The Best Free Game Development Tools

By Phill Powell

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get good game development tools…or any money at all. Thanks to these critically acclaimed software programs, you can design your own games absolutely free:

adrift
Produced with the Unreal game development engine, Adrift creates some of the same outer-space tension as seen in the film Gravity.

Unreal Game Development Engine

Used for Making: Unreal (First-Person Shooter), Adrift (First-Person Shooter), Daylight (Zombie Horror), Fable Legends (Action-Adventure), Kingdom Hearts III (Action RPG), Street Fighter V (Fighting Game), Tekken 7 (Arcade Game) and Unreal Tournament 4 (First-Person Shooter)

Why Designers Love It: Thanks to its easy-to-learn C++ code, it’s a program that’s proven its adaptability, and developers love it for its portability. If you want to learn to develop games using Unreal Engine, it offers great assets and a fairly easy learning curve.

The legendary 1998 shooter Unreal, was the launching point for the development platform. Ultimately, the engine proved it was capable of much more than just creating shooters. In fact, the Unreal Engine works great at building games in a variety of game genres.

Unity

Used for Making: Shadow Blade (Ninja Platform Game), Modern Soldier (Military Shooter), Angry Birds Epic (RPG), War Arm (Battle Sim) and Battlestar Gallactica Online (MMOG)

Why Designers Love It: Since its introduction in 2005, Unity has been used in PC and console game development and now it’s used extensively in Virtual Reality (VR) development. That’s why it’s cool to learn how to use Unity; you’re on the cutting edge of game development technology. The Unity dev engine has also brought to life many iPhone hits, like Zombieville USA, Predators, OMG Pirates! and Ravensworld.

Scratch

Used for Making: Mini Golf (Golf Sim), Alex’s Quest (Arcade) and Police Chase (Action)

Why Designers Love It: Scratch (which uses Squeak and ActionScript code) was intended by its MIT makers for developing simple games that were very visual and friendly to young gamers. Most of the games created with it have bold but simple color palettes, but that doesn’t mean that older gamers should discount Scratch-based games. Scratch is a free desktop authoring tool; learn how to use Scratch and you could find yourself creating breakthrough software to teach the next generation.

Scratch has been a perfect choice for making basic kids’ games since its introduction in 2006.

shaun-white-snowboardingGrab some air with Shaun White Snowboarding, which was created with the Havok game engine.

Havok

Used for Making: Just Cause & Just Cause 2, Shaun White Snowboarding (Winter Sports), WWE ’13 (Wrestling), Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Lockdown, The Last of Us (Zombie Action) and Lord of the Rings: Online (MMORPG)

Why Designers Love It: Start using Havok and you could be ready to make games for Android and develop games for iOS, which are just two of the platforms Havok supports.

Havok was first introduced in 2000, when Irish start-up Havok created an advanced physics-engine component that local developers took advantage of. Since then it’s become an international success story. The version now in use debuted in 2011.

Play Your Own Game
This summer, why not learn game design at a Digital Media Academy tech camp? You’ll learn from the best teachers from the industry. Before you know it, you could be making a game that wins awards and starts you on a whole new dream career.