DEV Community

Cover image for Get Ready For Global Game Jam With These Free Game Engines
Juan Alejandro Morais
Juan Alejandro Morais

Posted on

Get Ready For Global Game Jam With These Free Game Engines

Hello there! ๐Ÿ‘‹

Game development is a great way to improve your skills and even try new ones. It involves coding, art, music production, writing, testing, and many more areas! With the rise of its popularity, the number of tutorials and courses have been increasing, and thus decreasing the learning curve for those wanting to get into the industry.

An amazing way to get into making games is by doing Game Jams.


What is a game jam? ๐Ÿ’ก

Simply put, Game Jams are hackathons where you make games (Board + Digital). Most of the usual hackathon rules apply: you're given a time limit, judges/participants can vote on excellence, and there might even be prizes. The best part though is that you get to work with great people to make awesome games!

Great games can come out of game jams! ๐Ÿš€

This is true! Whether it is Global Game Jam, Ludum Dare, or even company in-house jams, some amazing games have come out from these!

Some examples include, but are (definitely) not limited to:


Introducing: Global Game Jam ๐ŸŒŽ

The largest game jam in the world, Global Game Jam (GGJ) started in 2009, and gets bigger by the year! It runs for 48 hours with a global theme. In 2019 alone, GGJ had 860 locations in 113 countries create 9,010 games in one weekend.

The great news is: you can participate this year!

Participating in Global Game Jam 2020 ๐Ÿ’ป

Global Game Jam happens every year โ€” Woohoo! In 2020, it will occur from January 31 to February 2 (Friday to Sunday). To participate, you must:

Find A Global Game Jam Site.

After you finish registering, carefully read the details of your site. This includes entrance fees (if applicable), food options, age restrictions, etc.

Once you have read through, make sure you bring:

  • Your eager self!
  • A spirit of creativity.
  • A personal computer (Unless stated otherwise by your site).
  • Snacks + Water, or your drink of choice.

Note: Some sites may lend out computers, paper, pens and other great things to work so you don't have to do this โ€” Check with your site first!


Great! Now, how I start making games? ๐Ÿ› 

The following engines have been ordered by personal preference. I will explain their main features, along with download and learning links. The engines will be separated into three areas: Introductory, Intriguing, and Challenging.

Introductory ๐Ÿงฐ

Perfect if you're looking to get started with basic game development. No coding is required, and you get to only focus in the creation of games (No builds or similar hassles).

Twine

Twine logo

An open-source tool, Twine allows you to create non-linear, interactive stories.

Features

  • Free to use & open source!
  • Anything you create with it is completely free to use any way you like, including for commercial purposes.
  • Publish your game to HTML with a simple click, and receive a shareable link.
  • No code required to build a game.
  • Add variables, conditional logic, images to your story.
  • Tweak the appearance, or add effects with CSS and JavaScript.

Notable Games

You can find top Twine games on itch.io. Twine gives developers great creative freedom!

Get Started

GitHub logo klembot / twinejs

Twine, a tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories


Bitsy

Bitsy GIF

Bitsy is a small game editor for creating small, adventurous games, created by independent game developer Adam Le Doux. It comes with many of the features commonly seen in bigger game engines and is a great starting point to very novice developers wanting to get straight into the (small) action.

Features

  • Free to use & open source!
  • Pure web editor โ€” no installs required.
  • Easy import/export of games in HTML format.
  • Friendly & open community!

Notable Games

Check out this list of Bitsy Faves. As it's a tiny editor, no notable games will be out there, at least yet. But if you're in for small indie games, believe me when I say you're in for a treat.

Get Started

Learning Bitsy is very straightforward. All the information you need to know is inside the engine itself.

GitHub logo le-doux / bitsy

make tiny games, worlds, and stories


Intriguing ๐Ÿงช

Independent developers are loving these great, small yet scalable engines. They offer great options for 2D developers (including pixel art) out of the box. Game builds are very light weight and are just right for developers transitioning into more advanced/complex work.

Godot

Godot logo

A new and powerful game engine, Godot is a completely free and open-source engine that powers your games with an incredible set of tools, and removing clutter you (probably) don't need. This is a great engine for those who favour speed, fast iteration and want a totally free game engine.

Features

  • Free to use & open source!
  • A proactive team that listens to, and engages with the community.
  • Supports 2D and 3D graphics out of the box.
  • Built-in animator.
  • Choose your language: GDScript (like Python), C#, C++, Visual Scripting.
  • Cross-Platform build capabilities: Windows, Mac, HTML5, iOS, Android, Xbox, PS4!

Notable Games

Since it's a relatively new engine, indie games are the norm. You can find the top Godot games on itch.io and Godot's own Showcase.

Get Started

GitHub logo godotengine / godot

Godot Engine โ€“ Multi-platform 2D and 3D game engine


GameMaker

GameMaker 2 logo

GameMaker is a great tool for making 2D games. With the release of GameMaker 2, they've mastered the beauty and simplicity that the engine offers. It's incredibly popular amongst the 2D developer community, especially with pixel art based games.

Features

For a complete list of features, visit the Official Site.

  • Free 30-day trial.
  • Editor:
    • Room/Level editor.
    • Object inheritance.
    • Git integration.
    • Networking.
    • Many, many more!
  • An easy to use Drag And Drop prototyping system.
  • Built-in programming language: GML โ€” Based on C, but a lot easier to use.
  • Cross-Platform build capabilities: Windows, Mac, HTML5, iOS, Android, Xbox, PS4!
  • Lots of online resources to learn from, ranging from specific tutorials to complete courses.

Notable Games

Get Started

GameMaker was one of the first engines I used. It's great for getting started in game development, while also being great to stick with!


Challenging โš—๏ธ

From independents to giants, these engines are shaping the world of game development. They offer vast amounts of learning resources, a plethora of free & paid assets, affordable pricing options, and powerful features out of the box. You can modify them to your will and game's needs, implement advanced

Unity

Unity logo

Unity has been gaining popularity at increasing speeds, and a favourite among mobile developers. With a team full of passionate developers, they've been working with the community in many awesome ways! It's the preferred tool for many small- to mid-sized indies and even some AAA. Unity offers great scalability without compromising essential tools of the trade.

Features

  • Free to use & publish with. Pay only if you want, or if your game brings over $100K in revenue.
  • Built-in animator.
  • Hackable/extendable editor.
  • Code with the powerful C# language. No need to compile assets to run โ€” Script changes can take as little as seconds before you can continue testing.
  • Native 3D support โ€” The team is working on improving the 2D tools.
  • Asset store full of useful tools, art, starters, and more!
  • Cross-Platform build capabilities: Windows, Mac, HTML5, iOS, Android, Xbox, PS4!
  • Lots of online resources to learn from, ranging from specific tutorials to complete courses.

Notable Games

Get Started

I have used Unity both personally and professionally during my game development career. It is currently my preferred engine. Therefore, my opinion may be biased!


Unreal Engine

Unreal Engine logo

Unreal Engine is one of the biggest players out there, especializing in creating AAA quality titles. Ever since releasing Fortnite, they've grown, A LOT! From CGI to art showcases, to high fidelity games, and even mobile games, they have you covered. An engine that is favoured amongst mid- to large-size teams, and many AAA studios, UE is an amazing tool.

Features

  • Free to use & publish with. It can be free of cost if your game revenue is less than $3,000 /quarter; if more, 5% of your gameโ€™s gross revenue will be charged.
  • Hackable/extendable editor - You can fork UE4 on Github!.
  • Use Visual Scripting (Blueprints) or C++ to power your game, and take full control of the logic.
  • Great starter packs straight out of the box.
  • Asset store full of useful tools, art, starters, and more!
  • Cross-Platform build capabilities: Windows, Mac, HTML5, iOS, Android, Xbox, PS4!
  • Lots of online resources to learn from, ranging from specific tutorials to complete courses.

Notable Games

Get Started

Note: You will have to create an Epic account to use Unreal Engine's tools. The good thing is that if you already play any of their games, or use their store, you'll have an account ready to go.


Honorable Mentions ๐ŸŒž

There are lots of great game engines! Since one post cannot cover them all without getting too big, here are some options worth thinking about:

Moving Forward ๐ŸŽฎ

This is only the start of game development. After you get familiarised with a tool, make sure you set a small, achievable goal. The games industry is growing with a speed so incredible, there's no better time to jump on in! You're all welcome to join this incredible journey.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Discussion (2)

Collapse
tolambiasapna profile image
Sapna T

Amazing piece of content.
Thanks Juan.

Collapse
timrodz profile image
Juan Alejandro Morais Author

Thanks for enjoying it, Sapna! :)