How to Make a Game – Part 4: Tools for Development

How to Make a Game – Part 4

Written by Tim Donley

[<<Click here for part 3] [Click here for part 5 >>]

How to make a game pt4

Most of the initial articles are focused on getting you straight with yourself! That’s always the number one concern in any endeavor. You will be battling the most with your own psyche to get things done. A quick re-cap:

In my humble opinion, game development at its core is:

  • Taking yourself and your goals seriously
  • Creating as much of a complete list or “picture” of your game as possible and reevaluating that list regularly for completeness and correctness
  • Working on your list and adjusting your workflow as your goals adjust. Do not be afraid to remove things from the list. More than likely the game is better with less than with more.
  • If you need help, get it. If you don’t get help, you will have to learn from the beginning and expect to take time to master any new skill (coding, art, sound, etc)

From the above you can see there is nothing about using C# or being a tremendous artist. You’ll also notice I’m not talking about playing a lot of games or watching a certain anime. Those are all nice but they skirt an obvious talent – your passion for the thing you are working on. Passion is what will pick you up when you hit the floor. Trust me, you will hit the floor a lot during the making of your game.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about Development Tools!

1. Sourcesafe and Cloud Storage: You will need this. This is basically taking the game code and core assets and putting them online for backup. Tortoise SVN is the one I use though there are many more. I combine it with CloudForge. Both are free and when hooked up, you will have a nice repository where you can upload and track your various game assets. It’s a huge load off to know things are incrementally backed up so you can roll back to a previous version if something goes wrong.

2. General Cloud Storage: You probably know about Dropbox or Google Drive or even Microsoft’s OneDrive. All are good. I use Dropbox and Google Drive daily. I recommend getting online backup for primary NON-core asset storage. By this I mean Sourcesafe will back up your actual game code and game assets but you probably have a ton of art, animation files, sound and other files stuffed in your hard drive. Get all that backed up also so you don’t lose it with a crashed hard drive.

3. Game Engines, Languages – Every big studio works with variations of the C coding language (C++, C#). If you are a coder and are awesome at that then carry on! If you are like me then you will probably be looking at something a little more accessible. I work in Gamemaker and I’m paired with an amazing engineer who does all the heavy lifting. I do what can best be called “scripting”. This is one area where you will have to tailor your needs and desires with what is out there and what you can do with yourself and your team. There are many pre-built engines like Unreal or Unity or Gamemaker but look for the one that does the kind of games you want to make. Your best bet is to pick the most popular one. The reason is simple. If you are starting out and have little experience with engines you will want one with a large user base so you have access to people, tutorials and assets you can purchase or download.

If you are already a coder or familiar with setting up an engine then you will not be as concerned about this, but if you are a small team and this is your first go, you will want to focus as much on your game as possible. The best thing I can recommend here is get what you need and no more. Keeping it simple will serve you better than buying or using an engine with an overwhelming amount of options and expandability.

4. 2D Art Tools: Here’s a list of some go-to’s (some free, some paid):

  • GIMP – Free image manipulation and creation program
  • Paint – The classic and still used image program, also free
  • Graphics Gale – A widely used pixel animation program, free version available
  • Aseprite – A pixel animation program, newer and promising, free version available
  • Photoshop – Next to Windows probably one of the most “known” programs out there. Does it all when it comes to image work (trail and paid versions available)

As with the engine, check these out and get what works for you. Any will do the job and you will want one that you feel comfortable with.

5. 3D Art Tools: (Again, some free, some paid)

  • Blender – Never used it personally. It’s free and I know people who have don incredible things with it. Worth a look for sure
  • 3DSMax – My personal go-to for the last 15 years. Good program, tons of support and integration with many 3D engines. Trail and student versions available.
  • Maya – Another super solid program. Trail and student version available. This and 3DSMax probably integrate with the most engine software out there since these two programs dominate most studio development.
  • Houdini, Softimage, Lightwave, MODO, etc – These are all solid and I have used them all. Go here if you know and/or like their output and workflow.

6. Sound Programs, Music and SFX:

  • Audacity – Open source, free and competent
  • Wavosaur – Free sound editor
  • BFXR – Sound effect creator, free and probably used in more games than you can imagine.
  • Kevin MacLeod/Incompetech – A great start for royalty free music
  • NoSoapRadio – Another great source of online music for your game, royalty free of course.
  • Free Sound – Huge library of free sound effects. Check it out and your recognize more than a few familiar sounds from TV, moves and games.

There are tons more than what I have listed but you can get a good start by checking out any of the above. More to come next week and remember to keep living your dreams people!

[<<Click here for part 3] [Click here for part 5 >>]

Tim is currently working on his game Boss 101, please feel free to check out the progress at any of the links below!

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Boss 101 on Indie DB (

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