Have you ever wanted to create that game that’s been bubbling in your mind for years? What if I told you that the possibility wasn’t all that farfetched? The past decade has seen some massive advancements in the world of game creation – at one time you were required to have deep programming knowledge, but today even never-coders are learning how to make their dreams a reality.
But let’s be clear on one thing: just because it’s possible and easier to create your own games, that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. No, not by a long shot. Just as fiction readers want to write their own novels, avid gamers want to create their own games, but creation of any kind requires lots of hard work and dedication. If you’re up to the challenge, then the following free game development software will equip you with everything you need for developing your own games.
Note: This list is ordered from simplest to most complex. The simpler tools are easier to pick up and learn, but they will naturally have more limitations. The more complex programs allow for much more freedom, but learning how to use them will be more difficult and require more time.
Sploder is a web-based game creation tool that actually contains five individual sub-tools, each one dedicated to creating a different game type: Retro Arcade, Platformer, Physics Puzzle, Classic Shooter, and 3D Adventure. There’s also an additional tool, Graphics Editor, for creating your own art assets.
With Sploder, you can create various levels, place items throughout those levels, and control enemies. You’ll need to create a free Sploder account if you want to save your games, but afterwards you can share the games you create so other Sploder users can discover and play them.
All of these free game development software tools are based on Flash and utilize a drag-and-drop interface for ease of use. It literally does not get any easier than this! Sploder is perfect for first-time game creators who want to learn the concepts and skillsets necessary for high-level game development before tackling more difficult topics, like coding and scripting.
What’s the difference between using Game Maker Studio and coding a game from scratch? According to their site, an 80% faster development time. With Game Maker Studio, you can create games using either drag-and-drop or Game Maker Studio’s built-in scripting language, GML. When you’re done, Game Maker Studio can produce an app that’s compatible with iOS or Android, an executable compatible with Windows, or HTML5 for putting your game on the web.
If Sploder is too simple for you, Game Maker Studio is the next logical step. Plenty of never-coded-before beginners have picked it up and dove right into bringing their ideas to life. The software is flexible enough to create whichever genre of game you want – platformer, racing, adventure, RPG, etc. – but it does not yet support multiplayer functionality. Community tutorials will get you up and started in no time.
Depending on the features you want, though, you’ll need to pay for a specific Game Maker Studio license, which comes in five edition tiers: Free, MIPS Free, Standard ($49.99), Professional ($99.99), and Master ($499.99). Game Maker Studio is powerful enough that professionals use it for their games. Why not you?
Construct 2 is a flexible HTML5 game creation engine designed for rapid development of 2D games. While the traditional flow of game development can be difficult for beginners to grasp, Construct 2 makes it easy by abstracting some of the concepts outwards. All you need to do is drag-and-drop entities into a level, then add events and behaviors to each entity. Voila, it’s as easy as that.
The Construct 2 free game development software is intuitive and uncluttered, so absolute beginners will have a relatively easy time adjusting to it. Veteran game developers can still benefit from Construct 2, too, by using it to make extremely fast prototypes of potential game ideas.
Even more impressive: with a single project, you can export to various different platforms. The HTML5 engine that powers Construct 2 allows immediate support for Chrome, Firefox, Kongregate, Facebook, and NewGrounds. Using wrappers, you can also export to PC, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
Construct 2 comes in three edition tiers: Free, Personal ($119), and Business ($399).
Unity3D debuted back in 2005, but it wasn’t until version 3.5 in February 2012 that it really exploded in popularity. It’s so powerful that it can create games that rival the quality of AAA titles. Out of the box, Unity3D supports the following platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, PS3, Xbox360, Wii U, and the web.
Perhaps the most useful feature of Unity is its Asset Store. Users can create assets (models, animations, GUIs, scripts, tools, systems, etc.) that you can purchase and import into your project. As if Unity3D’s development speed wasn’t fast already, you can further quicken your development time by importing assets to avoid reinventing the wheel.
Unity3D comes in two editions: Unity Free and Unity Pro ($1500). Fortunately, Unity Free is quite packed with features – particles, UI, physics, networking, etc. – and is more than enough to get started with personal game development. The features in Unity Pro are quite advanced and beyond what most hobbyists will ever need.
In 2009, Epic Games released a free version of their Unreal Engine 3 and called it the Unreal Development Kit, better known as UDK. When the Unreal Engine 3 was first released to the public, it made waves due to how advanced it was for its time. With UDK, developers can take advantage of those advanced features and cut away lots of coding time.
UDK is free to use for hobbyists and indie developers. If you want to publish and sell games that you create using UDK, you’ll need to pay a $99 USD fee to Epic Games. If your game makes over $50,000 USD, Epic Games will also claim 25% royalties.
From the list above, my personal choice comes down to Game Maker Studio for 2D development and Unity3D for 3D development. Gamer Maker Studio has been around for quite some time and there’s no sign that they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. Unity3D is just so convenient for hobby and indie developers, thanks to the great feature set in the Free version as well as the Asset Store.
Image Credits: Red Cubes Via Shutterstock