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Mobile & Console Development Frequently Asked Questions

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Last updated Winter 2016.

Cross-platform Smart Phone Engines

Many groups have put together engines of varying quality. They range from large, comprehensive products to small collections of useful snippits. This list is not a complete list, nor does it attempt to be. We don't have room to list every one of the many thousand startups and code collections, just the major engines with broad community support. That said, here goes.

Major Cross-platform iOS and Android engines -- sorted by cost:

  • Cocos2d-x SDK, C++ (FREE)
  • libGDX SDK, Java. (FREE for most platforms, possibly requires Xamarin purchase for iOS)
  • Unity engine, C# and Javascript (Mostly FREE unless you sell over $100,000 per year.)
  • Unreal Engine (aka UE4) engine, C++ and custom scripting language. (Mostly FREE until you hit $3000 per quarter, then 5% of gross revenue.)
  • Corona SDK, Lua, with paid options to link to additional languages. (Mostly FREE, requiring connection to their servers to build your app, also some upselling in their tools.)
  • Moai SDK, C++ and Lua. (FREE for offline use. Online services are $19/month subscription)
  • Marmalade SDK, C++. ($150)
  • Xamarin SDK, C#. ($80 - $400 depending on license)
  • appMobi SDK, HTML5 - Javascript (SaaS subscription)
  • Loom engine ($500)

Also there are game-maker programs out there. They require much less work but still let you make games easily.

  • Godot engine, custom language (FREE)
  • GameMaker:Studio engine, custom language ($99 for pro license, plus $199 per mobile platform)
  • GameSalad engine, custom language (No-cost option available, many features require $299 purchase)

Google can find many more minor libraries and engines with less broad support.

OpenGL ES reference and tutorial

General Wireless Device Industry

As smart phones became mainstream and replaced the standard Nokia phones and other 'feature phones', these resources are dwindling. They still have some useful material.

Java and BREW (for Java-based feature phones)

Homebrew. a.k.a. unlicensed development on commercial devices

Note that in some regions unauthorized development may be illegal. These are mostly hobbyists figuring out how to build games on the consoles they enjoy.

  • XBox One: No homebrew yet
  • PS4: No homebrew yet
  • Wii U: No new unique homebrew yet, see Wii below
  • XBox 360: Use XNA, Microsoft Indie Games, and the other official tools from Microsoft.
  • PS3: PSHomebrew
  • Wii: WiiBrew.org

The original PlayStation, the PS2, and first XBox are difficult for homebrew and generally require significant effort in order to make even the most trivial of games. Even teams of professionals using the official tools and official examples could struggle for hundreds of hours before displaying their first triangles on the PlayStation. These devices are generally discouraged from personal homebrew development.

GameBoy Advance, or GBA:

Dreamcast homebrew

(Yes, we sometimes still get questions about those, updated 2016.)

  • Dreamcast Scene - One of the few remaining Dreamcast hubs that is still active.
  • DCEmulation (archive) - All sorts of information usable to homebrew developers -- dead but archived.
  • Official KallistOS Homepage - Anyone serious about DC development should be using KOS - it allows you to control many aspects of the DC hardware from a higher level (note: There was also a forked GBA port too). If you want KOS, get the CVS version from the SF page as it's newer than the packaged versions.
  • SDL for Dreamcast

Even Older

There are also homebrew communities for older systems, including the SNES, NES, Atari 2600, and even Vectrex consoles. These usually require access to the old hardware or software emulators of the system. Some of these hobbyists have produced incredible games that feel amazing on the actual old hardware. If you're interested in these Google is probably your best resource to find the ever-changing communities.