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11 tools to get you started making video games

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It has never been easier to make your own video games

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GameMaker Studio 2
YoYo Games

Making a video game is much less daunting than it might seem. While you likely aren’t going to go from having no experience to making the next Grand Theft Auto, it has actually never been easier to get started making games. Game development tools and resources have become increasingly accessible to the average person, even if they have no programming experience. Often these tools are also available for free.

To try to make things easier for those looking to get started making games, we’ve put together a list of 11 game engines / editors. Some are designed for a specific genre of game or to be incredibly easy for newcomers. Others are professional development tools for AAA games, but are effectively free to use for hobbyists and still offer a lot 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 is going to have the biggest effect on what kind of game you can make. If you have suggestions for other engines, software, or learning tools for the other aspects of development, post it in the comments.


CryEngine

A cross-platform commercial 3D engine developed by Crytek. It has been used for games like Prey (2017) and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.

Intended for: 3D games

Editor available for: Windows

Scripting / markup language(s): Lua

Cost: Free until the project earns over $5,000 in a year, afterward there is a 5 percent royalty fee.

Learning tools: CryEngine has a number of free tutorial videos that cover everything from installing the editor and walking you through making a simple Flappy Bird-like game to more complex things like compiling a custom configured version of the engine.

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

Getting started: https://www.cryengine.com/tutorials


Hyper Light Drifter

GameMaker

A cross-platform commercial 2D game engine developed by YoYo Games. It has been used for games like Undertale, Hyper Light Drifter, 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, and then licenses start at $39 / year.

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

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

Getting started: https://www.yoyogames.com/learn


GDevelop

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: Free

Learning tools: There are a variety of guides and tutorials available on the GDevelop wiki, and also more than 80 example files of how to make specific genres of games and specific game features.

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

Getting started: 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 scripting.

Cost: Free

Learning tools: Godot has an extensive step-by-step guide to using their editor, along with a bunch of free text tutorials covering more specific aspects like implementing VR, using skeletons for 2D animation, and generating procedural geometry.

Website: https://godotengine.org/

Getting started: https://docs.godotengine.org/en/stable/getting_started/step_by_step/index.html


Star Citizen

Lumberyard

A commercial cross-platform 3D game engine developed by Amazon that is based on an older version of CryEngine. It has been 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: Windows

Scripting / markup language(s): Lua

Cost: Free

Learning tools: There is a free series of getting started tutorial videos and video talks on more specific features in the engine. There is also a free training course on how to use Lumberyard with AWS.

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

Getting started: https://aws.amazon.com/lumberyard/gettingstarted/


Ren’Py

An open-source visual novel game engine. It has been 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 script language and Python

Cost: Free

Learning tools: There is a free text walk-through of how to make a simple game in Ren’Py and additional text-based guides for more specific customization.

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

Getting started: https://www.renpy.org/doc/html/quickstart.html


Rakuen

RPG Maker

A commercial game engine developed by Degica. It is designed specifically for making classic JRPG-style games without needing to know how to program. It has been used for games like Corpse Party and Rakuen.

Intended for: 2D roleplaying games

Editor available for: Windows and macOS

Scripting / markup language(s): JavaScript

Cost: $79.99

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

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

Getting started: https://www.rpgmakerweb.com/support/products/tutorials


Twine

An open-source editor for interactive storytelling. It has been used for games like Lionkiller and The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo.

Intended for: Interactive fiction and text-based games.

Editor available for: Windows, macOS, and web

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

Cost: Free

Learning tools: There’s a guide that covers the basics of their markup language and offers some samples of more advanced scripting.

Website: https://twinery.org/

Getting started: https://twinery.org/wiki/start


Untitled Goose Game

Unity

A cross-platform commercial game engine developed by Unity Technologies. It has been used for games like Untitled Goose Game, 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): C#

Cost: Free to students and hobbyists for personal use and to small companies that generate less than $100,000 a year. Outside of that, there are annual plans starting at $399 / year or $40 / month.

Learning tools: Unity provides some free resources to help those new to the engine. But it provides a lot more under its Unity Learn Premium program including classes, tutorials, and even certifications. Unity Learn Premium is currently free until June 10th, 2020, but is normally $15 per month.

Website: https://unity.com/

Getting started: https://learn.unity.com/tutorial/create-your-first-unity-project


Fortnite

Unreal

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

Intended for: 3D games.

Editor available for: Windows.

Scripting / markup language(s): C++ and Blueprints Visual Scripting

Cost: Free, but with a 5 percent royalty owed on the game’s gross 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 to using the engine’s editor and some more advanced topics like post processing effects and creating asset pipelines.

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

Getting started: https://docs.unrealengine.com/en-US/GettingStarted/index.html


VN Maker

A commercial game engine developed by Degica. It is designed specifically for making 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 extensive guide that covers a wide range of topics including the basics of the editor, how to structure the story you’re writing, how to customize your visual novel without scripting, and a whole separate guide just for scripting plus documentation.

Website: http://visualnovelmaker.com/

Getting started: https://asset.visualnovelmaker.com/help/index.htm#t=Beginner_s_Guide.htm