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Design your own iOS games with Sketch Nation Studio

Think you've got the artistic chops to build a better running, jumping, or flying game? This app gives you the tools, no coding skills required.

Pickle Jump: Quite possibly the best game involving pigs and pickles ever created.
Pickle Jump: Quite possibly the best game involving pigs and pickles ever created. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

My vision for the best iOS game ever created: a platform-jumper in the spirit of Doodle Jump, but with a flying pig who bounces ever-skyward on a series of pickle slices.

Genius, right?

Unfortunately, I don't know the first thing about programming, so it's not likely my vision will ever become reality.

Or so I thought, until I got my paws on Sketch Nation Studio. This free app lets you create iOS games -- right on your device -- using your own ideas and artwork, and even allows for the possibility of publishing them in the App Store.

It starts by walking you through a game-building tutorial for a simple jumper. First you create your "player" (which can be a goat, a spaceship, a jelly doughnut, or whatever), then design the platform on which he/she/it will jump or fly over. Finally, you draw a background: a cityscape, a factory, outer space, you name it.

With those steps done, boom, you've got your game. With something approaching zero artistic talent, I created Pickle Jump in under 10 minutes. I don't expect it'll outsell Angry Birds Space (not for a few months, anyway), but it's still pretty neat.

Once you've completed the tutorial, you can start building games that are a little more complex. Sketch Nation Studio gives you a choice of five game types: Up Jumping, Down Jumping, Side Jumping, Side Running, and Side Flying. The same basic game-building mechanics apply, but in Advanced Mode you can add things like enemies, sound effects, and power-ups.

The app gives you a basic set of drawing tools for designing your characters, backgrounds, and the like, but you can also use your iDevice camera to snap a photo. That's awesome if you're better with, say, a set of markers than you are with you fingertip.

When you're done, you can share your game with other Sketch Nation Studio users. But developer Engineous Games also gives you the option of creating a standalone app, which it will consider publishing in the App Store. If that happens, you'll get 50 percent of the proceeds (after Apple's 30 percent cut). Don't plan on retirement money, but you never know: by coming up with a clever twist and some attractive artwork, and you might just make a few bucks.

If nothing else, you get the chance to flex your creative muscles and experiment with iOS game design. Sketch Nation Studio makes it admirably easy and more than a little fun.