Over the past few years I have used quite a wide range of tools, be it Web Applications, Desktop Software or even “just” Forums/Communities to help me in some shape or form. Most of these are widely known, but I wanted to share my personal experience with them and why I think they are worth taking a look at.
Just to clarify right away: these recommendations are subjective and biased based on my own personal experience. This also means that there is probably a plethora of stuff I did not mention, but these are the ones that had the biggest impacted on me personally.
GitHub or rather Version/Source Control is such an important backbone of any bigger project, that I can only hope everyone knows of it’s power.
In case you aren’t quite sure what Version Control is, it is used to manage projects that are very iterative, complex and/or created by multiple people. Especially with a team, you inevitably run into issues if you stick to sending all files, that get created, changed or deleted, between one another manually. Version Control solves this by recording a history of all changes and showing you all changes (including deletions) whenever you want to accept a new commit (version) – this can get a bit more complex with forks, pull requests, merging and so on, but the important part is; nothing is ever lost when dealing with version control. That means even if you delete a script and commit that as a new version, you will still be able to revert that.
Github is just one of many Platforms for version control (Atlassian has one called BitBucket as well) – and It’s mostly reliable and easy to work with, yeah sure Microsoft technically owns it now but that shouldn’t stop anyone from using version control (which can be done outside of SaaS). Especially since GitHub is getting more and more lenient with their private repositories, so people that don’t want their source code public can (finally) use GitHub as well. I can personally recommend it to most developers even though I have been using BitBucket (to host) mostly myself, I have now switched back to GitHub and I use some form of version control for almost every project.
Oh boy, this is a big one… I stumbled over some products only to later realize they were all by the same company (sort of). There’s just a lot of awesome things that I need to list under the “Atlassian” umbrella, so I am going to do this very brief:
- BitBucket – Version Control, not as fleshed out as GitHub (in terms of features) but works just as well
- SourceTree – Awesome GUI for repositories, I’ve been far to lazy to really use git via CLI so this has been a blessing
- Trello – Super quick, clean and accessible tool for light project management, bug tracking or road maps.
There’s also Jira and Confluence that I personally never used but heard good things of. Jira is a project management and issue tracking application and Confluence is basically a collaborative document creation tool, similar to the Google suite but a bit more specific with it’s feature set and less MS Office like.
Also.. all of the Atlassian stuff is mostly free with some premium options for advanced features, but all essential functionality is completely free.
Visual Studio Code
I love Visual Studio itself and Microsoft’s slim variant has completely replaced the long used notepad++, it’s quite fast while having a lot of customizability through extensions. It also features embedded git, code refactoring and really most other decent all-round features of Visual Studio itself.
I have always been the type of hypocrit, that can recommend things I barely scratched the surface of, so here goes:
Blender is awesome, BUT it has not always been, I can remember years back when the software was – especially for new users – just cluttered, unclear and an overall bad UX. BUT BUT I gotta give it to them, Blender has improved a lot and their UX is so much better now, especially with one of their latest releases (2.80). It’s finally a software that can not just compete with other 3D modelling software solely because it’s free, but because of it’s features and accessibility. And while it’s undoubtedly improved it’s not flawless… yet. Check out this video if you want to laugh at some absurdities of a slightly older version (literally 2.79):
That said, as I mentioned, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what blender can do, but it’s become an awesome (not just “good ’cause free”) tool to create and edit 3D models. A few years back I would never have even considered booting up Blender to fix some normals on a model, but I do that now without hesitation.
I sincerely hope that the Blender foundation keeps up the good work, tools like this should not cost money, not even professional grade. And while I use Blender only barely, it’s becoming more and more frequent and I can easily recommend it to people interested in 3D modelling.
This is a tad bit different from the rest and more a resource hub than actual software or service. Nevertheless Material Design is quite an interesting style guide that Google has published. They really go into details there and generally do an amazing job at explaining why stuff is the way it is, this is honestly worth a lot, considering this is usually information that is well hidden or expensive to get, but immensely crucial for creating UI that feels native to Android like a PWA. Or really just as a guideline to follow to avoid pitfalls when designing UX.
Since I really hate just copying entire styles, I have only cautiously adopted things from this, but it’s interesting to know why certain things should or shouldn’t be done in a specific way.
Here’s probably something not everyone already knows and it’s a bit more specific too, as it’s main focus is about game development assets.
During prototyping or rather during the “I have a rad idea I want to implement and turn into a project”-phase, which I always call prototyping to sound more professional, it can be really helpful to be able to get some nice assets to mess around. OGA has some really solid stuff on there, a lot of it is even CC0 and while it can be hard to find everything a project needs, I still find it immensely helpful, especially as placeholders.
There’s plenty of different Assets, from Sounds, Music, 3D Art, 2D Art and so on. Granted not all of it is top notch high quality, but for a small indie dev this can be worth gold. But this does not replace proper art and asset creation, as it is extremely unlikely to find all assets your specific game is going to need without mixing styles or compromising on content.
Really the only two bad things about OGA is it’s admittedly outdated look/implementation and it’s small and seemingly declining userbase, which might be caused by the former. I really hope people come back to it and share or use the awesome art that is being collected there.
Stuff that is cool and free, but not (currently) worth for me going into detail about.
- Redmine / Kanboard
- Google Suite (gmail, spreadsheets, etc.)
To be honest I could’ve done this in 5 minutes with a simple bullet list and called it a day, but I went overboard with it, as per usual.
I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless and maybe even got some amazing new software/tool/resource to check out and/or try!
Oh and besides: The next post is going to be about Shaders, though a lot less math heavy compared to the Surface Nets post… hopefully.