game development

How to Design Your Game to Tell a Story

You don’t need to be a gamer to recognize the incredible success of Fortnite: Battle Royale and Overwatch — two of the most popular games in recent years that also happen to be multiplayer-only. As these types of games continue raking in millions of players (and dollars), whispers of shrinking interest in story-driven experiences have spread throughout the industry.

“Amazing gameplay can survive s*** storytelling, it’s true, but I believe it’s poorer for it. Great gameplay, infused with a strong narrative and story world, is the ideal.”

But several single-player games like God of War and Detroit: Become Human continue to capture the hearts of modern gamers. This includes Red Dead Redemption II, an upcoming game surrounded by incredible hype for its promise of a thrilling Wild West tale. It’s clear that whether they make the most money or not, games that tell good stories are as desired and beloved as ever before, if not more.

Fantastic games like these don’t just happen. It takes tremendous effort from start to finish in order to marry good game design with memorable storytelling.

It all starts with a fun, promising design…

The debate of what comes first — story or gameplay — has been argued for years. Everyone has different preferences — some of us are drawn to games mostly for their strong narratives, while others deciding what adventure to invest hours into look to enticing mechanics. Both are integral when it comes to designing a game that tells an unforgettable story, but games are different compared to other forms of entertainment because they are based on a unique foundation — interactivity.

“The question the developers of the Legend of Zelda series asked themselves before starting a game was, ‘What kind of game play should we focus on?’ rather than ‘What kind of story should we write?'”

-Eiji Aonuma, series producer of Legend of Zelda

This core of gaming comes with the challenge of having to create characters, stories and worlds where players make decisions. Whether you’re developing a complex 3D action-RPG like The Witcher 3, or a simpler 2D adventure like Blossom Tales, it’s arguably better to begin by piecing together fun gameplay elements that you will add story to along the way. No matter how great your characters or dialogue are, or that amazing plot twist you know will blow people’s’ minds, it will take engaging gameplay to keep your average player going long enough to see your story through the end.

Link Zelda

…Followed by flexible, captivating narrative elements…

Games have proven themselves to be a powerful storytelling medium thanks to titles that not only provide enjoyable gameplay but also leave an emotional impact via compelling stories. One way to help your game hook players is by hammering out the key story elements early on: a cool central premise, strong characters that evolve, an interesting world, and stirring conflict.

Of course, games are unpredictable beasts that almost always change throughout development, thus the best stories are flexible ones. Certainly do your best to protect your vision, especially if it was your primary inspiration in the first place, but you also have to be willing to change (or entirely axe) precious ideas. Whether it’s a boring boss that needs to be reworked, or a crucial playable flashback that needs to be cut due to lack of time or resources, you’ll always be ready to come up with another good idea if you maintain an adaptable and creative state of mind.

“It’s the easiest thing to change, to some degree. You can be much more adaptive. You have a scene that’s already written and recorded and animated and then something needs to change. The easiest thing to change is something in the story.”

-Ken Levine, creative director of BioShock series (PC Gamer)

Game Controller

And finally, the two become one.

Not all game types and genres depend on storytelling in the same way. Role-playing games will normally have a bigger spotlight on narrative than, say, a racing simulator. But whether you believe story or gameplay is more important, there is a middle ground that most game developers will accept. In other words, a game whose creators worked hard to find harmony between mechanics and narrative is a game that players will not want to put down — and when they do, they’ll be talking about it.

“Amazing gameplay can survive s*** storytelling, it’s true, but I believe it’s poorer for it. Great gameplay, infused with a strong narrative and story world, is the ideal.”

-Rhianna Pratchett, award-winning video game writer (Gamespot)

Some developers make the mistake of tacking on story elements toward the end of the process. For them, narrative is an afterthought that’s eventually integrated, poorly, when the need for dialogue, cutscenes, etc. arrives.

Similarly, there are also many examples of games where the story was so important and untouchable that gameplay suffered for it. There’s a reason why many game development positions today require applicants to understand the intricacies of weaving story with gameplay: when done well, you design a game that people won’t soon forget.

Apply Now for a Game Animation Program

Best Free Game Engines and Development Software

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.

#1: Unity 

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 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.

#2 Unreal 

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. Game developers of this free slot games website have used Unreal to develop the slot machine games. Have a look at their website if you want to learn more about the games

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.

Women to Know in the Gaming Industry

Wondering where all of the diversity is in the video game industry? Don’t worry — it’s not all guys. Of course, it’s not surprising that that is the perception. According to a survey distributed by the International Game Developers Association in 2016, 75 percent of the 3,000 respondents identified as male. Meanwhile, 23 percent identified as female and 2.5 percent identified as transgender or “other.” For women looking to get into the industry, those numbers may be discouraging. But rest assured, there are role models to be found.

Take, for example, NYFA’s own Phoebe Elefante, who chairs not one but three departments at our New York campus: game design, virtual reality, and 3D animation and visual effects! Phoebe’s game credits include Wonder City, a superhero adventure game companion for the award-winning documentary, Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, and a list of games and apps that target the intersection of play and pedagogy.

Looking for more inspirational role models in the gaming industry? Here are four incredible women to know in the gaming industry.

1. Bonnie Ross. Ross is the corporate Vice President at Microsoft and the head of 343 Industries. That means that she is the queen of the Halo kingdom. She established 343 Industries, the studio that manages the full Halo franchise. Her job involves running the business side of studio. That’s a lot of responsibility, considering that Halo is — to borrow Bloomberg’s words — Microsoft’s biggest video game ever.

Watch her talk about how merging art and technology fuels storytelling in this video she did for Glamour Magazine.


2. Kiki Wolfkill: Wolfkill is the studio head at Hallo Transmedia in 343 Industries. Her job focuses on the Halo universe and she made major contributions to the creation of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn. These contributions included helping develop the story, script writing, and creating the new Promethean enemy class. She counts supervising digital cross-media Halo entertainment, managing and producing Halo: Nightfall, and developing the Halo Channel among her other accomplishments.

Listen to an interview Wolfkill did with The Women in Tech Show in 2016.


3. Jennifer Hale: Someone has to voice the characters in video game, and Hale voices a fair number of some of the most recognizable female voices out there. In fact, the New Yorker called her “the Meryl Streep of the medium,” so she must be good. Most recently, she did the voice for Pellinore in World of Final Fantasy, Sharon Carter in Lego Marvel Avengers, and Sarah Palmer in Halo: Guardians. See her full list of credits on

Watch this video, “The Many Voices of Jennifer Hale in Video Games.” (She has quite the range!)

4. Corrinne Yu: Yu is a gaming programmer. Today she is the principal development manager at Amazon Prime Air. Previously, she worked as the graphics programmer at Naughty Dog, the principal engine programmer for Halo, and the studio wide director of technology at Gearbox Software. In 2010, Kotaku named her one of the 10 most influential women in gaming in the last decade — and it looks like she continues to live up to the honor years later. She currently sits on the SIGGRAPH Game Development Committee, the Microsoft Graphics Advisory Board.

Yu doesn’t have much in the way of recent interviews (due to shyness or modesty, maybe?), but you should check out this video interview she did in 2009


For more inspiration, read Den of Geek’s list, “25 Awesomen Women in Gaming.”

Who are your game industry role models? Want to give a shout out to more women to know in the gaming industry? Let us know in the comments below!

How Virtual Reality Might Impact the Future of Game Design

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Two decades ago, the video game market got its first taste of virtual reality thanks to the Virtual Boy. The device promised “true 3D graphics” that would immerse players into their own digital universe. As a Nintendo product, it was destined to sell millions of units just like the Game Boy and Super NES.

Instead, the Virtual Boy was a complete disaster. Players criticized the console for lacking realistic visuals, more colors, and head tracking. Its commercial failure would haunt the industry for years, convincing companies to avoid releasing their own VR devices even as technology advanced.

Skip forward to 2016 when virtual reality is once again poised to take the industry by storm. From the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift to Sony’s PlayStation VR and the Microsoft HoloLens, the stage is set to see who dominates a new market. Even more VR-compatible games than ever will be available to try at Gamescom 2016, Europe’s largest games fair.

But how will the rise of virtual reality change the way we design games? Just like when games made the leap from 2D sprites to 3D graphics, game designers are already preparing for the challenges that creating a fun virtual reality game will bring. Phoebe Elefante, chair of NYFA’s Game Design School in New York, notes that the possibilities in VR have barely begun to be explored: “The relative accessibility of VR equipment — especially through something like KitSplit — makes this technology super accessible for creators, and so it’s just as likely (maybe even more so) that a 3-woman studio from Poughkeepsie builds the ‘killer app,’ as the experienced game teams in major studios. Having expertise in the screen-based game industry isn’t necessarily the best qualification for exploring this new tech … much like the shift from stage to screen that movies created. Right now, most game designers — especially those porting games like Bioshock to VR — are building stage-on-screen games, because they don’t know the possibilities of the medium yet.”

So, what are the possibilities for VR games?

Traditional Games Will be More Immersive

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When we think about VR games, we imagine completely new experiences designed around the concept of being inside the digital worlds. While many titles will be made from scratch, it doesn’t mean developers aren’t looking to apply VR to “traditional” games. After all, if a game’s’ world already blew us away on a flat screen, it will probably be even more incredible with a VR headset.

Many games have already been made with VR support. You can use the Oculus Rift to play recent hits like The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Even older gems like World of Warcraft, Bioshock, and the Dead Space trilogy are now compatible. What could be more frightening than actually walking down the dark, necromorph-infested halls of the USG Ishimura?

Of course, VR compatibility doesn’t change the gameplay. Aside from moving your head to look around, you don’t have to worry about a new control scheme or any major change in mechanics. However, big-budget titles now supporting VR may at least push developers to create even better jaw-dropping visuals.

More Focus On Atmospheric Gameplay

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Many game studios have succeeded in bringing a specific genre to a platform that isn’t considered suitable for its style of gameplay. When it was announced that Ensemble Studios would be creating a real-time strategy game for Xbox 360, many laughed at the idea of using a gamepad instead of a mouse and keyboard. The developer proved it could be done after Halo Wars received excellent reviews from all major publications.

With virtual reality, developers are already looking at which types of games will work best and which won’t — and realizing that games consisting of simple mechanics and exploration are the ones that provide a better virtual reality experience. In other words, expect to see a lot of simulation games.

Edge of Nowhere, Windlands, Star Citizen, and EVE: Valkyrie are perfect examples of games that require limited button input so that seeing and exploring plays a larger role. If you were expecting the same complexity as our favorite Action Adventure or Fighting games, you may have to wait until better add-ons release.

New Gameplay Styles

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The only way virtual reality will have a major impact on game design is if it offers something unique: an interactive experience that can only be enjoyed through the lens of a VR headset. But unless designers come up with fun, groundbreaking gameplay styles, VR will only offer a “better” version of what we can play on other platforms. There are also some bugs VR game designers will have to address. For example, many users get headaches after VR experiences that last more than 20 minutes. That’s a big challenge, especially for gamers who want to immerse and play for extended periods of time.

Remember when motion controls became popular? Nintendo’s original Wii console has stood the test of time as one of the best-selling video game devices for offering gamers a different way to play. Microsoft and Sony followed suit with their own motion devices — Move and Kinect. 

Although motion control didn’t become the norm, these systems still had their day in the sun for offering a fresh experience. What does this tell us about the future of VR? Many, many things. VR may expand the very definition of what we think of as “games” — for example, lots of popular VR experiences don’t require a player to reach a certain outcome to progress forward, and are more experience-based. Designers will have new exciting opportunities to redefine what a game is, packing in more story, emotion, and meaning, something like this that gets people to play on a massive scale.

Designers who can think outside the box and take advantage of VR’s strengths will help this new, promising platform make a bigger impact on our industry.

What do you hope to see in the future of VR games? Let us know in the comments below! Learn more about Game Design and VR at the New York Film Academy.

No Man’s Sky Review: An Emotional Roller Coaster

No Man’s Sky: a game with 18 quintillion planets, all of which are unique and fully explorable.

It’s quite the tagline, and thanks to some extremely impressive tech demos and convention appearances it’s little wonder that No Man’s Sky has generated an unprecedented amount of hype over the past year.

To put the scale of this thing into perspective: the number of grains of sand on the Earth is estimated to be around seven quintillion. That’s not only beaches — think all the world’s deserts, too. Now double it, and add in a few quintillion more for good measure.

That’s how many individual planets there are in No Man’s Sky.

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But, of course, scale doesn’t necessarily mean depth of gameplay. Close parallels can be drawn between No Man’s Sky and Elite: Dangerous, which is similarly gigantic but has been criticized as having gameplay that feels a mile wide but an inch deep. (At least during early stages of development.)

So let’s get down to business. While the PC community chewed its fingers down to the bone waiting for the Steam release on August 12, we’ve joined the legion of PS4 players who are already planet hopping. Here’s our review of No Man’s Sky, and a tour of the emotional roller coaster you’ll be on during the first hour of play.

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That Minecraft Feeling

Remember that feeling of giddy excitement and curiosity you had the very first time you played Minecraft?

Of course you do. We all do. It was one of those seminal moments in gaming for many of us, and we can happily confirm that the first 10 minutes of No Man’s Sky lives up to that exceptional sense of wonder given to us by its predecessor.

And, like Minecraft, very little is explained to you in No Man’s Sky. You’re stranded in a strange new world, and left to figure things out for yourself.

This leads to…

Utter Confusion

What am I doing? Where am I supposed to go? What’s all this stuff? Am I supposed to collect it?

Who knows. Certainly not you.

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But slowly and surely, you start to put all the pieces together and figure out how to repair your semi-broken ship. You’ll see what’s needed, and begin setting out across your own unique starting planet to gather it all.

And that’s when you’ll be hit by the first sense that you’re really, really small.

Abject Wonder

The sheer expanse of the game slowly starts to dawn on you, which comes with a wave of both wonder and terror. Much like staring out at our own Milky Way here in the real world, there’s something a little unsettling about realizing just how miniscule the scale of you and your operations are in context.

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And just as you get to grips with the enormity of your own world, your mind will creep back to the fact that there are 17,999,999,999,999,999,999 more floating around above your head.

And you’ll get to explore a tiny proportion of them …

… right after you fix this stupid spaceship.


The grind is strong with No Man’s Sky, and once the initial wonder has worn off that’s when ennui sets in. (It does start to become obvious that it’s all algorithmically generated after a while).

You’ll plod around mindlessly collecting … well, stuff. Will you need the stuff later? Can the stuff be traded? At this stage, it’s a mystery.

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Despite there being a lot of stuff — some of it living and roaming around — there’s not a whole lot to interact with. And very little interacts with you. One of the problems here is that it’s quite easy, and not a lot threatens or interrupts your endless grind.

Except the “survival” aspect. Which brings us onto …


No Man’s Sky is billed as both an exploration and survival game. Unfortunately, in its present state the latter gets in the way of the former.

The exploration aspect is hugely enjoyable and very thrilling on a deep level, so it’s somewhat annoying to have all the fun jarringly interrupted by the constant need to top up your carbon or whatever. It gets mundane fast, and never eases up.

The exceptionally tiny inventory is also frustrating, and you’ll find yourself grinding to a halt often as you have to spend a few minutes rejigging everything in your quest to get spacebound.

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Once that ship is up and running, however …


That sense of excitement and wonder you felt at the very start of the game? That’s nothing compared to the emotional suckerpunch that hits you when you leave your starting planet for the first time.

The sense of scale really is every bit as awesome, in the truest sense of the word, as has been hyped for all these months. It’s an unprecedented marvel, and to think that it was achieved by an indie game design team of just 10 people is nothing short of staggering.

It may not be living up to the hype right now — and really, how could anything live up to the hype that has surrounded No Man’s Sky? — but there’s a real sense that the excitement for the very idea and potential of this game is justified.

No Man’s Sky: Closing Thoughts

Typical first-day bugs abound. There’s a lot of room for improvement, and at times it feels more like a tech demo than an actual game. A better balance (and more variance) in gameplay elements is needed, and perhaps slightly more structure would help.

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But as you first break through the atmosphere and experience first-hand the scale and beauty of No Man’s Sky, you’ll smile to yourself.

This is probably going to change everything.

Have you had the chance to play it yet, or had you eagerly awaited August 12 for the PC launch? Do you agree that it’s a game changer, or see it as simply a weak Minecraft-in-space?

Share your thoughts in the comments below. See you at the center of the galaxy!

Common Misconceptions About Game Design And Development

If there’s one thing that the internet and social media have shown us, it’s that people really like expressing their feelings and opinions. Take a look at the page of a struggling sports team and you will likely see a legion of fans presenting their infallible ideas for making the team great. And although many of them do, in fact, love the sport, it’s safe to say that few (if any) of them have any sports management experience at all.

Even though more people than ever are playing video games today, only a small percent know what goes on behind the scenes. Perhaps this is why many gamers believe some of the following misconceptions surrounding the industry.

You Need A Programming Background To Be A Great Game Developer

Since video games are digital and thus created with the use of computers, programming is a useful skill to have. There’s great value in a game designer who not only presents ideas but also understands the technical aspects of implementing them. The late Satoru Iwata himself, who rose to become the president of Nintendo, got his start as a programmer. But the truth is, there are plenty of game designers working in our industry that have little to no programming knowledge.

Shigeru Miyamoto and Mario figure

Shigeru Miyamoto with Mario in 1995.

In fact, some of the best game developers of all time did not study computer programming before breaking into the industry. For example, Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma were hired by Nintendo as graphic artists before moving up to bigger roles. Hideo Kojima and Hironobu Sakaguchi, the men who helped turn Metal Gear and Final Fantasy into powerful franchises, studied scriptwriting and film directing.

Everyone Who Works In The Video Game Industry Is Rich

It’s easy to see why people think that everyone who makes games for a living owns mansions, yachts, and sports cars. News sites and social media pages talk about the giant franchises like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, including the millions of units sold and billions of dollars made.

Wario with coins

The reality is that only an elite few who participate in the revenues from hit titlesup with enough cash to swim in. That said, game developers do in fact get paid pretty well. While you may not be able to buy a Lamborghini or private island, you will likely make a fine living while doing what you love— creating fun for others.

Good/Bad At Video Games = Good/Bad At Game Design

One common misconception among gamers is that because we are very good at a game, we automatically think we’d be good at making them. In turn, those who stink at games worry about their ability to make something great. Either way, the average gamer rarely understands the demanding process that goes into turning an idea into a fully-functioning game. So if you’re someone who wants to make games one day but aren’t as good at playing them as all your friends, fret not!

Professional Video Game Players

Of course, it does happen that pro players are sometimes hired to be designers. For example, Halo 5 developer, 343 Industries, hired Eric Hewitt (GH057ayame), one of the top Halo players in the world, to help design the new title’s multiplayer portion. Also Blizzard Entertainment hired pro Hearthstone player, Ryan Masterson (Realz), as an Associate Game Designer late last year. It is extremely rare. The norm is for people who build their skills making games (not necessarily playing them) to rise to the top in the game industry. Plenty of game developers can freely admit that although they’ve created some fantastic experiences, they suck at playing games themselves!

Learn the skills you need to succeed as a game designer at the Game Design School at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

3 Game Development Software Tools To Help You Make Your Own Video Games

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.

Notable Titles

  • Rust
  • Wasteland 2
  • Kerbal Space Program
  • Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
  • Battlestar Galactica Online

GameMaker: Studio

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.

Notable Titles

  • Undertale
  • Spelunky
  • Hyper Light Drifter
  • Fenix Rage
  • Defenders Of Ekron


Cocos2d is arguably one of the most flexible open source software frameworks currently available. Boasting support for several languages and tools, including C++, Javascript, Lua, XNA, C#, Objective-C, and Python, you can make a game on most platforms with it.

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.

Notable Titles

  • Badland
  • Dragon City
  • Final Fantasy Record
  • Angry Bird Fight
  • Castle Clash
Learn the skills you need to succeed as a game designer at the Game Design School at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

What Different Game Development Positions Make And Why

Titanfall design team

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding video games, especially among people unfamiliar with the industry, is that everyone involved in making them eventually gets rich. After all, franchises like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed sell millions of copies annually. With said games selling for around $60 a copy in the U.S., there’s obviously plenty of money to go around for full-time game developers.

Although that’s not exactly the case, people who work in the gaming industry do have some pretty good salaries. Making games is a very challenging and time-consuming endeavor, which is why those who do land a job at a good studio get paid well. Below you’ll find the average income for game developers in various categories, including a bit about why they make what they do. These numbers are based off Gamasutra’s annual Salary Survey that involves asking more than 4,000 developers how much they made in 2013.

Quality Assurance: $54,833

It’s no surprise that game testers usually make the least amount of money. This is because testers aren’t heavily involved in the development process and, unlike other positions, they don’t even need a college degree to get hired. In fact, most developers often hire kids fresh out of high school that are fine with working very long hours, including weekends, just to say they have a job in the industry. Note that QA positions are usually temporary since there’s only a certain time period in development where extensive testing is required.

Artists and Animators: $74,349

On average, the people who bring the game designer’s ideas to life tend to earn a good annual salary. Artists are always in demand in the gaming industry, especially those with relevant college degrees and/or years of experience under their belt. Keep in mind that what artists in different categories actually make can vary. In other words, the number above reflects all artists and animators rather than what the salary is for only environmental artists, concept artists, 3D animators, etc.

Game Designers: $73,864

We don’t blame you if you were expecting game designers to make more money than at least producers or even programmers. While the role of game designer is considered one of the best and most rewarding, it’s not very high on the list when it comes to which positions pay the most on average. This may be because everyone wants to be a game designer and not a schedule-pushing producer or engine-coding programmer. $70K+ is still is a pretty good annual paycheck though, especially since you’re doing what you love for a living and have arguably the coolest title.

Producers: $82,286

The job of a video game producer isn’t easy, which is why they get paid pretty well. A producer is usually the one who oversees the development and funding of the project, which including negotiating contracts, maintaining schedules and budgets, pushing the team to meet milestones, arranging groups for testing, and keeping the team motivated. Game producers with half a decade of experience and at well-known companies have been known to make more than $125,000 a year.

Programmers: $93,251

Not only do programmers have one of the most challenging jobs in the industry but they are also a must-have for every game project. After all, without anyone to code the game, it will never be more than just ideas in the mind of a designer. Another contributing factor to their high salaries is that programmers are often the ones there from start to finish, including crunch time hours as development starts wrapping up.

Audio Professionals: $95,682

The guys and gals behind your favorite video game soundtracks make a pretty good sum of cash for themselves. They also do all the sound effects and may even work with the writers and designers to get voice acting in the game. Truth be told, being an audio professional in the gaming industry is a very competitive career where one person may get hired for several games, which means less opportunities for others. That is why this salary average is so high—most of the people who were surveyed probably worked on many high-profile games.

Business and Management: $101,572

Just like in most technology and entertainment industries, the people in suits and up at the top are the ones raking in the most dough. To be fair, there’s nothing easy about being the one dealing with investors and publishers, especially when games these days can cost several millions of dollars to make. If you want to make the most cash in the gaming industry without actually helping to create games, business and management is for you.

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