Have you ever played a game and thought you could make a better one? Then you should consider entering the world of DIY gaming, writes Steven Balbirnie

Making a videogame doesn’t always require a big budget or a large development team. Anyone with a decent computer and the right software can make their own games; they don’t even need intricate knowledge as the required software has become increasingly user-friendly over the years. Making your own games doesn’t have to be expensive either, as the majority of software is quite reasonably priced or free.

Take for example Garry’s Mod, which retails for €9.99 on the Steam store. Developed by Garry Newman and first released in 2004, it is still updated and supported to this day. Garry’s Mod allows people to make their own games or videos (Garry’s Mod is very popular on Youtube) using content either from Valve titles or community-created content available through forums. What this amounts to is being able to design your own basic first-person-shooter in the style of Half-Life or Counter-Strike that you can play online with your friends. Some player-created content has even succeeded in becoming included as part of the standard Garry’s Mod package, such as the multiplayer mystery adventure Trouble in Terrorist Town.

If first-person-shooters aren’t to your taste then you could always try making your own role-playing-games. The RPG Maker series from Enterbrain have been allowing gamers to create their own adventures akin to Chrono Trigger or the early Final Fantasy games since the nineties. The latest version, RPG Maker VX, may be a bit pricey at nearly sixty dollars, but the software includes enough features to justify the price tag. Sufficient character, monster and scenery data is included to create a full length game, though it’s also possible for you to incorporate your own audio and visuals. Once you’ve finished building your adventure you can then share it with your friends or distribute it online. RPG Maker VX is even of a high enough standard to create commercially viable games such as indie developer Blossomsoft’s 2008 title Eternal Eden.

The most successful game creation software however, is probably Elecbyte’s M.U.G.E.N., which has the following of a huge internet community. This is a free 2D fighting game engine first released in 1999, with the latest version having been released only this year. M.U.G.E.N. creates fighting games in the style of nighties beat-‘em-ups such as Street Fighter. You can compile your own fully customisable roster of classic or created characters that can function on the game engine’s single fighter, simultaneous team or turn-based team modes.

What really makes M.U.G.E.N remarkable however, is the sheer volume of material that it allows users to incorporate. Almost any dream match is possible for you since you can use characters created by any M.U.G.E.N. user. This means that not only can you stage a fight between Street Fighter’s Ryu and Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion, but you can even stage a clash between Peter Griffin and Chuck Norris.

More important than the software though, is the community spirit of DIY gaming. Garry’s Mod and M.U.G.E.N. rely on users to create and share content with one another, as well as to try out each other’s creations and offer feedback. Collaboration is a huge feature of DIY gaming, and nowhere is this more evident than in the multitude of collaborative projects that exist online. One of the most ambitious of these projects is the sprawling space shooter Shadows of Lylat. The project is a fan sequel to Lylat Wars on the N64, probably designed to deliberately overlook how rubbish Star Fox Adventures was on the Gamecube. Shadows of Lylat runs on the Free Space Open engine, and has been worked on by a development team of over two dozen volunteers since 2003. The trailers that exist are impressive for a fan-made game, and the developers have significantly promised campaign and co-op modes as well as ‘huge multiplayer wars’. Having been in development for eight years however, one must question whether this impressive project will ever reach completion.

One collaborative fan project that does look close to completion is Advance Wars: Frontline. Advance Wars: Frontline is a fan-made conversion mod for Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 that replaces all units and structures with fully rendered 3D versions of the cartoony military forces from the Advance Wars series. This effectively transforms the old 2D turn-based-strategy game into a 3D real-time-strategy on maps faithfully recreated from the Advance Wars franchise. The mod is being developed by a five-person team who have already progressed far enough to release a Beta version. It will be interesting to see if they are able to incorporate the Commanding Officer dynamic of Advance Wars, such as Grit’s double artillery range or the fact that Olaf’s units are unhindered by snow.

DIY gaming has existed for a considerable amount of time now, but with more collaboration, increasingly user-friendly software and the opportunity for profit; it can’t be too long before this becomes a more mainstream aspect of the gaming world.