If you’re reading this, you’ve probably at least thought about creating your own game. But if you’re not an experienced programmer and especially if you’re not involved in the game development world at the moment, it probably seems intimidating. And for good reason!
That’s because it’s tough to create a game completely from scratch – so tough, in fact, that there are there are thousands of game engines out there. So which one is right for you? To help you choose, we’ve narrowed down what you need to consider in a games engine when creating your game.
The Basics Of Choosing A Game Engine
The most important thing you’ll want to consider is your skill level. Newbies will want to look for simpler game engines that offer plenty of support and resources for beginners, and if you’re a little more advanced and have development experience (whether in the gaming realm or not), you’ll want to consider the languages that you already know.
Make sure you know what skill level you are (you don’t want to fight a level 80 boss when you’re only level 5 after all) and choose your platform accordingly.
If you’re thinking of creating a game, you’re probably reasonably savvy with at least a few programming languages, so choosing a game engine that’s in line with your skill set can go a long way towards ensuring success.
And it all begins with determining and clarifying a few key aspects of your game, your budget, your team, and the process ahead…
Available Budget – Now And Later
Of course, the game engine you pick needs to be within both your startup (initial costs) and long term budgets (in regard to licensing and royalties, more on those later). You need to consider additional payments for special features, or perhaps the fact that you may need to utilize additional freelance dev talent to build out your game.
So think beyond the initial sticker price and try to plan ahead for future expenses. Don’t have any further costs beyond the initial startup? Then consider can using that budget for marketing your game or maybe just a great launch party.
Budgeting is probably no one’s favorite part of game development, but it’s essential to get ahead of potential costs and create a realistic budget (with room for potential amendment in the form of add-ons or freelance support if necessary) in order to make sure the project goes relatively smoothly.
Ease Of Use
Of course, some of the decision should be based on the ease of use of a given game engine as well as you and your team’s collective skill levels and comfort with programming. One reason why you may want to use a game engine is that it’s convenient and quicker than building it from the ground up. Part of the reason why Game engines exist is so they can make up for a lack of programming experience or knowledge.
After all, while being a skilled coder definitely has all kinds of value, it shouldn’t prevent you and your team from creating an awesome game – and depending on the game engine you choose, the strength of the community around it, and the amount of effort you put into it.
The number of people and their collective skill sets and experience are definitely important things to consider when making your game engine choice, especially if one or more of you have worked with a particular engine before (that doesn’t mean you have to go with that one, but it definitely helps!).
In addition, if your team has areas that are lacking (and even the best of us do), researching and choosing the game engine that makes up for these areas and has a robust community and strong tutorials can go a long way. Think of your gaming engine as a way to bridge the gap between your current skill set and dev knowledge, and where you want to be with your next game.
The Gaming Engine’s Community
Like most other types of software, the more popular game engines tend to develop a strong community centered around the software and related topics, and this community can be one of your best allies during the game development process. After all, they’re likely familiar with the game engine (or they are learning just like you are) and can answer any tricky questions and provide support and camaraderie as you develop your own game.
And isn’t it better to be part of a strong community in general? Not only can they help you build your game, you might be able to find savvy play-testers for your initial launch who may also be able to help you troubleshoot. Everybody wins.
Opportunities For Beginners To Learn And Tutorials
Along the lines of looking at the game engine’s overall community, it’s important to understand that practically every game engine offers some kind of documentation, but naturally some of them have more extensive tutorials and more robust documentation than others.
This is especially important if you are a newbie programmer. While many game engines have options for visual programming and other features that make developing your game rather intuitive, there’s always a learning curve with any software or field. Having in-depth documentation, strong tutorials and other learning materials – as well as a great community that consistently helps troubleshoot and answers other newbie questions – can make the whole process much smoother, and perhaps even more fun!
Royalties And Licensing
Dealing with royalties and licensing issues might seem like something that “future you” might need to worry about. However, when you’re choosing a game engine and getting things started, you’ll want to make sure you’re aware about the potential royalties and licenses you’ll need down the line, especially if your game explodes in popularity.
Future you will thank you.
What kind of time frame are you looking at from starting the development process to getting the game up and running? Do you have a hard deadline from a studio or boss, do you want to launch in time for a particular date or holiday, or are you relatively flexible?
In general, even if you’re just starting out and developing the game as a hobby or way to learn, it’s best to set a realistic timeline simply in order to get things done! So whether your deadline is internal or external, start with establishing a timeline as well as the amount of hours you and your team have each day, week, or month to put into working on your game.
This is important because not only is delivering your game in a timely fashion a positive thing (of course), but because some game engines do more of the “heavy lifting” for users than others. And while the engines with more ease-of-use might not allow for as much customization or custom elements as some of the more flexible ones, these types of engines might be better for an inexperienced team and/or a team working on a tight timeline.
Certain types of game engines tend to work better for different genres; hence, it’s important to do your research and understand what engines correspond to the genre of the game you’re building.
Take a look case studies and examples provided by each game engine and see how closely they resemble the game you have in mind. While nothing will be an exact match (and it shouldn’t), it’s essential to check out what type of games will be considered the default game for each engine and how closely the game you have planned aligns.
What’s The Scope?
What are your long term plans for your game? And perhaps most importantly, how many platforms are you planning on releasing your game on? Most mobile game developers will be naturally limited to iOS and Android (or maybe only one or the other, depending on the target audience).
Are you planning on building a web-based version as well? Then you need an engine that will support that. Start with your end goals in mind and an awareness of the preferred platforms of your target audience when you’re choosing your game engine.
Game Analytics Recommendations
We’ve rounded up our top five game engines for beginners here, but even if you’re not a total beginner these options can be excellent (after all, just because you know how to do something doesn’t mean it’s worth the time and effort if there is a great shortcut).
For instance, Buildbox with its intuitive design is great for beginners, but also for experienced game developers who know what their time is worth and what they don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of time creating (check out version 2.0 here). But there are plenty of other spectacular options as well!
Finally, keep in mind that a game engine is the framework upon which you’re going to build your game. It’s the foundation, so perhaps one of the smartest initial steps you can take is to thoroughly research your options and make an educated decision.