Game Engines

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 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.

#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.

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.

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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.

How to Make a Game Without Coding: 5 Game Engines That Don’t Require Programming Knowledge

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.

You probably won’t make the next triple-A RPG or FPS with these programs, but they’re perfect for those looking to prepare for a game jam, make a small indie game, or just play around.

GameMaker: Studio

GameMaker is probably the most popular game creation tool, and for good reason.

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.

Unity

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?

RPG Maker

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

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.

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