Breakdown of the tools we use for game development & more
This week along with continuing work on the prototype, we are going to do a deep-dive on some of the tools we have been and will use for development on “Psychroma”.
Game Engine: Gamemaker Studio 2
Firstly, figuring out what game engine we wanted to use was the most important decision to make. Although it was also the easiest, since we had already done a lot of research into what engine we wanted to use next, even during the end of development on Raptor Boyfriend.
Gamemaker makes the most sense for the type of game we want to make, which is a pixel art side-scrolling narrative game. Another factor that we took into consideration was the price point. Although Gamemaker is not open-source like Ren’Py, the pricing is reasonable for any individual and/or small indie dev team like ours. If you are interested in what the engine offers, we suggest checking out their site – https://www.yoyogames.com/en/gamemaker
Writing/file storage/collaboration tool: Google Drive
Choosing to go with the Google suite was also an instant decision we made based on the fact that we have been using it since 2018. Although we have questioned and considered other file sharing/storage options, Google was just the tool we were used to using.
The biggest factors we took into consideration with the Google Suite was the pricing and ease of use/access. Google’s prices vary depending on storage size and add-on features and apps. After a few years, we’ve opted into the 1 tb monthly plan for one of our accounts, which seems to be sufficient for our needs for now.
As for the ease of access, we find for the most part Google Drive and Google Docs are very easy to use. The big plus of using the drive in conjunction with docs for writing is that each document can be a living document, meaning we can all go in at any time and make changes, then notify each other of the changes. This is a key feature to have when working on a project like a video game, where factors like the writing are constantly changing.
Although the team has some disagreements on how to organize things, and there are some annoying quirks about moving and editing files on the drive, all in all we haven’t been able to find a good replacement for the Google Suite within our budget.
Drawing/Design Tools: Adobe Photoshop
Our go-to design and drawing tool would be Adobe Photoshop (much to our chagrin). It is easily the tool we have been using the longest and feel the most comfortable using. However with the steadily increasing monthly fees and the nature of it’s cloud subscription and updates, we are still finding ways around having to use it.
Clip Studio Paint
One drawing tool we have been able to implement pretty smoothly is Clip Studio, f.k.a. Manga Studio. This tool is great for hi-res drawings and renders, uses way less RAM to run, saves in native .psd files and most importantly, is an affordable flat fee to own forever. Another huge plus is that you are able to work in vector way easier than Photoshop, which is useful for designing things for print or for any scalable assets needed for game development.
All that being said, it still does not out-perform Photoshop in terms of versatility or ease of use. It is still super quick and easy to throw together design elements for things like marketing materials in Photoshop rather than Clip Studio. Also, Photoshop is slowly building up its 3D features which is great for things like product design and character rigging for animation.
Here’s Clip Studio’s site if you want to learn more about it – https://www.clipstudio.net/en/
The newest tool in our design arsenal would be the pixel editor and animator, Aseprite. So far, Aseprite has been super easy and intuitive to use and we were able to fit it in quite smoothly to our workflow. Aseprite uses scalable, small pixel graphics which allows it to run quickly and smoothly while holding a ton of information like animation.
This will be super useful to us since we will be designing and creating all assets for “Psychroma” in a 640×360 pixel resolution. However, the obvious downside to using a pixel graphics program is the restrictive nature of working in small pixel resolution, which would be that it’s not great for clean print design. In the end though, it was worth the small fee of owning it. If you’re interested, check out some of the other things Aseprite had to offer on it’s site – https://www.aseprite.org/
Sound/Audio: Ableton Live
This DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is the audio software we have sworn by since before our game dev days. We rely on it for everything, including music composition, instrument and vocal recording, and editing. The only thing it doesn’t do is record our podcast sessions. We like Ableton for its versatility and extensive sample library. It is also the DAW we are most comfortable using, naturally. The only knocks against Ableton are it’s price point and it’s lack of user intuitiveness in it’s design. However, the suite is available for purchase at a flat fee and you own the license for life.
The other main tool we use for audio is Reaper, the smaller, more compact version of a DAW like Ableton. The things we love about Reaper are it’s easy-to-use interface as well as it’s reliable recording capabilities. As we mentioned earlier, we don’t like using Ableton Live to record our 1-2 hour long podcast sessions. This is because Ableton uses a lot of CPU and RAM to run and record, which makes it a little less reliable as a recording software, especially with our large podcast files. This is where Reaper shines, as it is fairly streamlined for recording and therefore less likely to crash while recording. Another plus is that Reaper is fairly cheap to own, is not a cloud-based service and has a very long and generous trial period.
Here is the site if you want to learn more about Reaper: https://www.reaper.fm/
Narrative design: Twine
This is still a new facet of game design for us, since we had foregone the need of software for narrative design while working in Ren’Py. However, we quickly realized we needed a way to visualize the story and level designs together quickly and in a simple way before going straight to code. Enter interactive design tool Twine.
Twine is an interactive design tool that’s streamlined for non-linear narrative design. Despite its limited logic and visual capabilities, it is a great tool for stringing together narrative threads, branching paths, running quick tests, and even in some cases designing small games for solo devs. It’s interface is mostly node-based and drag and drop, making it easy to learn and use. It’s documentation is pretty organized and extensive as well, making the language easy to pick up. The best thing about Twine is the fact that it’s totally open-source. Check out their site if you were interested in trying it out for yourself – https://twinery.org/
Although Twine is great in many regards, it does not have the capability of file sharing in the same way that Google or Gamemaker has, which is key when iterating on things like narrative flow and level design between the three of us. We are still in search of a free/affordable tool that we could use for narrative design, possibly with a few more features like file sharing, live editing and visual components.
That’s all for now! Thanks for reading and we hope you find this insightful.