Mobile gaming has come a long way since Snake. The medium has expanded far beyond the classic built-in puzzles of yesteryear, allowing us to play games of a quality once-consigned to consoles on the go, leading to ongoing worldwide growth. In 2015, 85 percent of the mobile-app market belonged to games, accounting for over $34bn worldwide. By 2020, this number is expected to reach $74.6bn.
Without doubt, this is an exciting time for budding game-designers. Both Apple and Google provide sales platforms for independent developers to market their titles, selling direct to consumers with either paid or freemium models.
There are various development tools for game-designers out there, but finding the strongest can be daunting if you’re new to the scene. Here are the 10 best mobile game development tools of 2016 to help you get started.
This tool was established way back in 2009, and the team behind it claim to have helped bring more than 200,000 games to market in that time. The simple drag-and-drop function makes for simple development, ideal for novices and seasoned designers alike.
GameSalad offers a free trial, but the full package costs $299 per year.
SpeedTree is an essential tool for any designers looking to create high-quality flora in their games and bring environments to life. Visuals are optimized especially for smartphones, making the most of lower processing-power. SpeedTree has been in operation since 2002, and has appeared in countless games.
SpeedTree accommodates shadow-mapping, endless landscapes, mountains, valleys, and elemental effects (such as wind). Creating an immersive setting is more and more important in mobile gaming today as devices continue to allow for higher-quality visuals, making SpeedTree a must-have.
SpeedTree costs $19 per month, and can be used for Unity and Unreal.
Agora.io is designed to let players communicate with fellow players in real-time, with high-quality voice and video reception. Agora.io is a popular SDK which makes integrating communication-functions into games simple. Not only does this help when collaborating on games, it also helps to make playing more sociable and empowers developers to cultivate their own communities. The stronger the bonds fellow players build, the more likely they are to stick with a game over time.
Agora.io provides bespoke pricing to suit each clients’ unique needs.
Unreal Engine, created by Epic, provides tutorials and ready-made elements for quick, accessible development. Mobile games will benefit from Unreal Engine’s dynamic shadows and other strong visual-flourishes.
Unreal Engine is free, but royalties of 10 percent are paid when a game earns more than $3,000 per quarter.
More than 300,000 developers have built games using Corona SDK, typically in a classic 2D style. It allows for seamless cross-platform publication, with a single code-base for maximum ease.
It claims to be as much as 10 times as fast as other development platforms, and the seamless workflow allows for instantly-visible changes. Developers can monetize games using the Corona Ads feature, too.
Corona SDK offers various packages, with a basic free model, a more advanced $79 per year option, and a $199 per year structure.
Marmalade SDK is designed to work with multiple mobile platforms, allowing developers to market to a wide range of devices. Additional features can be added (billing, social-media compatibility etc.). Marmalade was used by gaming giant EA for their SimCity Buildit title.
Marmalade SDK has numerous pricing scales, from free packages to monthly or yearly subscriptions (with various benefits).
Unity is widely-used by developers creating both 2D and 3D titles, and allows for cross-platform app-design for maximum reach. It is designed to provide all the tools you need for a complete development process. Continuous updates are provided, as are ads and accommodation for multiplayer use (the free package allows up to 20 players at the same time).
Unity has four different subscription plans: the free Personal (for beginners); Plus ($35 per month); Pro ($125); Enterprise (designed for larger businesses).
Yebis offers developers the power to make realistic lens, noise, and environmental-lighting elements in games. These help to make 3D environments more believable, appealing to developers working on high-end mobile titles.
Yebis is royalty-free, but costs are provided upon request.
Enlighten, from the Geometrics brand, takes in-game illumination to the next level. Real-time lighting ensures environments appear as lifelike as possible, empowering developers with the technology to make their games more immersive. This is designed to update within milliseconds, with minimal risk of slowdown.
Enlighten provides tailored pricing information upon request.
Stingray is an engine offering a variety of creation tools for 3D games. Virtual-reality is supported as well, enabling developers looking to create cutting-edge games the technology to focus on maximum immersion.
3D animation tools, ongoing updates, and real-time rendering all make this a powerful tool for developers.
Stingray provides a free trial, but three packages are available for full use. One year’s subscription costs $240, two years’ costs $455, and three years costs $650.
This continues to be a hugely exciting time for amateur developers, with more and more high-quality tools cultivating streamlined, accessible design processes. The 10 tools explored above have proven invaluable to developers in 2016 – what new tools are you most looking forward to seeing in 2017?