There is a lot involved in creating a video game. Each video game combines multiple artistic media, from music to art to animation – programming is even an art form in its own way. All of these art forms participate in a game engine and in this guide we'll show you our favorite.
Whether you are an art student with some interesting character concepts or an experienced programmer with extensive system knowledge, there is a tool for you. Below we have seven of the best video game creation tools, as well as some tips for getting started with your first game.
The Best Video Game Making Software
If you have hundreds of thousands of dollars to play with and a background in professional programming, you can always license something like CryEngine, but for most people that just isn't realistic. Assuming you don't want to start all over again, you should choose the right game creation software that suits your skill level. There are plenty of free and premium options to choose from, and each has its own set of merits and tools for creating a video game of your own design. Below are some of the best options at your fingertips, whether you're looking for a bare Pong esque knockoff, an engaging action game, or a role-playing game (RPG) in the vein of The Legend or Zelda or EarthBound .
As an inspirational note to aspiring game developers, the tool does not make the game. Choose the engine that you are most familiar with and that best suits the story you want to tell. It's tempting to use something like Unity or Unreal Engine, given the influence they have. However, if you find something like RPG Maker or Godot more suitable for the game you're creating, there's no problem using it.
Available for Windows, MacOS and Linux
If you're serious about game development, Unity is where to start. Countless indie hits were made with the engine, from Hollow Knight to Cuphead to Escape from Tarkov. What is so impressive about Unity is that it is powerful enough to bring out an AAA quality title while being accessible to newcomers. Oh, and you can use it for free as long as your growing game studio has made less than $ 1
For solo developers or small teams, Unity is the tool for game creation thanks to its huge marketplace. The Unity Asset Store has everything from character models to full environments, most of which are cheap or, in some cases, free. Even if you don't have any programming experience and can't model a character to save your life, you can build a game with Unity. It may not be ready for release, but with the high quality of most packs in the Asset Store, it can still show a proof of concept.
Unity also sets you up for success. The core platform is for building games. However, Unity includes a wide variety of additional tools so you can achieve your game's goals outside of the development process. There is a game simulation tool, which allows you to use the power of the cloud to play your game during countless trials, and a monetization engine if you want to make some extra money from a mobile game.
As if that were not enough, Unity also has a dense library of teaching materials. Unity is not just a game engine. It's an entire ecosystem that allows new and experienced developers to create the games they want.
Available for Windows, MacOS and Linux
Unity is an engine that can be used to create AAA games, but Unreal Engine is a tool that uses games. And it is widely used. If you have played Final Fantasy VII Remake Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Fortnite, Octopath Traveler, Borderlands 3, or Kingdom Hearts III, & # 39; have seen Unreal Engine 4 in action. That's just a small sample of recent games that use the engine. If a developer doesn't use their own game engine, they probably use UE4.
Unreal is the tool to use if you have serious ambitions to work in an AAA game studio. Fortunately, Epic Games has come a long way in recent years to make the engine more accessible. You no longer need close knowledge of C ++ or even resources to build your game. Like Unity, Unreal has a vibrant market with 3D models, environments, scripts and more. Epic also gives away content packs every month. At the time of writing, a package of highly detailed skyscraper models is available for free, which normally costs $ 149.99.
For some, Unreal may be a better choice than Unity thanks to the Blueprint Visual Scripting system. Unreal uses C ++, but you don't have to write lines of code to add scripting to your game. Blueprints provide a visual representation of what your code is doing, so you can connect several nodes to create a script. Blueprints still has a learning curve – it offers the full power of C ++ after all – but it's much easier and certainly more fun than learning a programming language for hours.
The cost is where things get messy for Unreal. The tool itself is free to use, no questions asked. If you're distributing a game for free or just messing around, you can use Unreal Engine 4 completely free. If you generate revenue, you owe Epic 5% of your earnings above $ 3,000 each quarter, regardless of whether you publish or work with a publisher. Fortunately, Epic has some options for easing the financial burden. If you create a concept that interests Epic, you may be able to receive a MegaGrant. Epic has dedicated $ 100 million to new creators, with grants ranging from $ 5,000 to $ 500,000. If you receive a scholarship, you owe nothing to Epic other than the 5% normally required to make money from a project. That alone can be an incentive to get started with Unreal through another tool.
Available for Windows and MacOS
If you are a fan of indie games, you probably have several times in GameMaker. It's the tool behind Hotline Miami, Downwell, Minit, Blazing Chrome, Sperlunky, and the recently released Levelhead, that even got a deal with Xbox Game Pass. It occupies the other end of the spectrum as Unreal Engine, with Unity striking a balance between the two. That said, if you're creating a 2D game and don't need all the features of Unity, GameMaker is an excellent choice. By limiting its platform, GameMaker can make normally complex systems easy to manage.
In addition, GameMaker puts the many tools you need to develop a game under one roof. If you want to make everything yourself with Unity or Unreal, you need access to image editing tools, 3D modeling software and audio software, among other things. Everything is built into GameMaker, from a Photoshop-like image editor to a full animation editor. You can build a full game quite easily with nothing more than GameMaker.
You don't need programming knowledge either. GameMaker is based on its own programming language, GML. GML is more streamlined than C ++, for example, while delivering the most power. Since it was created specifically for GameMaker, it is much more intuitive than a traditional programming language. GameMaker also includes a visual script editor with drag-and-drop nodes, which means you can easily build code without knowing the language.
Prices are where things get weird for GameMaker. While you end up spending a lot more on Unity of Unreal when you hit, GameMaker has higher initial costs. You have to buy the engine and a license, which means if you want to develop for multiple platforms, you have to buy a license for those platforms. Desktop and mobile are inexpensive, with a perpetual license of $ 99 or $ 199 for each platform, respectively. Consoles are expensive, however. Exporting to PS4, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch will cost you $ 799 for each console, and that license only lasts a year. Still, GameMaker gets cheaper in the long run, and with the amount of learning resources and resources available, it's a small price to pay.
Available for Windows
The RPG Maker series has a long history and all dates back to 1988. It is a 2D game creation tool that only makes RPGs, or rather , JRPG & # 39; s (no building Skyrim here). RPG Maker exchanges flexibility for accessibility. You can create a full game out of the box, with all the logic and resources ready for you. If you want, you can just play the role of level designer by throwing characters, battles and items at your card.
That said, RPG Maker doesn't have the same impact as Unity or Unreal (or even GameMaker, for that matter). A title created with RPG Maker is almost instantly recognizable, and while some creators have used the tool with great success – To the Moon is a standout title created with RPG Maker – most releases with these have not been great. RPG Maker is perfect for creating your own classic Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest game. However, the knowledge you acquire while using it is not very transferable on a technical level on other platforms.
Avilable for Windows
Construct is not as well known as the above entries, but it is still a competent game design tool. It is mostly used for mobile games, with developers such as EA, Sega and Zynga leading the Construct clientele. For us, Iconoclasts, is the main game coming out with the engine developed by a single person using a modified version of the original Construct.
Construct 3, however, involves some changes. the most important is block-based programming. It is even easier to use than GameMaker and Unreal Engine. Each node has very clear instructions so you can build scrips intuitively. Construct also uses blocks in a sheet instead of a flow chart. That makes sorting through long, complex scrips much easier.
The problem is that Construct requires you to constantly renew your license. Unlike Unity and Unreal, which actually allow you to develop your games for free, you have to pay for Construct as long as you use it. There is a very limited free version, but it doesn't get you very far (for example, you can't even create custom loading screens). The full version costs $ 99 each year. That said, it comes with all the bells and whistles from the start, including export support for iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS, Linux, and Xbox One. However, there is no support for PS4 or Switch, and after searching the forums that seems to be the case in the near future.
Armory3D is a completely free, open-source 3D game engine. The main asset with Armory3D is that it fully integrates with Blender, allowing you to create and animate 3D models in a unified workflow. Since Blender is already widely used in game development, it is huge to integrate it directly with a game engine. You no longer have to worry about broken models or animations, much less display times.
As for programming logic, Armory3D includes a node-based editor, although it is not as robust as that of Unreal or GameMaker. Armory3D is a powerful tool and a tool to keep an eye on as development progresses. That said, it is still a work in progress and many of the features seen with the more established engines are not present. Fortunately, the core functions are included, including support for Windows, Linux, MacOS, HTML5, Android, iOS, PS4, Xbox One and Switch.
Godot is another free, open-source game engine that is available almost everywhere (there is even a Steam version). In many ways, Godot feels like Unity years ago. You can use it to develop a 2D or 3D game, the community is busy and there is no cost to start. It doesn't support Switch or PS4, but you can still export your game to any other platform, all without any fees or royalties.
The only drawback is that Godot lacks much of the framework that a tool like Unity has. There is no asset market and the learning resources are thorough, but not as accessible. However, it is a relatively new tool, and given the number of features we have, we are optimistic for the future. If you're just starting out, give Godot a try. After all, it is free to download.
Video Game Making Tips
If you are an aspiring game developer, you have probably heard the same thing over and over: starting small. We are here to repeat this. Since video games combine so many different art forms, it is unlikely, if not impossible, to develop a huge game yourself. There's a reason most indie titles are simple 2D games.
Make a hook
Before you start your game, it is useful to make a hook. The most obvious hook is a narrative, sort of an interesting concept that the player hooks up into. However, when you look at successful games for small studios, the hook is often based on gameplay. For example, Minit is based on not more than a minute of exploration, while Downwell is a 2D platformer that goes from top to bottom instead of from left to right. If you can define an interesting mechanic you want to explore, that will create more direction for your game and better define its scope. There are many games available so sticking out yours never hurts.
You don't want to make your magnum opus with a tool that you are still learning to use. Once you settle for an engine, spend some time developing very simple games and prototyping others as you learn the software. By the time you start developing your first full game, you should be familiar with the tool you are using as you speed through the interface with keyboard shortcuts with no questions about where something is. It's a daunting task, but as long as you first focus on experimentation, you'll learn the software in no time.
Join the Community
Above all, make sure you don't develop your game in isolation. Not only is it difficult to remain objective, but it is a lonely process with a high risk of burnout. All of the above tools have a thriving community, and with good reason. Whichever tool you use, try to familiarize yourself with the community so that you can learn more about game development from both a technical and lifestyle perspective.