Archive for category Free Stuff

How to Make a Game for Free

I'm completely floored by the quality of some free (as in beer) software these days. Some of it is open source, but I'm not concentrating on that in this post. I'll be concentrating on how to save a ton of money and still create a high quality game. So if you are interested in making a game, and you don't want to shell out a lot of money for the tools to do so, keep reading.

Game development can be a tricky endeavor. Being able to write code and do simple math are definitely a prerequisite. However, some game developing environments and frameworks take a lot of the busy work out of the coding experience and let you focus on the game more directly. Perhaps the easiest language to start developing games with is Java. It's also very powerful. Minecraft is a very successful Java game. There is, however, an easier way to make games, and for some reason I'm just now discovering it. It's called Unity3D.

There are two versions of Unity3D: free and pro. The free version has all the features you need to create a game, but Pro does have its advantages. The pro version costs $1500, however, and that is not within the budget of most small independents. So, a good plan is to start with the free version, get really good with it, and create a game which sells well. From your profit you can purchase the pro version. I've been learning Unity3D for the last two days and I'm amazed at its features. I've developed small games in Java, so I'm not a terrible coder. I usually shy away from applications which try to make game development easier (for instance Dark Basic). I stay away from them for the same reasons that I don't use a GUI interface to create web layouts, you end up being limited by the ease of use.

I was afraid that Unity3D fit into this stereotype, but I have to say that it's a great piece of software. The GUI is smart. If you create a script for an object, the GUI automatically knows what to do with the object properties you create in the script. For instance, lets say you create a character object and add a script to control his movement. You may create a class variable like:

boolean isWalking = false;

If you save this change in your script and then go back to the Unity3D inspector you'll see a new checkbox called Is Walking. It's small little helper features like that which make it a joy to work with.

So, in case you didn't catch on, my first piece of free software is Unity3D. Even if you are a game developing guru, this will make your life much easier. It also has the ability to export to Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, Mac, PS3, Xbox360, and Wii.

Unity3D doesn't handle all your work though. You still need to create your assets in other programs or buy them from the Unity asset store. Personally, I want to make my own assets so I have full legal right to them and they aren't just generic assets which others can have in their games as well. So, you need models, textures, and sounds. There may be other types of assets that you'll need but these are the assets on which I want to focus.

Models can be created in Blender. Blender is comparable to high-dollar applications such as Maya and 3DSMax, except it's completely free. I've never had any training on how to make models, but when a piece of software like this is available for free, I can't help but want to dive in and learn how to use it. With Blender, you can create full length animated movies as well. Want to learn how to use it? Check out these Blender video tutorials. They are awesome and will help you master Blender in no time. Modeling is no simple task, especially if you are adding rigging and such, but it's very rewarding. You can also create assets in Blender which can be sold on the Unity Asset Store.  So if your passion is not to make games but to make in game objects, you can profit from selling your work.

Textures are added to models to make them look like real world objects. These can be created with the Gimp, which is a free image manipulation application. Some people say that The Gimp is no where as powerful as Photoshop, but I tend to lean toward the side that says you can do anything you want with either, you just have to know your way around the tool that you are using. With the Gimp you can many things, but the two we are interested it is textures and spritesheet (in case you are making a 2D game).

Finally, you need sound effects and music. You could purchase both, but again I want to create all of my game content. So, I suggest looking at Audacity. It's a great multi-track recording studio for audio. You could make music with it, but you're looking at a higher investment when you have to purchase music gear. For sound effects, it is only limited by your imagination. I've not decided what I'm going to use for music yet. I have a decent midi controller, so I may create nice midi backing tracks using something like MultitrackStudio, which will do midi and audio. I just found it, so I'm not sure how good it is. It looks promising from the screen shots.

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Penzu Personal Journal

I randomly happened upon a site called Penzu.com (you have to love the obscure names that come about from lack of domain availability). It is a personal journal site that basically gives you an encrypted online diary. It also has ssl security on the connection. So you can write your daily journal online, and you won't have to worry about anyone else reading it.

Wait, let me repeat that. You can write in your journal online daily and never have to worry about anyone else reading it. First of all, letting other people ready something you've written is one of the major benefits of the web. Why would you want to post anything online and then keep everyone else from reading it? I mean I can see maybe a few people using this who don't know any better, but Penzu actually offers a "Pro" version that's $19.00 per year. So you have a personal blog that no one will be able to read and you have to pay 19 bucks a year for the upgrade version which includes themes and other unnecessary things. Good luck to Penzu and all, but I just don't see that business model as being sustainable. Let me take a moment to explain why.

First of all, private journals are possible in many different forms that don't require an internet connection. There's physical diaries. There's notebooks. There's personal computers. All three of these do not require an SSL connection to keep your information safe. If you are saving your journal on your personal computer, you may want to utilize encryption, however. A good free program for that is TrueCrypt. Though it isn't the only one. There are many. All three of these methods for keeping a diary are much safer than posting anything online, they don't require an internet connection, and they don't cost a dime. So why would anyone want to post their journal this way?

I think what led to this idea is the notion that blogs are too public. People may not feel like they can speak their mind on a blog because anyone and everyone will read it. This has the potential of keeping someone from getting a job or getting fired from their current job. So maybe someone looked at this problem and thought, "What we need is a site that lets people make private journal posts", which honestly would have been a good idea before the invention of books, pencils/pens, or personal computers. Unfortunately, today it's just not a great idea, certainly not one worth $19 a year.

Everyone is in a race for the next big internet idea. Penzu.com is an example of a well implemented bad idea. The site is beautiful. It has wonderful design and coding. Unfortunately, the idea behind this wonderful site is terrible. If I had to guess, a rich "idea person" decided to put a lot of money into one of his brilliant ideas and out popped penzu.com. I don't fault the developers who made the site. They were doing work to pay their bills, and they actually did an awesome job.

I do have some thoughts on how to make this idea a little better, however.

First ditch the "pro" version idea completely. Meaning get rid of a payment of any kind. The service needs to be completely free for the user. Make your money through advertisements within the interface.

Secondly, make this site more social. Think about copying Google+ circles. Allow users to make a post public, private, or restricted to certain friends or friend groups.

Penzu has to realize that their idea goes against what makes Web 2.0 great, and they aren't doing anything groundbreaking with this idea. But enough of my ranting...

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Digital Converter Box Coupon and How to Use it

If you are using an analog TV, chances are it no longer works correctly. As of June 12th all major broadcast companies are no longer broadcasting in analog. It's a strictly digital world now.There is a program to help everyone convert however, in case you haven't heard of it. It's at dtv2009.gov. You can go there and request two free $40 coupons from the government to purchase a converter box. If you have an analog TV and no converter box, you have to order a converter box to watch TV now.

After you request your coupons, the next step is to order your converter box. The absolute best deals on digital converter boxes are
here. They accept the government coupons and let you buy your converter boxes online at the best prices.

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Free Candy Sample – Jelly Belly

I've always liked candy and one of my (and one of Ronald Reagan's) favorite candies is Jelly Bellies. They are great. There are so many different flavors. Plum is my favorite. There's one suggestion I have for eating Jelly Bellies. Always eat one at a time, unless you are combining the different flavors to create an intentional flavor. For instance, you could create a cream soda float by combining cream soda and vanilla. There are actually recipes for this.

If you've never tried them before, do one at a time. You can get a free sample of Jelly Bellies here.

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