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jakelm

Developing games with free software?

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jakelm    108
So I think this could be a touchy subject and Ive been searching the web to see if its been brought up but haven't had much luck. So I figured this would be the best place to ask on a game developing forum. Ive developed a few small games over the years.. and have been reading like mad for the last 6 months to learn a few new languages in and out and some APIs like OpenGL to write my own engine. I feel like im ready to take on a big game project and then I realized something. What tools do Indie/hobbyist game developers use. Im guessing many are strapped for cash and if you do the figures on some of the professional grade software tools it can get a little out of hand. For example If you wanted very high quality sound/music you might be interested in Audio Workstation Software with MIDI Sequencing which would run you about $400 USD If you wanted to have 3d models in your game you might get something like 3ds Max $3,990.00 USD WOW! If you wanted icons and such (images) you may get something like Adobe Photoshop CS5 $699.00 USD If you wanted to do very high quality performance analysis on your code using performance analysis tools you might want to get something like Visual studio team systems that has built in high quality performance analysis tools $1,199.00 USD Maybe you want to make a game play trailer for your game and you want something like Sony Vegas pro $599.95 USD Grand total of $6887.95 USD Of course this list is all the high end software for each area and you could downgrade and save alot of money im sure. But regardless, if you do end up buying software to do all these things for your game it seems like it could get extremely expensive regardless the quality of the software. So my question is what is the best way to approach this situation? Obviously if you have a team of like 5 to 10 peps you could spread the cost out and it wouldn't be so bad. But what if your an individual. Im also aware that you could just find someone to do the artwork and sound and such and such for you.. but what happens if they use pirated software and you are clueless they did? Or if thats not an option and you want to do everything yourself? Are there equivalent free tools? Do alot of people just pirate this software and release games and hope no one ask them what they used to make their 3d models, sound files, images or videos? (cough..! Pirated... cough..! software... cough...!) Is this even an issue? I know theres free software for this stuff but how does it measure up in terms of quality? Can anyone recommend good quality free software for each of these areas or just less expensive software?

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DaveMS    187
You dont need to be spending any money at all -

Programming IDE - Visual Studio Express - $Free
3D modelling - Blender - $Free
2D images - GIMP, Paint.Net, various others - $Free
Audio processing - Audacity - $Free

Total cost - $Free!. Cheap as chips.

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zeeli    239
Quote:
Original post by DaveMS
Cheap as chips.

Infact, even cheaper (unless you put a price on your free time that is) [wink]

Regarding the use of free software, I totally recommend it. I personally use Eclipse as an IDE, GIMP for 2D graphics, Blender for 3D graphics, and Audacity for audio. I haven't worked on video much, but there oughta be free software for that as well.

What comes to the usability, there are some minor issues, like the usability of the UI, bugs, etc. GUI's are not so polished as their commercial equivalents, but beaty is skin deep. In the end, most free software, at least the ones I use, are very efficient and productive.

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demonkoryu    980
Quote:
Original post by jakelm
Audio Workstation Software with MIDI Sequencing

Reaper/FL Studio/Renoise

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3d models

Blender/Truespace

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images

Gimp/Paint Shop Pro/Inkscape

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very high quality performance analysis

Code Analyst

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something like Sony Vegas pro

Lives

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but what happens if they use pirated software and you are clueless they did?

That's their problem, unless you're employing them. (I'm no lawyer mind you)

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Or if thats not an option and you want to do everything yourself?

There are free/low cost alternatives.

Quote:
Do alot of people just pirate this software and release games and hope no one ask them what they used to make their 3d models, sound files, images or videos? (cough..! Pirated... cough..! software... cough...!)

Somehow unsurprisingly, relatively few game developers go into greater detail as to what pirated software they use.

Quote:
I know theres free software for this stuff but how does it measure up in terms of quality?

As always - it depends; not only on the software but much more on the expertise of the user of said software. I guesstimate that it's possible to get 70-85% of subjective 100% AAA quality using only free/low cost software.

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Andrew Russell    1394
The only thing I haven't been able to get for free is good music software (as opposed to audio software like Audacity). But for non-musicians there is a better solution - you can get lots of stock music for free by putting the magic words "Creative Commons" into Google.

I've bought a few other tools (Fraps, for example) - but they're pretty cheap, and also they're not must-haves.

The bottom line is - you can make a really, really good, high-quality game for free - with a little perseverance, creativity - and a lot of time.

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Ariella    100
Glad to see this post. This was almost exactly what I am asking in my post. I had come to the same questions. Thanks for those magic words "Creative Commons".

Personally I think Photoshop is worth it and a stable product to use for other reasons.

Those of you who have written games with free software (the high quality games written for free or a low budget that are mentioned) is it kosher to put links to those here so we could see? Or is there a list on the net of some?

Thanks :)

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Hodgman    51220
Quote:
Obviously if you have a team of like 5 to 10 peps you could spread the cost out and it wouldn't be so bad.
Yeah, pretty much all the products you've listed are aimed at companies, not individuals.

When you factor in the hardware that goes with that software, and then take into account that you'll be paying them similar amounts per month, it's not really that expensive.

Up-front costs: $2000 PC + Software:
  Audio: $2000 PC + $400 SW
  Graphics: $2000 PC + $4700 SW
  Programmer: $2000 PC + $1200 SW
  Producer: $2000 PC + $600 SW
Ongoing costs: $3500/month ($20/hour) -- probably much more than this IRL.
The people that buy all this stuff also spend hundreds of thousands on game engines, instead of using cheap (e.g. $100, or free) game engines.
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But what if your an individual.
It's pretty rare to find someone who can do hardcore C++, 3d modelling, texturing, audio and general production work... but if you're doing something that's not worth investing $10K into, then do it with free software ;)
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Im also aware that you could just find someone to do the artwork and sound and such and such for you.. but what happens if they use pirated software and you are clueless they did?
This is much more likely than a (decent sized) one man project. If you're outsourcing graphics, you might not need a copy of 3ds Max yourself - that expense lies with your contractor.

If your contractor is using pirated software (and you're aware of this fact), it's probably immoral to continue to use their services, but as far as I know (and I am not a lawyer!), their piracy is a civil offence (not a criminal offence) so the works they produce wouldn't be a "proceed of crime" able to be confiscated from you.
Essentially you're paying for their time/sweat; you're not paying for their tools. The fact that they're using stolen tools is a problem for them, not for you directly. Whether you know about this piracy or not though, if this fact comes to light it could be bad publicity for your game.

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Captain P    1092
Another important piece of software would be version control. There's several free options in that area as well. For documentation, there's Google docs, or you could install a local wiki, or use Open Office. And for general purpose text editing, a tool like Notepad++ or UEdit32 is a good choice. Integrated hex editors, syntax highlighting and that sort of stuff are just handy to have around whenever you need them.

As for writing your own engine, there's free engines available, too. ;)

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Ravyne    14300
I think the only for-pay software I used in my development is Visual Studio -- currently I have VSPro 2005 which is getting dated, but I'm looking to upgrade to 2010 Pro or possibly higher if I can afford it. Luckily I work at Microsoft and the company store has good deals on their dev software. The Express editions do have the optimizing compiler, just not profile-guided optimization -- so you're still getting an awfully good deal for free.

I also use ProMotion for sprites -- Its a nice program and fairly cheap. For larger-format, non-animated stuff -- title screens and the like -- I've used GIMP. Honestly, I don't think I've found a really good program for making small animations and sprites that was free, but ProMotion is relatively cheap.

For 3D modelling I've tried Blender, it wasn't too bad but it was really unstable on my hardware last time I gave it a shot several years ago. Google has a free 3D modeller called SketchUp which I've tried recently and was pleased with. There's a windows version, as well as one for Macs, possibly Linux too.

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Andrew Russell    1394
Quote:
Original post by Ariella
Those of you who have written games with free software (the high quality games written for free or a low budget that are mentioned) is it kosher to put links to those here so we could see? Or is there a list on the net of some?

I don't mind some shameless self-promotion. Here is a video of my last game. Tools used:

Programming - Visual C# Express - Free
Game Programming - XNA Game Studio - Free
Physics Engine - Farseer Physics - Free
Memory Profiling - CLR Profiler - Free
Version Control - Subversion & TortoiseSVN - Free
Sprites - The GIMP - Free
Sound Effects - Audacity - Free
Music - Kevin McLeod - Free (Creative Commons)
Level Editor - built it myself
Video Capture (for promotion) - Fraps - $47 (Australian)

It was an entry in Dream Build Play 2009 - and every entrant got a free 4 months subscription to the XNA creators club - which allowed me to put it up on XBLIG and sell it.

The only thing that cost money was hardware - I already have a pretty good PC - but I did have to buy an Xbox 360 to test on.

If it were a PC-only game it would have essentially cost nothing to develop, except my time (about 4 months).

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jakelm    108
Awesome guys. Thank you for the intelligent replies. Really got a lot of good information on this topic now, more than Id expected.
Definitely have a much better perspective for when I go full throttle with my game development. I was kinda unsure how to go about it tools wise. But now from the little knowledge I already had of some of these free tools and getting a lot of confirmation that they are widely used by indie/hobbyist game developers really gives me more motivation to move forward and use all these free tools as much as possible. At least until I win the lottery!
Feel free to keep posting/updating this topic with more free/cheap software development tools! I intend to refer to this topic when I need a reminder of free/cheap software to download for game development. :)

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