Thursday, February 01, 2007

Game programming tools

I think the essential features for game programming languages for school use are:

  • easy entry level programming with drag and drop programming
  • a true versatile programming environment, not just selecting from limited scenarios
  • top end extensibility through fully featured text based programming
  • licencing which allows kids to continue to work at home for free

Running through the products with an apology for any errors and omissions, sorry limited time may mean errors:

Game Maker - meets all criteria, unregistered version is free
Click&Play - "free for schools" puts home use in doubt, one of Clickteams old products
Multimedia Fusion 2 by Clickteam, built on Click&Play?
Stagecast - US$49.95
Games Factory - price $? by Clickteam
Alice - free, 3D but limited scenarios?
Python - free, opensource, text based
Blender - free, opensource, complicated
Dark Basic - text based
Bliz Basic - text based £30 - £50 per copy
KPL - free, text based
Logo - text based
Flash - text based, cost
Toontalk - US$25
Squeak - free, opensource, not that easy bottom end?
Etoys - written in Squeak
Scratch - Scratch is written in Squeak, Scratch uses graphical programming, open source but not open development, recommended yr1 to 6
Adventure Author - not yet available?
Runtime Revolution - £33
Mission Maker - £79
Baltie - US$18, can you make games? need to look into it further
Runbasic - text based? cost?
3D Gamemaker - limited scenarios? £10 - £25
Thinkingworlds - not easy entry?
Kahootz - not a programming tool, cost
Beyond Virtual - 3D, Starter free, Silver $150
RPG Maker - 30 day free trial, US$60
ADRIFT - Text Adventure creation program, registered version $18.95
Fablusi - online role play simulation platform
Quest -
Make text adventures, role-playing games, training materials, simulations, interactive fiction, Trial version or $39.95,
Inform is a design system for interactive fiction, it is free and runs on Mac OS X and Windows
Realm Crafter - Massively Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Game Creation engine allows you to design, create and publish your very own MMORPG game
StarLogo TNG graphical programming, 3D, Win & Mac, free to schools
Sploder create fun flash games, Try the Game Creator Demo
Sludge make RPG's
Visionaire create your own adventure game, free version cannot compile standalone, registered version 20Euro
VastPark, free, a virtual worlds platform that lets anyone create their own virtual world
eMERGENCE, Flemish Ministery of Education, available soon?
DreamSpark, Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, and XNA GameStudio 2.0, available soon?
Neverwinter Nights Aurora Toolset, $20 3D quest game level editor
Phrogram trial version free, otherwise express $30, standard $50
SwinGame SDK Supports Pascal, including FreePascal and Turbo Delphi, VB6, Visual C#, and Visual Basic .NET
Ren'Py visual novels dating sims and simple games Atmosphir free tool for platform games
Agent Sheets, free 10 day trial, AU$160, education edition AU$130, can save as Java applet and can export simulation statistics to spreadsheet. More on educational aspects at Scalable Game Design including lesson plans
TurtleArt, free, runs on the Sugar operating system or Gnome (Linux)
Game Editor, free and open source if your game is similarly licenced otherwise US$94.95
Kodu (originally named Boku) runs on Microsoft Windows and the Xbox 360
Unity inc. Wii and iphone, free lite version and 30 day trial pro version
PlayBasic Free version or $A29.49. The free version cannot make .exe , text based, mainly for 2D games, Windows
Panther - based on Scratch, many enhancements by some Scratch enthusiasts
Unreal Engine 3 development kit - UDK, free
Gamestar Mechanic Free and premium versions Mac, iphone, ipad. Free or $99 pro
Google appinventor for Android mobile phones. Scratch like block programming
Cryengine CryENGINE3 Educational SDK is for internal, non-commercial use; and is available only to educational institutions. ScriptTD is an open source tower defense game engine for Windows Phone that allows non-developers to create TD games by changing settings, sounds, and graphics.
Portal - incorporating Portal™ and Portal 2 into classrooms - looks like its 3D level editing

See also a list at

For an alternative view see
An Objective Comparison of Languages for Teaching Introductory Programming
which looks at programming, not game programmng
the importance of visual programming by Detha Elza
Lowering the Barriers to Programming: A Taxonomy of Programming Environments and Languages for Novice Programmers, Caitlin Kelleher and Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon University

Scalable_Game_Design see p19 for criteria
Teach a Kid to Program

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Blogger Carl Gundel said...

The Run BASIC site is free to use. It is suitable for turn based graphical games or text games. The advantage is that there is no need to install anything on your computer because it runs in a browser without needing a plugin. It also has interactive lessons.

Monday, March 12, 2007 3:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tony. Thanks for mentioning StarLogo TNG in your post. I just wanted to clarify that it is free for everyone, not just schools.

Saturday, March 24, 2007 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Tony, great list. You are the font of all knowledge for game making engines!

A quick update - Thinking Worlds 2.0 and a whole range of content is now free for schools under the Creative Commons.


Monday, March 10, 2008 7:09:00 PM  
Blogger Tor said...

Great help, im an 11 year old kid who loves gameing and modeling with Blender, this list is a great help and i think we need more game making corses in schools all around the world.
We need more freeware mac game makers.

Sunday, April 06, 2008 7:35:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Game programming tools ?

Thursday, July 15, 2010 2:54:00 AM  
Anonymous bobby mercer said...

Thank you for the resources. I have to agree with you selection of qualifications for good game programming software to use in schools.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 12:38:00 PM  
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