It’s no secret that making a computer game usually requires a solid understanding of computer programming—they are “computer games,” after all. Unfortunately not all of us have a knack for programming, no matter how hard we’ve tried, which has led us to believe that we’ll never be able to make a game on our own.
Although these can’t truly replace the flexibility and offerings of computer programming, here are a few tools that could help you make simple games without the need to learn a language.
The drag-and-drop options and other easy features allow anyone who has never programmed in their life to make a game. Despite the simplicity, it’s still possible to make good games as evident by the fact that Hotline Miami and Spelunky, two popular indie games, saw their first version made on GameMaker.
The best part is that GameMaker does come with a built-in scripting language that allows people with some programming experience to do more with the tool. This makes GameMaker perfect for those looking to get familiar with a game creation program in hopes that they can continue learning more and not run into the limitations of other programs.
Currently YoYoGames offers three versions of GameMaker. The first is a FREE version, which is only good for trying out the system. If you want to get serious about making a game with GameMaker, the $50 Professional version is what you should get as it offers a lot more tools. Seemingly overpriced, the $800 Master Collection version offers everything YoYoGames has to offer, including the ability to export to current-gen games.
Adventure Game Studio
Aimed at developers with more experience than beginners, Adventure Game Studio lets you make point-and-click or keyboard-controlled adventure games like the Monkey Island series.
A few recent indie titles that saw success used this tool, including Wadjet Eye Games’ Gemini Rue and Blackwell series.
Even if you’re just starting out, Adventure Game Studio is still pretty easy to use as your first game making software. The editor used is a Windows-based IDE that lets you do just about anything fast and easy, including writing game scripts, importing graphics, and so on.
Adventure Game Studio is completely free to download and even offers plenty of resources such as templates, fonts, backgrounds, characters, etc.
Perhaps none of the tools on this page have seen as much growth in use and popularity as Unity.
Unity not only supports an incredible library of platforms, but it also comes with its own built-in IDE. It is also used to make both 3D and 2D games and boasts a massive store of assets and resources.
Many high-profile game developers like Obsidian Entertainment (Pillars of Eternity) and inXile Entertainment (Wasteland 2) have started using Unity. Several successful indie devs like Facepunch Studios (Rust) and Press Play (Max: The Curse of Brotherhood) have also jumped on board.
The good news is that Unity is completely free. However, if you make more than $100K a year then you must purchase the Unity Pro license for $1,500, which does offer a few extra features. No big deal if you’re making that kind of money though, right?
Remember that awesome RPG adventure idea you’ve had for years now? The one with cool locations, memorable characters, and a story players will never forget? You can finally make it happen with RPG Maker; the best tool that, for years, has helped developers make simple RPG games.
It has everything you’d want from a game creation tool: easy-to-use interface, tons of tile sets to use, and systems that take care of all the numerical elements that come with an RPG game. Plenty of features have also been implemented over the years that make this tool very powerful, which means you won’t feel limited despite a lack of coding knowledge.
There are currently several versions of this tool available, with RPG Maker VX ACE being the latest and costing $59.99. Fortunately each version offers a free trial so you can check it out before considering a purchase.
GameSalad is similar to GameMaker in that it allows you to make and publish games on several platforms, as well as having its own intuitive drag-and-drop interface that’s easy for anyone to use.
Most impressive is the behavior library which allows developers to implement complex behaviors that someone without coding knowledge would have a hard time executing if they had to use a computer language.
Thousands of games have already been made via GameSalad, and most of them have seen success in the mobile market. GameSalad Creator is currently available for free while a $300 PRO version offers some additional benefits.
Ready to learn more about game design? Check out NYFA’s Game Design School to begin your journey with the world’s most hands-on, intensive programs.