The game building is lucrative and perplexing to most aspirants. We try to demystify this domain with these best game-making tools.
As per a report, the video gaming market was worth over $190 billion in 2022, and it’s projected to grow 13% annually to reach $650 billion in 2032. Consequently, this industry is set for exponential growth and truckloads of opportunities.
And while everyone wants to be a game developer, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Without some expert guidance and first-hand experience, it’s mostly speculation more than anything else.
If you need career guidance related to this stream, this Coursera guide will see you through.
And the internet is full of boring advice about the skills you need to start as a game developer. Primarily, all that sums down to two: the ability to use a game engine and coding.
Coding gives you complete freedom with respect to your game; however, it isn’t necessary for newbies. You can create a decent 2D game without programming.
Another part of this puzzle, a game engine, is generally software offering a development environment to put together a game with minimum work. It deals with everything: images, videos, animations, scenes, sound effects, gaming physics, etc.
This post is about a few tools to help you build your first game to pave your way into this lucrative gaming industry.
Unity is for ambitious teams or solo developers trying to create 2D or 3D titles with next-level graphics for enticing gameplay.
This powerful game engine needs you to code in C# to develop games.
However, the newbies can download its free version with a built-in mini-game and try their hands before committing to the bigger projects and the subscription.
There are trial versions of the paid plans in addition to two free versions, one for students (under 16 years of age) and another for individuals having less than $100k in revenue or funding in the last year.
Unity has a vibrant community where you can get tips to advance with this game engine and the overall game development. In addition, every subscription opens you up to its asset store you can use in your games and the Unity learn platform to master the art of game development.
Besides, the games built with Unity are royalty-free and support multiple platforms, including virtual reality.
You can head to YouTube to check some games built with Unity to get an idea of their potency.
Overall, this fits most use cases, irrespective of the size, and I’ll recommend Unity for any serious developer, new or seasoned, alike.
Unreal is used by industry pros and is normally frowned upon by beginners because of a slightly steep learning curve.
However, Unreal has launched Blueprints, a visual scripting tool to help the non-coding folks.
Still, Unreal is for aspirants predominantly aiming for triple-A level 3D visuals and willing to learn to program along the way.
This game editor is coupled with its freemium asset marketplace, powered by Epic Games (its parent company) and the Unreal engine user base. In addition to its capabilities, Unreal’s strengths are its in-depth documentation, huge community, and free tutorials.
Unreal is free to download and use until your specific game earns more than $1 million. Afterward, a 5% royalty comes into play.
Unreal also has an Enterprise program, and you can also figure out a bespoke license by contacting them. Custom licensing can include private training, premium support, royalty-free distribution, etc.
Ultimately, this is the most powerful game maker on this list, which also needs maximum effort from its takers.
GameMaker helps you develop 2D games you can publish on multiple platforms, including Android, iOS, PlayStation, Windows, macOS, etc.
This ships with its own GameMaker Language (GML). Consequently, you have two modes for game development: GML code or GML visual. Needless to say, the coding mode will give you the utmost freedom.
However, GML visual is also competent in using pre-coded gaming elements.
Every scene you create happens in a ‘room’, where you set camera controls, change the design, add more rooms, etc. In addition, every object you make can be personalized as per the game requirements. One can also design customized gaming assets or import them for a quick turnaround.
Moreover, you can easily check for any bugs for smooth final output.
You can also send push notifications directly to your users and add in-game purchases for greater revenue.
Based on the assets and the publication platform, GameMaker offers four subscriptions, including a powerful free plan to get started without investing a penny.
And YoYo Games, the company behind GameMaker, clarifies that all the games created with this tool carry no surcharges or profit cuts and are the absolute properties of the respective game developers.
GDevelop is a top choice for aspiring game developers to create 2D games without code. Although this is primarily meant for 2D, I have played one 3D racer developed using this tool, indicating the vast capabilities of this game engine.
All games developed using GDevelop are available on LiLuo for scrutiny. Trying this will give you a fair idea of what to expect.
Similar to the previous tool, you can develop your assets or import them to build interesting scenes for your indie project quickly.
One can also apply visual effects with a few clicks to change the gameplay atmosphere to best suit the storyline.
In addition, it supports adding community-developed behaviors to the objects with a single click. Moreover, the scene editor lets you customize visuals, sound effects, dialogues, sprites, etc., to create an interesting gameplay experience.
It also features a debugger to weed out the issues and a live preview of your changes to check the effects instantly. Additionally, one can test the game over WiFi/LAN without exporting with its Network Preview.
Moreover, games created with GDevelop are the sole property of their developers. This game builder is free to download and has paid subscriptions for added features.
Finally, the ease of publishing your game on multiple platforms makes GDevelop a game builder you should try.
Builbox comes in two flavors: Buildbox 3 and Buildbox Classic, based on the ability to create 2D and/or 3D games.
Buildbox classic is for 2D game development, which packs drag and drops builders without writing a single line of code. In contrast, Buildbox 3 is a much more advanced tool you can implement to create 3D games with its low-code tools or go entirely code-free using its Brainboxes and Smart Assets.
In addition, the subscription offers access to the BuildBox Shop to import assets for your game. Interestingly, you can earn by selling assets to other game developers, opening another way of monetization.
Both Buildbox versions have free tiers with limited capabilities, including no exporting. The paid versions are based on the number of worlds and the scenes you want to create.
Buildbox games are royalty-free, and you get to keep 100% of profits, except with its Ad-box monetization, which comes with a revenue share of 10% or 30%, based on the subscription. However, Buildbox doesn’t take a cut from any custom ad integration or if you keep your game ad-free.
The best thing about Construct is the web-only interface you can run in any browser. Once loaded, it runs even without an active internet connection.
And although Construct calls itself the best 2D game engine, it has a few 3D capabilities, including multi-dimensional objects and mesh distortion.
Furthermore, this game engine lets you add advanced animations with ease. Additionally, its physics engine, built-in image editor, custom collisions, excellent pathfinding, etc., makes it a favorite for beginners and experts.
Besides, the free and paid add-ons enhance the game-building experience. All this goodness is coupled with instant previews without lengthy delays and remote previews, which one can have on different devices by scanning QR codes.
Construct has a free version with major limitations that you can try without paying or registering. Finally, all games created using Construct are 100% royalty-free without any revenue-sharing scheme.
Flowlab is a browser-based game builder which requires no coding. This is primarily aimed at the students trying their hands at game development.
Flowlab’s excellence lies in its simplicity and in-depth documentation.
The game editor lets you easily add objects with different attributes, including their gravity behavior, collision and rotation effect, density and bounce properties, etc. Like other tools, Flowlab has an object library to import and edit elements.
In addition, one can add behaviors to the objects and link multiple such elements to create advanced game logic. Likewise, Flowlab has a capable Sprite Editor to edit native objects, or you can import from the local device.
Flowlab is a freemium tool you need to pay to export your creations and have advanced features for fully-fledged game development. However, the free version is capable enough to realize its potential.
Lastly, everything you create with Flowlab is completely yours with no royalties, and there are plenty of options for effortless export to multiple platforms.
GB Studio is for game boy fans to bring their retro imaginations to life on web browsers and Analogue Pocket devices.
This free, open-source game builder doesn’t need you to learn any programming language. Although, advanced developers can modify the code through plugins.
GB Studio is managed by a single developer, Chris Maltby. Even so, this is actively developed and has decent documentation for beginners.
The project editor is extremely simple, with the option to add scenes, triggers, objects, etc. In addition, one can import assets, with the GB Studio currently lacking an in-built image editor of its own.
Besides, it supports creating multiple scenes, connecting them strategically, adding dialogue, etc., to make the gameplay interesting.
Finally, you can play the game on any GB emulator and upload the polished product on Itch.io with your audience.
Arcade division in the MakeCode is Microsoft’s initiative to get you started with nostalgic arcade games.
The primary objective is learning to get a glimpse of arcade game development with its byte-size tutorials.
The strength of this editor is a simple interface you can begin with without registration or downloading. It permits changing the files and downloading them right away.
However, you’ll be prompted to sign in to save the progress.
Overall, it’s a fun and intuitive way to game creation for anyone interested in arcade gaming.
Code is the (Ultimate) Way!
This is the bitter truth of game development once you reach a certain level of expertise or ask for utmost flexibility.
These tools, however, are the perfect start to building your first game and slowly introduce you to the programming.
Most of these editors have free versions, so you can check their suitability accordingly.
PS: Let’s admit! Making your first game is tough. However, it would help if you check these online game development courses to learn from the experts.
You may also look at this comparison between Unity and Unreal and decide which one is better for developing games.