11 tools to help you create video games

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Making a video game is much less difficult than it seems. Even though you probably won’t go from having no experience to the next Grand Theft Auto, getting started making games has never been easier. Game development tools and resources have become increasingly accessible to ordinary people, even those with no programming experience. Often these tools are also available for free.

To try and make things easier for those looking to get into game making, we’ve put together a list of 11 game engines/publishers. Some are designed for a specific game genre or to be incredibly easy for newcomers. Others are professional development tools for AAA games, but are effectively free for hobbyists and still offer plenty of learning tools to help those with limited programming experience get started.

There are, of course, a lot of things that go into game development – music, animation, sound, writing, texturing, modeling, etc. – however, the game engine/editor you choose will have the biggest effect on the type of game you can make. If you have any suggestions for other engines, software, or learning tools for other aspects of development, post them in the comments.


CryEngine

A cross-platform commercial 3D engine developed by Crytek. It was used for games like Prey (2017) and Everybody’s gone for the abduction.

Intended for: 3d games

Editor available for: the Windows

Scripting/Markup Language(s): Lua

Cost: Free until the project earns over $5,000 per year, after which there is a 5% royalty.

Learning Tools: CryEngine offers a number of free video tutorials that cover everything from installing the editor to creating a simple flappy bird-like a game to more complex things like compiling a custom configured version of the engine.

Website: https://www.cryengine.com/

To start: https://www.cryengine.com/tutorials


Super Light Wanderer

game creator

A cross-platform commercial 2D game engine developed by YoYo Games. It was used for games like Subtitle, Super Light Wanderer, and minit.

Intended for: 2d games

Editor available for: Windows and macOS

Scripting/Markup Language(s): Uses a proprietary scripting language called GameMaker Language (GML) and a visual scripting language called Drag and Drop (DnD).

Cost: Free for 30 days, then licenses start at $39/year.

Learning Tools: Some free written and video tutorials that cover the basics and some that dive deeper into creating specific genres of games like turn-based RPGs, tower defense, and farming games. There are also links to external sites and communities that have scripts and guides to help people get started.

Website: https://www.yoyogames.com/gamemaker

To start: https://www.yoyogames.com/learn


GExpand

An open-source 2D game engine designed for ease of use.

Intended for: 2d games

Editor available for: Windows, macOS, Linux and Web

Scripting/Markup Language(s): None, uses a drag and drop interface.

Cost: To free

Learning tools: There are a variety of guides and tutorials available on the GDevelop wiki, as well as over 80 sample files on how to create specific game genres and specific game features.

Website: https://gdevelop-app.com/

To start: http://wiki.compilgames.net/doku.php/gdevelop5/getting_started


Godot

An open source 2D and 3D game engine designed to be powerful, easy to learn and for team collaboration.

Intended for: 2D and 3D games

Editor available for: Windows, macOS and Linux

Scripting/Markup Language(s): GDScript, C# and visual scripts.

Cost: To free

Learning Tools: Godot offers a complete step-by-step guide on how to use its editor, as well as a set of free-text tutorials covering more specific aspects such as implementing virtual reality, using skeletons for 2D animation and procedural geometry generation.

Website: https://godotengine.org/

To start: https://docs.godotengine.org/en/stable/getting_started/step_by_step/index.html


star citizen

lumber yard

A cross-platform commercial 3D game engine developed by Amazon and based on an older version of CryEngine. It was used for games like star citizen and The Grand Tour game.

Intended for: 3D games, with Twitch integration and multiplayer games that use Amazon Web Services

Editor available for: the Windows

Scripting/Markup Language(s): Lua

Cost: To free

Learning Tools: There is a free series of getting started video tutorials and video discussions on more specific engine features. There is also a free training course on using Lumberyard with AWS.

Website: https://aws.amazon.com/lumberyard/

To start: https://aws.amazon.com/lumberyard/gettingstarted/


Ren’Py

An open source visual novel game engine. It was used for games like Doki Doki Literature Club, Butterfly soup, and One night hot springs.

Intended for: Visual novels

Editor available for: Windows, macOS and Linux

Scripting/Markup Language(s): Ren’Py and Python scripting language

Cost: To free

Learning Tools: There is a free text walkthrough on how to make a simple game in Ren’Py and additional text guides for more specific customization.

Website: https://www.renpy.org/

To start: https://www.renpy.org/doc/html/quickstart.html


Rakuen

RPG Creator

A commercial game engine developed by Degica. It’s designed specifically for creating classic JRPG-style games without needing to know how to program. It was used for games like corpse party and Rakuen.

Intended for: 2D role-playing games

Editor available for: Windows and macOS

Scripting/Markup Language(s): JavaScript

Cost: $79.99

Learning tools: There are free tutorials for older versions of the engine, which are probably still applicable. However, for the most recent version, MV, it seems that the best resources are created by the community.

Website: https://www.rpgmakerweb.com/products/programs/rpg-maker-mv

To start: https://www.rpgmakerweb.com/support/products/tutorials


String

An open source editor for interactive storytelling. It was used for games like lion killer and The uncle who works for Nintendo.

Intended for: Interactive fiction and text games.

Editor available for: Windows, macOS and Web

Scripting/Markup Language(s): Proprietary markup language, but also allows HTML, JavaScript and CSS.

Cost: To free

Learning tools: There is a guide that covers the basics of their markup language and offers more advanced scripting examples.

Website: https://twinery.org/

To start: https://twinery.org/wiki/start


Untitled Game of Goose

Unity

A cross-platform commercial game engine developed by Unity Technologies. It was used for games like Untitled Game of Goose, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and hollow knight.

Intended for: 2D and 3D games.

Editor available for: Windows, macOS and Linux

Scripting/Markup Language(s): VS#

Cost: Free for students and hobbyists for personal use and for small businesses that generate less than $100,000 per year. Other than that, there are annual plans starting at $399/year or $40/month.

Learning Tools: Unity provides free resources to help new users of the engine. But it offers much more under its Unity Learn Premium program, including courses, tutorials, and even certifications. Unity Learn Premium is currently free until June 10, 2020, but normally costs $15 per month.

Website: https://unity.com/

To start: https://learn.unity.com/tutorial/create-your-first-unity-project


fortnite

Unreal

A cross-platform commercial game engine developed by Epic Games. It was used for games like fortnite, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and Octopath Traveler.

Intended for: 3D games.

Editor available for: The Windows.

Scripting/Markup Language(s): C++ and Visual Scripting Blueprints

Cost: Free, but with a 5% royalty due on gross game revenue over $3,000 per game per quarter.

Learning Tools: Epic Games offers a number of free online video courses that cover some introductory aspects of using the engine editor and some more advanced topics such as post-processing effects and creating asset pipelines .

Website: https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/

To start: https://docs.unrealengine.com/en-US/GettingStarted/index.html


Creator of NV

A commercial game engine developed by Degica. It is designed specifically for creating visual novels without needing to know how to program.

Intended for: Visual novels

Editor available for: Windows, macOS and Linux

Scripting/Markup Language(s): JavaScript and CoffeeScript

Cost: $69.99

Learning Tools: There’s a free comprehensive guide that covers a wide range of topics, including editor basics, how to structure the story you’re writing, how to customize your visual novel without a script, and an entirely separate guide just for scripting and documentation.

Website: http://visualnovelmaker.com/

To start: https://asset.visualnovelmaker.com/help/index.htm#t=Beginner_s_Guide.htm

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