Get Up and Running for Less Than $100

Get Up and Running for Less Than $100

With Unreal Engine 4 going free there has been a spike in it’s user base. And with all the new users some will be hobbyist, some Freelancers, some will go the commercial route. Because of this I decided to write this article to help everyone get started.

With gaming titles reaching $100 million development costs and software costs reaching tens of thousands of dollars, jumping into the development scene can be quite intimidating. The start-up costs are staggering and usually not very feasible for small teams or hobbyists trying to make the switch to indie.

It’s easy for small teams to get discouraged or use “borrowed” software to begin developing and crafting their idea. But let’s face it, in the end, if you truly want to pursue the route of commercial indie development you have to do things right and legit. It doesn’t matter how much passion you have or how amazing your idea is, you put it all at risk by not doing things the right way.

Luckily there are many alternate routes where you do not have to have to spend your life’s savings or double mortgage your house and still use most of the professional development tools that are used by top AAA games. Best of all you can do this for less than the price of an average utility bill.

note There are tons of software out there, these are just a few handpicked ones that I feet fit well with this post.


Modeling packages are very important for obvious reasons. Gamesneed art. Unless you are doing a full 2d game you will need a modeling package.

MayaLT - $30/month

Maya LT is a slightly scaled down version of Maya. Most ofthe core tools are included.

MODO indie - $14.99/month

The Foundry is offering scaled down versions of its powerful, feature-rich game development tools at an indie-friendly price. There are people who swear by Modo and it’s powerful tool set.

Blender – Free

Blender is free and open source and packed full of features.

SpeedTree – $19/month
SpeedTree is a powerful toolkit used to create foliage for games, animations, visual effects. If your game requires a lot of foliage, you should consider SpeedTree.


Photoshop - $10/month

Photoshop has been an industry stable from the very beginning and for good reason, it’s fantastic and very easy to use. It’s normally $20 but with the photography subscription you get it for $10.

Substance Live Indie - 19.90/month for 16 months
Substance Live Indie comes with Designer 5, Substance Painter and Bitmap2Material 3. Substance live is great because it’s a pay to own model. So at the end of your payment cycle (16 month) you own the software.

MARI indie - $14.99/month

MARI is a great texturing program brought to you by The Foundry. The indie version is slightly scaled down from the full version but it’s every bit as powerful.

xNormal – Free
xNormal does a great job of creating maps from a High Poly - Low Poly workflow.


**Mudbox - $10/mo **
Mudbox is a fully featured sculpting software.

Blender - Free

Blender includes a nice range of sculpting features not to mention it’s an all in one software package.

Note From the sculpting packages Zbrush is my favorite. They don’t offer a subscription model and while the price isn’t as steep as the others ($795) it can still be a bit for many small teams.

Game Engine

It’s important to choose a game engine that gives you the power and flexibility to accomplish what you truly want. There are many choices out there but I narrowed this down to two.

Unreal Engine 4 - Free with 5% royalties

UE4 comes with pretty much everything that you will need to create a high quality game. Unreal has powered some of the greatest and most recognized games both in the AAA and Indie scene. Unreal Engine 4 is very artist friendly.


Organization plays a very important part of any development process. Things need to be categorized and tasks need to be assigned.


Trello is great for tasking and prioritizing. It works in a card format and allows you to easily move cards from board to board. On the surface it seems very simple but as you dive in you’ll see that simplicity is one of it’s most powerful features.


Evernote is a wonderful tool that allows you to organize all of your thoughts and ideas into notebooks. You can take note, sync files between devices, gather information from the web, categorize and easily search through all of your content.


We all need to store and transfer files between one another. That process needs to be simple and seamless.

Google Drive

Great storage capabilities, easy to use, and very similar Dropbox. You can store up to 15GB of data for free.


Dropbox is a great way to send and store files and backup. It offers a good amount of space with the option of upgraded for even more cloud storage.

For less than $100/month you can be up and running and 100% legal. As you expand and become successful, you tool set will also expand. There are many other option out there but I feel that this is one of the most efficient ways to get started.

I hope this was helpful to anyone struggling or overwhelmed with the thought of getting things up and running the legal way. There are always options out there.

If you have any question feel free to reach out to me or contact me via twitter.


This was the first post of my Gamedev Tips and Tricks Tumblr Blog

In addition to Dropbox, I would recommend Google Drive which has a handy App that allows you to use it the same way as Dropbox and store up to 15GB of data - 6x more than dropbox - for free.

Great guide. Thanks for sharing.

I’ve just started using Maya LT and it actually does nearly everything you would need for an indie game. I like that the skills you learn with it can directly apply to the full version if necessary.

I’d also add that you can get Photoshop CC for only $10/month with the Photography plan (I don’t think you are restricted in how you can use the app, at least I hope not).

Thanks a lot for your input guys. I went ahead and updated the areas you suggested :smiley:

Sculptris is a free sculpting tool from Pixologic (the makers of Zbrush), not as feature rich as the other two and can be a little crashy at times but certainly a capable program. I actually prefer it to mudbox.

“There are many choices out there but I narrowed this down to two.” ?? Fantastic advice. Did I miss your other game engine suggestion? UE4 and ?
(“Could it be Sata. . . I mean Unity?”)

“There are many choices out there but I narrowed this down to two.” ?? Fantastic advice. Did I miss your other game engine suggestion? UE4 and ?
(“Could it be Sata. . . I mean Unity?”)[/QUOTE]

Hahaha yea in the original article I mentioned both since it’s a more general starter write up. Obviously I’m UE4 110% but I didn’t want to alienate those from the advice on the actual post since it’s meant to help out everyone equally :smiley:

I think for Storage MEGA is the best, since you have 50GB for free and a nice windows explorer integration with MEGA Sync.

The list is pretty short , there is lot more cheap software available without needing to pay a subscription.

Should add Perforce(free for small teams) and SVN(free) to the list as well. Great ways of managing files if you are more than one member in a team. Also, contrary to popular belief. Perforce is super easy to set up now and beats SVN every day of the week, we just switched.

I still use Google Docs to make notes and write my documents.

Also, as an artist I use Pinterest to easily organize and store my reference images. Plus you can find a tremendous amount on there too!

Can’t beat cloud storage and free.

Oh my God this is a fantastic idea! Why is this not a thing? It needs to be a thing that all major software companies offer. I mean, think about it, it’s super user friendly, they can offer to buy it outright for a little bit cheaper, and it’s not like there’s much risk of piracy: if people were going to pirate it, they’d just outright pirate it.

It needs to be a thing.

Don’t forget an editor/IDE. Visual Studio community (Windows) is probably the top choice here, but for those that don’t like Microsoft there’s also QTCreator (Windows/OSX/Linux), and XCode (OSX). If using Unity* it comes with MonoDevelop/Xamarin (Windows/OSX/Linux), which is far from my favorite but not too bad. Still, now that VS is free for smaller devs I’d say it’s really the way to go.

Epic’s build system bypasses the IDE’s anyway, so you could even do a fine job with Sublime Text ($70, winrar style popups, Windows/OSX/Linux) or vim/emacs (Windows/OSX/Linux) if you wanted. Though I’d only recommend these if you already use them, as if you’re just getting started then VS is probably king.

Don’t forget Bitbucket (Would say Github but Bitbucket has free private repos) + SourceTree/IDE Support + Git. You’ll need to ignore the binaries and keep them in something else like Google Drive/Dropbox, but it’s easy to set up, you don’t even need a server. Maybe the more advanced features are a bit tough, but commit and push are both trivial with a decent GUI. And once merging becomes an issue I find Git to be the easiest.

  • I think you should readd Unity to the list. We don’t pretend it doesn’t exist around here, and it is a decent option. I think Unreal is a better option (And not just because of that moderator badge) but it’s not the only option, better to let people see what’s available to them.

Another good source for free or cheap but useful stuff is this thread on polycount.