Free Resources for Making Your Own Games, Textures, Models, Music, and More

Alight, I‘ve been promising to make a list o’ linky for y’all for some time now. Time to get started! If you’ve been following along with The Brick Dead Project, a chronicle of first foray into video game creation, you know I’m pretty far from an expert with only a couple months under my belt. Still, the resources provided from open source projects, retail demos, and generous artists have enabled me to create some pretty spectacular results. Now, I’d like to pass on some of my favorite places for software and inspiration to you.

Being a noob in the scene, this is far from an exhaustive list. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments.

A word of warning: If you’re looking to move beyond the hobbyist level and create something you can sell, pay careful attention to the licensing agreements for your software/assets. Terms of use on this stuff can range from public domain, to requiring a nod in the credits, to a percentage of your revenue.

Tomb of the Ragdolls | The Brick Dead Project

You still with me? That previous chapter of The Brick Dead Project, a journal of my trials and tribulations while making a Unity game, sure was quite an ordeal. We could both probably use some therapy after that one. No time now! There’s vidya gamin’ work to do!

I had little enemy dudes. They had someplace to go. They knew how to walk. And, finally, they could be killed. Now they just needed someplace to live. I had just the abode in mind. Remember that “Make Your Fantasy Game” demo from xiaolianhuastudio? The one that inspired the whole undead motif in the first place? Well, it came with more than just fences and tombstones. It came with full blown tombs!

I selected the largest and most exquisite, of course, for my new minions. But it wasn’t quite exquisite enough. Designed with mobile platforms in mind, I was going to do some touch-up work. The textures were up-rezed and sharpened compliments of GNU’s free, open source Photoshop replacement GIMP. From there it was off to a magical little utility called CrazyBump.

Now, I know I’ve mentioned normal or bump maps a couple times previously, but let’s just take a sec and give both this tech and CrazyBump their due.

A normal map a transparent layer that sits on top of your texture. Rather that drawing detail in the traditional sense, it dictates how light reacts to the surface. If you’ve ever seen a metal panel in a modern game and noticed how the creases and rivets react to light and look 3D but aren’t modeled with polygons, you’ve seen normal maps in action. Rocks, trees, dirt, all kinds of bumpy stuff that appears to have three dimensional detail, but doesn’t. If games modeled every little scratch or divit, your video card would burst into flames. This allows fine detail work to look like it’s in 3D without it needing to be in 3D. It can make a huge visual impact on what might be a blah-looking flat surface. Normally (Er, no pun intended), the artist creating the model and textures would either over-model the item in question and take the data from there or, alternately, ‘paint’ a normal map himself, working with light and shadow as opposed to colors. In my case, I had textures, but no high-poly model or inclination to try making a normal map by hand. Enter CrazyBump.

CrazyBump is, in the most scientific and technical terms, magic. CrazyBump takes any texture you throw at it, ask you one question that basicly amounts to “Is this an iny or an outy,” and spits out spectacular looking normal maps seconds later. CrazyBump also refers to itself in the third person and calls the user “Puny humans,” so… Ya know, bonus points there. The free, 30-day trial has thus far saved me an amazing amount of work and my wallet’s gonna cry when it’s over. Which reminds me:

if (gameBudget>0) pimp Amazon shopping link to support GUO Crazy Projects

Properly normal mapped, the BigTomb, as I had taken to calling it, was a good deal more spectacular, but it still needed more.

Ragdoll and Back Again | The Brick Dead Project

Hiya! Thanks for coming. Today we enter the dark, middle(?) chapter of The Brick Dead Project, the true to life account of a bored grandpop on his ham-fisted attempt to create a video game without any of the prerequisite skills or talent. You are reading part seven of an ongoing series. To catch up on previous events, click this link.

The skeleton on the screen burst into a spasm of elongated polygons and resumed walking. I slammed my fist down on the desk. What was once a rare occurrence had become a weekly outburst. I kicked the desk, spinning my chair around to face the Mrs. on the couch behind me. She lowered her tablet a half-inch to peek over it at me.

“I don’t think I can do this anymore,” I stated with a warble in my voice.

“You can stop if you want.”

“I don’t want to stop!” I roared back. “I’m just not smart enough to keep going,” I added silently to myself.

I stomped out of the house and began weeding the front yard. Screw this crap! I had real work to do.

It would become known as “Ragdoll Week” at the GUO homestead, a dark time referred to only in hushed whispers while making the sign of the cross to ward off ill fortune. It was the second time I quit this project.

The Dead Walk | The Brick Dead Project

Things were going great for The Brick Dead Project, an ongoing series retelling one ignorant man-child’s quest to bash together a video game through excessive use of Google. With the core concepts created, everything from here on out should be a breeze, right?

Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Things had, for lack of a better term, sucked for the past week.

I had left behind the decorated and polished environment of my Level-Home for new vistas. I needed to create a new, larger playground to build and test my ideas for the more advanced game mechanics. I bashed together a bare-bones boneyard without much thought. Experience had shown me that most of what I did at first would end up reworked, rewritten, or just flat-out removed. What I hadn’t experienced what how bad it would feel to end up back in an ugly, barren setting. It’s not one of those things that just pops into your head. It sneaks up on you. Grinding on you hour by hour, day by day.

Environment, such as it was, established, I had taken to rewriting the character controller. The original version used co-ordinates in the level to restrict player movement. From the onset, I had attempted to keep as much of my code portable and modular as possible so it would be easier to redeploy to other levels later. I wanted the movement limits restrained by invisible level geometry, like a bounding box, rather than hard numbers that needed to be tweaked every level. My first rewrite failed rather spectacularly, flinging the player to and fro at the whims of my hastily created raycasting move controller. I scrapped every bit of it and went back to the Internet. I re-researched and rewrote the whole thing again. The second time it worked. And it felt bad. There was a little ‘float’ or ‘slide’ in the original character controller that, while not intentional, made the character ‘flow’ even when pressing against the unseen border. This new raycast controller stopped you dead at the movement limits. It was exactly what I wanted. And it sucked. I scrapped it and went back to the original yet again.

After spending a so much time spinning my wheels on the character controller, I needed to make progress. Granted, a couple days may not sound like much when you think about the hundreds of people spending years to create your favorite store-bought games, but in comparison to my absurdly fast build time on Brick Dead thus far, it felt like I had wasted a lifetime. It was time to start work on what I expected to be the biggest feature I had yet tackled: Automated enemies; The Creeps.

Starting Up The Shield | The Brick Dead Project

In this fifth edition of The Brick Dead Project, an exercise to see how many times I can write the same introduction without repeating myself, we travel onwards from the comforting confines of the first prototype and into strange, new territory. To catch up on previous posts in this series please click here.

They say the best way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it and I had become so very immersed in learning Unity. I no longer played games, I attempted to make them. I no longer watched movies, television, or viral videos, I watched classes on Euclidian geometry. I no longer browsed my RSS reader packed full of the latest happenings of the day, I read message forums dedicated to users of the Unity engine.

And yet, I still wasn’t altogether sure I was learning anything. I continued to struggle with understanding the scripting reference manual. Every idea I had left me cluelessly blinking  at the screen until I broke down and fired up a search engine. Every command I cobbled together still erupted into a series of red compiler errors the first time it ran. Sure, things had gotten slightly easier by virtue of knowing how to properly ask a question to the Google God, but true knowledge still eluded me.

Well, I have learned to add a comment to the damnedable curly brackets to save time in counting ‘em later when I inevitably forgot one.

The lack of knowledge, while concerning, wasn’t enough to dampen my drive. I mean, I had just created a game! A rough game, a short game, but a game none the less. And quite a handsome one to boot. I mean, in three weeks I had gone from this:

roller

To this:

BDproto1 2014-03-12 21-58-50-57

Wait… Three weeks? Was that right? It felt much, MUCH longer. Well then, what am I so worried about? I mean, who could be expected to retain much in three weeks, right? [Insert nervous chuckle here].

Alight, there’ll be plenty of time to feel inadequate later. We’ve got bigger fish to poach. Case in point: The three most important players in a Breakout-style game are the brick, the ball, and the paddle. One of those is lagging woefully behind in the looks department. That shield’s gotta go!

Review: FTCE Flashcards (Android) – Um… Sorry, Words Can’t Describe the Horror

When yours truly is left without a catchy title to plug in, you know we’re going to some deep, dark places.

Welcome to the world for FTCE Flashcards, an Android app designed to help teachers study for the Florida Teacher Certification Examinations. Yep, we’re going to the top of the educational food chain today with a study aid designed to help those who make the kids study study. And if you think that sentence was awkward, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this may be out longest review yet. Let us join the Mrs. on her photographic safari into the world of FTCE Flashcards as designed, created by, and sold from BH Inc, the folks behind Superflashcard.com!

Remember, you can click on any image to view a larger version or even right-click/save image to create desktop wallpapers to scare away literate folks.

First stop, Google Play where this app has 55 five-star reviews and two three-star reviews.

SuperStupid

SuperDescription


Let’s Sell the Mrs’ Stuff Back to Amazon!

Not content to merely dominate its retail competitors, Amazon is looking to put the kibosh on local yard sales as well. Yes folks, the titan of e-commerce want your old junk. They seem to have really streamlined the system, too. Just hit up the web site, click a button, print out the pre-paid shipping label, and kick it to the curb. So far the offer is open to select items from the categories of movies, music, video games, electronic gadgets, and THE most expensive commodity in the modern world: Textbooks.

If you can see the above image, you should install an ad blocker ;)

Ooo, I can practically spend that free money now! Let’s see, I’m sure there’s some stuff around here I don’t need anymore. Hmm… Ah! How about that Pacific Rim Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack I got the Mrs. for her birthday! That’s gotta be worth a buck or two! Let’s see… it’s worth… $0.25. A quarter?! Really?!

Okay, time to kick it up a notch! How ‘bout her Nexus 7 tablet. I never use this thing (‘cause she’s always on it), so I guess we don’t need it. Let’s see… It’s not the 2013 model, so… $52.50. Man, I’d actually loose money by the time I got some crappy knock-off refurb to cover my tracks.

Ah! Paydirt! Let’s check out the Mrs’ new Asus S550C touchscreen laptop. Aw, not listed. There is, however, an Asus K55A. Not a bad little machine. Specs are a 2.5Ghz Core i5, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. Still a great system by modern standards. Guess how much? $55. Yup, 55 USD. Man, I’ll take two! I always wanted to mount a PC in the bathroom.

Alight, time to get serious. I’ve had me eyes on that shiny, new iPad Air. Let’s see what I can get for my trusty ol’ iPad 2. This thing’s a beauty! Flawlessly jailbroken, disabled lock screen, default browser changed to Chrome, still running the last good version of iOS (5.1.1), and stylishly decorated with a bloodstained radiation symbol over that ostentatious-excuse-for-an-ad Apple logo. Heck, I bet I could trade this thing straight-up for an Air! Let’s see… 150 bones. No bonus for stickers. Must be an oversight. Still, after the $55 laptop, not half bad for a three year-old tablet.

So, that’s Amazon’s trade in program. As with most programs of this type, prices range from barely acceptable to WTF. Definitely better than throwing it in the trash, maybe not as good as passing it on to friends, family, or charity. At least they pay for the shipping. Check it out for yourself here.

Milestone! The First Prototype |The Brick Dead Project

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the fourth installment of The Brick Dead Project, a series of articles chronicling my experiences while trying to make a video game without so much as two clues to rub together. It’s a good thing you stuck with me this far because today there will be presents! To catch up on previous posts in this series please click here.

I exhaled in exhaustion and slumped back in my chair. I had to admit, it looked good. And it worked!

BDproto1 2014-03-12 21-58-50-57

I had just finished a six-hour marathon of recreating and decorating my first little test scene. Rebuilding the game in a world where up was up gave a chance to rebuild the map on Unity’s Terrain editor, a tool that allowed click-n-drag creation of maps that could simply be painted on with textures and populated with trees with the flick of a mouse. Ironically, it was the map editor functionality I expected when I first set eyes on Unity and mistakenly assumed it to be more of a toy than a tool.

I clicked play and cracked a wry smile as I heard my video card’s fan crank up a notch for the first time since I had started this asinine project. For a plebe aspiring to be a noob, it was a magical moment. The greenish light of a night sky tinged with undeath drew long, ominous shadows through the graveyard fence and across the playfield. The old, neglected cobblestone path that led here petered out amongst the overturned earth of the graves and the inexorable encroachment of nature. On the right, a large willow leaned over the fence, cementing a connection from the meaningless yet picturesque environment to the artificially constrained play area. On the left, a dying tree nestled a clutch of fireflies in its branches as it both added some much needed environmental variation and blocked and easily exploited side shot. The mana-dispensing statue in the back shown brightly under the blue hue of some cleverly faked God-rays.

Math is hard. Life is Harder | The Brick Dead Project

Welcome to the third installment of The Brick Dead Project, a series of articles chronicling my misadventures to create a video game from scratch in the Unity 3D game development engine with no prior knowledge, experience, or clue. To catch up on previous posts in this series please click here.

Disclaimer: I am not the guy to learn this stuff from. These are the real, no BS adventures of the Starship Grandpop as I attempt to decipher the infinitely complex art of video game creation with no preparation or thought. Anything I say can and, probably, will be wrong. Enjoy the show!

Little did I know when I embarked on this little journey that I would not be learning not just one language (Unity), nor two languages (Unity and C#), but THREE languages (Unity, C#, and Math). Everything a computer does is math. We all know this yet we take it for granted, especially in this ooey-GUI world where every value and command is obfuscated by a dozen pictures. Computers are math. Video games are math on top of real-time math. 3D video games are math on real-time math on three-dimensional math. It can not be understated the shocking scale of the math involved. We’re talking Big Math. Hard Math. Big, Hard Math that will do unspeakable things to you in the shower if you drop the parenthesis. Now, you don’t actually have to solve the Math, but you do need to know it’s there, know when to use it, and know how to best leverage it. It is one thing to know that speed=distance/time. It is quite another to be staring at a ball on the screen and think about how your going to measure all those values yourself in a world that doesn’t really exist.

 300px-Quaternion2How bad does it get? Let’s start with the very basics. A vector looks like a point in 3D space defined by an X, Y, and Z coordinates. Except it’s not actually a point. It’s a direction. A direction from the origin of the world to your object, more specifically. It also has a magnitude, which isn’t actually one of the three numbers that defines it, but a whole ‘nother batch of Math altogether, possibly Euclidian, which sounds like a delicious flavor of ice cream. Anyway, you’re usually going to ‘normalize’ the magnitude of your vectors to be 0 or 1 for movement and… Video Games. Also, ‘normalize’ is a really hard thing to Google. Alternatively, you can ‘lerp’ or ‘slerp’ it which stands for ‘linear interpolation’ and sounds like a great thing to do to Euclidian ice cream. I do know that you can subtract the vector of your thing from the place you want to get to and it’ll automagically go there thanks to the power of… Confucianism, I think. Then, of course, things don’t just exist, but they’re facing certain directions. That brings us to ‘quaternions’ which are somehow fourth-dimensional, describe a rotation, and Wikipedia defines as: “Look, kid, you don’t want to know.”

Let me bring this back down to Earth for a moment with a little example: When you fire a gun in Call of Duty and hit someone to make red pixels fly out you are, quite literally, invoking Math on par with what was used to put men on the moon. This, more than anything else, is the reality of video games. So… Yeah, Call of Duty is rocket science.

That said, you can go surprisingly far while knowing little to none of this. I mean, once you get that blood spray in your modern military murder manager pointing the right way, you’re just going to cling to that one equation for the rest of your life. The really nasty stuff mostly comes into play when developing AI or ways to keep the camera on your player. Or vehicles. Or physics. Or… Okay, it comes up a lot. Still, Unity is jam-packed with little ‘helper’ values to demystify some of the math if you can crack Unity’s code. For example: “Vector3.up” always points up in the world where as “transform.up” points to what an object thinks is up. There’s even Quaternion.Identity which is shorthand for “I don’t give a s—t about rotation.” Additionally, a chatty Internet coupled with Unity’s buy-in investment of free means there’s a lot of help to be found out there and a lot of code snippets to copy.

Of course all the knowledge in the world won’t help if you don’t know which way is up.

Blog Template Updated to Remove Third Party Tracking

cookie_monster Just a quick heads-up: I did a little hack-n-slash on GUO’s template. I’ve removed all analytics and ad tracking. The result should be a kinder, gentler browsing experience.

Sadly, there are two exceptions. The first is YouTube. You kinda get stuck with it every time a YouTube video is embedded. The second is a wee bit more sinister, but no more harmless.

The page header has a callback to Google’s Ad Sense network stuck in it. No matter how many times I remove this function from the template, Google puts it back in. Welcome to life of Google’s Blogger platform! It’s not actually displaying any ads, but it is going out and grabbing The Big G’s advertising code. This means, much like the rest of the Internet, it’s probably tracking you.

As always, we encourage everyone to use ad blocking plugins, enable your browser’s do not track function, and use some kind of basic online security such as HTTPS Everywhere.

While the load time of GUO should have decreased, I know that we do run a media rich show here. Actually, it’s usually that silly Facebook button slowing us down, but whatever. Anywho, if GUO doesn’t load in an acceptable amount of time I’d encourage you to update your bookmark to use our mobile template: http://www.growingupotaku.com/?m=1

Oh, and let me know if something broke. I get chills every time I touch the blog template.

Moving Beyond the Pale | The Brick Dead Project

Unity 2014-03-05 21-30-00-96 I now had a goal. This was something I wanted -needed- to create . I had a rough concept. The fleshing out of setting and mechanics came together easily enough. I needed a character that could create a ball and a platform to bounce it on. Wizards and spaceships are the standard video game fallbacks for these kinds of impossible feats. I opted for the former as most of the modern brick-breaking games I had played featured spaceships or Tron-styled digital doodads.

The theme helped me more than I ever could have imagined. Suddenly I had a fiction with decades of fan expectations to fill in the gaps. My planned energy system became mana. The player controlled paddle became an anti-magic shield. My balls became magic (Hey! You in the back! Stop snickering!). My concept of removing the paddle to launch a new ball mid-game now transcended a gameplay mechanic and was practically taken as a given. Of course a mage stops casting one spell to pop off another! The theme and mechanics meshed perfectly.

The ball tracking problem was handled easily enough by bringing down the ‘house lights’ and adding lighting to the ball itself. Tack on a stylized trail and you’ve got a fast object that’s not only easier to follow, but easier to predict. The final piece of Operation: Keep Your Eyes on the Ball concerned the style of the bricks themselves. The long, monolithic walls of a traditional brick-breaker would have to go. In its stead would need to be a softer (visually speaking) brick that could still form a wall but allow for gaps of transparency. I tried a few different shapes and a few oddball tricks to no avail. I’ll have to come back to that one. Breakout wasn’t built in a day. Well, I built Breakout in a day, but I’m sure that the original… Grr, maybe it’s better not to think about these things too much.

Anyway, this place could use some dressing up.

The role of art is to make a world which can be inhabited – William Saroyan

So, we’ve established that art is not my strong suit. Fortunately, there are a great many other folks who do not share my artistic deficit. Even better, the Internet gives us all a place to dump the latest fruits of out hobby.

There are a HUGE number outlets jam packed with assets freely available under public domain or various flavors of Creative Commons (I’ll put together a wall of links for ya later). Specialty sites like texture warehouse CG Textures and collective resources such as OpenGameArt.org hold treasure troves of game pieces waiting to be played with. Unity themselves even chip in to get enterprising game makers on their way in the form of their own free asset packages. Of course, if you’re willing to spend some cash, your options increase directly proportional to the amount of money you’re willing to hemorrhage. An entire cottage industry has sprung up in the wake of the modern Indie game movement for selling all manner of game components and licensing rights. Heck, there’s a bloody App Store style shop built right into the Unity 3D application offering everything from a $2 3D modeled kitten to $475 water effects to $10 walk animations to magic snake oil that promises to let you create the game of your dreams without ever touching the keyboard for $100. It is a bizarre bazaar that shows just how far video game design tools have come to where it is possible to generate income just from playful hobbyists like myself. Check it out for yourself on the web here.

Paydirt! Look at all this great stuff I found! I got some trees and some ground textures and a pack of graveyard models and I even sprung for a four-pack of wizards that was on sale. Speaking of which:

if (gameBudget>0) pimp Amazon shopping link to support GUO Crazy Projects

I gathered up all my new goodies and eagerly threw them into Unity.

It was horrible.

Grandfather With No Programming or Art Skills Decides to Make a Video Game | The Brick Dead Project

LOL_WUT_CARD_by_xolio101 Lol Wut indeed!

That’s right, folks. This latest endeavor in a long line of Growing Up Otaku Crazy Projects sees Grandpop a’goin’ codin’. I mean, everyone seems to be making their own games these days. How hard can it be? (Spoiler: Very, very hard!).

As this may very well be a long, fruitless journey with nothing but sorrow at the end I thought it might be fun for us to take it together. Misery loves company after all. Buckle up! We’re not simply going inside the sausage factory, we’re going to make our own sausage from scratch.

Let me come clean about my experience level before we get started. I’m not completely without l33t skillz. I know my booleans from my integers. I know my way around an If-Then-Else statement. Heck, I cobbled this site together from bits of code I found lying around the Internet. I mean, yeah, it runs pretty bad, but look: Rounded corners! ROUNDED CORNERS! Bah, you kids take everything for granted these days. Let’s see, what else… I made a few Doom and Quake maps, created a mod to bring El Puno from Anachonox into Freedom Force, and… Oh! I took a couple programming classes in high school. Everyone still uses Basic and Pascal, right?

At least I’m a little more prepared from a design standpoint. I’ve always had a bit of a critical eye for game systems. It’s something you learn when you spend you evenings hanging out at a hobby shop debating with the ‘rules lawyers’ of miniatures wargames. I’ve even taken the occasional stab at creating my own tabletop system or board game. I’ve spent tons of hours with pre-made game construction titles like Bard’s Tale Construction Set, Unlimited Adventures, and The War Engine. Many times I find the act of dissecting game mechanics a great deal more enjoyable than playing the games themselves (As GUO’s reviews section can attest). While I can appreciate the spectacle of modern games, if you really want to get my interest show me an interesting risk/reward loop!

And as for art… Well, you remember my encounter with 123D Sculpt?

201108121540470000 

Believe it or not, those took a while. Also, there’s a reason I used GoAnimate to create the GUO comic.

The final piece of the puzzle is sound. Previous GUO Crazy Projects have given me a leg up in this area. I’m light-years away from anything vaguely resembling professional, but at least I have some tools and a bit of modern knowledge. I also have a home theater connected to my PC, so.. Yay!

Anywho, that’s where I am. Let’s see where I’m going.

This isn’t exactly a spur-of-the-moment decision. I’ve had a hankering to check out the Unity engine for a while now. Not to fulfill any kind of ‘Dream Project,’ but just to see what’s up on the inside of my video gaming hobby. As I said before; To see how the sausage is made. The Unity 3D game engine has really come into its own over the past couple years, growing from web-based novelty to mobile platform powerhouse and now making inroads on my home turf of PC gaming. And it’s free which is the price range I’m looking for. There are a couple other options like Game Maker or Unreal, but I figure, “Why not go with the new hottness?”

A word of warning before we get started: I’m not the guy to learn this stuff from. Anyone with any amount of real knowledge is going to be raging at the screen as I call functions classes and classes subroutines as I happily butcher the lingo. These are my real, no BS experiences while attempting to crack an infinitely complex code with no preparation or thought. Anything I say can, and, probably, will be wrong. We’re here to enjoy the ride, not learn about the birds on the way.