Best Video Game Development Software and Tools in 2021

August 3, 2020

If terms like ‘pro’ and ‘noob’ (and ‘lag!’) roll off your tongue and you just can’t wait to get your hands on Last of Us 2, the new NFS Heat, and FIFA 21, then congrats! You’re a certified game and you definitely must have a group of players! But as you shoot, strafe, crouch, punch, drive, and kick through these works of art, do you ever wonder what it takes to put them together?

If you’ve ever wondered what factors and art skills came into play to make your favorite 2D and 3D video game – whether it’s one of those mobile games with several levels, arcade games, or an instance of those popular role-playing games, or just one of the good old computer games – you’ll definitely want to check out the article below.

You’ll find information on what details, strategy, program, effort, tools, processes, concepts, go into making the transformation from a gamer to a game creator.

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The Types of Video Game Development Software You Need to be a Competent Game Designer

video game development softwares

The simple answer to the question of “how to make a video game” is game development software.

You need a set of purpose-built game development software to make games of any kind – whether you want a simple side-scroller that can be enjoyed on your smartphone or a complex world for immersing into glorious 4K and at a full 120 FPS (or even 240 FPS!) on your monster gaming rig.

Of course, you will need a mind-blowing idea and different types of video game software to achieve different levels of quality in the 2D and 3D games you churn out.

If you want to make a game, you need to be familiar with a programming language or two, like HTML, C++, JavaScript, and Python. This coding knowledge will help you with the development of the all-important source code.

It isn’t all coding skills though, you also need to be well acquainted with game development tools and design software like Adobe Photoshop to help you become a more rounded game designer and developer.

Pro tip: Enrolling in an institute like New England Tech. to develop your game design and development skills and knowledge would give you a great head start!

Here’s an example of what different types of software can help you achieve:

Creating characters is only one part of the game development and designing cycle. For the most part, the bones of the game will be made with the help of specialist game design software or game engines.

The software options listed here are – at the time of writing – the most popular and sought-after video game development tools. Your favorite game titles from the last few years have most likely been made using at least one of these resources to help with their design approach.

The Top Game Design Software to Help Create Amazing Video Games

Game Making Software for Beginners

Construct:

Currently, in its third iteration, Construct 3 is a block-based game development tool that requires no installs, runs straight from your browser, and can even be hooked up to your preferred cloud-based service. If you want to make games in their easiest form, this is the tool that has easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface.

Construct 3 is great for creating 2D games, and it is known for its ease of use as well. The learning curve for this software is very shallow, in fact, you don’t even need any programming language skills or coding knowledge to use this software.

Construct 3 is skinnable, offers timeline animations, comes with a built-in image editor, and offers the developer a visual effects suite that includes particle effects, artistic blends, distortions, and shadow-casting among other things. It is also really quick and works on all the popular platforms and can help you develop your game products.

This is certainly one choice to check out if you are at the very beginning of your video game designer journey or if writing code isn’t a strong suit of your gaming operation.

GameMaker Studio:

Another game engine built keeping novice game developers and enthusiasts in mind, GameMaker Studio 2 is one of the most intuitive and easy-to-use options out there.

GameMaker Studio is also a game engine that offers up a simple drag-and-drop interface style and workflow options for multiple platforms that allow you to export the game to desktop, web, UWP, mobile, and console platforms, GameMaker Studio 2 is an excellent option in terms of game making software for beginners, and features a list of tools that includes skinning, docking, and object editor, and a script editor.

It also comes with a drag-and-drop ready workflow system, a preset library of events and actions, and a code review feature for programmers that are developing games without much experience.

The C programming-based GameMaker Language also allows you to tap into other languages based on your needs.

There are also bespoke options like the Room Editor, Tilesets, Image Editor, and support for physics engines such as Box2D and Google’s LiquidFun particle physics engine, and Esoteric Software’s Spine 2D animator.

AppGameKit:

A tool developed with the goal of helping to create games for mobiles at one time, AppGameKit is useful for 2D and 3D games and cross-platform applications today.

If you are looking to use game engines to make the game specifically for the App Store or Google Play marketplace, this is the software to opt for.

An engine best suited for developers with intermediate skills, it offers features that include a drag-and-drop system, a fully-integrated editor, Vulcan and OpenGL rendering, a scene editor, a sound and music editor, and more.

It is also royalty-free and offers support for 3D games and 2D games and across platforms including Windows, Mac, Linux, HTML5, and more.

A great solution for gaming companies with limited resources that need a broad-spectrum development tool.

Stencyl:

If you are looking to create games and strategy without coding or its associated issues involved, Stencyl is one of the ways to go about it. Stencyl has a basic drag and drop interface for game designers.

It allows you to build simple worlds using Stencyl’s Scene Designer and offers character creation opportunities using Stency’s Actor Editor. This is an ideal tool for 2D games targetted towards iOS and Android markets.

In fact, game experts and developers that have used Stencyl have seen their 2D games rank at the top of the App Store and the Android marketplace.

So if you are a beginner and looking to build, say an adventure game without any code-writing experience, Stencyl offers you a route to accomplish this goal.

Video Game Software for Intermediate Developers

Video Game Software for Intermediate Developers

Godot:

Completely free and open-source, Godot is a fantastic game maker resource for both 2D and 3D games.

Godot uses node-based architecture to simplify its interface, offers a drag and drop system that can be used by the video game designer for user interface elements, items, sprites, and other game assets, has a dedicated 2D game development engine, and offers a great tool called 3D renderer design to make those three-dimension creations and 3D models come to life with ease.

Godot uses its own scripting language called GDScript, and also supports diversity in terms of coding knowledge with language support also including C#, C++, and visual scripting with this free software.

Godot has a burgeoning support community of programmers interacting with each other and sharing knowledge with members of this community who use the platform as well.

RPG Maker:

Another one for those people who have limited coding experience. RPG Maker is, as the name suggests, a role-playing-game maker that doesn’t really require programming skills to create games from scratch. It can be used for game creation across platforms such as Windows, Mac, IOS, Android – all without coding experience.

RPG Maker is perfect for indie developers and experienced game makers who are looking for game engines that are focused on RPG style adventure games.

As far as game design categories go, RPGs are a big sub-section and this game development suite is your one-stop-shop for that genre.

It comes in various iterations, and like all good programs that create games, it offers a drag and drop interface to its users.

3D Game Creation Software for Advanced Users

3D Game Creation Software for Advanced Users

CryEngine:

This game platform was first built, not to create games en masse, but to develop one specific game. If its name didn’t clue you in, that popular game was the legendary first-person shooter; Far Cry. CryEngine is a cross-platform game development program that is still seen as a first-person-shooter specialist tool, but that isn’t all it can do.

It has an excellent Sandbox feature, which results in a game that follows the ‘what you see is what you get’ philosophy and framework.

The Sandbox includes FBX Support, Intuitive Level Design, a Trackview Cinematic Editor, Flowgraph scripting system, and a Material Editor Substance Integration. It also offers some spectacular physics simulations as part of its skillset.

Other resources include the ability to render in real-time and an easy to use Audio Translation Layer, one of the software’s unique gaming tools that allows you to make a games’ sound workflow simply.

Other solutions also include a bespoke artificial intelligence and animation tool with Parametric Skeletal Animation and Character Technology, Multi-layer Navigation Mesh, and a Geometry Cache.

Unity:

If you are addicted to an indie game or have a mobile game that you just can’t stop playing (and yes we are referring to games on IOS, Android, Windows, Mac, 2D games, and 3D games), there is a good chance it was developed on Unity. With a reach that spans billions of devices, Unity is easily one of the best AAA game engines out there.

The reasons behind the popularity of the Unity platform stem from its capable toolset which includes power-packed performance, including VR systems and AR game building capabilities, a high-definition render pipeline that supports forward and deferred rendering capabilities.

Furthermore, Unity also has Prefabs to smoothen out workflows, a visual effects graph that allows you to drag and drop readymade effects nodes, a Cinemachine smart camera system interface, and exemplary photogrammetry capabilities to conveniently turn photos and videos into game assets as part of its toolset. And on top of all that, it is a free game development software!

Unreal Engine:

Developed by Epic Games, Unreal Engine is considered the best game design software space, especially for AAA titles, by many people in the industry and leading studios alike.

The next step in the Unreal Engine lineup – Unreal Engine 5 will be launched in 2021 with support for multiple platforms including the next-gen PlayStation 5 and X box Series X gaming consoles. Until then, Unreal Engine 4 is the go-to video game software for big publishers across countries.

One of the many reasons why Epic Games and their flagship game development platform Unreal has such an esteemed reputation among game designers, despite its steep learning curve, is its physics engine that allows developers the ability to render unbelievably realistic visuals.

The features offered by Unreal Engine include pre-built, modular systems, customizable plugins, a source control integration interface, and more.

Unreal also has a laundry-list of platforms that it offers support for, including the current-gen consoles like XBOX, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, Valve, Oculus Rift, VR, AR, iOS, Android, Windows, HTML5, and loads more. The Unreal community is also a great resource for developers to bank on for questions, tutorials, and just all-round support.

Amazon Lumberyard:

Amazon Lumberyard is a free game development suite in every sense of the word free. You don’t need to purchase a business license or have to pay any royalties for your console or mobile games that get published or worry about copyright from Amazon, or anything of that sort – for the hobbyists and professionals alike.

The only condition that Amazon puts to the creators is that if they use a cloud to host online multiplayer setups, the cloud service has to be the brand’s proprietary AWS which you would have to buy.

Amazon Lumberyard is based on CryEngine though Amazon has given its software a few key updates. So as a game designer you can rely on CryEngine’s ability to develop superior game mechanics and creat games for IOS, Android, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC.

Amazon Lumberyard also offers Twitch support, a community feature, and also offers a graphics component that allows you to create stunning visuals using shaders, dynamic illumination, vegetation tools, particle effects system, volumetric fog, and more.

These aren’t the only software options out there, of course! Others like Buildbox, Cocos2D, and Clickteam Fusion are also recognized as popular game making software for people with varying learning curves like beginners, and those with a wealth of programming knowledge alike.

However, if you are aiming to become one of the elite-tier game developers that will reach the upper echelons of the gaming world, it would be difficult to look past the game design software listed above.

They are the best in the business and are used by developer teams across the globe to create games and apps of different qualities and capabilities and across game design categories. A lot of them offer unique and specialized tool sets that make them more suited to a specific type of game, so choose wisely based on the style of the game your team is envisioning, and invest accordingly.

One important thing to remember is that a lot of these software solutions come free to use as long as you stick to certain parameters, with payments kicking in if your game reaches a specific level of success. So make sure you read all the terms and conditions and maybe go through the reviews carefully.

There are also various versions available for these software options. Some may offer only limited features in the free versions, and not all the ones that we have listed above, so keep an eye out for that as well.

If you are a student looking to master these video game tools, brush up on your coding language skills, and improve your understanding of game development processes in order to explore a career as a game designer, New England Tech has two excellent video game design programs that can help you do just that.

START YOUR GAME DESIGN CAREER

Earn your degree in Game Design & Development from NEIT and begin your new career path today!

BACHELOR'S DEGREE

ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE

If you want to find out more details about the availability of seats in these programs, whether or not you qualify for them, and more, you can use our Request Information tool to make your search easier.

New England Institute of Technology has been recognized as one of the best institutes to study Video Game Development and Design by Princeton Review. With an evergreen campus life, stellar placement record, adept career services, and financial aid services for aspiring students, New England tech is just what you’re looking for!

Bonus Tip: Get the Ultimate Video Game Design Guide and learn how to start your game design career.

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