Awesome Free Programs for Game Development

So far, I’ve spent absolutely no money on my game, as I’ve been seeking out free options for everything that’s needed for game development. There are some wonderful options out there which emulate or even surpass more expensive options, so to help people out, I’m going to list some of the best pieces of software I’m using below.

Unity 3D Game Engine (Free Version) [link]

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This one is pretty obvious – if you’ve played my game then you’ve noticed it uses the Unity Web Player. With the Web Player, you can easily deploy your game to your site so that your audience can play it straight from their browser. There are so many platforms ready to be deployed to: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Blackberry, Windows Phone 8, Windows Store Apps and, with special licences, even Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii. There are tons of features, the editor can be pretty much completely customised, and you can tweak stuff in your game then play-test it immediately, without the need to build the game every time you make a change. This is a great engine for speedy development, and while it looks pansy compared to the Pro version (or so I’m told, if anyone wants to fork out £1500 to buy it for me, I’ll love you forever), this is still a great place to start if you’re looking at starting out in game development. The community is very helpful too, and they’ll have an answer for any questions you have, plus their YouTube channel is full to bursting with videos on almost every aspect of Unity. Oh, and the red thing in the screenshot from my game is the player as viewed in Unity. I really need to get a player model done at some point.

GIMP – GNU Image Manipulation Program [link]

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You may have heard of this, a free equivalent of Photoshop. It packs a variety of tools, brushes and wacky options I haven’t actually tried out yet, along with transparency and layering support and many different export formats. In short, there’s a lot here that you probably won’t use. However, it’s been great for me so far, and I’ve used it with every texture in my game. A good technique I use is to select one of the blotchy-looking brush shapes from the lower-right box, then on the left I turn the opacity down and the size up, then blitz over the image with a couple colours to give my image a more random look. Of course, if you have the funds, then get Photoshop, but if you’re on an extreme budget like me, this is perfect.

Bfxr [link]

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This is great for making sound effects for your game. It is an improvement on another amazing program, Sfxr, and gives you a multitude of waveforms and variables to play around with. There are a few presets, seen on the left here, which generate a specific(ish) sound, or you can fiddle about with the sliders to get the sound you want. You can also mix sounds together, save and load sounds if you’ve found a good one, and export them to .wav format for use in your games. Oh, and this program can be used online, or with the standalone version you can download.

Blender [link]

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This is a very powerful tool for modelling, texturing, animating, everything basically – it even has its own game engine. However, if you’re anything like me, you’ll only use the basics. The interface is a bit daunting at first, but once you’ve watched a handful of YouTube videos on it, you should be fine. As most modelling software packages cost an arm and a leg (heck, you’ll have to take out a mortgage for some of them), this is a lifesaver. The only problem (if you can call it that) is that there are too many features for most people’s general use, but ignore all of the fluff and it’s perfect.

Your own imagination!

Yup, I have to put a terrible cliche in here somewhere. However, this one is very true, as you can’t make something out of nothing, you need a good idea to begin with. If you can’t think of anything, maybe go seek out some kind of inspiration, like a game you really enjoyed playing. Think to yourself – what was it about the game that was fun? Which features were innovative? How well were the graphics done? I’m not telling you to completely rip someone off (lawsuits don’t really look too fun), but it is completely fine to take inspiration from your favourite game and put your own spin on things. Just make sure it’s your own work, don’t push yourself too hard and if things start to seem daunting, perhaps slow down a bit and go do something else for a while. Game development takes time to perfect, but you’ll get there eventually. When I find more great programs, I’ll share them with you, minus the cheesy cliches.

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2 thoughts on “Awesome Free Programs for Game Development

  1. Seems we had similar ideas in posts. The weekly one over at 1001-Up I’m intending to not cover Unity, simply because it’s actually not cross-platform (In terms of the editor.) Which is a shame, as I too adored Unity. I had a blast with it.
    I’m looking towards some rather different engines – So there’ll be more on those soon 🙂
    Great article, nice to see other people going down the route of developing games “on a budget” (Even for free ;)!)

    • Yep, great minds think alike 🙂 I didn’t actually know that, I was under the impression that a program that can publish to every platform plus your toaster would be cross-platform to be honest!

      I’m actually starting to play around with other engines, because Unity is great, but I’m seeing what choice there is. Maybe it’ll turn out another engine is more suited to my needs!

      Thanks, it’s a bit of a challenge, but the payoff in terms of fun and experience is invaluable

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