With the Global Game Jam only a week away, I thought it would be a good idea for us to give some tips to jammers – especially as our company emerged from a 48 hour game making competition. In part one I’ll talk about what you should do before you arrive at the jam to maximise your potential for creating an awesome game.
Whether you’re an artist, coder, designer or an audio person, you should start to make yourself familiar with some handy tools. As a coder I can only give you some limited suggestions, but check some of these out anyway:
Unity3D – I’m not sure I can say much more about Unity than has already been said. This is a great tool, for beginners and veterans alike. And there is a free version: http://unity3d.com/
There are a lot of tutorials online, my personal favourites being these: 3DBuzz
UDK – Another popular game engine is the Unreal Development Kit. I haven’t used this one yet, but it lets you create professional looking games in a short time – perfect for a 48 hour jam.
You can download it for free (for educational and non-commercial projects) here: http://udk.com/download
Microsoft XNA – This is more of a framework than a game engine, but it gives you a lot more control over your product than Unity or UDK. With XNA you can build games for the PC, Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7. Experience with programming is almost essential with this one, and experience with C# is recommended. Visit http://create.msdn.com/en-US/ to download the tools. Lots of tutorials and examples are there to help as well.
Another platform is GameSalad – which lets you design games using drag and drop methods. This program only works with Apple products at the moment, but you can publish to iOS and Android free of charge. Visit http://gamesalad.com/ to download the program and learn how it works.
This one is rather old, but still a great place to start for the absolute beginner. RPG Maker lets you easily create Role Playing Games. It comes with some pre-made tiles and characters, however you are able to create your own. Games made using these probably won’t win any awards as they tend to all look the same, but hey, at least you will have a finished game to show by the end of the weekend!
Of course, there is no one program that can cover every aspect of creating a game, so I’ll list a few other useful programs:
Audacity – I have very little knowledge/experience with sound and audio, but I’ve found this program so useful in the past. You can record audio, cut and edit sound clips, apply some simple effects and then export into a few useful sound formats. Audacity is available for free at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
GIMP – GNU Image Manipulation Program. For those who aren’t rich enough to own a copy of Adobe CS then this program is a must. It takes a bit of getting used to, but manipulating images is quick and easy. It can also be used to create 2D animations. Download it for free here: http://www.gimp.org/downloads/
EDIT (2013): Adobe cS 2 is now freely available! Download it here.
Blender – Blender is a free 3D modelling and animation creation suite. Once again, it can take a little while to learn how to use it, but is quite powerful and has most of the functionality of professional software. Visit www.blender.org/download/get-blender/ to download it.
Tortoise SVN – For the code based projects, having the code based in a central repository is essential. If you have more than one programmer on your team then source control is a must. Tortoise SVN makes all this very easy, with commands that are integrated into Windows explorer and a nice graphical user interface. Visit http://tortoisesvn.net/downloads.html to download the latest version.
There are many more tools available that I haven’t mentioned here. If you have a suggestion, leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list.