Starting a game development company is hard enough without worrying about money. Here at Ginger Magic Games, we’ve found plenty of free software that you can use to make games. Below is a short list of the software we use.
Gimp is a fantastic Photoshop replacement. It’s available for Mac, Windows, and Linux, and has a very active community. You can find tons of plug-ins and tutorials to help you with any editing you need. Already learned Photoshop at school, or own the student version that won’t let you make money from your images? Download “Gimpshop” and your Gimp install will look familiarly like Photoshop. You’ll be texturing your games in no time (and at no cost).
Raster graphics are great, but for easily resizable, crisp vector graphics, you’ll need to replace Adobe Illustrator with something a little easier on the wallet. Inkscape is a great choice. It uses the W3C standard SVG format, so you can even view your saved images in compatible web browsers (like Firefox). Like Gimp, Inkscape also has many tutorials that make it a quick, easy program to learn.
If you’re looking for a powerful, free 3-D modeling program, you can’t go wrong with Blender. I learned 3-D modeling using Maya in school, and Blender can do everything that I learned in Maya plus more. The user interface can be difficult if you’re used to another program, but if you’re just learning to model for the first time that won’t be a problem. There are a ton of Blender tutorials online, including the WikiBook Blender 3D: Noob to Pro. The first few sections of the book were all I needed to transition my knowledge from Maya over to Blender. sidenote: I still prefer Maya and it will definitely be one of my first purchases when a positive cash flow rolls in.
You can’t go wrong with Unity. I LOVE Unity, and have even before it was free. If you want to develop quality 3D games for multiple platforms, you’d be crazy not to at least try this engine for yourself. Once you run through one of the tutorials provided with the install, you’ll be able to prototype your games as quickly as an afternoon. With the power to prototype so quickly, you’ll be able to test multiple game ideas before you dedicate yourself to completely fleshing out your next product. And when it comes time to flesh it out, you’ll be amazed at the powerful, easy to use interface that Unity provides you. As an added bonus, the Pro license as well as the Unity iPhone licenses are on sale for 20% until the end of 2009.
I actually have no idea what to use for audio because I haven’t made it this far in the development cycle of my first game yet. I’ve heard of people using Audacity, but honestly I will probably source this part of my games out to an audio expert. After all, One man can’t do everything on a project.