Want to get into game development, but don’t know which tools to use? Fair enough: there are a lot of options out there, and it’s difficult to tell which ones are going to do the job for you. This week, we offer you a few handy suggestions, which are all absolutely free to download. And if you don’t have the bandwidth to spare, we’ve also slapped them onto the June NAG cover DVD (which should be on shelves on the 28th of this month). Totally kickass.
We’ve chatted about Game Maker before. To be quite frank, it’s one of the best rapid game creation toolkits out there. Not only is it wonderfully accessible (making it perfect for beginners), but it also allows advanced users to do some really impressive stuff, and sports one heck of a big developer community. The free Lite version doesn’t contain full functionality, but it’s good enough to get your feet wet. For more Game Maker evangelisation and whatnot, check our Game Maker primer article.
No, it’s not what you’re thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter. The GIMP (also known as the GNU Image Manipulation Program) is basically the only thing you’ll ever really need for 2D image creation in your games. Its functionality rivals that of big-shot applications such as Photoshop, and unless you really want to use a specific fliggyblub-whassisname image filter that is somehow only available in the latter, you’re on easy street for picture-making. The interface is a bit strange (GIMP really likes multiple windows) but it’s cross-platform, free and powerful.
Hands-down the best free 3D modelling program out there. Blender is an open-source answer to the likes of 3DS Max and Maya, and boy does it have clout! Blender has been going for a long time with a really big community, meaning that it has plugins for just about every function imaginable (though, sadly, it still lacks the ability to make an omelette). Many game development tools – Game Maker included – support libraries or plug-ins aimed at importing Blender files, and if you’re one of those really determined types you can even try your hand at making a game within Blender itself. Holy cowbells, Batman!
A lot of game developers tend to neglect sound production in their projects, while others run straight to free sound libraries. By using an app like Audacity, you can make a huge impression with the generation of original audio – even if it’s just a few random hacks and wheezes into a microphone that’s held together by duct tape and bubblegum. The Audacity download comes with some optional extras — two of them are the LAME MP3 encoder (install to export MP3s properly) and the LADSPA plugins (loads and loads of cool filters). It’s strongly recommended that you install both of these.
So, there you have it. These tools are all that you need to start off your game development career! Go forth, build up your portfolio, and have loads of fun while you’re at it.