How to Make an iPhone Game When You Can’t Code

Many of us have dreamed of creating our own games. Most of us lack the skills to create anything from scratch. Even with some of the best Swift learning resources at your side , you might not have the spare time to learn a new language.

So, when MakeUseOf’s Creative Director Azamat Bohed announced he’d created and published a simple iOS game without any coding skills, we decided we had to learn more.

Go ahead and download Space ShootR for free from the App Store. Then, let’s explore how Azamat made it from scratch.

No Programming Skills? No Problem

There’s nothing particularly original about Azamat’s first iOS project: “You are in space. You have a simple spaceship. All you have to do is travel as much as you can and collect ‘diamonds’ to unlock other ships, which are more durable and have different handling levels.”

What is most interesting is that he completed the project without crafting a single line of code. Last year we covered an app called Buildbox  and Azamat joined the review team to put the software through its paces. Enticed by the prospect of creating a game without hitting the books, Space ShootR was born.

Azamat creates most of the featured images you see at the top of articles on MakeUseOf, but his programming experience is limited. Many of us can relate to this level of working knowledge . He confessed, “I can tweak HTML/PHP code to my needs (with the help of Google) and that’s pretty much it.”

buildbox game

“But then Buildbox came in, claiming there’s no need for coding at all,” and Azamat seized the opportunity. “We finished the review and guys from Buildbox gave us the software for free. As a gamer, I always had this little dream of creating my own.”

The project went largely unplanned, and even the decision to create a shoot-em-up was a random one. Azamat set about creating “a simple, one-finger control scrolling game with bullets and enemies. It’s just so common that everyone who plays it understands.”

As for the name, it was obvious to me when I pressed Save Project for the first time. Zero brainstorming.

He put his design skills to use and created the visuals from scratch using Photoshop. The whole process took around three months, including procrastination and experimenting with Buildbox to see what was possible: “At the beginning of this year, something clicked in my head and I started working on it more seriously.”

photoshop art

It didn’t take long for Azamat to learn the ropes. “After I became more familiar with the building process in Buildbox, I was just improving and improving everything. Test on a device, change, tweak, save, test on a device again. Drink some coffee, tweak, save, export…”

Creating More Than a Game

As consumers, it’s almost too easy to dismiss projects like Space ShootR, but to first time developers like Azamat, they’re much more meaningful. He told me, “Every step towards publishing the game was something new, and now that my game is live on the App Store, I know the whole process.”

It doesn’t really matter if the project is successful or not, it was a tutorial for me.

It’s not only the technical aspects of creating a game that can be hard to get right. There’s a lot of theory behind crafting something that’s pleasant to use , and fit the audience it’s aimed at. Azamat thought ahead: “I tried to make a game which I would like to play myself.”

“I don’t like playing hard games on my smartphone, since I only play when I have a couple of minutes, like when I’m waiting for a bus. I tried to keep it simple. It seems like people are so busy that they don’t want to flip their smartphones to landscape or use two hands at all. So I made it vertical. One finger control.”

space shootr

Many hobbyists are turning to solutions like Buildbox to accelerate app development , especially those working alone like Azamat. “By doing everything on my own, I’ve learned how to use Buildbox’s more advanced tools and techniques, how to export for iOS and Android, how to use Xcode to test my game on an actual device, and then how to upload it to iTunes.”

The whole process taught me how to be more productive. How to manage my spare time. It taught me that if there’s something I don’t know, I just need to find someone who does and ask. Or Google it.

He also has one “codeless” grand tip: “It’s obvious that without coding, this software is limited, but there’s always a workaround! The Buildbox community is really helpful, and there’s a forum willing to help you out.”

Learning the Ropes

Though there are ample opportunities in the tech world for the code-illiterate , even low-level programming abilities are highly sought after in the current job market. That doesn’t mean that “code-free” solutions can’t be successful or profitable.

Azamat cites the recent success of iOS freebie Color Switch which surpassed 150 million downloads worldwide at the start of April. “Yeah it was made with Buildbox. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a millionaire already,” he joked.

sketching

But even if your game isn’t a runaway success, there’s something to be said about achieving your own personal goals. “At the very beginning I didn’t even think of releasing an actual fully-functional mobile game, but now I am already releasing my first update.”

I think I already love making games. I never thought I would be able to, but now with Buildbox I can. This sounds like a cheesy advertisement, but it’s not.

Azamat has plans to carry on developing games using Buildbox. He’s already excited about upcoming multiplayer and 3D support in the next version. For him it’s clear that the process has been a rewarding one, both in a literal and figurative sense.

“Sometimes, when working on a project, you feel burned, like ‘Enough, I don’t wanna do it anymore!’ I had those moments and I’ve found a simple solution: just force yourself to start working on it just for a minute, and you won’t stop.”

working process

“This is how I actually accomplished the game. When I didn’t want to even look at it, I forced myself to open Buildbox, click on ‘shootr.bbdoc’ and work for hours.”

More Than One Way to Skin an App

Codeless solutions like Buildbox aren’t for everyone. But there are plenty of courses that teach the basics of Swift to wannabe app developers. Check out our list of beginner Swift projects  to learn all about Apple’s open source programming language.

working process

You should also look at our Buildbox review if this article has struck a chord for you. It’s perfect for dipping your toes into app development. It removes the barriers to entry for those who simply don’t consider themselves programmers.

Would you create a codeless app using something like Buildbox? Don’t forget to download Space ShootR for yourself if you haven’t already.

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