Dev Resources – THE LIST
Are you looking to get into game development or improve your skills in a given area? Well, here’s a list of software, websites, tutorials, etc. that I recommend you check out!
This list isn’t updated nearly as frequently as the collection of reference material you can find on my Tumblr account under the reference and gamedev tags, and it’s far from comprehensive; this is more along the lines of what’s worked for me as well as some other cool and useful stuff I’ve heard about or stumbled upon. I also recommend checking out the lists on PixelProspector.com’s Indie Resources page; I found out about many of the original entries on this list specifically from that site.
Game Engines and Development Tools
General Game Development
- Be sure check out the official Asset Store, too — you can find a good selection of useful plugins and resources for free or cheap.
- GameMaker – My previous engine of choice. A robust and accessible game development suite geared toward cross-platform 2D game development. From my own experience with an earlier version (as of writing this the latest version is Studio 2 and I’ve only worked with it up to Studio 1), the editor interface isn’t anywhere as malleable as that of Unity but it boasts a user-friendly Drag-and-Drop programming system as well as a simple but powerful scripting language.
- Unreal Engine – As of March 2015, the powerful Unreal Engine is now completely free for personal or commercial projects! This is the engine that has powered countless classic titles like Bioshock, Borderlands, the Batman Arkham series, Fable, Goat Simulator, Mass Effect and A Hat in Time, so it’s definitely worth a look!
- GameSalad — A simple, but seemingly robust, drag-and-drop game development tool that can export to HTML5 and mobile platforms as well as PC. I can’t vouch for it myself but I’ve heard a lot of talk about it so I might as well mention it here.
- Construct — I’m not familiar with this program, but the more I hear about this software the more I want to try it out. It seems to be the perfect middle ground between GameSalad’s user-friendliness and GameMaker’s depth, so if you’re looking for a good prototyping tool, this is most likely the perfect option. It’s more The last time I checked, the software itself only works on Windows but it exports to all the major platforms and then some.
- Novelty – A freeware Visual Novel creation tool. I haven’t messed with it much myself, but it seems to be very versatile and needs more attention.
- Adventure Game Studio — Freeware, classic LucasArts- and Sierra-style Adventure games.
- RPG Maker — It’s not cheap, but it’s arguably the best and most user-friendly Eastern-style RPG creation tool in the market… thus far. It’s got a built-in database editor, command-based programming and the ability to modify and extend the engine with Ruby scripts.
- SMBX2 — A Super Mario Bros. fan game engine with an extensive level editor featuring characters, enemies and assets from Mario Bros. 1-3, Mario World, and various other classic games. Originally developed and abandoned by Redigit of Terraria fame, its’ community has since begun expanding the software with the addition of Lua scripting functionality. Good luck trying to sell a game made with this engine, but it’s a great introductory tool to game development and level design.
- Super Mario Maker — Since I mentioned SMBX it’s only fair that I bring up the official counterpart; Super Mario Maker allows you to make levels in the style of classic Super Mario Bros, SMB3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros U and share them with other players online. The editor is much more limited compared to SMBX, but some may appreciate the relative simplicity and it’s still a great tool for learning level design… assuming you, y’know, have a Wii U.
Drawing, Pixel Art, Modeling and Animation
Reference and Websites
- PixelJoint — A bustling pixel art community with plenty of tutorials, competitions and what have you.
- The Spriter’s Resource — A massive database of ripped and custom game sprites – great for reference or fangames!
- The Models Resource and The Textures Resource — Sister sites to The Spriter’s Resource, these websites feature ripped and custom 3D models and textures for all your animation and 3D development needs! …At least for non-commercial purposes.
- Reference! Reference! — A database of free animation reference clips.
- art-resources.tumblr, fuckyeaharttutorials.tumblr and artists-help.tumblr — Three tumblr accounts filled with all sorts of tutorials and reference material.
- 2D Will Never Die — Features a strong selection of tutorials on more advanced techniques like subpixel animation, as well as a number of editorials like the currently-featured “How much do sprites cost?” article.
- Mayshing’s Cel Shading Guide
- Lackadaisy Expressions Guide
- Zemail’s Arm, Leg, Hand & Foot Tutorial
- Erika Eguia’s Pinterest Account — A gold mine of art and animation reference.
- Paint.NET — A freeware image editor somewhere between MS Paint and Photoshop in terms of capabilities.
- Aseprite — A pixel art app that boasts useful animation functionality like onion skinning and layers as well as robust sheet export options. The full version is $15 and guarantees updates until v1.9, but the free version is still quite capable.
- GraphicsGale — Like Aseprite, GraphicsGale features fairly good animation functionality, and while I don’t feel it’s as intuitive as Aseprite it’s still quite handy. The free version comes with everything you’ll need; the $20 full license mostly offers the convenience of exporting .gifs.
- Pyxel Edit – Another pixel art app, though unlike Aseprite and GraphicsGale Pyxel is geared toward tileset editing. The full version is $10 and seems to be a vast improvement over the free version.
- DesignDoll — A super-useful freeware humanoid posing app for reference.
- Crocotile 3D — a $10 app for tilemap-based 3D modeling.
- Blender — A free, open-source 3D modeling and animation program.
- Mixamo Autorigger — An awesome online tool that generates game-ready rigs for humanoid models. The end result may still need to be tweaked in the 3D animation app of your choice, but overall this thing will save you a ton of time and effort, and it’s completely free to use for anyone with an Adobe ID (which I don’t think costs anything to sign up for but I’m not 100% certain on that)
- RotSprite — A simple program that rotates and scales pixel art with less of a loss in quality compared to the transform tools in a lot of image editors.
- Tileset Champion – A simple application for buffering tilesets; due to the way some engines render tiles, games made with those engines may display gaps between tiles on some computers. This application adds extra rows of pixels at the seams of the tiles to act as a safety net so the tiles will display properly in-game.
Sound and Music
Reference and Websites
- Indie Game Music Forum — Just as it says on the tin, a community dedicated specifically to requesting and composing music for independent games. I joined it intending to become more involved, but you’ll probably only find me posting there once in a blue moon.
- Soundcloud — An audio hosting service, mainly for music but people also upload sound effects, instrument samples and voice acting demo reels. Also I totally have an account there and you really should go check it out.
- FreeSound Project – Another good source of free audio resources, though not specifically geared towards game development.
- OverClocked Remix — A community known for its amazing game remixes, though it looks like they’ve begun to broaden their focus to become more of a general pro game music community. You can find plenty of interesting and insightful discussions on composing and producing music in the forums as well as plenty of professional musicians for hire.
- Incompetech — The ULTIMATE all-purpose royalty-free music archive. This guy is freaking insane, he has hundreds, maybe thousands of free, high quality music tracks in such a wide variety of moods and genres that he has a custom search engine for the site. If nothing else, you’ll certainly be able to find more than enough placeholder music here.
- A list of free music resources on Tumblr
- A list of Gamasutra articles related to audio
- The Sounds Resource — A sister site to the Spriter’s Resource, this place has a growing collection of sound effects, voice clips, etc. ripped straight from your favorite games! Not the best place to look if you need sounds for commercial projects, but for fangames and freeware this place is a potential gold mine!
- Anvil Studio — Free sequencer for composing and editing MIDI files, now with VST support!
- Famitracker — Free tracker that emulates the original NES sound chip.
- Audacity — Powerful free audio editor.
- SFXR/BFXR — Free 8-bit sound effect generator; BFXR is an updated online version of SFXR.
- Labchirp — Another sound generator similar to S/BFXR.
- Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra — A nice, completely free orchestral soundfont.
- MusicRadar’s MASSIVE Free Sample Collection — Almost everything you could ever need for any kind of genre, and then some!
- Woolyss Chiptune Samples — A good selection of both free and commercial chip loops and samples for those who want to make chiptunes in their own DAW.
- Famitracker Techniques/Samples Pack — A starter kit of sorts for chiptune purists, this package of Famitracker resources should help you get started on becoming the next [INSERT CHIP ARTIST OF PREFERENCE HERE].
Design and Writing
- Game Maker’s Toolkit and Boss Keys — Unrelated to the GameMaker software, these series are must-watches for anyone looking to get into the game development. GMTK covers a breadth of game design topics and often delves into points about the underlying theory and player psychology while Boss Keys has a more specific focus on analyzing the design of dungeons in the Legend of Zelda series.
- Sequelitis — (Crude language warning) Arin “Egoraptor” Hanson — yes, that voice actor/animator/LPer — breaks down the design and dynamics of Mega Man, Castlevania and Zelda games. More specifically, he walks through how they changed between different installments in their respective franchises.
- Gamasutra — Tons of game industry news articles, editorials, tutorials, post-mortems, design documents and job offerings.
- Xion Ga Taosenai — A friend of mine who knows a crazy lot about game theory and sums it all up very well. There’s a lot to gleam from a lot of his posts, but in particular be sure to check out his “10 Rules of Game Design” post.
- RPGMaker.Net — A thriving RPG-centric community that hosts RPG games and has a variety of articles and tutorials about both design and the more technical stuff. They also highlight development blogs for the games they host, conduct development contests and have a growing database of free art, music and other resources. Previously they only hosted free games, but they’ve recently begun opened the gates for commercial titles provided the actual business aspects are handled off-site. RMN supports a ridiculous number of different game engines, though their community is primarily based around their namesake software.
- The Talkhaus — The official fan community for the popular Let’s Player raocow. This forum has an affinity for Super Mario Bros. fangames and mods, and it contains a collective wealth of game design and level design knowledge accumulated over the course of numerous collaborative projects and design contests. At the very least, be sure to check out this page in particular.
- Orteil’s Game Idea Generator — Need some help brainstorming ideas for your next project? Pop on over here and see what absurd concoction the Random Number God’s cooked up for you!
- RPG Solo — A site that serves as a virtual GM for solo roleplaying. The blog I discovered it through recommends using RPG Solo as a tool for writing fiction.
- A nice selection of level design articles
Reference and Websites
- CodeAcademy — A site for learning various programming languages as well as some programming-related processes.
- Pastebin — A source code hosting service.
- Hastebin — A more streamlined means of sharing code than pastebin, though the URLs seem to expire after some time. Change the extension of the url to the language you’re using to get appropriate syntax highlighting.
- The UnityPatterns Github — UnityPatterns was a site that hosted a number of useful plugins for Unity. The site was shut down in May 2015, but the source code for their tools is still available here.
- Unity Gems — Another blog featuring various useful scripts for Unity.
- Notepad++ — A free, lightweight code editor; this is my go-to app for Lua scripting.
Hosting, Marketing and Funding
- RPGMaker.Net — No, this isn’t an error. I’m posting RMN again because I don’t want to downplay the hosting services of the site — each game gets its’ own customizable minisite complete with a blog, download page (free content only, purchases and downloads have to be handled elsewhere for commercial games), an image gallery, a review section and more! If you’re working on a free RPG then this is the perfect place to host it, but it’s still definitely worth considering for commercial games!
- Steam Greenlight — If you don’t have a deal set up with Valve and want to get your games on Steam, you’ll have to post ’em here first and have the community vote on them. There’s a one-time $100 submission fee to discourage frivolous submissions (don’t worry, the proceeds go to charity) but it also features a “Concepts” section where you can post a game idea for peer review and feedback for free.
- Desura — A much more developer-friendly alternative to Steam. It lacks the sheer userbase and exposure from its larger cousin but makes up for by offering you more control over how your game is priced and allowing you to start selling your game right away without going through a peer review process like Greenlight. Here’s a nice Reddit discussion covering the differences between the two services on the consumer’s end.
- Kickstarter — The most popular crowdfunding website, a lot of huge and awesome projects have gotten funded via campaigns on this website. Before you go asking the masses for their money, though, do some research — be sure to read up on how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign and prepare like crazy, because you won’t get any of the money pledged to a project unless you meet your goal.
- Indiegogo — From what I understand, Indiegogo is like the Desura to Kickstarter’s Steam. Unlike Kickstarter, where it’s all or nothing, you get to keep any money pledged during the run of the project, but it’s got a comparatively smaller community.
- OpenGameArt.org – This site is filled with free art, audio and other resources that you can use for placeholders or even finished products! Of particular note is the Liberated Pixel Cup, an ongoing effort to build a collection of public domain RPG and platformer sprites in a consistent style. Whatever you find, be sure to check the attribution requirements.