Long past are the days of giant computers and the need for a degree in engineering from MIT to make a game. The 21st century has brought along a multitude of different ways that we can create. There are game jams in every city, the indie game scene is booming, and kids are making money off of games at the age that you sold lemonade. So if you are at all interested in creating games, what are you to do? This list of resources will give anyone who has a little time, a little creativity, and a lot of patience the opportunity to create a game. After all ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is everything! Now I don’t claim to be some big game designer. I am just a guy with a passion for creating games and helping others create games. Take into account that this list is my opinions of the basic tools that I use to create games.
1. Unity 3d
If you know anything about gaming you know that all games require an engine. If you don’t know what a game engine does, don’t worry! A game engine is a software that game developers use to create video games. Easy enough right? My game engine of choice is Unity, for a multitude of reasons. The fact that Unity offers a free version is the main one.
Sure there are some tools that you are missing between the pro version but that is not where we are aiming now. You need to be able to create something that does something and the basic version of Unity will do that for you. Luckily for you, Unity is an amazing company that provides a vast selection of tutorials, documentation, and assets. All for free! Their plethora of free things is more than enough to get you off of your feet. Still not convinced? If you take a look at the tools that Unity provides the options are endless. Java and C# scripting in engine, texture creation, the asset store, particle creation, these are all things you get out of the box from Unity. The community of designers around Unity are open and willing to help. Check out the Unity 3D here.
Playmaker is an asset that utilizes the strength and flexibility of Unity. It is not free but comes with a small price tag of $90 but don’t despair! They are continually running deals and also open up the basic functionality of the asset to students for free. Awesome! But what does it do? Playmaker is a piece of software that does “visual scripting”.
Basically it gives non programmers the ability to create functionality in their games with ease. Using states, events, and transitions you create items called state machines and assign them to do specific tasks. Here is an example. If you have a light switch that turns on and off you have an item that operates between two states: on and off. In order to move from on to off you must create a state change using events and transitions that are based off of actions. Picture it as connecting a box (state) to another box (state) using a bit of string (transition) that creates an action (event). While this asset does not require any detailed programming knowledge, it does help to understand the theory behind code and how to utilize different variables and actions in game design. Check out the Playmaker here.
3. Autodesk Maya
3D modeling is a huge component of game design but not everyone can be a very talented artist. That is where Maya comes in. Maya will help you visualize and create the models that you use in video games. Maya is both a 3D modeling software and also a 3D animation suite. While learning how to utilize Maya takes some finesse, it is still a very simple and well documented tool. Imagine being able to create a car, a human, or a building out of basic polygon shapes. That is what Maya brings to the table. Maya houses an incredible toolset for the creation of high quality models, animations, shaders, and renders. The downside of using Autodesk Maya is the $185 a month price tag. However it is available for free to most students! Check out Autodesk Maya here.
4. Unreal Developer Kit
Similar to Unity, UDK is an outstanding tool that designers can utilize to create their games. While I am less familiar with the functionality of UDK as opposed to Unity there are a wide range of incredible toolsets that UDK brings to the table. One of which is called Kismet. Kismet is the built in visual scripting toolkit based in UDK. The basics are the same as Playmaker but Kismet brings a more in depth functionality to the software. UDK is also set as an industry standard. The power and quality behind UDK sets them apart from most open game development kits. There is no limit to what you can achieve with the tools that can be found in Unreal Engine and you can find many complete projects and assets in their marketplace. They feature a flexible pricing program that starts at $15 a month and have free options available for students. Check out Unreal Engine 4 here.
This speaks for itself!
All I can do now is to push you in the right direction. The time and dedication you put into these programs is up to you, as is the result. The amount of resources surrounding every single tool is priceless and the amount of knowledge is unfathomable. One thing you will learn about making games is no one has the right answer, hell no one has any idea if what they are doing will work half the time. Just enjoy the journey and enjoy the process. Another thing you will learn about creating games is that there is no in between. If you hate working day to day fixing problems and trying to make a cube move, you may be searching for the wrong things. If you want to put everything you have into making an experience for others, congrats and welcome to game design! Let’s do this!