Astro Noughts is currently “In Review” and with any luck should be in the App store next week. Whilst I’m impatiently waiting, I though it would be interesting to write up all of the hardware and software I used to create the game.
Each game you create is going to require different tools and it’s highly unlikely you’ll find a single piece of software to cover all of your needs. In fact, you’ll likely need multiple pieces of software to cover each of the disciplines. I’d encourage you to explore and be creative. Find tools you like, stretch them to their limits, and find alternative uses for them. Sometimes you can achieve the effect you’re looking for in really unlikely places. Its not the software that matters but the effect you can produce with it.
I’ve tried to make this list as comprehensive as possible and it therefore does include some obvious things (such as a desk) as well as some luxury items. I’ve included my reasoning behind each so I’ll leave it up to you to decide how necessary they are. I’ve split this list into sections to make it easier to refer to.
Macbook Pro (£999): I have a 2009 aluminium model. This is absolutely indispensable, especially when paired with some of the other items of hardware on this list. You should be able to make do with any of the current mac models but I believe that a Macbook Pro is very well suited to iPhone/iPad development.
23″ Dell UltraSharp IPS monitor (£260): Another great investment. Its a bit of a luxury item and I didn’t actually get it until half way through the development of Astro Noughts. However, the extra screen real estate has been really useful for graphics work and for coding (I now tend to split the Xcode editor vertically and have my current class open in addition to something I’m referencing).
Solid Desk and comfortable chair (£250): Again, I didn’t get this until part the way through development. Its something I’ve been meaning to purchase for quite some time and it was Gavin Bowmans “Spend Money” post that finally motivated me. Its definitely a luxury since you can manage with your laptop anywhere. However, I’ve found that having a permanent setup has removed the barriers to coding since I can just sit down and start working. Its also much better for your posture than being hunched over a laptop screen.
16GB iPad (£429): I have the WiFi only model. This was a necessity for Astro Noughts since its an iPad only game. Its a great device with heaps of potential for creating innovative games. The huge touch screen is great fun to develop for.
Ricoh R8 (£130) and GorillaPod (£30): This was something that cropped up towards the end of development. You’ll need something to record game trailers. The iPad simulator seems to struggle compared to the iPhone simulator. Therefore in order to get smooth gameplay, you’ll need a way to record the device itself. I don’t recommend you purchase the Ricoh R8 – its terrible at recording video but I already owned it. The GorillaPod is a very flexible tripod that allows you to position you camera at awkward angles if required.
Wacom graphics tablet (£70): The same one I’ve owned for the past 6 years – the Wacom Graphire 3. It’s lasted me a long long time and has been a great investment. If I manage to make a little money from Astro Noughts, I’m looking to upgrade to a newer model (perhaps something a little larger too).
Wired Apple keyboard (£40) and Apple Magic Mouse (£56): If you’ve gone for an external monitor then it makes sense to also purchase an external keyboard and mouse. These are basic items but still have a place in this list.
Headphones (£55): I have the Sennheiser HD 465. If you really want to hear the quality of the sounds you are creating then you’ll need some headphones.
BrainWave (Free): If you’ve followed this blog you’ll know that I’ve created my own project management software. Its web based and in private beta (by all means feel free to sign up here). Over the next couple of months I’ll be releasing v0.5 with new features, a new name, and a new domain. This really is my “go to tool” for my game development. It has lots of areas that need to be improved but since I’m actively using it, I can guarantee this will happen. I’m very happy with it.
Xcode (Free): Its produced by Apple and its free. This is pretty much your only option when developing for Apples devices. To be honest though, its excellent. Whilst it may seem daunting at first, you’ll soon be up to speed with it. Xcode 4 is on its way too and promises to be even better.
Instruments (Free): This is part of the development suite provided by Apple. I use this to check for memory leaks and allocation issues. It also has features for testing battery and cpu usage, and even an OpenGL ES overlay on the device itself.
Paticle Designer (£5.50): This is a great piece of software at a ridiculously low price. It makes previewing and tweaking particle effects an absolute doddle. I got particle effects into my game very early on and two things I learnt quickly were that a) its easy to slow your game down with too many effects, and b) they can look tacky – so try to be a little subtle with them. Check out Markus Nigrin’s “Spice up your game” article for some inspiration.
Opacity (£65): Opacity is a vector creation application for OSX. I used it to create the HUD and UI elements in Astro Noughts. Its great for smaller vectors and has some really powerful tools.
Photoshop Elements (£60): CS5 looks great (and is the industry standard) but its also really really expensive. I’ve found that Photoshop Elements has many of the tools I need for a fraction of the price. You should investigate first, but you might be surprised to find that it caters for your needs too. All of the planets in Astro Noughts were created in Photoshop Elements as were the backgrounds.
Sound Effects & Music
The main music tracks I used in Astro Noughts were free from Incompetech and ccmixter. Whilst we’re on the subject, you can check out more resources in this post. I still ended up using several pieces of software to achieve the results I wanted for the various sound effects.
Audacity (Free): Audacity is fantastic for editing music and sound effects. I used it primarily to edit my sound effects from ThumbJam.
CFXR (Free): I love this application. I think I’ve moved past using it for all of my sound effects but its great for things like interface feedback sounds.
ThumbJam (£3.99): ThumbJam is available for iPhone and iPad. I used it to create and record the notes in the game (Each planet has its own unique note). I then passed these into Audacity for editing. There are various sound creation apps available for the iPad and iPhone and I’d encourage you not to overlook them when deciding how to create your desired effect.
iMovie (£45 as part of the iLife suite): This software makes it easy to import your recorded video, edit it, and publish it to a service like youtube. You can view the gameplay video for Astro Noughts below (It also aptly demonstrates the negative effects of a poor video capture device – something I plan on remedying soon)
WordPress (Free): My blog has been fantastic for both spreading the word about my games and keeping me motivated. This year especially, iDevBlogADay created and maintained by Miguel Á. Friginal has been a great motivator. I’m looking forward to contributing again soon.
Twitter (Free): Quite simply, essential. Get an account, get connected, and find a good group of developers. The developers I’m following on twitter keep me motivated and make me feel part of an indie games community. Having a group of like minded individuals to push you and encourage you to better yourself will make all the difference. The aforementioned iDevBlogADay is a great place to start.
As a result of the blog and twitter, Astro Noughts has already begun getting some attention. There are lots of positive effects to be gained from participating in social networks and giving back through your blog.
Coffee: I have to give a shout out to Has Bean. Great coffee and great service. You can check out my coffee post here (although I no longer use an espresso machine having switched to the excellent AeroPress). Notable bean highlights were the Brazil Fazenda Divino Espírito Santo and the Jailbreak Espresso Blend.
So there you have it. My Astro Noughts shopping list – all of the hardware and software that went into making the game. Its quite a lot, I’m sure you’ll agree. After all is said and done though – you can produce a game with a fairly low spec computer and some free software. Don’t let resources be the barrier that stops you from diving in and having a go.