Some people have a great idea for a game and would love to see it made. However, learning C++ for years and mastering all the finder details of creating a game is not always an option. Thatís where game creation and development software comes in. Itís been around since the Quill Adventure System appeared on the Spectrum and probably before that, and for such individuals it could be the answer they are looking for.

1. DarkBasic Professional

Result of Darkbasic can be quite good

TGC (The Game Creators) has spent the last few years releasing a variety of tools, helping programs and tutorials to collate and create the ultimate repository of DIY gaming for a number of platforms and genres. Its PC game creation programs are based around the Dark BASIC set of tools and feature DarkBASIC (either Professional or classic) DarkGDK, DarkMATTER, DarkVOICES, DarkSHADER and so on. Needless to say, they all interact with each other and can be used to create almost any kind of game. In this instance.

Dark BASIC Professional offers the game coder the ability to create a game based on a structured form of BASIC. Both 2D and 3D games can be created, using a variety of tools, and the latest Pixel and Vertex shaders are supported, along with real time shadows, multiple camera views, polygon collision detection, bump mapping and lighting effects. 20 animated sprites, a fast collision routine and 20 drawing functions are all included with the package, as well as a vast number of other routines to help the coder unleash their imagination.

You'll need to do some background reading on how to program in DarkBASIC, of which there are several books and online tutorials available, but It's surprisingly easy to get into and once you've spent a few hours finding your way around the engine and how the various commands and Interactions With other elements work, you can begin to create the foundations of your game.

DarkBASIC Isn't a world editor, though; you'll be starting from scratch, as It were, With the DB Pro editor m f rent of you and nothing but your Imagination to guide you This can seem quite daunting to the beginner, so It's worth spending some time getting to know the DarkBASIC set of tools first as you can easily start 10 become disillusioned or distracted with the task ahead.

Despite the praise that DarkBASIC receives from its users, there are a number of issues that mar the overall experience. First, actually activating the product despite it being free is a headache you could really do without. After allowing it through our firewall, along with every other executable the finicky activation program managed to get us a key via our email, vvI1Khthen didn't work. Several tries later we managed to get a key working, but only after spending nearly an hour messing around with various settings.

Secondly, the program itself is rather unstable. Entering code in the editor was generally okay and we didn't come across any signs of Instability. However, compiling and executing the code was problematic we often found that many functions didn't work after the code had been compiled into an EXE file. If you're artiste and clever enough, the results can be very good and as an added bonus all games created via DarkBASlC Professional are license and royalty free. Since the indie gaming scene is producing some great titles of late, now is as good a time as any to get your title into the open.

Although DarkBASIC Professional made game creation a little easier than trying to learn the latest version of C, it often creates more problems than it tries to eliminate. The executables are unstable, despite the editor being free the extras needed to create a better game cost and the hassles of getting the program up and running far outweigh way the benefits. In essence, you're best learning C++ from scratch and working with a separate art/world editor.

2. Unity Game Engine
Unity's new 2D engine is very good and very powerful

Since its humble beginnings on OS X back in 2005, the Unity Game Engine has rapidly become one of the most popular game creation programs available. The graphics engine primarily supports Direct3D, OpenGL and OpenGL ES, along with support for bump mapping, reflection mapping, parallax mapping, Screen Space Ambient Occlusion and a whole host of other unpronounceable and very clever routines that we all take for granted when playing our favorite games.

The free version of Unity allows you to create games for Windows, iOS, Android, Windows Store, Windows Phone, Blackberry and web based titles. Suffice to say, there's generally enough content in the free version to keep you going and to help create your game.

The paid for version, which can cost $1,500 or $75 per month, which roughly equates to £900 or £45 per month, offers far more integration with other platforms and allows you to truly get your game out on everything from an Xbox 360 through to an iPad. Naturally, the paid for version is something the professional game coder or software house goes for, but that doesn't mean you can't create some brilliant content with the free version.
Historically 2D support was very weak with Unity, however, with the new version (4.3) a new toolset for 2D game creation was included with the package, along with a 2D animation window that also allows you mix both 2D and 3D in a way that's easier than traditional programming or creation tools. This makes Unity a more rounded game development program, and as a result also helps keep its place as the number one program and set of tools for game creation.

The UI has been refined through the many versions and, despite offering a more throwaway interface for quick projects in the past, has matured into something more pleasing to the eye and focused on longer, more intricate projects. To the beginner though, the UI can look extremely confusing, and getting started is rather daunting. However, after checking out a few of the video tutorials available via the Unity site, you can begin to appreciate the layout and get to work pretty quickly.

The UI can get confusing, but it's the industry leader at present

Obviously, having experience of coding, scripting and game artwork is a boon and will no doubt lead you to creating your game significantly faster than someone who is trying to bleed all the components Unity uses together individually. If you don't have a lot of experience then, it's best to take some time reading as much as you can on the many ins-and-outs as, due to its very broad and powerful set of features, many elements can be missed without prior knowledge of their existence.

Unity projects from the Unity Asset Store are freely available via the Unity Developer Account you have to sign up for upon installing the free version. The assets and examples are excellent, and the community has a wealth of knowledge that's well beyond that of any other game development engine.

In terms of game creation, Unity is the future and the best of the bunch. It's a complex tool, though, that requires the user to immerse themselves into it fully to get the best possible results. If you're dedicated enough, those results can be startling and as polished as any AAA-rated title going.
Unity is king of game creation and development world, but there are others out there that can do a great job as well. Thereís little doubt, though that as you progress in skills and understanding you will end up using Unity in the end.

3. Construct 2

Getting Construct 2 to work with Events is actually quite easy

Unity may well be the industry leader when it comes to games development software, but Construct 2 was the one we gelled with the most and enjoyed the longest. Itís great system for unleashing your imagination and fun to use and create with.

Construct 2 advertises itself as a HTML5 game creation tool for 2D games, that doesn't require any previous coding knowledge. For the most part it does an excellent job of delivering on that claim. Its interface is very easy to follow and use, delivering an almost Office-like approach to game creation. On the whole it's friendly and takes the beginner by the hand through a collection of tutorials, the option to browse example games and demos via a link and the obligatory button to pay for the full experience - which will unlock all the features needed to create a more expansive game.

It's actually quite an easy tool to get to grips with. In its most simple terms, you just create a background and then layer on a player, enemy, bullet and the effect then, through some nifty Visual Basic-like menus, you edit the objects in question to create the effect - in other words the player moves, shoots the gun, the bullet travels along the screen until it hits the enemy and blows up. Naturally, the more complex you make the scenario the more objects you'll have to manage, such as eight-way directional control and any included Events.

Events are handled on a separate tab to the main game layout and are executed from the top down sixty times a second. Getting to grips with them is the key to creating a better game, and the real power behind Construct 2. If all the criteria of an event are met, then the game is played out according to your specifications. For example, getting your sprite to point in the direction of the mouse may sound complex, but Construct manages to allow you to create a moveable mouse-facing character with just a few clicks.

The end result can be great too

Of course the trick here is knowing how to interact with the game development side of Construct 2, and without first having run through the many tutorials you can easily find yourself quite lost. This is where things fall down slightly, there aren't descriptions for the amount of tools on offer or at least the descriptions themselves aren't all that descriptive.

Admittedly, it's a minor flaw and one that can be overcome fairly easily and through experience of using the product. For creating web based games, Construct 2 does a great job and offers the beginner a good platform to get started on. In fact, it was surprisingly good; we rather enjoyed its UI features and what can be achieved through it. HTMLS may well still be experimental in some instances, and there could be compatibility issues if you were to release a game across different platforms, but on the whole it's a fun game development tool that we're pretty sure will help you on your way to creating more interesting titles.

4. RPG Maker XP

RPG Maker XP is an interesting addition to this group, chiefly because it's one of the oddest game development programs we've ever come across. It seems so archaic in its execution that you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was is something straight from the nineties.

The end result of RPG Maker XP can be good, but It's an unstable program to use

It follows on from the rather successful RPG Maker 2000 and, as you can imagine from the title, is a tool developed for Windows XP machines back in that operating system's heyday to allow users to create 2D classic RPG titles, such as Legend of Zelda and so on. The concept of building your game is remarkably simple: all you do is drop the landscape onto the game world, while gradually building up the layers. You then inject characters, sounds, effects, animations and create a set of events to control interactions between the world and the inhabitants.

Your work can then be built and tested inside the editor itself and, if needed, you can delve deeper into the creation process and the abilities that RPG Maker XP offers. Everything from animations, battles, weapons, a cast of pre-defined characters and items can be added and configured to coincide with the game events thanks to the scripting language RPG Maker XP incorporates. The scripting language, which controls all the aspects of RPG Maker, can be manipulated to support audio and graphics far beyond the abilities of the core game engine. While RPG Maker integrates Ruby, which is known for its limitations, thanks to the game scripting system these limitations can be expanded to create something that's actually not all that bad.

However, contrary to all these good points, the UI and game development engine itself is a bit clunky and not all that stable, while the various menus in the UI often have trouble opening or don't display at all. Objects that you've spent time on creating and incorporating into the game world can often disappear without apparent cause and, similarly, you can come across objects you've not even added to the set you're dealing with.

Saying that, it doesn't take much to come up with a working RPG title. It might not be very good but, in every sense, it's a step in the right direction (albeit a very niche direction). You can opt to make things more complex, but that involves dredging through some pretty dire and poorly translated tutorials that appear to over-complicate matters even more. That being said, there is a sizable community that you can dip in to if the complicated battle algorithms get the better of you and, for the most part, the community seems to be pretty helpful.

RPG Maker XP feels a little broken and very out of date. There's lots you can get into, and you can create a basic game fairly easily, but it's just a little too much effort on a tool that doesn't work quite as well as it could.

5. PuzzleScript

Puzzle Script is an entirely different approach to game development compared to the rest of the programs in this group. For one, it's an open source entry, and two, it's entirely HTML5 web based.

Puzzle Script is an interesting game creation tool

It may look exceedingly basic in its execution, but PuzzleScript is devilishly clever in how it goes about creating a game. First, a set of rules are first established such as how a players moves a block or what happens if a sprite touches a block or for example. After that, you build up the game world using a set of ASCII characters. Within each script you'll have the objects needed, a legend for the game map, calls to any sounds used, collision factors, rules, win conditions and the level maps.

If getting started is proving tricky, you can simply click on one of the menu items from the top of the screen and enter a level editor, the forum for help or read through one of the many documents produced to help you out. Of course, the game can be played out according to your rules and expanded upon until it becomes more complex and incorporates more features.

As a result, the examples produced can be quite interesting, in retro way. Getting started can be a tad more difficult than a graphically rich game development system, though, and some research is needed to get you up to speed. However, once you've created a basic set of rules to work on in your script, you can then concentrate on expanding the game to suit your needs.

Ultimately, though, PuzzleScript is a very limiting game development system. As its creator states, it's "not a general purpose game making tool", but rather a tool that can help a student or beginner start thinking about how one lays out a game. Despite being limited, there are some pretty good examples available to toy around with some of which hark back to a more sedate time of SSC Micro's and block graphics, while offering tricky puzzles, ample gameplay and demonstrating addictive qualities.

There's plenty to do and play around with in PuzzleScript, and you get to create a game while viewing its working outcome all in a single window, which is quite handy. It may tum away the graphically hungry beginner with dreams of creating an AAA title, but it can teach valuable principles when it comes to game design, planning and scripting. We were quite pleased with PuzzleScript.

Despite its obvious limitations, it's one of the few game development tools that you can quickly return to every so often, when an idea takes your fancy. Running one of the examples and changing the script is probably the best way to work to begin with and the best method through which to learn what does what.

PuzzleScript is a challenging and fun way to create something a little different to the norm and, even if you're not into game creation or coding, playing around with it can be quite entertaining. It's a clever online tool and one that will be visited frequently once you've master edits inner workings.

6. Kudo Game Lab

Bright and Cartoon games can be created easily with KUDO

The Kodu Game Lab was originally released back in 2009 by Microsoft's Fuse Labs. It's a programming integrated development environment that runs on Windows XP onwards and the Xbox 360. Kodu is a visual programming tool that takes an already generated world and allows the user to edit it and add other elements. It's primarily designed for children from eight upwards and, being Microsoft, is designed to look and feel much like the Xbox user interface. That's not to say a grown up or someone who is interested in creating content for both the Windows and Xbox platforms, can't have a go.

In order for the user to create anything they must first load up a world, which in itself is really just a pre-created game, then after playing it they can hit the escape key and start to edit the game environment, There are a number of tools available, which include a terrain editor, object tool (for adding or editing characters), a path laying tool that defines a character's movement in the environment, various tools to add hills, valleys or water and a tool to change the current world settings. Each of these options holds a multitude of sub-options, and once the user gets started on editing a world it's very difficult to go wrong with each object that's added be that a character, path or something on the terrain.
Kodu offers a number of tips via a popup function and displays what extra properties of the objects there are available.

The tips, right click menus and associated keyboard shortcuts are all very well designed and easy to follow and learn from. When you drill-down even further you eventually come to the core visual language design, whereby an object, character or element can be controlled or function in the same block in a drag and drop fashion. So, in essence, a character can be told that when X is seen move forward and speak, for example. It's an easy concept to get to grips with, but the overall effect once it's laid out and run is very impressive.

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Furthermore, you can simply play one of the tutorial worlds and Kodu will walk you through the entire process of creating a world using a plethora of on-screen prompts that offer a number of suggestions and examples of the pseudo visual programming side of the software.

Kodu is a great game building and visual programming resource for school-age children, but limited; a particularly expansive game will tax the Kodu engine to the point of crashing out. Thankfully, though, there's a handy thermometer to the side of the edit screen that lets you know how much you are stretching Kodu.

It's also very limited in that the characters can't be edited, and you can't include anything you've created yourself. It's almost like Microsoft had an idea for a game and then cancelled it in favor of allowing the users to toy around with the landscape and animation routines. That said, it's a great world-building engine and, as a start in the world of game creation it could well serve to pique the interest of the user, but as they progress and mature they'll no doubt quickly become quite bored with its limitations.