7 Steps to Designing a Great 2D Game

how to make a 2d game

(Jumping Knight by White Dog Games)

If you’re ready to start developing your first video game, Buildbox Classic has everything you need to create a 2D game that will keep players coming back for more. For players, 2D games are as popular as they’ve ever been, and they offer several advantages for developers as well.

2D vs 3D Games: Key Differences

2D and 3D games differ in a couple of ways. 3D games attempt to recreate a world in three dimensions on a flat screen, with a dynamic camera that is free to move wherever the character goes and objects that change their sizes and angles accordingly.  2D games have no such aspirations. They function on only two axes: x-axis and y-axis, creating a world of their own. The result is that 2D games are usually easier to create, particularly if you’re new to game design. Compared to a dynamic camera, there are less design choices involved and 2D artwork is almost always easier to create too.

2D games usually require less memory, which is an important consideration for mobile devices. This makes them more appealing to people with older devices or those who have limited storage on their devices, thus increasing the size of your potential customer base.

How to Design a 2D Game in Buildbox Classic

2D game development is easy with Buildbox Classic. Here are some tips to get started.

1. Start With the Right Template

Starting a game from scratch is always an option, but it’s not really necessary. Buildbox Classic comes with dozens of ready-to-go templates, so take some time to choose one that comes closest to what your finished game will be. 

This will save you countless hours in development so you can spend your time and energy on perfecting your game, rather than starting from scratch. For a platformer game, for example, you have a choice between Platformer, with lots of obstacles already built-in to be customized, or Impossible, which has an emphasis on speed to challenge players’ reflexes.

2. Use a Variety of Images

Because the camera angle doesn’t change, it may be tempting to skimp on your artwork by using just one or two images for your character or reusing the same image for different obstacles – don’t. Variety isn’t just the spice of life; it’s often the difference between a dull game and one that fascinates your players. If your character jumps, for example, use different poses for when it’s about to jump, while it’s in the air and when it lands. Are there times when your character is likely to look up, or backward? Use images that reflect the character’s actions and intent.

To add your sprite’s artwork to your game in Buildbox Classic, just put it in a file on your computer, select your character and drag your artwork into the Default Animation pane. 

If you decide to swap out images while you’re in the midst of design, don’t forget to delete the files from the game. In Buildbox Classic, you can do this by selecting “Atlases” from the Tools menu and then clicking “Optimize.” If you’ve made a lot of changes to your artwork, select “Rebuild” to optimize the organization of the atlas. 

3. Don’t Hog Your Player’s Memory

Device memory always needs to be a consideration when you’re developing mobile games. In Buildbox Classic, you can have your game automatically delete unneeded objects once they’re no longer needed in the game. Use the Object Deletion Threshold options found in the Mind Map. This will delete objects once they’ve moved a specified number of pixels outside of the camera’s view. 

4. Define Your Boundaries

A common mistake newbies make when creating their first games is not paying enough attention to the differences between their artwork and the collision shapes below it. Nothing is more frustrating for players than to have their character killed by an object when the object isn’t touching the artwork the player sees. Collision shapes should match your artwork as closely as possible, and, if there is a difference, the collision shape should be smaller than the object. 

Use Debug mode to quickly identify any discrepancies between your artwork and the collision shapes. If you’re using Buildbox Classic, getting the collision shapes to conform to your artwork is a breeze. Anytime you change your artwork or resize it, change the collision shape as well. If your object or sprite is a polygon, click the Polygon option to tweak the collision shape. In most cases, Buildbox will redraw the collision shape for you if you click another option and then click the Polygon option again. 

5. Be Consistent…

Mismatched color schemes, unexpected changes in speed, or jarring differences in artwork styles can leave players feeling bewildered and confused. Be consistent in your game wherever possible. Use a consistent color palette and when it’s time to speed up the game, do it gradually, between levels, or when an event makes it something to be expected, like after an obstacle collision or a power-up. 

6. …But Throw in a Few Surprises

Consistency is a vital element to highly-playable games, but this doesn’t mean you should let the game get boring either. Throw in a few surprises to keep your players guessing and anticipating the unexpected. For example, if a character bumps into an object that doesn’t kill or injure it, consider using this event to change things up, like accelerating the character or even slowing it down. 

7. And Don’t Forget the Sound!

Great sound effects and music are integral components of any great game. Keep in mind that sound, just like images, are subject to copyright laws. You need a commercial license to use someone else’s recorded sounds in your game. Fortunately, there are plenty of places where you can get music and sound effects for free. Buildbox has assembled a library of over a dozen websites where you can get music and sound effects for your game at no cost.

White Dog Games’ 2D retro platformer Jumping Knight is a great example of how you can use all these tips and our software to turn your great idea on paper into a playable game. 

Jumping Knight is available now on Steam! You can also learn more about this incredible indie studio on their Steam pageTwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Design Your 2D Game

Are you ready to bring your imagination to life? Start designing your 2D game today by downloading Buildbox Classic. Our templates, easy drag and drop assets and more make video game design fun and easy.

Looking for further help to develop your 2D game? Check out our tutorials and community forum.

Tiana Crump

About Tiana Crump

Tiana Crump is a staff writer and social media manager at Buildbox with a passion for inspiring others and driving brand awareness. As a gamer and creator, she enjoys sharing game development insights, tips, and success stories from the Buildbox community.