Tools of the Trade

Happy Friday :-)

Today, let’s finally talk about some free tools that let you make games without coding.

Pretty sweet, IMO.

Twine

First up is Twine. Twine is a super simple-to-use tool that lets you make text-based choose-your-own-adventure games. Did you read Goosebumps books as a kid? It’s like that, but online! The editor is incredibly intuitive to use, and publishing your games is a snap. Of all the tools, Twine definitely has the lowest learning curve, but you can also do some pretty powerful stuff with it once you get up to speed.

As an example, here’s a game I made with Twine a few years back: Zenia’s Dress

Bitsy

Making something short and sweet without the need for fancy graphics? You’re ok with a “DIY” feel to your game? Go with Bitsy. It’s a free, web-based tool that lets you make walking + talking games really fast! It’s actually pretty incredible. Plus, the community around Bitsy is super friendly and inclusive.

Before you bite off more than you need, definitely investigate to see if you can do it with Bitsy!

Stencyl

Stencyl is the prototypical “drag and drop” game-making engine. Instead of writing code with words and semicolons, you use graphical “blocks” which have commands on them like, “move forward 10 pixels.” You then attach these blocks to your game pieces to make your game! There’s a ton of tutorials online, and it’s very well supported. Plus, it’s free to publish your games to the web with Stencyl, and then you only have to pay if you want to create desktop or mobile games.

If you want to create a simple, 2D game for 0 dollars. I’d go here.

GameMaker

GameMaker is similar to Stencyl in that it's drag-and-drop, but it’s a little more fully featured. It’s more “industry standard,” and has been used to prototype and create some of the best-selling games out in the wild (like Spelunky). It’s not free like Stencyl, but if you’re willing to spend a little bit of money, this is what I’d use. The community support is probably a bit better than Stencyl, and it’s more flexible.

Unity

If you want to move beyond 2D into the third dimension, go with Unity. Unity is truly the industry standard game making tool. Whatever you want to do with a game, you can do it in Unity.

However, the learning curve is a little steep. It’s not as drag-and-drop as GameMaker or Stencyl which is why I’d suggest those two if you’re going to do something simple or one-off. I’m not personally a big fan of using it. But if you’ve got a 3D vision or you’re ready to make a long-term investment in your game development skills, it’s a very worthy choice!

Also, it’s totally free as long as you stay under $100k in revenue! So that’s really nice.

And those are my compressed thoughts on the tools to get you started making games :-)

If you know of others I missed, or have questions about any I listed, just hit reply and let me know!

Otherwise, have a great weekend, and I’ll talk to you Monday.

-Sam