Not long ago the idea of making games without a large team and serious publisher support was seen as a joke to many. Of course, the recent indie development boom has shown the entire industry that even one talented person making games as a hobby can create something great and memorable. We have awesome titles like Shovel Knight, Braid, Spelunky, and hundreds more to thank for this.
But just like indie games were once seen as lacking in potential, the same can be said for a variety of game development software. After all, how can you make a great game without the industry-standard tools and engines used by all the top studios in the industry? To think that you could make a project with programs that require little to no programming knowledge sounded even more ridiculous.
The following are three of today’s most popular game development engines and tools that few thought would be as relevant as they are now. Whether it was true or not a few years ago, now they’re excellent choices for aspiring game developers. You may even be surprised to see that some of your favorite and/or most anticipated games were made with them.
Developed by Unity Technologies over a decade ago, this cross-platform game engine has seen a steady rise in popularity. You can find games made with Unity on not just PC and mobile devices but websites and consoles. It is even the default software development kit for Nintendo’s Wii U console.
The first version of Unity was released in 2005 after being announced at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference earlier that year. Unity 1.0 could only be used on OS X at first but it did impress with its many features and affordable “Indie” version.
Unity went on to release four new versions, the latest being Unity 5. But as Kotaku’s own Luke Plunkett mentioned recently, there was a time when Unity wasn’t seen as the game engine of choice for making the titles of the highest-quality.
Today, some of the best games in recent years were crafted with the help of Unity. In fact, most would agree that no other tool or company has helped make the indie game development scene what it is today.
- Wasteland 2
- Kerbal Space Program
- Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
- Battlestar Galactica Online
GameMaker: Studio is now one of the most widely-used game creation systems in the world. This is because it allows developers to make cross-platform games many times faster than if coding for native languages. Thanks to a drag-and-drop interface, you can make either a useful prototype in a couple of hours or a complete game in months, if not weeks.
It all started in 1999 when Mark Overmars, a Dutch computer scientist and teacher, developed a 2D animation program called Animo. This early version, which was later renamed GameMaker, had a built-in scripting language but no DirectX support or way of compiling games into executable files.
Over the years GameMaker would receive new features and updates that users commonly asked for. But since the program was made for novice computer programmers who had no knowledge of complex languages like Java or C++, it was seen as too limiting to make a good game. Instead, only the simplest games were being created.
Now it only takes one look through YoYo Games’ showcase to see the quality of titles that can be developed with the latest version. You can find GameMaker titles on anything from mobile devices and computer platforms to even the latest generation of consoles.
- Hyper Light Drifter
- Fenix Rage
- Defenders Of Ekron
The first Cocos2d released in 2008 as a 2D game engine made by an Argentinian game developers (Ricardo Quesada) and his friends. With the release of the App Store, many developers became attracted to Cocos2d as a means of creating 2D games for iOS.
Due to demand, the Cocos2d team began porting their engine to different programming languages. These include ShinyCocos in Ruby, Cocos2d-Android in Java for Android, Cocos2d-windows in C++, and more.
The Cocos2d family of frameworks has been used to make countless apps, games, and other GUI based interactive programs. As you’ll see below, some of the most successful mobile titles in recent years were made with Cocos2d.
- Dragon City
- Final Fantasy Record
- Angry Bird Fight
- Castle Clash