Game Creation on the Cheap
Too many times I find myself hearing words like "Do you know where I can find a warez copy of <Insert App here>?" usually while wasting away my life chatting in the GameDev channel. This is a doubly stupid thing to ask. First, and most obviously, asking software developers for illegal copies of someone elses (or maybe even theirs!) hard work is idiotic, secondly, and perhaps not as obviously, for almost every high dollar app out there, there is another similar tool that is often free or very cheap.
So, I have taken it upon myself to draw up this article pointing out some of these free/cheap programs. This article will by no means be comprehensive, but I hope I can cover the bases of all the basic needs for coding and making art, sound, and music for gaming purposes. I believe that by the end of this article, everyone will see why there is really no need to beg, whine, and plead for software that you cant possibly afford, just to get your feet wet in the game development business.
Sprites, tiles, textures - unless you plan on making a career out of text-only games, youre gonna need some 2d art. And when you talk about free graphics apps - there is really only one word. That word is GIMP. GIMP is free, open source, and is stable on Win32. It has a good amount of features available, and is easy to extend via plug-ins and Script-Fu. On the downside it has a unique interface, and takes some getting used to. Pound for pound, it is nearly as powerful as Adobe PhotoShop, but is yours for the cost of the bandwidth to download it.
Another low cost option which people seem to forget about is Paint Shop Pro. Now in version 7, it is available for between $70 -$90 USD. It has about all the features youll ever need, with an easy to use interface.
Another contender for you attention is Pixia, which is similar to PSP, but is freeware. While I am not much of an artist myself, I have managed to get together some samples to show what these applications are capable of
The heart of game development - All the artwork in the world wont do you any good if you dont have a way to make it go. There are many, many options here, and I will only cover a few that I know to be handy and available. There are also 2 different routes to go:
Then you have the question of languages: There are probably many more out there that are also viable languages, but I will stick with the ones I am most familiar with: Java and C/C++. So here goes.
There are a lot of freeware / open source Java editors, compilers, and utilities available on the web. The one thing you will definitely need is the JDK (Java Developers Kit). It is available for Win32, Linux, and a few other *nix OSs. There are ports to other systems, as well. Once you have the JDK installed, you have 2 options. One, use the text editor of your choice and the Java compiler included in the JDK, and go to town. The other option is to use on of the many IDEs available.
I, personally, am learning my way around Forte, which is Suns free IDE. The nice thing about Java tools is most of them are written in Java, so once you have the JDK, almost all of them will run on your system with no problems. Another good IDE for Java is JCreator, which is written in C++ for Win32 systems, so it isnt portable like the Java based ones, but might be a little easier to get used to working with.
When it comes to C/C++, you have more options then you can shake a stick at. Ill stick with listing the Win32 environment ones, as I am not familiar with all the options that *nix users have.
There are quite a few more options out there, but these ones are (IMHO) the best, especially for free. They might not have all the bells and whistles of Visual Studio, CodeWarrior, or C++ Builder but they serve their purpose quite well.
This section will probably be the longest, for two reasons. One, 3d modeling software is what most people ask for, and I have the most knowledge of this area.
3d modeling usually consist of the following stages:
There are many, many options for this. I will outline the ones I personally use. For more options, a good link site is POVRay Modeling Links
I am not much of a music man, so I have limited input for this area. The two apps I have found that are free/cheap and create music are Anvil Studio and Melody Assistant. Both of these are MIDI based apps, and allow you to either compose with a MIDI keyboard or by point and clicking notes and selecting an instrument. Melody is the more pwoerful of the two, allowing exports to many different formats, and high quality sampled instruments.
Also, there is Buzz. Buzz is a free soft-studio that is something like an entire synth, sequencer, effects... basically, every piece of hardware a techno guru might have, done in software. I have to say... I have yet to get the hang of it, but it looks quite good.
Well, it isn't a prefect list, and it doesn't go in depth very much, but this should give those of you who are like me (poor) and need some tools to get gaming. Questions and comments to Rykard.
Visit Blackstaff Intertainment - The world's greatest non-existant game development studio