4 Best Indie Game Development Tools (That AAA Studios Use)
There are billions (and billions) of dollars in games.
But, if you’re an indie game development studio, your slice of that dollar-sign-shaped cake is small.
For now, you’re powered by passion.
So, if your budget is indie, but your heart is AAA, here are a few of the best indie game development tools available.
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It’s a no-brainer. If you want to build a game, you need a game engine.
Now, the game engine you’ll want to use may vary on what type or style of game your creating. Or whether it’s 2D or 3D, for example.
Two of the major engines are Unreal Engine 4 and Unity. Both are proven for creating games with AAA graphics. One big difference? With Unreal, you can crank out a game without knowing how to code.
You can begin with either Unity or Unreal for free. Though their offers are structured differently. The free version of Unity is for personal use only, though they offer several options for expansion. Unreal Engine 4 is free until your game starts making money. In which case, they ask for 5% royalties on your earnings. Quality-wise, you can’t go wrong with either. For a deeper dive, we suggest checking out this longer list of game engines.
Version Control Software
You can make a game without version control.
But then you can also watch your game vanish into the dark when the power goes out, or if a hard drive fails.
Therefore, version control is a necessity for the sensible game studio, whether indie or AAA. There are quite a few on the market. Many are free (or open) — though reliability, consistency, and support can be spotty. Version control software is also required for remote collaboration, allowing the team to share common code and assets from any location.
The standard in the industry is Perforce Helix Core. The reasons are also well-known and well-documented: it’s fast and it doesn’t slow down when versioning huge files (what can take hours on one version control software, takes minutes on Perforce). It’s also user-friendly. So artist(s) have no trouble versioning alongside developers. There’s a Free for Small Teams version available for up to 5 users.
Project Management & Collaboration Tools
You probably didn’t get into creating games because you like managing projects. But if you want to finish making your game before anyone else does, you’re going to need proper planning and project management.
And, remember, nobody can play your game if you don’t finish it!
The best project management tools play more than one note — they provide one place for your studio’s backlog of ideas, bugs, priorities, and to-do’s. They help you hit your deadlines, without forcing how you work (such as a tool like Trello does by offering Kanban boards only!).
If you want a AAA-quality tool that’s fast, fun, and can scale with you, Hansoft is a solid choice. It provides Gantt charts so you can see deadlines and what leads up to them. It supports Agile methods and hybrids too (it has Kanban boards and supports scrum). It syncs with Jira if you don’t want to use the built-in bug tracker. There’s a free version that supports up to 5 on your team.
Bringing It All Together
There are many indie game development tools available. Many are free. However, many of those free tools are going to be limited in what they can do for you. Because the truth is, there’s a reason why AAA studios prefer certain tools (quality, performance, reliability). It’s a good idea to follow their example, whenever you can afford it.