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Gamedev tools: Basics for absolute beginners

Choosing the right game development tools depends entirely on the game you’re trying to create. We have some suggestions to help you with your first project.

Unity's Learn Game Dev from A-Z course

Tools for success

If you’ve spent any time browsing forums and watching YouTube videos about game design and development, you’ve probably noticed the same things we have: 

  • A lot of the advice comes down to good ol’ fashioned personal opinion
  • Narrowing down your options can be difficult when there are so many
  • Many descriptions of the necessary tools for game development lack a fundamental understanding of what you need for your project

The good news is that the right game development tools come down to a few key factors. 

You’ll find some suggestions below for the best game development tools, including different kinds of hardware and software, centered around your personal creative needs.

Get yourself a nice notebook (or whiteboard)

Didn’t see that one coming, right? You probably thought we’d get right into computers and software. But the most important game development tools you can have in your toolbelt are those that will help you create a plan. Good organizational tools, like a notebook or whiteboard, are priceless.

Many aspiring game creators rush into trying to create a game, without knowing where they want to go or what they want their game to do. This inevitably leads to frustration, and it often takes quite some time to bounce back from it and give it another go.

Don’t feel like you’re expected to improvise and just hope everything turns out right; it works better if you make some plans.

So start filling up your notebook or whiteboard. (It’s OK to use a fancy word processing or spreadsheet program too.)

Core concepts

What better way to kick off your game-making journey than to figure out what your game is about? Concepting is a major necessity for any budding game developer.

Unsurprisingly, the most successful games aren’t designed and built on a whim. Developers and development teams first come up with ideas for making their game unique and interesting, including (but not limited to):

  • Story: The overall point of your game
  • Plot: How the story unfolds
  • Narrative: The meaning and feeling your story is meant to convey
  • Design summary: Aesthetic and structure plans for your game’s levels and assets

Not all games depend on intricate stories and complex plots or elaborate level structures, but it is important to define the purpose and style of your game to help players understand why they should try it in the first place.

Core mechanics

Game mechanics are essentially the rules and functions that your game objects, a.k.a. assets (characters, environmental elements, etc.), follow and perform within your game. They are what make a game a game, and not just an automatic event or still picture on a screen.

Whether you want to make a ball roll from one side of the screen into a hole on the other side, or you create a living, breathing world full of creatures to hunt or herd for glory and renown, you must determine your game’s mechanics. 

Also try to remember that game mechanics do not have to be complicated. If your game functions in a simple way and still provides an enjoyable experience for players, then you’ve chosen your game mechanics correctly!

Production timelines

So you’ve come up with what you want your game to be about, how you’d like it to look, and how you’d like it to work. Now it is time to use your first set of important game development tools to plan out the timeframe in which you’ll be producing each of those critical elements and the resources you’ll need to do so.

Production timelines help you understand the scope (the overall vision) and scale (what’s needed to achieve that vision) for your game, both before and during development. This allows you to use your resources effectively during the production of your game and keeps you goal-oriented when completing specific parts of it.

Since this is your very first game, here’s the most important piece of advice: ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS AND START SMALL.

Does this mean we don’t think you’re capable of eventually creating the next Ori and the Blind Forest? Of course not! But this is not about limiting your creativity. It’s about giving your talents a chance to grow at a steady, enjoyable pace. Burnout is the enemy of all creative endeavors, and we want to see you grow into the creative juggernaut you aspire to be.

Planning is the most crucial of game development tools for beginning your work. 

Choose the best PC parts

Ah, the humble personal computer. Other than being used for posting photos of food and watching videos of screaming goats, computers are literally capable of creating brand new worlds. They serve as the power station for the rest of your game development tools.

Whether you’re looking to eventually build 2D, 3D, mobile or web-based games, be sure your base software and hardware meets these requirements:

Operating System: Windows: 7 SP1+, 8, 10, 64-bit versions only; macOS: 10.12+

CPU: Supports SSE2 instruction sets

GPU: Supports DX10 and above

That’s it. If your OS, processor and graphics cards meet those specs, you’re in the right ballpark for your computing needs. Almost all modern home computers have those specs, and most of them have much more than that. If you’re willing to spend less than a month’s rent on a PC or Mac, you’ll have what you need to start creating games.

 

Pick the right game engine

You might have heard us say that we believe the world is a better place with more creators in it. That probably has something to do with how we got started as a company. Like you, we started with a simple idea for a simple game. Like you, we needed a set of tools that would allow us to start creating as quickly as possible. Like you, we hoped someone would make it possible for us to achieve our creative vision. But since no one had at the time, we decided to do it ourselves.

The community tells us that Unity is the most accessible game-building platform out there, offering you fun, relevant and educational ways to succeed. We’ve also kept our platform free for new users like you that are eager to learn and build in our Editor.

So with all of these things in mind, and the most essential game development tools now in your tool belt, go ahead: It’s time to start your journey into game development with Unity.

The right tools and resources

Download the Unity Editor, keep checking out our beginner resources, and continue your journey into game development.

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