How to make games for free

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Making games can be expensive – many of the bigger releases
can have budgets in the hundreds of millions! However, there are games with budgets at a fraction of this, from £50,000 to £500,000. A lot of this money goes towards people’s time, mainly full-time members of staff or freelancers, but a large amount will also go towards equipment and software.

If you’re just starting out or don’t have many funds to spend on software, you’ll be pleased to know that there are free alternatives that you can download and use. The interfaces or features may differ slightly, but these programmes provide powerful tools that will give you a good grasp of the fundamentals.

Engines

The two main engines people use are Unity and Unreal, both of which have free versions to use with the option to upgrade or buy further assets. With that in mind, it will cost you money to publish a game using either of these engines on certain stores. However, there is a huge benefit in learning to use them, as they will provide an excellent foundation to making your own games or working in the industry.

Programming

Visual Studio Code is Microsoft’s free code editor that contains many features to make coding easier; it is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE), meaning it is created to build and compile code. Notepad++ is another alternative but is much more stripped down, though the limitations of any activity breeds creativity!

Art

Blender is a 3D modelling programme that supports animation, rigging and texturing amongst other 3D creation features. Although it can have a steeper learning curve than other programmes, it has a large and active community with plenty of tutorials and advice. A new version is to be released soon making it more accessible to the public.

GIMP is a free alternative to Photoshop that can be used to create and modify 2D art, including textures or pixel art. Inkscape is another free programme for 2D art with more of a leaning towards graphics. If you are particularly interested in Pixel Art, there’s also Piskel, a free online editor for animated sprites & pixel art that you can use in a browser.

Audio

Need a free, efficient way to record and modify audio? Audacity is an excellent program to have if you are interested in audio editing.

The art of audio creation, however, is a different matter; a good place to start is Hydrogen, a free drum machine you can create music with.

If it’s sound effects you’re looking for, there are various free libraries including the BBC Archive or Creative Commons (always check usage rights before putting anything in your game).

Admin

The backbone of successful game development is to be organised; the greatest organisational structure known to humanity is the spreadsheet. If you want access to spreadsheets without the fees, OpenOffice offers a suite of programs that are open, free alternatives to Microsoft Office that provide much of the same functionality. Files saved in Open Office may look slightly different if opened in Microsoft Office programs, so exporting to a PDF is good practice (especially when writing CV’s!).