Free Flash Game Development Tool Kit
My latest quest has been to create both a Windows and Mac Free Flash Game development tool kit. I have heard some rumors and horror stories about some of the popular free tools available, so I decided to take a look for myself and see if I could move from Adobe tools to similar free versions. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I encourage anyone with competing or better alternatives to point them out.
SWF Platform Game Development
There are many decent alternatives to using the Flash IDE for game development. I have found that that Flex SDK and Flash Develop work best for me. If you are interested in trying this out, check out my HelloWorld Flash Develop and Flex. If you are using a Mac, the choices are not as pretty, but I have heard a combination of Eclipse, Flex SDK, and an Eclipse AS3 plug-in will do the trick. I had a little trouble getting this to work on my Mac, so I am currently using the FlashDevelop/Flex system in Parallels (Win Xp).
HaXe is another great alternative. I have been reading about it for at least a year now, but haven't had time to check it out. It is an alternative language to AS3 that will compile into SWFs for the Flash player. They have a plug-in for FlashDevelop and TextMate for the Mac. TextMate is not free, but is realtively cheap at about $50 for a single user license.HaXe code can be written in any text editor though.
Bitmap Image Creation
I had heard horror stories about Gimp before I actually tried it. I was looking primarily for an alternative to Fireworks with some very basic criteria:
1. I have to be able to create an image with a transparent background.
2. I had to be able to save as a png
3. I have to able able to edit pixel for pixel on a 32x32 grid for my tiles.
4. I needed to be able to export to jpg and be able to set the compression on the way out.
Both Gimp (Mac,Win, Linux), and GimpShop (Win, Linux, Mac but not the latest OSX version for some reason) provide the above and pretty much all of the tools necessary to create pretty much any bitmap images needed for games. This is one tool that has been given some bad grief by pros, but I think it looks and works great, especially for the tasks I need it to perform. Free is good!
Paint.net for Windows machines is a pretty good alternative, but I couldn't get the grid to be anything but 1x1 and the images cannot be set to start with a transparent background. It has a very nice set of plug-ins and all of the other tools necessary to create great game bitmaps though.
Vector Image Creation (these need to be able to save in the SVG format for Embedding into a Flex app)
Inkscape (Win/Mac/Linux) is the premier free app capable of replicating many of the features found in the commercial vector image creation tools. There are some other good contenders out there like Scribus(Win/Mac/Linux).
Sound and Music
Audacity (Win/Mac/Linux) is probably the best known free software for creating and editing single track sound files. It has all of the tools necessary for basic editing and exporting to .wav and mp3 formats (using the LAME encoder)
SFXR(Windows only) is a great tool that uses a combination of classic synth wav forms to create awesome 8-bit game sounds.
Sony Acid Xpress (Windows only) is a free basic version of the great Acid tool that can be used to combine loops on multiple tracks into a song.
Kristal (Windows only) is a free music studio that can be used to combine Midi and Sound files to make music.it is free for personal use, and the is nominal fee for a commercial license.
Quartz (Windows Only) Audio Master is a free 4 track midi recorder.
Garage Band is free in the iLife package for any user who has purchased a Mac in the last few years. It is powerful enough to do almost any music tracking. Artists such as Trent Reznor have created and released entire albums just using it alone.
FileZilla (windows/mac/linux) is my FTP package of choice. It does absolutely everything I need and is constantly being updated.
HTML and Web Page Creation
NVU(Windows/Mac/Linux) is a very nice standards compliant WYSIWYG HTML editor.