Android is a popular operating system for games, and even now hundreds upon hundreds of games are being developed for it each day. Writing them from scratch is something many programmers don’t have time for, and game engines can help to make developing a new game much easier. Unfortunately, many of the game engines, like Unity, cost up-front money that an independent developer might not have. If you’re in that boat, well- you’re in luck! We’ve taken the time to round up some free Android game engines that will help you get your game off the ground and into people’s pockets!
1. Angle 2D Engine
The Angle 2D engine for Android is free and open-source, and it’s extremely fast. It uses OpenGL ES and is fully coded in native Java to be as fast as possible on Android devices- if you’re looking for an open-source engine that can gun it and give you great performance, Angle will deliver. The big problems with this engine seem to be lack of documentation and lack of consistent updates- there seems to be skimpy documentation out there regarding the usage of the engine and in terms of a support community. There are, however, some tutorials that come with the engine to help show you how it works. The release schedule of the engine seems to be less than consistent (as of this writing, I was unable to find a version of the engine newer than 2010). All in all, worth a look for how fast it is- but beware if you don’t do well without heavy documentation!
2. Scoreloop / Airplay Marmalade Game Engine
This one is a monster, and it’s got quite an impressive set of features. It’s actually two SDKs- one free one for actually developing games that includes features like ARM debugging, deployment, graphics, sound, networking, and more. The other is an integration framework that allows you to put in social aspects to your game such as achievements, leaderboards, and Facebook integration as well as monetizing abilities like in-game currency and paid content. It’s a slick engine that works extremely well, and it’s well worth taking a look at it if you want to create freemium-type games for Android!
3. Rokon Android Library
Rokon is another library for building 2D games, and it seems to be very similar to Angle- the key differences seem to be that Rokon is less focused on speed and offers more objects like sprites, tile engines, and more to allow for quicker game building. Like Angle, however, it suffers from lack of documentation and extremely slow release time- the last release of the library at the time of this writing is 2.0.3, which was released in July of 2010. The author has recognized that the Android world has moved on, however, and he has released a statement saying he will try to release an updated Rokon 3 by February of next year. Whether or not he does, however, Rokon is still a serviceable library that will work with helping you to create new games from the ground up much faster.
Catcake is another library that is fairly impressive on the feature set: it boasts many of the usual game development features like input device handling, graphics handling, and audio and video playback. It’s fairly average as far as performance goes, meaning that if you’re not worried about cutting edge speed in your video game you can definitely take advantage of Catcake’s slightly larger feature set and use it to help develop games more rapidly. Like the other engines, it seems no work has been done on it for quite awhile, but it remains quite a good base library nonetheless and worth a look if you want to use a larger feature set to create your game.Website: http://code.google.com/p/catcake/
This one is quite a find: it’s a port of jPCT, a very popular 3d game engine for Java, to the Android operating system. As a result, it’s got all of the bells and whistles you’d expect a good gaming engine to have: OpenGL support, transparency, keyframe animation, shader support, built-in primitives, lens flares, and more. The documentation is extensive and solid, and the project is updated regularly and often to boot: it’s quite a find for anyone who might want to write a 3d game on Android. The performance seems to be average, possibly a bit above average, meaning that the complexity of the engine isn’t taking away from your performance. All in all, a very solid engine with very good support that should be a choice if you’re looking to write a 3d game for Android!
Writing an Android game isn’t easy, especially not starting from scratch. All of these engines are designed to take care of some of the groundwork for you so you can concentrate on getting your game off the ground and into the later stage of production as quickly and efficiently as you can, and all of them for the right price. Check out each of these engines and decide which one’s right for your needs and game, and use it to get your new game idea to #1 on the Android Play Store!