Development Tools for Academics and Students

Games for Change has recently posted a list of game development tools for students. The list includes a wide variety of tools to teach game design and the rudiments of programming to students. Entries include RPG Maker, a universal system for generating digital role playing games with user-generated content; Microsoft’s Kudo, a visually based programming language and game engine; and Gamestar Mechanic, a unique platform that emphasizes the principles of game design. We are lucky to have so many tools available for making games.

However, there are several tools available to educators and students that do not appear on the list provided by Games for Change. Valve has recently released a version of their proprietary game engine to educators at I just received my licenses for the software, and I can’t wait to see what my students start making. Adobe Flash is a popular platform for making 2D games. The academic version of the software is affordable, and there are excellent resources available for students on the Internet. An important game engine to consider is the same engine used by many professionals, the Unreal Engine. Yes, the manual for this game engine is daunting, but teenagers are already developing mods of popular games using this platform. The game is free if you don’t publish a commercial version of your software, and the visual scripting language (Kismet) allows students to build levels without having any coding experience. Similarly, Unity3D is a complete game engine with visual scripting languages for sale in their Asset Store. The Unity GUI is simple enough for high school and college students to understand, and the tutorials are an excellent way to learn Javascript or C#. Some of my students have been developing in Unity3D, and I’m going to make it a requirement for joining the lab. There so are many lessons to be learned by using a sophisticated environment like Unity3D that I don’t think we should ever limit a student’s potential by not exposing them to professional tools.