Game/App Engines

This month is a special on Game Frameworks, and there were a couple of interesting game frameworks that existed and were happy to be featured in the reviews. Some of them have been reviewed in the past, so rather than redo a review, we thought it would be nice to highlight the Pros and the gotcha's that prevent complete use of the framework.

Let us start from the way Apple intended us to work with their devices, Objective-C

Objective-C based

1. xCode + iOS SDK 4.x/5.x ( ) FREE
This is the virgin offering from Apple that hinges mainly on the UIKit and OpenGL framework in comparison to the *only OpenGL* framework that most of the other frameworks rely upon. This is as native as one can get with direct access to majority of the features just as his holiness Steve and his apple angels intended.

2. Sparrow ( ) FREE
Sparrow is a free opensource framework that uses Objective-C and a framework for OpenGL that is more or less similar to ActionScript or rather as the author puts it, inspired by ActionScript.

3. Cocos2D ( ) FREE
Cocos2D is a versitile framework and is available for the iPhone, MacOSX, Windows, Python to name a few. This uses Objective-C and offers a Cocos2D class to interact with that handles many a things which are otherwise difficult to manage via objective-C, this is one of the most commonly used frameworks for games employing Objective-C coding.

Apart from the Objective-C offerings there is another very popular language that is catching up with developers, as easy or easier than javascript and equally or more powerful, everyones favourite is .... LUA.

Lua based

4. CoronaSDK ( ) $199/yr - $349/yr
Reviewed here

One of the most popular offering for developers and using LUA as the language to develop. CoronaSDK encapsulates OpenGL and offers developers a very easy to use API that reduces unnecessary redundant lines of code. This is an ever evolving framework and has new features being added to it every now and then. In comparison to the above three offerings, which can access pretty much any and every aspect of the iOS device by being a native objective-C framework, CoronaSDK is a bit restrictive and that by no means has prevented a whole lot of developers from setting up their studios offering iOS development solutions.

5. Moai ( ) FREE
Reviewed here

Think of this as the Lua offering of an objective-C framework, which means that though the language used to develop code is Lua, access to all aspects of the iOS device is available. Moai is aimed at the professional/Hardcore developer providing them with the ease of use of Lua in their development. The flagship product is an amazing app and is made up of literally hundreds of Lua files for each texture, sprite, etc.

6. Kobold2D ( ) FREE
A well known name in the Cocos2D community, Steffen Itterheim is the author of this framework, we were to review this separately, but as it so happens, We have iOS 5 ß installed that messes up the whole installation and renders it difficult to use Cocos2D. However this is an interesting open source framework this offers developers a Lua language bridge using the WAX framework, which exposes the classes of an Objective-C class for use or rather provides Lua bindings. This is a neat trick but this is limited to the classes that are made available to the project/WAX to make available to Kobold2D.

7. Gideros ( ) FREE, $139-$449
From Turkey comes this other offering, Gideros that gives the developers a Lua based API to develop apps for the iOS devices. This is the only framework in the list that is Lua based and offers an IDE that runs on both, Windows and Mac. Though CoronaSDK does work on both WIndows and Mac, it lacks an IDE. Gideros also allows development on a Windows box, whereby an app can be run from a Windows directly on an iOS device.

Basic/C++ based

8. Advance Game Kit ( ) $77.99
Reviewed here

This is a rather different offering as compared to the options listed above as it uses it's own version of Basic language to develop for the iOS devices. It offers development in a C++ framework or in pure basic (which can only be run at the Tier 1 level) Tier 2 is where most of the magic happens using C++ framework libraries. This offers a Player app to test the app on the device via Wireless deployment from the code.

There are other utilities that allow for creating games/apps on Mobile Devices and other devices

Other Platforms/Frameworks

9. GLBasic ( ) € 80
This uses Basic as the language to hold everything together and then have multi-platform outputs including Mobile platforms and Desktops be it Windows, Mac or Unix

10. The iPhone Game Kit ( ) $70
Reviewed here

This is a framework that is specifically provided to developers to create their own games using objective-C, this is a Code/Book combination from Nat Weiss, the framework helps developers jump start their development and create games, it is worth a look.

11. Game Salad ( ) Free (Mac Only)
Does not use a programming language is a total drag/drop set properties type IDE to create apps for the Mobile/Desktop and has new focus on HTML5

12. DragonFireSDK ( ) $49.95 Develop without a Mac and Objective-C, using C on Windows

13. Airplay SDK ( Rebranded as Marmalade )
Marmalade SDK ( ) C++ works with Visual Studio
When this was Airplay SDK, It had the iPhone app program for free, which I believe it has continued forward.

14. Unity 3D ( ) FREE for base app, then $400+
If you want to make 3D apps, then this would be the best choice, expensive like hell, but still... they had the iOS development version FREE at one time about 2 years ago, but it seems that they have reconsidered the situation.

15. Torque ( ) Confusing, seems $99 for each of it's products.
Looks amazing for the things that it advertises, but then it is very confusing both in terms of pricing and usage. Hope they make it usable

16. Appcelerator/Titanium ( ) Seems FREE
A framework that uses javascript to create native apps for the iOS, in my opinion, tried it once and never looked at it ever again.

17. Phone Gap ( ) FREE
A wonderful framework for true cross compatibility, they saw the light way before others could and offered a HTML + JavaScript based cross platform native app ability for a variety of platforms.

18. Game Editor ( ) FREE (GPLv3) $99 - $1.499 ??/yr
I would love this is the PRO version is $1.499 / Yr unless it is a European company, as in the European system they use the , for a decimal point and the decimal point for a comma.

19. Cuttle Fish ( ) $99/yr (Windows only)

20. Game Maker ( ) $ 39.99
This is q very reasonabley priced option, the new HTML game maker is seeming to be priced at $199, but the introductory price is $99

21. App Inventor (Google) ( ) FREE
Googles offering for creating mobile apps based on the Scratch framework for development, like many other programs, this one is also getting the axe, it's a shame, if they developed this further, this could have been a wonderful tool. I could create an app that reads a barcode and displays it on screen in under a minute, how cool is that? and deployed to the device.

22. Wax ( ) FREE OpenSource
This is the tool created by Corey that exposes lua bindings for all the classes in an xcode project. This is exactly what is being used by Kobold2D to expose the classes to use via Lua.

23. nsBasic ( ) $99
Though this is windows only and allows for creating web based apps, it uses basic, reminds me of Visual Basic, brings back old memories.

24. RealStudio ( ) From $95 upwards
Reviewed here

Though this does not create mobile apps, this is nevertheless an engine/framework for creating apps that are multi-platforms and work on Windows, Mac, Linux and the Web

25. Monkey ( ) $120
It was a bit of a shame that despite several attempts in trying to contact the developers of Monkey, we have had no response from them, this is quite strange as Aussies and Kiwis are near cousins and very friendly people. However since we have not been able to get a response and neither been able to test, cannot comment on this. However in todays world, if a developer cannot be contacted then the wares are not considered valuable as it all seems fishy, or in this case Monkeyish.

Flash Based

26. Adobe Flash ( ) Check Adobe for prices

27. Flixel ( ) FREE

28. Stencyl ( ) FREE
This uses the scratch framework for development/programming, which involved dragging and dropping blocks that are representative of code, this not only eliminates errors but also helps beginners to program. It creates Flash based apps.

29. FlashPunk ( ) FREE

30. PushButton Engine ( ) FREE

Other engines that might have been lesser known or lesser used

31. Dim3 ( ) FREE OpenSource 3D game Engine

32. Unreal Engine ( ) Price on Request

33. DX Studio ( ) $160.00 Windows based only

34. Spring Engine ( ) FREE
Not available for the Mac, but an opensource RTS (RealTimeStrategy game engine) and has a lua engine to manage the elements, player and enemies, etc.

35. Panda3D ( ) FREE

36. Love2D ( ) FREE
Uses lua scripts and creates desktop apps, however cannot be compiled and has to be placed into the stub that runs the lua file, but It provides a very beautiful experience.

37. SIO2 ( ) Free - $599.99
The most amazing and probably the most complex 3D engine for Mobile devices.

38. Adobe Air ( ) Check Adobe for prices
This is not the lesser known or lesser used, in fact it has been the platform of choice for many mobile companies, including RIM. However despite having Flex Builder, I have been unable to see value in Adobe Air apart from the fact that it is cross-platform, which can be achieved from using any of the other options listed above.

And there could be many more that we might have missed, so apologies to those, but if they get in touch with us, we could review them and add them to our list for later.


  1. As for 38, It is a free system using the downloadable SDK and amazing Flashdevelop tool for windows. Libraries like Flixel, box2d and a
    ton of 3d stuff make it a treasure chest that Jobs tried to take to his grave. Shame you put it last.

  2. Jon, while Air might be free and a wonderful desktop cross platform system, the numbering system is no way an indicator of the usefullness of the framework. As far as mobile development is concerned, these are less used in my opinion.

    While some feel that Shell scripting was the way to script, there were others that thought VBScript was the answer and then it was Python and so on. Technologies change and it is about what is used most commonly.


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