Free resources for making games

I got a little carried away while assembling a list of game-development resources as an activity for a course I’m taking, so I decided to share them. Enjoy.

Everything listed is free enough (in both senses of the word) to be used, royalty-free in a commercial or open-source project and can be used to produce games which, at minimum, target Windows, Linux, and OSX. With a few minor exceptions, which are noted, all tools also run on any of those three.

Note: This is only a portion of the list I maintain for my own use. If you don’t see what you want, feel free to ask me to check my bigger, more cluttered private list.

Articles (Sample Platter):

Free Game Engines:

  • Godot (Free competitor to Unity3D. Has a built-in IDE.)
  • Panda3D (3D game engine developed by Disney specifically to enable high-quality games to be written in Python)
  • The Frogatto Engine (Anura) (Really impressive built-in level editing and dynamic reprogramming capabilities. Primarily targeted at 2D platformers, but can be repurposed.)
  • Sauerbraten and BananaBread (A Quake-like 3D game engine with as-you-play level editing and a WebGL port)
  • Various iD Tech engines that have been open-sourced
  • Spring Engine (Open-source 3D real-time strategy game engine)
  • EasyRPG (Open-source clone of the RPG Maker 2000/20003 editor and player. See MKXP for a clone of the RPG Maker XP runtime only.)
  • Adventure Game Studio (Open-source editor and engine for 2D games in the style of King’s Quest and Monkey Island. Editor runs on Windows. Engine ported to all major platforms.)
  • Ren’Py (The most popular engine for English-language visual novels and related types of games)
  • TADS (The most advanced engine for interactive fiction (text adventures), supporting rich text, illustrations, ambient sounds, hyperlinks, etc. The IDE is is Win32-only, but a fully-portable command-line toolchain is available and the IDE can be run in Wine if you use winetricks to install IE6.)

Free 3D Engines and Game Frameworks:

  • OGRE 3D (Highly-extensible, modular 3D engine as used by games like Torchlight and The Book of Unwritten Tales)
  • Irrlicht (3D engine used in proprietary games like Octodad and open-source ones like SuperTuxKart)
  • SDL 2.0 (The big name in providing a portable alternative to DirectX. With add-ons like SDL_mixer, the Render API provides a higher-level 2D experience comparable to Allegro)
  • HaxeFlixel (Port of the Flixel 2D engine from ActionScript to Haxe, a statically-typed derivative which compiles to SWF or native code)
  • Moai SDK (used by Broken Age. A.K.A. The DoubleFine Adventure)
  • MonoGame (Open-source XNA 4.0 clone for C# games. Used to port games like Bastion, Escape Goat, and Fez to non-Windows OSes. See MonoGame-SDL2 for best Linux backend.)
  • LWJGL (Portable Java game library used by Minecraft.)

Free Resources:

Relevant Steam Dev Days Talks:

IDEs:

  • Qt Creator (The free, portable, mature C/C++ IDE that Valve apparently prefers.)
  • Code::Blocks (Open-source IDE for C/C++/Fortran. Alternative to Qt Creator that’s easier to learn in some ways and harder in others.)
  • ZeroBrane Studio (Lua IDE which integrates with engines like the aforementioned Moai)
  • FlashDevelop (Open-source IDE for ActionScript and Haxe. Windows-only but Wine-compatible, including a helper app to bridge it into the native Linux/OSX desktop.)
  • MonoDevelop (Open-source IDE for .NET, well-suited to MonoGame development.)
  • Eclipse (Open-source IDE written in Java. Widely considered to be heavy and bloated, so I only suggest using it for Java projects, rather than other languages for which better IDEs exist.)

Tools:

  • ASEprite (Allegro-based, open-source sprite editor. $10 for pre-built or compile it yourself for free)
  • Audacity (Free, open-source, cross-platform audio editor)
  • Git Extensions (An easy-to-install Windows distribution of the Git revision control system which provides comprehensive GUIs.)
  • Krita and MyPaint (Free, open-source digital painting tools which compete with Corel Painter and SAI… unlike GIMP which is even more specialized as a photo-retoucher than Photoshop.)
  • LMMS (Free, open-source, cross-platform music-composing tool. Ardour is even more powerful but only works on Linux and OSX and has a bit of a learning curve.)
  • TileEd (Free, open-source level/map editor for when you’re building your own game engine)
  • VirtualBox (Free, open-source competitor to VMWare. Has guest 3D drivers, which make it an easy way to quickly test new game builds on other platforms.)

Tools (3D):

  • Blender (Free, open-source professional-quality 3D modelling tool with built-in game engine and non-linear video editor.)
  • GtkRadiant and QuArK (Level editors for games based on the various iD Tech engines that have been open-sourced over the years)
  • MakeHuman (Free, open-source tool for generating humanoid 3D models quickly and easily)
  • ngPlant, Arbaro, Ivy Generator (Free, open-source, parametric generation of 3D plant models. There also exist plugins for this in the Blender plugin browser.)
  • Terraineer, HME, and Picogen (Cross-platform, open-source terrain heightmap generators and/or editors. Geomorph and Terraform also exist, but they’re Linux-only.)
  • Wings 3D (Free, open-source subdivision modelling tool which may be easier to learn than Blender when that’s all you need.)

Free, Open-Source Installer Generators:

  • NSIS (As used by many many Windows programs and games)
  • InnoSetup (The other big, free installer generator. Used by all GOG.com Windows releases)
  • install.sh for Linux tarball releases (My own creation, so you can ask me for help with it. Used by the Linux releases of games like SteamWorld Dig and Desktop Dungeons)
  • Mojo Setup (For when you really need a binary Linux installer package… but I had to hack together my own “unpack it without running the install scripts” tool like cabextract or innoextract for it, so expect to piss off people like me if this is the only option you offer.)

Services Free to Projects Which Open-Source Their Code on GitHub:

  • GitHub itself (code hosting, issue tracker, wiki, release hosting, statically-templated web hosting)
  • Travis-CI (Linux-based continuous integration test service)
  • Appveyor (Windows-based continuous integration test service)
  • Coveralls (code coverage reporting and analysis for Travis-CI)
  • Coverity Scan (Static code analysis for C, C++, and Java)
  • Waffle.io (Trello-like project management UI based on GitHub issues)
  • Gitter.im (Project chat room host with GitHub integration, mobile apps, and an optional bridge so people can connect with IRC clients.)

Enjoy. 🙂

P.S. Remember that this list is not exhaustive. I have a much bigger and more comprehensive list that I haven’t had time to polish up and I’d be happy to answer questions if this is missing something you need.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Free resources for making games by Stephan Sokolow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

This entry was posted in Geek Stuff. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By submitting a comment here you grant this site a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution under the same terms as the associated post.       Also, please be aware that non-constructive comments will have their URL field erased before being approved in order to combat SEO spam.