Having spent a lot of time trawling the internet for the above I thought it might be useful to some and maybe save the reader time to recount what I found. Of course I can’t mention everything I found here and I wouldn’t want the following to be seen as a complete guide, more a starting point.
First the specs I was working with at time of writing and during my searches:
512 mb of RAM
64mb 3D card
Windows XP Home
This for a reference point when I say this worked or didn’t as the case may be.
This was a bit of a revelation to me having known about Anim8tor(3d graphics) for some time. Cre8tor (found by accident) is essentially a game creator for Anim8tor both programs are nice and small and there are lots of tutorials on site. A good starting point at the very least, also found Anim8tor to be the easiest to pick up with regard to animating 3D models. The only down side is you will probably out grow it, wanting more features.
Recommend as a starting point for 3D modelling and 3D games.
The Game Creators
Here you will find a wealth of software, model packs and tools for making games, some of them free. Those that are not free are reasonably priced along with licences. FPS Creator (First Person Shooter) is one that has a free version, you can buy model packs for it plus there are plenty of tools (internet search) to help make your own content. I have used this and Dark Basic with no problems although of course you do need a 3D card.
Another good place to start, whether you want to learn programming or just use an interface to create games.
Unity : Game Development Tool (Unity 3D)
For me the best I found, I have the previous version to the one online now (free) which my set up can cope with (see part 1) the latest version does lag a bit on my computer hence my using the older version but that’s progress for you. The interface I found to be the easiest to get along with and its nice and easy to get your own models into. Which brings me to what tends to be the hard part, that is the rigging of characters for your game (by this I mean their animation, a whole subject on its own) Unity uses fbx files for models which for free you can make with Blender a 3D modelling program. I have found Blender to be hard work in the past but it does have a new user interface now and is a lot easier to understand, however at time of my searches up to date tutorials were hard to find. You are allowed to use some of the models in the Unity examples (please check) but it limits your games to the same characters. If you are feeling rich there are web sites that will rig characters for you and I wouldn’t be surprised if packs of fbx models for Unity appear at some stage, if not already. There is a Unity example on my web site which you can download for free, details on my profile, please note Unity has been updated so it will be even better now.
Dark GDK and Visual C++ 2008
Dark GDK used to be included with Visual Studio 2008 (I say used to be as I could not find a download with them both together, you may have better luck) but both are still available separately at time of writing. Dark GDK coming from The Game Creators again and Visual Studio Express from Microsoft of course, they are free but you need a Dark GDK licence to sell your games £22 which is a one off payment. There are plenty of examples to get started with and from what I have seen you can get a lot going with little code. This is one of those finds that I have missed the connection with up until now, partly because the Dark GDK page on the Game Creators website is a little buried and also because I did not know Visual Express was free, which is why I am writing these articles.
Recommend, especially as the licence is just about as reasonable as you can get.