share of newcomers to programming and to this specific tool. It's common to see beginners get excited about their new discoveries, their fresh perspectives, and the overwhelming feeling that they'll actually get to build their dream game. This is all great, but often these feelings lead to those beginners making certain missteps when joining an online gamedev community. In this article, I'll detail these missteps, and how to avoid them.
The original article was written a few years ago for gamedev tutsplus and tried to open the discussion on gamedev communities in general.
Here is an updated version dedicated to Scirra's website and community.
Common "Mistakes" in Beginners' Posts
In the first few weeks new game developers spend in the community (usually during the holidays, for teenagers and students), their motivation is a little wild, expending energy in every direction.
Game making is indeed a wide subject requiring you to take a lot of aspects into consideration. There is a lot to discover, experiment, and play with. This new hobby is challenging and fun in the same way as a great game - possibly even more - and during the first weeks of use, beginners will rush to connect with Construct's community.
Very often the first motivation to post in the forum is to ask for help, and so we frequently see these kind of mistakes:
The Newcomer Posts in the Wrong Forum
A request for technical help in a forum named "Open topics" (which is more for what's not about Construct itself) or even post a Construct 2 help request in "Construct Classic help"
This is bad for the community, since it spreads potential information all over the forums rather than keeping everything in its place. The forums are gathered into categories to keep subjects relevant, so mis-posting creates noise which will prevent other users from finding what they are looking for.
In Scirra's forums, the Construct 2 General and How Do I sub-forums are the right places to post (and search for) Construct 2 help requests.
The Bugs sub-forum is dedicated to bug reports about Construct 2, not actually finding bugs in your projects. If you are unsure if the bugs you are encountering are related to your project rather than Construct 2 itself, consider posting your project in the How do I sub-forum first where users may redirect you then to posting a proper bug report following the guidelines if needed.
Since the original tutorial, the forums have changed structure.
On top of the Construct 2 General and How do I sub-forums, a Game Development forum has seen light of day.
+ The Game Development, Design & Ideas sub-forum is for game design questions, not technical help (although so many users have posted technical questions there, you'll find a lot of them here as well).
You can discuss what types of control would suit your game, but please prefer to keep questions about the actual implementation to the How Do I sub-forum.
+ The Distribution and Publishing sub-forum focuses more on questions about target platform for your games and perhaps more business-oriented interrogations about distributing and publishing your game. It can be read as well during design phase as once the game is done and providing you with ideas on how to spread the word about your game. This is not a place to post about the game you made though (prefer to post in the Construct 2 Completed Creations sub-forum for this).
+ The Tools and Resources sub-forum is about external tools/applications that may help you (for example image editors like paint.net and others) as well as about assets or lessons on how to make those assets for your games.
+ Finally the Job Offers and Team Requests sub-forum is where you can post or find offers from people wanting to team up or team members for hire depending on their skills.
+ The Extending Construct 2 forum is where you'll find a list of the third-part addons and WebGL effects you can add up to Construct 2 in order to expand possible functionalities. I always recommend newcomers to first learn about how the event system works first before diving into third-part addons, as most of what they do can be achieved with events and sometimes using an addon will only refrain from learning how specific systems work and be a deficiency in knowledge/desing in the long run.
Nevertheless, some addons can add features that the event system could not possibly give access to, so it is still a useful part of Construct2.
+ A last note, the Website Issues and Feedback sub-forum is dedicated to Scirra's website and arcade. You can post bugs or usability questions about the forums and arcade there, but this sub-forum should not contain informations related to Construct 2.
The structure of the Construct 2 forums dedicated to making games with Construct 2
The Newcomer Posts Too Broad a Question
How do you make a Zelda clone ? How do you make a MMO whatever type of game ? Can Construct 2 make this kind of game ?
The subject here is too vast. A game engine is a fine gathering of several mechanical or technical pieces; these questions are like asking how to build a rocket engine when you hardly know how regular car engines work. They are also the kind of question that go far beyond the scope of a single thread.
Often, in response to posts like those, I advise the submitter to follow some of the beginner tutorials, or the tutorials linked from this article. Following such tutorials, even if they don't appear to have anything to do with the style of game you ask about, will slowly take you through the process of learning how to use Construct 2, and how to make a game.
As for the question about if Construct 2 can make X type of game. On its own Construct 2 is a tool. So alone, it cannot make anything. It is up to the user in charge.
Overall though, Construct 2 can allow the user to make any kind of 2D games. It makes some step of making the game easier but will require the user to have knowledge about how to organise their project, what mechanic to implement and sometimes how to implement them.
Nevertheless, that is where the manual, the tutorials, the C2 Academy videos, the How do I FAQ and finally the forums come in handy.
A whole lot of documentation to search through and read through.
As mentioned by users of our community :
Read the tutorials, especially those developed by Ashley and Tom - because these people KNOW how C2 works, and many of these discuss how and why C2 does certain things - this information is priceless! (on that point, Ashley also writes technical articles about Construct 2 on his blog which can help you dive further "under the hood" about specific aspects of how Construct 2 is made and working)
Here are a few ways this can help:
1) It simply helps broaden your knowledge and therefore your grasp of Construct 2.
2) When you read about issues others have already faced, you gain some insight into how to approach problems and find solutions that you may not have thought of. It is a safe bet that you will face the same or similar issues yourself, but the insight you now have may actually result in not having to ask for help in the first place, or at least help you ask more intelligently when you need to.
3) I often find this process leads to topics that in some way relate to something you are working on, and can completely change the way you are doing, or thinking of doing something in your own projects - and yields better results.
4) There are only two ways to get the most out of something you are passionate about - doing it, and reading all you can about how to do it. That couldn't be truer when it comes to C2...
Many of the technical principles displayed in one type of game will apply to another one. And remember, tutorials are provided by the members of the community. Often this member took the time to write the tutorial when there wasn't so much information available, so it's at least worth a focused read.
The Newcomer Does Not Post Enough Details
I'm stuck in my game, please help! How do I make my character move right?
When asking for help, be as precise as you can, and provide source files or at least a demo that demonstrates the issue. The answer will often depend on the plugins you use and the code you've already written.
Try to narrow the context of your issue, but beware: just as topics can be too broad, they can also be too narrow. When expressing your issue, first explain the global idea of your game. Than pinpoint the area (in the game logic) where you feel the issue is, explain what you would expect the code you wrote to do, and detail what actually happens when you run the game.
Once again, I strongly recommend you provide source files demonstrating the issue - ideally in the form of a simpler demo showing just the specific problem. Looking for errors in someone's source amongst hundreds of unrelated functions and events is not an easy task, so please assist potential helpers by narrowing the code issue for them.
Editor's note: In my experience, nine times out of ten simply making the demo will help you solve the issue by yourself anyway!
A nice file host is Dropbox, which offers fast hosting with no ads.
The Scirra Arcade allows you to upload your capx file as well alongside your game.
Other file hosts service can do the job, but please, avoid monetized links (like ad.fly, those are forbidden in the forums) or hosts that require you to go through several pages/click before having access to the file.
Some shady hosts also do host malware which unfortunately might give you, as a newcomer, a bad reputation in the forums as potentially trying to arm the computers of users of the community.
As a new user, you may not have enough reputation yet to be allowed to post URLs in your post.
A solution is to follow the advises in this topic on how to quickly get enough reputation to go beyond this limitation (in place to prevent spam in our forums).
Another solution is to put spaces inside the URL you are posting as plain text. Users will still be able to access your file and provide help to you in return.
The Newcomer Displays Impatience
Worst example: "bumping" their own thread after a few minutes or hours because no one answered it immediately.
A forum is not a direct chat. A post can sit there for several days or weeks before getting answered (although on C2's community forums, most new posts get answered within a day). So when using forums, don't be impatient.
Also be aware that you won't learn and understand everything overnight. Even with Construct 2, as intuitive as it might be, the users are still only human. Sometimes, letting a week pass by between reading and completing a tutorial might help the information to sink in; during this week, you will digest the informations and new knowledge. You'll perhaps even end up "thinking in C2" and end up understanding more complex interactions. You'll be able to analyse and describe more complex mechanisms, too.
The Overwhelmed Syndrome
This isn't a mistake, per say, but newcomers to programming, game making and even computers might be overwhelmed by the mass of information and concepts they suddenly have to deal with: new software, new vocabulary, new ways of thinking...
We've all been there. Hopefully these simple tips will help you to cope:
+ Consider that all the basic beginner's questions have probably already been answered on the forums or the wider internet. Plus, users like myself work hard at trying to point the way for newcomers, so that they can safely learn and grow as game makers.
+ If someone suggests a tutorial, don't simply skim through it in a couple of seconds; put your current project on hold and start a new project to follow the tutorial. Once completed, you'll have more comprehension and experience, and you'll be able to handle your previous issue with that knowledge and experience. You'll also be able to better express your issue, or visualize the mechanism you'd like to make to fix it and explain it to others.
+ When you are searching forums or the web for answers, if you don't get the results you expect, perhaps you're not using the correct terms. This is a hint that there's some new vocabulary you'll need to learn and deal with. Again, broadening your knowledge will help.
+ Take your time, don't rush. You won't make the game of your dream in a couple of days.
+ The manual which explains everything there is to know about Construct 2 is worth a read for sure, and it's always a good reference to check when using the software. Other platforms will have similar guides..
The same general "rules" apply to IRC chat rooms or Discord or Skype or whatever direct discussion channel, when requesting help "live".
Although chatting is immediate, you'll find that many of the members are idling - connected but not necessary focusing on the chat room itself) - so you can't expect an immediate answer all the time. Again, be as precise as possible in explaining your issue, provide source files and demos, and be polite.
Also, don't hesitate to come and idle yourself even when not requiring help. It's always a good way to meet some active members that can provide help and discuss topics beyond game development.
An IRC client (KVIrc) displaying a discussion between two C2 plugin makers in the room #construct on irc.esper.net
To avoid making mistakes when interacting with Construct's community:
+ Avoid posting in the wrong forum.
+ Do not be too vague or broad with your help requests.
+ Provide as much meaningful detail about your issue as possible.
+ Provide source files or demos obviously displaying the issue.
+ Do not be impatient.
+ Search for information before posting.
+ Don't rush yourself; you have plenty of time to learn and to produce games.
+ Read the manual, the tutorials, watch the C2 Academy Videos, the How do I FAQ.
Focus your energies. Game making involves a lot of analysing, practice your skills, checking the forums and the discussions, and performing your own experiments.
If you're not adding to a discussion, prefer not to post. It helps to keep the discussion clear and focused on the topic. The Construct 2 community is pretty welcoming, but it's always nicer and more respectful if you "behave". (Also, if you don't refrain from posting when it's not useful or if you ask a question that is already answered somewhere, you add "noise" to the forums and make information harder to maintain and find for everyone - including the newcomers that arrive after you!)
I hope this article will help bring some light to newcomers in our various gamedev communities, and help them to get help efficiently - without adding any more noise to those communities!