Best free game development software and tools to make your indie games

The first choice that all developers have to make in their life, is to choose which game development software and tools to use to make games. In this article, we will see the best instruments and tools available that will help you to make your games and hopefully, lead to your success in the game development industry. Most of these tools are free and you can start using them within an hour.  You will also find some tips that will help you to choose the best tools for your skills.

 

We must say that these tools won’t make any miracles. If you want to make good games, the only way to do it is through passion and hard work. These softwares can make your life easier, but to master them, you’ll have to spend a lot of time and to constantly update yourself with the latest available technologies.

 

Unity

Unity is a free and powerful game engine. It allows the creations of 2d and 3d games. On top of that, it has an asset store with a ton of tools ready to be downloaded and used. It is powerful and flexible but it’s complex to master. Unity has a lot of connected services that will make your development process easier and faster most of which are free with limited usage. One of the great features of Unity is that you can build for multiple platforms and make the porting to another platform easier and less complex.

Visual scripting: I know that people are scared of coding, so it’s worth to mention that unity has a lot of plugins which allows visual scripting. But if you want to make a complex project, having programming knowledge will be a big help.

Community and documentation: One of the greater advantages of Unity is that it has a huge community and resources around it. The learn section of the Unity website is all you need to start to learn and use the engine. It has some basic tutorials to start to learn C# and game programming. If you have any problem, you can also go to the forums and ask for solutions.

 

Pros:

  • Free (A Plus plan ($35 per month) unlocks some advanced editor features and increases the revenue limit to $200,000 per year. A Pro plan ($125 per month) grants access to the Unity source code and allows unlimited revenue.)
  • Flexible
  • Great community  and documentations
  • A great asset store with a lot of tools ready to be downloaded
  • Possibility of visual scripting
  • Suitable for big projects

Cons

  • Complex
  • It takes time to have a deep knowledge and to master all the tools
  • You need to know C# to get the most out of unity

Download – Unity engine

 

Unreal Engine

Unreal Engine Generic features: Unreal is a free and powerful engine. It allows the creations of 2d and 3d games but is mostly known for 3d games. Unreal is really powerful and has been used to create a lot of AAA games. The downside of this engine is its complexity. Unreal has really a lot of powerful tools, but to master them, it takes a lot of time and effort. Like Unity, Unreal has its marketplace where you can buy all you need for your games.

Scripting and visual scripting: The language used to program in Unreal is C++, which is much more complex than C# and for an entry level, it is harder to learn. To compensate that, Unreal came with a native visual scripting language. It also takes time to learn it, but it’s very powerful and will allow you to create even complex games without having to write a line of code.

Community and documentations: Unreal has a lot of tutorial and resources where you can learn the basic and the complex stuff. It has courses to learn the basic interaction within Unreal and C++, or you can go straight to the visual scripting and start to learn how to use it within the game engine.

Pros:

  • Free ( Once you earn more than $3,000 in a quarter, you pay a 5% royalty on gross revenue beyond the threshold.)
  • Flexible
  • Great for 3D Games and complex projects
  • Asset store available
  • Native visual scripting available
  • Great documentation and learning resources

Cons

  • Very complex
  • C++ is difficult to learn and to master.
  • Good marketplace but with not as many tools as the unity asset store.

Download – Unreal Engine 4

 

Amazon Lumberyard

Lumberyard is another free game engine from Amazon. It is still in beta, but it’s available and ready to be downloaded. It is good for AAA and complex games. In fact, it’s based on the old and good Cry Engine. The problem with this engine is that due to the fact that  it’s in its early stage, it still doesn’t have a big community and a lot of documentation, making it inadvisable for people with zero experiences.

The power of Lumberyard is that it’s directly connected to the Amazon Web Services (AWS), so it’s easier to create big multiplayer games due to the amazon infrastructure behind.

The language used is C++.

Pros:

  • Free ( If you use it you have to pay the amazon services)
  • Flexible
  • Great for 3D Games and complex projects

Cons

  • Very complex
  • C++ is difficult to learn and to master.
  • Absence of marketplace
  • No visual scripting available
  • Basic documentation and learning resources.

Download – Lumberyard

 

Construct 2


Generic features: This engine is one of the most used game engines today. The advantage Construct 2 has is that there is no need for programming. It is very helpful if you want to create a fast prototype of your game and if you’re not aiming at complex projects. Construct 2 has its own asset store where you can buy all the art, music or animations you need for your games.

Visual Scripting: As we said, there is no need for programming to use this engine. It is completely GUI-driven, meaning, everything involves drag-and-drop. The downside is that of course if you know how to program and want to take full advantages of the engine, you can’t do that because the code is not available at all.

Community and documentations: The documentation and learning resource of Construct 2 are one the best that I’ve ever seen. You’ll find a lot of resources that will help you to understand the basic and advanced concepts. There is also a forum where you can go and ask you personal questions.

Pros:

  • Free ( With 100 limited events, 4 object layers, 2 simultaneous special effects. The Personal license is $130 and removes all the restrictions)
  • No programming languages needed
  • Easy to learn and to master
  • Possibility to publish on multiple platforms

Cons

  • The free version has a lot of limits
  • Not suitable for big projects
  • Only for 2d projects
  • To export to iOS, Windows, Mac and Linux you have to have the paid copy.
  • Only for 2d games

Download – Construct 2

 

Game Maker Studio (GM)


Generic features: Like Construct 2, one of the greater features of Game Maker is that there is no need for programming. It also allows you to publish on multiple platforms. It’s mostly used for 2d games and not for very complex projects, but surely is a greater tool especially for an entry level game developer. There is also a marketplace where you can buy all the needs of your game.

Visual Scripting: With Game Maker, you can create games just by using its drag and drop interface. But unlike Construct 2, GM has its own language which is a C-like scripting language with a lot of flexibility.

Community and documentations: Game Maker was created around 1999 and because of that, there is a lot of documentations and resources around. It won’t be difficult to start to learn how to make games using this engine.

Pros:

  • Free (The free version can be used indefinitely, but GM is a bit expensive. The Professional version costs $150 with export modules for Mac, Ubuntu, Android, iOS, and HTML costing $100, $100, $300, $300, and $200, respectively. Or you can get the Master version, which comes with ALL export modules for $800 (a savings of at least $350))
  • No programming languages needed
  • Easy to learn and to master
  • Possibility to publish on multiple platforms
  • Programming language available.

Cons

  • The free version has a lot of limits
  • Expensive
  • Not suitable for big projects
  • Only for 2d projects
  • To export to iOS, Windows, Mac and Linux you have to have the paid copy.

Download – Game maker

 

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