Making games for the mobile platform is clearly on the upswing. According to official download figures (from statista.com), games are by far the most popular category of apps on iOS, with a 23.55% download-share in June. Revenues from mobile games went past the $30 billion mark at the end of last year – an annual growth in excess of 21%. It is only natural that more and more indie developers and mobile app companies are turning their attentions towards making custom games. In what follows, we will list out some popular tools, engines and resources that are widely used by game developers:
- GameSalad – With user-friendly visual editors and a simple drag-and-drop mechanism, GameSalad ranks right among the finest game development tools, particularly for all the non-coders out there. Nearly 7000 games (iOS and Android combined) games have already been developed with GameSalad – a clear testament of its popularity. Mobile games created with this tool generally have considerable visual appeal. It is compatible with Windows 7-8 and OS X 10.7 and later versions.
- Corona SDK – This one is primarily meant to create cross-platform 2D games – and it is more than an adequate tool for the purpose. App developers have to code in the Lua programming language in Corona SDK, which has 500+ APIs in its built-in library. Box2D, OpenGL, SQlite and OpenAL are some of the resources that power Corona SDK. For new developers, the basic version (at a monthly charge of $16) is sufficient, while the advanced Pro version of Corona has a price tag of $49/month.
- Stencyl – Instead of final builds of games, iPhone and Android game developers generally use Stencyl to create initial prototypes of their applications. It also serves as a powerful tool for making Flash games – and offers impressive development speeds. Stencyl also works on an easy-to-understand drag-and-drop principle and there are additional code blocks available for programmers.
- Unity2D/3D – As many as 21 different platforms are supported by the Unity game engine – and it is easily among the most-loved tools for creating custom mobile games. With the release of Unity 5 (the latest update is v.5.3.4), a wide range of new features have been provided to users. From custom graphics interfaces and excellent rendering support, to the well-stacked Unity Asset Store – this game engine has it all. The monthly subscription fee of Unity 5 Pro is $75.
- Project Anarchy – One of the more underrated of the game development resources in this list. Released by Havok, the Project Anarchy tool suite has several powerful features, like auto script validation, Scaleform integration and particle lighting support. Developers can also ship their games to Tizen (in addition to Android and iOS) with ease – with the help of the free license of Project Anarchy. The Havok Vision Engine powers this tool suite, and the artificial intelligence (AI) and Physics support are both of the highest order. It also supports FBX files in the in-built asset manager.
- Unreal Engine – When Epic Games initially started out with the Unreal Engine (UE) game engine, it was exclusively used for making PC and console games. Mobile platforms were first supported in the third iteration of the engine. The latest edition – Unreal Engine 4 – is one of the best tools for making 3D games with rich graphics and smooth, life-like animations. To use UE4, app developers have to agree to a 5% revenue share from their games, on top of a monthly amount of $19. Unreal Engine is based on C++ and has a relatively steep learning curve – but once you get a hang of it, you can make really winning games with the engine.
Note: Check out our detailed Unity 5 vs Unreal Engine 4 comparison right here.
- Construct 2 – For mobile game development experts who are comfortable in working with HTML5, Construct 2 is a really handy tool. Used for making 2D games, Construct 2 comes with a highly intuitive drag-and-drop layout for programmers, and a whole bunch of development aids. Games created with this tool have cross-platform portability. Often referred to as the ‘Photoshop for Games’, Construct 2 is an ideal tool for those who do not have a high level of coding knowledge.
- App Game Kit – While game codes can be written in C++ in App Game Kit, the tool has its very own BASIC scripting language (Tier 1 and Tier 2). This, in turn, lowers the barrier to entry – with the resource being usable by both experienced and new, indie developers. App Game Kit operates on the ‘Build Once, Deploy Many’ principle (i.e., games created with it can be deployed on multiple devices) – and the 2D graphics and networking with AGK Script are at par with the best. Overall, a more than decent cross-platform game development resource.
- Libgdx – Apart from Android, libGDX is also widely used to create custom game apps for iOS/Mac OS X, Windows, Blackberry and Linux platforms. It comes with the general Apache 2.0 open source license – and offers a wide range of support tools for the creation of both 2D and 3D games. The gdxAI artificial intelligence framework is available as an extension with libGDX.
- Marmalade – Another C++-based tool suite for professionals from the field of mobile game development. One of the high points of Marmalade is the smooth portability of iOS games to the Android platform – thanks to the Juice tool. Developers coding with the Lua language need to work with Marmalade Quick, while for hybrid app development with CSS/HTML5, Marmalade Web is the go-to tool.
- PlayCanvas – Open-source, strong 3D support, cross-platform usability – the PlayCanvas tool has a lot going in its favour. Game makers have to work with HTML5 to create custom games in the cloud (that’s right, no extra downloads required). The WebGL engine also offers additional disk space to developers, adding to its overall user-friendliness. PlayCanvas, like many other tools on this list, is free to use.
- FMOD Studio – Like Unreal Engine, the FMOD sound effects tool was also initially used by developers to make AAA-rated console games. It is currently available for making mobile games though, and is fast gaining traction among both Android and iOS game developers – with its extensive set of features. Live recording of game outputs is one of the many new enhancements that came with the latest update of FMOD (v.1.4), while the quality of audio mixing was also taken up by a couple of notches. FMOD Studio is released by Firelight Technologies.
- Starling/Sparrow – For making the hugely popular Angry Birds mobile game, Rovio used the Starling game development tool. The open-source, cross-platform network has two big advantages – it takes up very little CPU-space and offers high-end code optimization for developers. Sparrow is the iOS-only spin-off of the Starling framework and it lets devs create iPhone apps with Objective-C from scratch.
- MonoGame – This engine is almost ideal for game developers who regularly work with C# and/or .NET. The buzzing community support gives a boost to MonoGame, which can be used for making software for the OS X and Playstation 4 platforms too (apart from iOS and Android). The total number of games made with MonoGame is rising at a rapid clip – a clear sign that it has received the collective thumbs-up from users.
For monetization, testing and deployment of HTML5 games, CocoonJS is a very useful tool. DragonFire and iTorque are two other powerful 2d iOS game development engines. Android app developers, on the other hand, can work with platform-specific tools like AndEngine and CatCake (for 2D and 3D games respectively). Mobile has overtaken consoles as the most popular game development platform – and there are plenty of tools and resources for developers to go about their job.