Games development

The main Games Engines taught at college and university are Unity and Unreal, but there are several aimed specifically at mobile platforms, Web or a particular genre:

BBC News report “So you want a career in building computer games?”

Unity has a number of modes, including 2D, 3D and some specialist options. Programming is in C#, plus Boo and Javascript for Unity. 2D player controller. Unity personal edition is free to create 2D and 3D games for mobile, VR, desktop, console, Web, and TV until your revenue (or Kickstarter funding) goes above $100k, then there is a monthly charge of $25 until you reach $200k. Used for Assassin’s Creed: Identity, and Deus Ex: The Fall. Filmakers are starting to use game engines for real-time animation: Unity was used for Adam 2, one of a series of short films by District 9 director Neill Blomkamp’s Oats Studios. (find them on Steam)

Unreal Engine 4 is the main rival to Unity, boasting Blueprints, a modular programming system with bundles of C++ code laid out visually a little like Scratch. Unreal is free until you make $1M, then 5% royalty on games and applications (no royalty for film projects, simulation, and visualization). Used for Final Fantasy VII Remake and Tekken 7. Free video tutorials at

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Godot is a free 2D and 3D game engine with some friendly, powerful features.

Completely free and open-source under the MIT license. No strings attached, no royalties.

Gamemaker has a well-established drag-and-drop interface.

It allows you export your game directly to Windows desktop, Mac OS X, Ubuntu, Android, iOS, fireTV, Android TV, Microsoft UWP, HTML5, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Construct from Scirra software.

Over 50% of HTML5 games submitted to Kongregate are made in Construct.

There are several versions of rpgmaker available, at different price points. They are frequently on sale, so it is worth adding your email to their subscriber list for offers and tips. You might want to try MV first as it is recent, uses javascript (most common Web programming language) and has good plug-in support.

Phaser is an open source HTML5 game engine for the Web using
HTML5 + CSS + JavaScript

2D Sprites and Animation

Piskel free online sprite, sprite sheet and animated gif maker.

Also available as a download for Mac, Windows and Linux so you can work anywhere, even without an internet connection.

In Spine you create animation by attaching images to bones, then animating the bones. ‘Skeletal’ or cutout animation has benefits over traditional, frame-by-frame animation. This includes Procedural animation – bones can be manipulated through code, for effects like shooting toward the mouse position, looking toward nearby enemies, or leaning forward when running up hill.

Visual Novel Games Engines

Historically there are two main choices, both free and cross-platform: This is a comparison of Ren’Py and Twine. It is also worth looking at Quest which can be downloaded for Windows or simply run in a browser.

You could also use Unity with the free Fungus extension if you already know – or want to learn – Unity. Fungus YouTube tutorial. There are also several other Unity options including Visual Novel Toolkit Free or Naninovel at €133 which seems very full-featured (blog) with support for Live2D and Spine. If you want to break out of the conventional format for Visual Novels, then having Unity as your base opens up many gaming possibilities.

Both Ren’Py and Twine have good support communities online and people have made extensions to add features, but neither are easy and both require coding. Ren’Py is Python-based and reportedly better if you want a more graphical product, but you have to export for each target platform – Windows/Mac/iOS/Android and there is no HTML support to add to a Website, your game must be downloaded. Twine outputs a single universal HTML5-based file – this tutorial shows Twine with Sugarcube.

TyranoBuilder is about £12 and is available for Windows and Mac from Steam. Version 2.0 beta in Sep 2021 includes Live2D support and many upgrades. This guide for newbies may help.

It takes a very different ‘drag-and-drop’ approach and will suit those not as keen to write code. It may well be your best option and it outputs to Web, Mac and Windows and to mobile via a free 3rd-party extension.

Visual Novel Maker is the most expensive option at just under £50 (£10 more for Live2D support and with up to £350 worth of assets available to purchase on top). However, it looks very impressive and if you are hoping to sell a game visually it has a lot to offer, together with a lot of characters, backgrounds, and audio assets that you can use commercially. Here is a fan-made tutorial for VN Maker.

Live2D is an animation technique used mainly for anime to bring previously static 2D manga to life in short movements. Here is an 11 hour tutorial!


Tokegameart – marketplace for 2D games assets such as characters

Sites to play free PC games, mostly DOS