What tools do I use to make Gravity Ace?
Hey, everybody, and welcome back to another Gravity Ace devlog!
Today I’m going to talk about all the tools I use to make Gravity Ace. Choosing the right tools is important but maybe not for the reasons you’re thinking of. I think one of the most important attributes of your tools (if not THE most important) is how well they mesh with your own way of doing things.
I’m all for spending some time to learn something new but at the end of the day if it feels weird or uncomfortable to you then you’ll end up fighting it. That’s energy you would rather use on making the actual game. So there is no ONE RIGHT WAY to make games and everyone’s toolkit will be a little different. That’s fine. Here’s mine.
I’m a full time Ubuntu Linux user so bear that in mind. It obviously has an impact on my choice of tools. That said, all of the tools I use are cross platform. So whether you’re on Linux or Windows or macOS you can still give all of these a try.
Let’s jump into it.
Engine and language
Some people like to write engines from scratch. That’s INSANE but great. Good for you. I’m NOT one of those people so I use Godot Engine. I tried Unity but at the time their Linux support was sub par. I reckon it still is because if I go to their page they still don’t list official support for it. Unreal is a similar story. But my C++ isn’t very strong and my first experience compiling something didn’t go well so I bounced off of it. I was making games with Phaser for a while and I really dug that. Before that I was using HaxeFlixel which was also fun. But I switched to Godot because I wanted to be more productive. Godot has official Linux support. And the visual editor is amazing. So I’ve been using Godot for a few years and I love it. It’s great. I exclusively use GDScript and the way they use Nodes to compose scenes feels very natural to me. Godot Engine is free.
For art I’m primarily using Aseprite. My game is 2D, done in a pixel art style because it’s very low resolution, so Aseprite is a perfect fit for that. Aside from that, the drawing and animation tools in Aseprite are top notch. Especially for animation, once you learn the keyboard shortcuts, making spritesheets in Aseprite feels frictionless. I feel like my ideas flow from brain right into the game via Aseprite. Can’t recommend it highliy enough. Aseprite is 15 dollars.
I also use Krita sometimes for higher resolution art or bigger pieces. Sometimes I’ll use it for composing larger images from sprites made in Aseprite. Krita is a cross platform drawing and painting tool. I like it a lot better than GIMP. It’s just much more modern and has a better toolset and it’s better suited for drawing and painting since that’s what it was designed for. Krita is free.
Music and sound
I’m recording this podcast in Audacity. I used to use it for sound effects as well but I’ve found a better tool – more on that in a minute. Audacity is great for editing audio, for trimming and clipping, for running filters like compression and normalizing volume levels.
For most in-game sound effects and music I use the same tool: Tracktion Waveform 10. I discovered Waveform by using their free product Tracktion 7. You can still download and use Tracktion 7 for free. It’s pretty great. I liked it so much that I upgraded to Waveform 10. There are a bunch of packages and I think I paid around 200 dollars for it.
Waveform is a very powerful and full-featured digital audio workstation (DAW). I also really like the interface which just makes sense to me. You can achieve the same results using Audacity or Garage Band or Reaper or whatever but I find paying a little money for a powerful tool lets me work faster and with more joy, less frustration, so it’s worth it.
I especially like Waveform’s ability to quickly audition a bunch of audio samples, drag them onto a track, mix it with other samples or instruments, play a few notes on my MIDI keyboard, and export it as a new sound effect. And it keeps a library of everything so I can re-export later or edit if needed. It’s all very neat and good. Highly recommend.
Speaking of MIDI keyboards, I have an AKAI MPK Mini. It is compact, fits easily on my desk, has 25 keys covering 2 octaves, drum pads, and a bunch of knobs that can be programmed to control whatever you want in Waveform. I’m not a formally trained musician but it’s super helpful to be able to noodle around with notes on a keyboard. It’s just so much faster and more expressive than using a mouse to draw notes.
For drawing I use an old Wacom Bamboo tablet that I’ve had forever. Again, it’s one of those things that makes me much more productive than a mouse for drawing. Using a pen allows me to be much more expressive and natural. I don’t think you can get a Bamboo anymore and Wacom is really pushing their screen tablets. I know a lot of people also like drawing on an iPad. The key thing is using a pen for input instead of a mouse. It’s a game changer.
Mostly I use Godot’s built-in editor. It’s good enough for most things and it’s tight integration with the editor is really important. I also use Visual Studio Code a lot. It’s my main git client but I also use it for writing, notes, and a little bit of coding.
So that’s my toolkit. Again, these are the tools I use and they might not be right for you. None of these actually make the game so in a very real sense the tools don’t matter. But these make my job easier and more pleasant and they save me time.
I hope that was useful. Thanks for watching and see you next time!
Published February 23, 2020