A question a lot of beginners ask when looking into game development is ‘Can you make a game without coding?’ Coding is difficult, and while it is becoming more widely known, with some schools even beginning to teach it, a lot of us still have no coding knowledge, and would rather not spend three years plus at university learning it before being able to start our dream of making a game. In the past, coding knowledge would be essential to making any progress, but thankfully, it’s possible to make an entire game without you or anyone working on the project having any coding knowledge. We’re going to look at a few ways of making that possible.
Making A Game Without Coding In Unreal Engine
Unreal Engine has become one of the most powerful and widely used engines out there, making beautiful looking games as easy as it has ever been. Luckily, Epic also have their own system in Unreal for programming functions and actions in a way that requires you to write no code. This system is called Blueprints and it is Unreal’s version of what is known as visual scripting. It is done by connecting nodes together into a ‘tree’ which drives functionality. Although seemingly basic at first, some time and effort can create complex systems.
The downside to this is that it is not the most beginner-friendly, you will still need to spend time learning the systems and many of the concepts are the same as programming as the system takes the nodes you make and writes the code for you behind the scenes. This is still easier than learning an entire coding language with all of the syntax intricacies that come with it, but it’s not the simplest of things, especially to those without game industry knowledge.
The other downside, although this may not apply so much to individual developers but will affect bigger teams, is that Blueprints are not considered as clean or efficient as programming directly. This won’t be a big deal for small projects but it can slow down big games with inefficiencies. It is also much more difficult for a programmer to go in there and change or improve aspects of it. For these reasons Blueprints are not popular among programmers but can be a good solution for solo devs.
Making A Game Without Coding In Unity
Unity has often been seen as a more beginner-friendly engine. Whilst it stands toe-to-toe with Unreal in many respects, Unreal Engine seems to be pulling ahead in pure technical power. That’s great for established developers but makes it more difficult for those trying to learn. As such Unity is often seen as a good starting point for beginners. Unfortunately, this is one area where Unity lacks. That being said, not all is lost.
Unity has a wide variety of assets on the asset store which allows you to do something similar to Unreal’s Blueprints, some of them easier to pick up as well. A very popular and long-running one is Playmaker. These work is a very similar way to Unreal’s Blueprints, with many of the same benefits and pitfalls.
As these are not officially supported as part of the Unity package, they will not be as well documented and as easy to learn, although most of them should put out some form of training and documentation. Many of them are also paid for assets, so you may need to pay money to get set up with them unlike in Unreal Engine.
Using Asset Packs
Whilst you may not be able to create your unique idea entirely using asset packs, they can get you pretty far. As well as getting the artwork that you can use, some will come with code or blueprints with it to help with functionality. A good example is this gun on the Unreal Store which comes with example blueprints so you can set your own up. You can also find whole game features such as a plug-in that allows you to set up interactions with objects and characters, or a grid-based system for editing. Using these to back up the base game content that engines provide can get you pretty far. The only limitation is what content people have uploaded and if you can find it.
Whilst you are unlikely to find exactly what you want, these can give you a great point to start from. You will probably need to use asset packs in conjunction with some editing to get exactly what you want, but it can be a great way of getting something complicated set up immediately which you can then build on or tweak into something that fits your project better.
Whilst these are powerful tools to create great games fast, the difficulties come with finding exactly what you need, and you will be limited by what people have created. Any truly unique ideas will struggle to find what they need and will need to adapt what is available. The other limiting factor is the costs. While there are lots of free assets, the more complicated and well-put-together assets will often have price tags that can add up quite fast, so they might not be ideal to use in every situation.
Can You Really Make A Game Without Coding?
It seems like it might be a bit of a stretch, using the tools set out here, to create a full game. There are lots of limiting factors that seem to be blockers on the path to creating a final product. Whilst it is certainly not an easy task, it is absolutely possible.
A great example of this is Kine, a puzzle game created in Unreal engine entirely using Blueprints. Developed by a solo dev with no previous coding knowledge, it reviewed and did well, proving it’s absolutely possible. In Gwen Frey’s own words ‘Patience and persistence matter far more than skill and resources do.’