Each week on Twitch and Alpha, hosts Erika Ishii and Trisha Hershberger talk video games with special industry guests, insightful coverage and a ton of audience interaction on our show Game Engine. Be sure to tune in every Tuesday starting at 4 PM PT to learn about what’s new and cool in the world of video games.
I LOVE video games and write a lot about them, but what you might not know is that I’ve always wanted to build my own. There are lots of places that offer courses in programming games, but being a busy adult with many important things to do (ugh), I just don’t have time to dedicate learning coding. Should I despair and let my dreams flounder? No way!
Thankfully there’s plenty of programs and sites that offer you ways to makes games simply and easily. Some use drag-and-drop features to help you build a working program in minutes while others teach you the basics of coding while you craft your game.
The Maker Series
One of the first game building programs I ever encountered was Kadokawa’s RPG Maker. The software helped you create classic roleplaying games with turn-based combat using an interface that let you paint features directly onto a map. The program came with plenty of character art, sprites, icons, music, and more to make your game look professional and polished and in a few hours you could build out a small game that your friends could download for PC and play.
Since my first introduction to RPG Maker, Kadokawa has released multiple editions, making each more robust, and has expanded to Mac, Android, iOS, and HTML for the web. There is also a huge community of designers who support each other and share games they’ve created. Last year Kadokawa released Visual Novel Maker, which is great for designing dating sims and supports animation using Live2D, a program that animates your drawings for you and this past summer they published Pixel Game Maker MV, a program for making platforming games. Between RPG Maker, Visual Novel Maker, and Pixel Game Maker you can produce a ton of really fun and exciting games! All of these titles are available on Steam.
Another great program for designing storytelling games and dating sims is TyranoBuilder. Since gameplay is more story-oriented, TyranoBuilder uses a simple drag-and-drop system and the interface makes it easy to see how the scene will look as you change elements on the fly. TyranoBuilder is also compatible with Live2D so you can animate scenes and bring your visual novel to life. The program also allows you to pan and zoom making your scenes feel more cinematic. TyranoBuilder is available on Steam for PC and Mac.
Flowlab is a free browser-based toolkit for building games. When you start building your first game, the site runs offers an easy to follow tutorial that walks you through all of the different aspects of the program. Within 2 minutes of using the tutorial, I had already created a small creature who could run and jump and a little area for it to explore. I like that Flowlab includes a sprite-editor so you can start with a base character and change them using an interface that looks a bit like MS Paint. It’s uncomplicated and you can feel like an accomplished game designer in no time. Head on over to the Flowlab website to start designing right now!
Text Based Adventures
Some of the most elemental games from the past are text-based adventures like Zork and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. These games would present you with descriptions of scenes and wait for you to type in commands like “Go up” or “Open Door”. These basic programs helped inspire awesome games like Kings Quest and Maniac Mansion and now you can make your own!
There are lots of different titles which can assist in building text adventures like Twine, which presents game creation in a way that feels like sticking notes to a cork board and stringing them together to form narratives, Quest, which is open source so if you do know some programming language you can edit the program to fit your needs, or Playfic,another great browser-based game creator. If you have a story you want to tell in “Choose Your Own Adventure” style, then these programs will have your game up and running pronto.
What kinds of games do you want to make? Do you know or any game building programs we missed? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to tune into Game Engine on Twitch and Alpha for more video game goodness every Tuesday starting at 4PM PT.
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Hailing from New York, Jessica Fisher is a writer, artist, and all around geek. In addition to Geek & Sundry, she writes for Gameosity.com and produces the Gameosity Reviews Youtube Channel. Find her talking about all things geeky on Twitter as @miniktty.
Image Credits: Kadokawa, Strikeworks, Flowlab, Twine