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Whenever you see a book about game development or software that promises the ability to write games without any code, you can pretty-much assume you'll be working with some kind of sprite-based authoring environment. While that's not a problem per-se provided that the authoring environment is capable of making a decent game, you should assume from the onset that you won't have the wide ranging capabilities offered by a more traditional (and difficult to use) programming tool.

But if you or someone on your gift-list wants a little instant gratification in making games, an authoring system might fit the bill. It might also give you enough insight into game development to make you want to try some broader tools.

Awesome Game Creation: No Programming Required is aimed at the rankest of rank amateurs, and if you're looking for a book that'll just dive right in with the game development, then you'll want to look elsewhere. After a chapter-long description of various computer peripherals (RAM, Graphics Card, etc), you're treated to a history and description of programming languages (not the languages themselves but what a programming language is) as well as the various genres of games. If you're already a gaming enthusiast or you even have a passing knowledge of game development, you'll find yourself skipping the opening chapters.

One thing I found surprising about Awesome Game Creation: No Programming Required is that it's not married to one particular piece of game authoring software. While many books on more traditional languages like C++ can work with a range of different compilers and OS's, those sprite-based game authoring systems are closed and proprietary. If you don't like how one piece of software is working for your game, you can't just take it over to a competing product and recompile. That doesn't mean, though, that the book is locked to one system. Actually, the book covers several different systems, namely Game Maker, The Games Factory 2, FPS Creator, and 3D GameMaker. Although 3D GameMaker only gets about 20 pages of coverage. The lion's share of the coverage (and two complete game examples) is reserved for The Games Factory 2, which seems to be the most capable tool of the bunch. Game Maker and 3D GameMaker also get a game example each, so you can get a reasonable idea of how each tool can make a completed game. The examples are reasonably good and are pretty complete, so you can see "how much" of a game each tool is capable of creating.

The pack-in CD includes trial versions of every tool shown in the text as well as projects for all of the example games. If anything, this would be a good way to give yourself a fairly wide introduction to "codeless" game development.

What's the audience for Awesome Game Creation: No Programming Required? Well, given the title you would probably assume it's for the rankest of rank amateurs. Folks who want to see some sprites bouncing around on a screen but haven't yet written their first for() loop. And you'd be right. As I mentioned earlier, if you or someone you know is looking to dive right into game development, this is probably a good way to get 'em started. They might be disappointed that the next World O Warcraft won't be flowing from these tools, but they can at least get something on the screen without straining the code-node of their brain.

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