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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.
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.
The General Game Design sub-forum is for game design questions, not technical help. You can discuss what types of control would suit your game, but please keep questions about the actual implementation to the How Do I sub-forum.
The forums where you should ask technical questions about Construct 2
The Newcomer Posts Too Broad a Question
How do you make a Zelda clone ? How do you make a multiplayer 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.
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!
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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 Drowning Syndrome
This isn't a mistake, exactly, 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, 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.
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!