There are hundreds of amazing packages out there, so rather than trying to list them all I have covered the packages I use regularly. As with many other indie developers, I favour lower cost/free options. The good news is that these are incredibly good packages, and in most cases better than more expensive alternatives.
The best tile editor out there – so far I have used this to create the levels in two games; Life of Pixel and SuperGolf. It is a breeze to use and incredibly powerful. Supports orthogonal, isometric and staggered maps.
Explosion Generator 3
An amazingly useful tool that creates 2d sprite-sheets or individual frame explosion animations, blood splats, exploding objects and more.
A basic tool for creating bitmap font sheets. It does the job, but there is no finesse, so a better choice is…
I don’t have this YET, but included it as I intend to add it to my software kit very soon. Glypgh is bitmap font creation with love; supports shadows, gradient fills, strokes and more. Mac only is the only downside.
Another particle animation creation tool which gives amazingly good results. I used this extensively for sprite sheet explosions and effects on our PSM game MegaBlast and it worked a treat.
Shader Map 2
A brilliant tool for creating normal, specular and height maps from photo textures. I used this extensively for creating normal maps in our Vita debut title Indoor Sports World.
Large 3D Terrain Generator (L3DT)
Designed specifically for games, this terrain editor generates editable heightmaps where you can specify land altitudes, roughness, lakes, climate, etc. It also supports the creation and export of terrain textures, light maps, bump maps and alpha/splat maps.
Sketchup comes in two flavours, the free ‘Make’ and the $590 ‘Pro’ edition. I’d ignore the Pro version and use Make – then go onto the 3D Warehouse and smile. Thousands of free 3D models which can be downloaded and adapted to use in your games.
The best pixel editor out there. ProMotion includes everything you will ever need for drawing and animating pixel sprites, backgrounds and tiles.
I use ACDSee for browsing images on my PC. I have thousands of textures, bitmaps and what-not so this is an invaluable tool. You can also batch edit and process images; ideal for converting batches of images to different file formats.
I must confess I haven’t used Inkscape, I have Adobe Illustrator as part of Creative Cloud. Inkscape however is very well regarded and apparently an excellent free tool for creating and editing vector images.
Another high quality 2d pixel art drawing tool, this has really good palette manipulation features.
A free alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Jam packed with features and well supported by the community.
THE 3D package of choice when you are on a tight budget. It is free, yet does everything you will ever need. It even has its own built in game engine, incredible stuff! I own Lightwave (v.9) which I have used for all my 3D art so far, but I am giving serious thought to switching over to Blender as it so much more games orientated than LW.
FLStudio (formerly Fruity Loops) is a brilliant music creation package, which comes packed with a whole host of audio plugins and tools. FL Studio supports all PC industry plugin instrument standards including VST, DX, Buzz and Rewire.
A great, and free, sound effects creation tool. You will hear sound effects in many indie games made with Bfxr.
A free sound sample editing package that will allow you to edit sound effects and apply filters. Essential for creating sounds for games.
A free speech synthesis program. Type in what you want to record, tweak the voice settings and output your WAV.
Another free sound effect creation package. Offers a number of different options to Bfxr, so it is well worth installing both this and Bfxr.
Reaper is another great music creation package (DAW). It is also the lowest priced option, offering excellent value for money.
Adobe Creative Cloud
I always considered owning a full suite of Adobe products a bit of a dream, given that each one cost several hundred dollars. Well Uncle Adobe has made my dream a reality by introducing the Creative Cloud program. For a monthly fee you now have full access to everything Adobe develops, which really is a no-brainer for any serious game developer.
I signed up a while back and I absolutely love it.
What They Say
“Your favorite tools are about to get even better. Introducing Creative Cloud™ desktop applications, including Adobe® Photoshop® CC and Illustrator® CC. They’re the next generation of CS tools. Get hundreds of all-new features. New ways to keep your creative world in sync — feature updates, settings, and feedback from team members. And, as always, your applications live on your desktop, not in a browser and not in the cloud.”
£46.88 per month for individuals, £65.44 per seat/month for teams.
The following packages are all included with Creative Cloud:
- Photoshop® CC (Image editing and compositing)
- Illustrator® CC (Vector graphics and illustration)
- InDesign® CC (Page design, layout, and publishing)
- Dreamweaver® CC (Websites, app design, and coding)
- After Effects® CC (Cinematic visual effects and motion graphics)
- Adobe® Premiere® Pro CC (Video production and editing)
- Adobe Muse™ CC (Website design without coding)
- Acrobat® XI Pro
- Adobe Audition® CC
- Bridge CC
- Flash® Builder® Premium
- Flash Professional CC
- InCopy® CC
- Media Encoder CC
- Prelude® CC
- SpeedGrade® CC
If you are a start-up studio (less than 3 years old) I recommend you join the Microsoft BizSpark program. As well as a lot of help & support and networking opportunities, it gives you free access to all Microsoft software (incredible but true).
Don’t delay – join BizSpark now!
Below are a few details from the BizSpark website – and considering there is no charge at all for joining, this really is the best offer around for start-ups.
The Microsoft BizSpark program is based on the belief that startup success is our success. Microsoft is committed to help technology startups realize their goals on their own terms and in the shortest amount of time. Through BizSpark, Microsoft’s goals are to:
- Help young and innovative software companies gain valuable experience and expertise in Microsoft technologies, with no upfront costs.
- Help startups establish connections with local and global startup ecosystems – VCs, angels, incubators, entrepreneur associations, etc.
- Stimulate vibrant local software ecosystems and promote innovation and interoperability.
- Support the broadest possible startup audience in a way that complements their values and the organizations that support them.
Access to 900+ current, full-featured software development tools, platform technologies, and server products to build software applications. BizSpark startups also get free monthly Windows Azure benefits enabling them to quickly build, deploy, and manage Web applications.
Startups become part of the BizSpark ecosystem and get access to investors, advisors, and valuable offers to help run their businesses, find talent, and obtain financing. Startups also get access to technical, product and business training and support.
Eligible startups must be:
- Actively engaged in development of a software-based product or service that will form a core piece of its current or intended business.
To meet this requirement the software must:
- Add significant and primary functionality to the integrated Microsoft software.
- Be owned, not licensed by the Startup.
- Privately held
- In business for less than 5 years, and
- Bringing in less than US$1 million in annual revenue