Is the only thing keeping you from transforming your great game idea from dream to reality your wallet? Well then, you will be happy to hear that there are excellent free / open source software packages in every discipline you need to build a great game. Sections include game engines, 2D art, 3D art and animation, sound design, and project management. Everything on the list below is used by professional game developers.
Best Free Game Engines – Unity and Unreal
One of your first key decisions as a game developer is which game engine you will use. Game engines provide you ways to quickly implement core game functions like physics, rendering, scripting, collision detection, and much more without the need to custom code them. They provide tested, reusable components that allow you to build more quickly and focus on making a great player experience.
The most prevalent platforms used by professional game studios today are Unity and Unreal. Amazingly, both platforms are now free to develop in. Both are great and do many of the same things, so deciding between the two comes down to user preference.
Our platform at NYFA Games is Unity for two reasons.
Firstly, Unity gives developers to build functioning games with little coding — e.g. through use of drag and drop features. However, it also has the full power of object oriented programming through scripting languages with the most prevalent choice being C# (pronounced “C sharp”).
Secondly, Unity allows developers to write their programs once and output to the top 25 game platforms including Windows, Mac, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Oculus Rift, and many more. Have a look at Gamblingapps.com to find out which gambling apps make most money and developed on which software. Games made with Unity include: “Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft,” “Deus Ex: The Fall,” “Assassin’s Creed: Identity,” “Temple Run Trilogy,” “Battlestar Galactica Online,” and many more.
Unreal was created for it namesake (the Unreal franchise) and is a top of the line game engine through and through. When using this tool you are given the full force of a AAA tool. Games developed with Unreal include “Gears of War,” “Borderlands 2,” “Batman Arkham City,” “Bioshock,” “Mass Effect 2,” and more.
Honorable Mention: Amazon Lumberyard
Lumberyard is a relative newcomer to the game engine space. It is a free AAA engine that is deeply integrated with the Amazon Web Server (AWS) platform and Twitch.
All of the engines we recommend are fully documented and come with a slew of tutorials online.
Best Free 2D Art Software – GIMP
Compelling art is the make-or-break point on whether a new player will be willing to try a new game.
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is the open source version of the industry standard graphic design program, Adobe Photoshop. GIMP is a freely distributed program for image authoring, graphic design, and photo manipulation. Use GIMP to start your game art. Check out a world of tutorials on the web.
Best Free 3D Art and Animation Software – Blender
MAYA, MAYA, MAYA — is all everyone says these days when it comes to 3D asset creation, and for good reason! Yet Maya’s price tag of $180 / month leads some developers to the great, functional open source alternative, Blender.
What GIMP is to Photoshop, Blender is Maya. It is your one stop shop for 3D modeling, texturing, rigging, animation, and more.
Special note for those who have a .edu email address: MAYA reduces its price tag to $0 for three years! All you need is a .edu email and you can hang with the best of them. More info here.
Best Free Sound Design Software – Audacity
With the emergence of virtual reality and augmented reality, the demand for great sound design is stronger than ever. This is especially true because of the need to communicate location in VR and AR to create an immersive experience. The open source leader today is Audacity.
This software is being used by game developers, musicians, podcasters, filmmakers, and other creative people. It is approaching its year 10 anniversary and going strong, so you know it isn’t going to disappear any time soon.
Best Free Project Management Software – Trello
There are many free online collaboration tools. Trello is our current favorite because of it’s ease of use, flexibility, and ability to integrate other platforms such as Dropbox and Google Drive. Trello also lets you run AGILE development and SCRUM with a little know how. Check it out here.