Had a random desire yesterday to play with some games development stuff just to use the old brain cells for a bit and strangely it seems to have coincided with a three companies releasing free or at least free for non-commercial use versions of their tools.
In what seems a fair order:
DBPro (along with blitzbasic) is pretty much the modern equivalent of the old AMOS and STOS BASIC languages for those that remember them. It’s a BASIC variant targeted specifically at games development and makes it very easy to get something running quickly. It’s aimed more at the bedroom coder but I think a few people have hit the casual game market with it.
They’ve release a completely free version which you can download here. The only difference is that this version is supported by advertising and from a quick play it looks like mostly advertising for their other products. Perhaps they will move to a model of providing the tools for free and selling content to use with those tools.
Not being a games developer I’ve no idea how far you could push it but it’s definitely fun to play with.
Getting a bit more serious, the people behind the Unity engine have started giving their entry level product away free which was previously a $200 “indie” license. I don’t know anything about the engine beyond playing (and being impressed by) quite a few indie games developed using it, mostly using the Unity Web Player which provides pretty damn nice 3D gaming in a browser.
Gamasutra has an article for more information on this one.
It can target various platforms including wii and iPhone and I believe they will be targeting the 360 too but I imagine those would require a paid license. Still looks like a great catch for indie developers.
Unreal Development Kit
OK this one is the biggie of the three and way beyond anything I want to do, the Unreal Develpment Kit powered by the Unreal Engine 3 which clearly has been used for top end games. I imagine you could do pretty much what you like in this though it no doubt has the learning curve to go with it. It’s free for non-commercial use (and pretty reasonable licensing too) but for students, education and people just wanting to use a professional level kit I doubt you can do much better than this.
UDK is Unreal Engine 3 – the complete professional development framework. All the tools you need to create great games, advanced visualizations and detailed 3D simulations. The best tools in the industry are in your hands.
Altogether an interesting development, and a bonus for indie developers, I wonder who’ll go free next…