The ability to create video games on your own has never been easier. Gone are the days where you needed to work for the large game developers that had all the fancy tools. There are plenty of open source game engines and free game development software out there that you can build a great game regardless of your budget.
At the same time, there are A LOT of possible game engines that you can use to build your game. There is a good chance that a little research into this field will leave your head spinning, so how do you know which engine is the best one for you and your project?
Well, there are certain criteria that you need to consider when choosing a game engine. Here is a step by step guide that will help you select the perfect game engine for you.
*Note: you don’t have to follow the order but this is a logical way to process everything.
Step 1: Understand The Genre
Before you can do anything, you need to completely understand your game. You need to know more then just the basic storyline. Are you planning on creating a first person shooter or the next Flappy Bird? What is the mood of the game? What about user experience? You need to think through these big picture elements of your game long before you can choose the best engine for you.
Step 2: Figure Out the Dimension
Are you creating a 2D or a 3D game. Obviously this is a major distinction and will definitely factor into your game engine decision. Certain engines can handle both but even these tend to have a specialty in one dimension or the other.
Step 3: Determine the Platform
Are you creating a multi-platform game? You need to figure out if your game will be played on mobile, PC, Mac, Playstation, XBox, etc. There are many platforms out there and certain game engines won’t let you publish your game to all of them, so you need to think this through before selecting your engine.
Step 4: Choose a Language
What programming language are you going to use for your game? You will most likely want to pick the language that is native for your platform. While this isn’t completely necessary, it will make life easier for you down the road. Many game engines use of a variety of languages but make sure that the one you choose is able to handle your language of choice.
Step 5: Determine the Controls
Once you have the platform figured out, you will most likely know if the game is going to be controlled with a keyboard or a touch screen Do you need any special features for the game control? Are there any unique video or music inputs? These are all necessary to think through as you figure out how to build your game.
Step 6: Think About Colors
What are the colors that you will be utilizing for this project? What is the style of the game? Figure out if you will need any special graphical elements such as shaders or particle effects.
Step 7: Identify Your Game Plan
Now it is time to start thinking about the business. Are you thinking of create a free HTML5 Game? Maybe you want to sell your game to be played on any of the major gaming consoles. Regardless of what your plans are, you need to think through this. Many game engines will require royalties from your sales. This can add up quick, if you are building the next big thing so choose wisely.
Step 8: Plan Your Budget
Staying with the business side of game design. What is your budget for this project? Do you prefer a free, open source game engine or do you have the funds to pay a monthly fee? Many game engines will have a free package with limited features as well as feature-rich packages that come with a price tag. This is why it is important to completely understand what your game is about prior to selecting an engine.
Step 9: Be Honest About Your Game Development Experience
One thing that is often overlooked when choosing the best game engine is the documentation and support that goes along with the engine. If you have used the engine before and you are an expert then maybe this isn’t an issue; however, if you are just getting started, you will be looking for tutorials, forums and live support. Make sure you are comfortable with the support that you will receive from the game engine as you are moving forward.
Step 10: Look at the Updates
This is another element that isn’t always considered when people choose a game engine, but it should be. Take a look at the engines HISTORY, CHANGELOG file or if it is an open sourced engine then refer to their commit log.
If the engine you are considering to use hasn’t been updated in over a year then this should send up some major red flags. If they are not properly updating then this will impact your experience. First, you won’t be using the most up-to-date software and you will probably run into a few bugs along the way.
Step 11: Trust Your Instincts
After looking at everything mentioned above, you still need to trust your gut instinct. Look at your top 3 game engine choices and see which one would work best for YOU. Not for your game but one that you think would be fun to use and lines up nicely with your skill-set and preferences.
Realistically, you will stick with this game engine as you build your next game as well so you want to invest in an engine that fits well with you and not just this game.
Choosing the right game engine can be a scary decision since there are so many options. Just take your time and figure out exactly what you need for this game and beyond. Choose an engine that feels right and that you can afford.
Regardless of the engine that you select, look at this as a learning experience and have fun with it.