How can I learn coding for games, specifically for a top down RPG?

I’ll give a range of answers, from least coding to most. Depending on your past experience coding, I’m sure that at least one of these ideas should work for you.

RPG Maker

On the least coding side of the scale would be something like RPG Maker. Any version of the program would be a good place to start of you’re looking to create something like a classic NES/SNES-style JRPG. Older versions of RM are very inexpensive, especially during a Steam Sale, making it a very low bar for entry. But it will probably be easiest to find user guides and plugins for the more recent versions, either RPGMaker MV (RMMV) or the newest version RPGMaker MZ (RMMZ).

You won’t learn a lot of coding using RPG Maker, but it’s very focused toward creating an RPG, and as you learn and grow, there’s a decent amount of flexibility to learn game design, understand a bit of pseudocode logic, start to make the systems your own, and create and add your own custom art, animation, and sound assets. If you know a little scripting, then you can go further to customize your game’s systems and interface, but even with no coding experience, you could make something simple and basic (if a bit generic) with the art assets and examples RM provides you and a decent collection of free or inexpensive plugins from the community.

Examples of games created in RPG Maker include To the Moon, Lisa, Omori, Yume Nikki, and OneShot.

GameMaker

Next up on the scale is GameMaker. GameMaker is a 2D game engine used for any variety of 2D games, including shooters, platformers, and RPGs. It’s not as simple to start as RPG Maker, but it’s still pretty simple as game engines go. There are also a lot of guides and tutorials.

A lot can be done without coding and scripting in GameMaker, but GameMaker has its own scripting language when it is needed.

Examples of games made in GameMaker include Undertale, Deltarune, Hyper Light Drifter, Gunpoint, Hotline Miami, and Spleunky.

Unity

Unity is a 3D game engine. While not designed specifically for 2D games, it can be used to make 2D games by restricting movement and art assets to a 2D plane.

Unity, more than the other engines above, requires coding, mostly in C#. There are also a lot of guides, tutorials, and assets available for beginners, as Unity has a large community of developers. However, it may help if you already have some basic object-oriented coding knowledge before you start.

Examples of games made in Unity include Hollow Knight, Hearthstone, Final Fantasy IX ports, Dungeons 2 & 3, Among Us, Subnautica, Cuphead, Bug Fables, and Genshin Impact.

Summary

So, depending on your prior game development and coding experience, I’d say any of these above might be a great place to start. Game development is a lot of work, and not many people can make indie games worth buying. But regardless of the end result, it’s a very fun and rewarding creative hobby that provides lots of opportunities to grow and learn at any level.

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