Distributing Desktop Apps

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Exporting your game as a Windows desktop app is simple in Construct. However you don't get a single file exported. What you actually get is a directory containing the various assets that your game needs as well as a main executable file. Most Windows apps look like this, but developers use a variety of tricks to make installing app clean and simple for users.

Option 1: an installer

The most common way is to distribute an "installer" program. When run it will show the user a series of configuration options, place the app directory into the users "Program Files" directory and then create a shortcut to the main executable on the Desktop and/or the Start Bar. Once the installer has been used, it can be safely deleted. Afterwards running the app works effectively the same as double-clicking the main .exe file in the folder, but what the user sees is a nice shiny icon on their desktop without the noise of the supporting files your game needs. There are many tools for creating installers for Windows if you want to go down this route, such as Inno setup.

Advantages

  • Users understand what to do with an installer.
  • Permanently installs the game and adds shortcuts in useful places.
  • Full capability to make any additional customisations during installation.

Disadvantages

  • It can be complicated to set up.

Option 2: self extracting zip

If you want a quick and easy way to distribute your game, then a "self-extracting zip" is a good option. These are basically the result of gluing together a zip file and a program that can unzip a file. Run the program, and the zip file is automatically unzipped in place.

Archive tools like 7zip have the option to create one of these with a few clicks.

Advantages

  • Easier to set up than a full installer.
  • User doesn't have to know about ZIP files.

Disadvantages

  • Unzips the files in place instead of putting the game in Program Files.
  • Doesn't create a shortcut, so your user has to find the main executable from the app directory.

Option 3: package game files into the executable

Another option is to use a tool like Enigma Virtual Box to repackage your application. These put all your application files into a single executable file, a bit like the self-extracting zip. However, when you run that executable, it just runs your game. There is no installation or unzipping required. This works by creating a "virtual filesystem" containing your game assets, which your game runs from.

If your interested in trying this method we have a tutorial covering this: Turning your game into a single .EXE file.

Advantages

  • No installation needed.
  • Produces a single executable file that can be directly run.
  • Easy for users.
  • Can use compression to reduce the size of your game.

Disadvantages

  • Can make your game slower to start, since it has to extract everything every time it runs.
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