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:
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 https://academy.unrealengine.com/
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
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.
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.
Tokegameart – marketplace for 2D games assets such as characters