5 Free Programs to Start Making Your Own Games

Everyone's got to start somewhere, and free is always a good way to go.

More and more people are taking matters into their own hands and making games themselves for personal pleasure. The indie game world has exploded and now is the time to jump in and try your hand at it. I don't necessarily have the funds for Unity Pro, so I'm exploring these free programs to get my feet wet in the development pool.


LÖVE is a 2D game engine or framework that uses the Lua programming language. It's simple and accessible programming-wise and the community is generally helpful and welcoming. LÖVE is licensed under the zlib/libpng license, so you can make a game and share it freely or commercially (moneys!). The forums and wiki are there to help as well as for sharing your own LÖVE creations. Works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

2. Dreemchest 

Dreemchest is also a 2D development engine with Lua that's great for cross-platform games, apps, or even eBooks. It prides itself on speedy rendering, accessibility, and its Adobe Flash user interfaces. Additionally, you can translate your game into any other language easily. Like LÖVE, you can use Dreemchest freely or commercially.  Works on Windows and Mac. 

3. AGen

Similar to the previous programs, AGen is a 2D framework that also uses Lua and provides Lua extensions to make life easier. You can download and create for personal use for free, but if you want to sell your creations there is a one-time fee. Examples of games built with AGen include: 8-Bit Commando, Touch Chess, and Chain. Available for Windows and Mac. 

4. Polycode

Polycode is an opensource framework to build both 2D and 3D games for multiple platforms using either C++ or Lua. Polycode includes font rendering, physics modules, particle systems, sound support, and animation. If you work just in Lua, you can publish to all supported platforms all at once. Polycode isn't finished yet, but once it is I'll be all over it. With its versatility and several features, it's a fabulous value. It also started out as a Kickstarter project, but didn't make its goal (when it totally should have, this program is going to be dynamite!). Keep an eye out on its development on its Tumblr.

5. Unity 3D

Unity 3D is the free version of Unity available for Windows. It can publish for iOS, Android, desktop and Web. The really awesome part about Unity is that you can download tons of assets from the Asset Store for free, including textures, materials, models, scripting, sound clips, and more. When you download this version, you get a 30-day free trial of Unity Pro, which includes even more features. Also, Unity is pretty intuitive and prevalent among numerous indie developers. 

I'm no programmer. At all. So I need something that is relatively easy to learn. Luckily, most of these have tutorials out there as well as forums to ask for help. I'm excited to try these out and hopefully you can find something that suits your inner game developer tastes too. 

Published Jun. 14th 2013
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