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Indie game tools for anyone starting out (or maybe veterans)

Longtime indie game lurker Dan Williams offers up a wide array of tools from all disciplines in a talk at Women in Games Boston to help indie game developers make their games. This article will be cross-posted with WIG Boston.

I recently did a talk at the Women in Games Boston (wigboston.wordpress.com) meetup addressing tools of all types that can be used to make indie games. I have noticed in talking with many of the other devs in the Boston scene that since everyone comes into the scene from a different angle, not everyone may be aware of the various tools out there that they can use to make their lives easier. I wanted to give a talk listing the various tools that I’ve seen out there, as well as some that have been ignored, and say something about the ones I feel are notably useful. The goal of the tools I presented were to give the most bang for the buck, so I didn’t list everything. For some of the tools I’ll make a comment, if I’m aware of how useful they are. I go more in depth in the video of my talk so I recommend watching that, but I will try to supplement my talk with this article.

Also some caveats; I haven’t ever worked on a 3d game, nor have I sold a game commercially. Because of this there is a slight gap in my coverage of tools, but I think it’s a decent amount either way.

The video for the talk can be found here: 

 

Also, you will want to visit the following sites for the best coverage in game tools:

  • PixelProspector.com
  • Tigsource.com
  • Ludumdare.com/compo/tools

Without further ado, here is the list from my talk:

  • Platform: PC/Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, “platform-independent” like Java, HTML5
  • Languages: C#, Java, HTML5, C++, Lua, GML, Python
  • Programming IDE’s: Visual Studio, Eclipse, Monodevelop, NetBeans, Unreal Editor, Game Maker, Clickteam Fusion, Construct 2, Unity (to an extent), Corona (for Lua)
  • Beginner (no programming needed) game development tools: Stencyl, Twine, Scratch, Kodu, Puzzlescript, Construct 2, Multimedia Fusion 2, Love (Lua)
  • Programming tutorials: Codecademy (for javascript and general programming information), csharp-station.com (great tutorials for C#, but also for programming in general), thenewboston (videos on every major programming language), khan academy (javascript), O’Reilly books, youtube!
  • Audio tools: Bfxr.net, Musagi, Reaper, Audacity, Labchirp, media.io, FMOD (for indies making < $100k), Wwise (for indies with less than 200 sounds), ToneMatrix / AudioTool
  • Paid Audio Tools: Protools, Cubase, FL Studio
  • Websites for music and sound effects: Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Freesound.org, many others
  • Communities (online and in Boston) to get game advice and inspiration:
    • Read Gamasutra, post mortems, Tigsource, Adriel Wallick’s blog (msminotaur.com)
    • Boston is great!
    • WIGBoston of course, Boston Indies, Playcrafting Boston, Boston Post Mortem, Indie Game Collective, Boston Unity Group, People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction, Game Maker’s Guild, MassDIGI, MIT
    • Meetup.com has many listed, but not all. Also check Jason Wiser’s list at madwomb.com/tutorials/GamesBoston.html
  • Online communities: Tigsource (write a devlog, participate in the forums), Reddit (comment in r/gamedev, r/devblogs), Twitter (cannot be overstated enough), subject-related (like drawing or music making communities)
  • Marketing tools: TWITTER, Presskit() (Thank you, Rami!), Mailchimp (for sending out press releases and newsletters), Gamasutra (for writing blog posts and commenting), Screenshotsaturday (for posting images), Tigsource Devlogs (fire up that base!), RiteTag (to track hashtags and their effectiveness), You!
  • Project management, bug tracking, and business tools: Projecgantt.biz, Google Docs, Microsoft Project, Trello, JIRA ($10-20/mo for small projects),
  • Storefronts and distribution: Steam, PSN, Xbox Live, Nintendo eShop, DoDistribute(), Itch.io, Humble Store / Widget, Desura, GameJolt, Newgrounds, Kongregate, IndieDB
  • Personal recommendations and advice:
    • Try GameMaker or MMF2 to start, maybe also Love or any Lua engine, then graduate to Unity and C# once you have programming down. Of course it depends on the kinds of games you want to make and the goals you want to achieve.
    • Read Gamasutra/GDC Vault, Tigsource Forums, Derek Yu, Leigh Alexander / Offworld, Adriel’s 1GAW, Rami Ismail, Paste Magazine, Tom Francis Game Maker tutorial vids, Jan Willem Nijman’s talk on game polish () and Bennet Foddy’s talk on indie games throughout history (), John Walker’s Dos/Don’ts on Rockpapershotgun.com, Feminist Frequency’s videos, AbleGamers and articles about how games address disabilities
    • Try to make a game at least every two weeks; tackle a new mechanic every time. Prepare for them to be unfinished and broken. “You get better at making games by making games” –Rami Ismail; advice for the ages
    • When planning a game, set up a task for EVERY asset and asset part; usually each one has art, audio, data, input. Use project management to track tasks to get a proper level of progress
    • Never compare yourself against Notch. Ever.
    • Don’t even think of giving anyone a timeline/scope for your game until you’ve finished a game.
    • Play games similar to ones you want to create. Research about those types. Learn your niche that way. Learn why you love what you love.
    • Participate in Game Jams; fail heroically! Check indiegamejams.com, twitter.com/gamejamrobot and /manyjams
    • Use resources like ScreenshotSaturday.com, Tigsource, and Twitter for marketing, but don’t overdo it. Read about journalists’ pet peeves, read about failures in gamedev

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