Have you spent your life wishing you could make a video game? Well, by hesitating this long you’ve actually made it easier for yourself, because the tools for making games are now making the process easier than ever before. There are platforms and whole communities dedicated to helping you bring your dreams to life, and marketplaces where art assets can be purchased, if you’re not the type who wants to dedicate hundreds of hours to the design of a table or a sword.
Here’s a collection of five options for getting started on making a video game today.
Twine is the open source tool for making simple story-based games. An insanely simple visual map allows you to get started making your content right away. When you think of Choose Your Own Adventure type story-telling, this is exactly what it is. Write a scene and then offer branching decision trees on how to proceed, and it’s as easy as rearranging notecards. With a little bit of coding, you can take things up a notch and embed images and music as well.
Twine 2 is also available now. Publishing your games for the world to play is as easy as linking your account to a Google drive.
When I got started I used this very helpful Twine guide. Also make sure to try The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo, which is surprisingly scary for a text-based adventure, and Queers in Love at the End of the World, which uses a ticking clock to keep the player motivated.
2. GameMaker: Studio
The program GameMaker: Studio is free with upgradable systems and tutorials available here for all users. A number of professionally released games were built using this system, and it’s a great management tool for art assets.
If your idea is more action-oriented than story-based, this is probably the choice for you.
3. RPG Maker MV
RPG Maker was one of those things I used to look down upon because so many games in the Steam store were made using this title, but once you’ve played a few that told personal stories, like Mattie Brice’s Mainichi, you’ll see the potential of the platform.
Simple point-and-click interfaces allow you to build an entire world and create events, characters, statistics, attaches, and interfaces all without needing to know more than a basic lick or two of code. There are also dozens of art expansion packs available, and the outputted game can be played on most home and mobile systems.
The Flash-based system Flixel is open source and allows a variety of customization options, leading to a huge library of registered games released on most platforms. It’s built on ActionScript and uses a tile-based management system. The system requires some basic C-based programming knowledge, but nothing you can’t figure out through the multitude of instructive tutorial systems. Big hits like Canabalt have been made on Flixel as well.
This 3D engine allows you to put all the content for your game together before you even make it. Games made with Unity can be exported to Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS, Android, and Flash. This is the big boy of game development, which offers you the tools to make just about any level of program you can imagine, although the Pro version is required if you want to get into the high-powered side of things. You can also import graphics and pre-made content from marketplaces all over the world, so if you find the right stumbling zombie for your game, just buy it and plop it in.
While Unity can allow you to release a full commercial game, coding is required, making this is one of the harder lines in if for novices. Video tutorials here teach you how to start a Unity game if you want some idea of what’s involved, and Udemy has a course here.