When I have time to spend I like messing around with 3D creations, game making stuff. I think I have tried most of the contenders and it comes down to what you like in most cases. I say that because many of us just want to have some fun and never intend to publish a video game. This page is not meant to be definitive in any way except as it pertains to my own experience.
Game Makers: 3D RAD
There are dozens of Game Makers out there, but I have seen nothing at all that allows you to build, distribute, play, and comes with pre-made game modules you can both learn from and customize to suit your needs like 3D RAD. I know, Unity, Unreal and the list goes on and on. Yes, they do have game creation systems, but they do not allow you to publish unless or until you purchase an expensive license. So you can go ahead and create something, but unless you intend to pony up some cash you can not publish or share it.
3D RAD allows you to use it to create games and you can do whatever you wish with those games. Publish, sell, share, it’s your choice. It also comes with dozens of game examples that work. It is easy, with a little work, to customize those games, add your own 3D models, skins, pieces and make something fun and maybe even profitable. It is also completely free.
Game Examples and Abilities include:
First Person Shooter
For me the choice was clear over 10 years ago when I actually purchased 3D Rad. It is now completely free.
While this is great, there are some things that cause people to stumble. First, learning a system, any system, even if it has projects and pre-sets to show you how to do it is difficult. It is time consuming. I have found myself investing mass amounts of time in other game creators to learn them only to find that, in the end, I need a license, or I have to pay for content to use, something along those lines. 3D RAD has been free for quite some time. I know of no plans to take it back to a retail product. So, you shouldn’t get surprised down the line somewhere and find it suddenly has to be purchased, or you need to pay for a license to continue using it. So the time you invest is worthwhile in that respect.
3D RAD: http://3drad.org/downloads
3D RAD uses the direct X file format for the 3D models it uses. There is no modeler that was purpose built to model in the Direct X format. Yes, I have seen a few that claim to be able to do it, but I have tried them and they don’t get the job done, they are buggy, or they are works in progress. If I ever see one that actually works and has the features you need in a modeling program I’ll list here. And that doesn’t mean it has to be free. Some things I will list here are not free.
So, there are no Direct X specific modelers. However, there are Modelers that can do the job. You can go right to the top and spend the money for a top of the line modeler, or you can search the internet and risk contaminated files to try to find something that will do the job. Or you can do what I do, search for open source projects that work.
Why Open Source? I use Open Source modelers because I don’t have to worry about virus infection if I download them directly from Source Forge, GitHub or the projects own website. That might seem excessively cautious but after getting infected files several times I just don’t try anything else. And some of those infections were serious enough to make me completely shut down, wipe the drive and reformat completely. Even the low infection stuff copies files to your browser or hard drive and then you have to spend time deleting them, if you can. Oh, and they offer, of course, to sell you some virus software that helpfully can take care of this adware infection. Why put yourself through it? Well, because, like me, you’re cheap and you still want to play. So, go the open source route. Find a something that works, download it and you’re set.
3D RAD does not include a module to skin or UV models.
It used to be easier, in the old days, before 3D RAD went to Direct X models, to skin or UV wrap or UV Unwrap models. It used 3DS models and it had a module built in, small, but effective, that allowed you to do that. Simple, but it worked great. Not any longer. Now you have to find a program that will do that. It also has to be a program that can work with various model formats you might be using, and one that has the ability to save to the Direct X format.
In the old days I used a freeware program called Lithunwrap. Google it, you’ll find it. I won’t link to it because it is not supported by the author any longer. It is also one of those files you’ll find on those sites with spy or adware, or those helpful download managers that also add spyware and ad bars without your permission. You may find it on a site that is free of that garbage. If so, grab it. It’s invaluable as a demonstrative tool.
So, I looked at the shortcomings and then decided that I like it well enough to find some work-arounds to help me to use it.
A Modeler was the first thing I needed.
OPEN FX: http://www.openfx.org/
Open FX is an open source modeler that was abandoned several years ago and then bought back. It has its quirks, but over all it is a solid modeler and very easy to learn and use.
It imports Direct X, 3DS, OBJ, LWO, DFX, and DAE. It does not export Direct X. You might ask, well, how does that help me to get Direct X into 3D RAD?
It exports DXF and 3DS both of which can then be faithfully converted to the Direct X format and used in 3D RAD. I know, I have used it exactly that way.
After a modeler I needed a way to get my model format of choice, 3DS, into the Direct X format.
ULTIMATE UNWRAP: http://www.unwrap3d.com/u3d/index.aspx
Ultimate Unwrap is written by the same man who authored Lithunwrap, so he knows what he is up to. It is not free, but there is a free demo you can download and test to see that it does what it says it will. Ultimate Unwrap is a beautiful piece of software and worth the cost of purchase. It can be used for many game systems and the website has dozens of plugin filters for various formats to import and or export.
It does faithful translations of 3D Models. Open your 3DS formatted or DXF formatted model and save it to Direct X or whatever format you need. It’s that simple. It is lightweight, small footprint and it does every single thing it claims it can do and it does them very well. It has some modeling features as well that can save you hours of time when you are setting up a model to use in a game. Sometimes it is worth paying for software when it is this good.
You can find hundreds thousands of models on the web that you can use. Some are royalty free, some are not. Many need a lot of work if you intend to use them in a video game where the poly count can be your enemy. You need something that looks good, but has a low impact size wise. Most model downloads are not going to fit that bill. You will find yourself spending hours upon hours on the simplest model trying to reduce the size, or change it to what you need.
The best thing to do is look at the models that are in 3D RAD already. Go ahead and open them in Ultimate Unwrap, save them to 3DS files and then open them in Open FX. Take a look at how they were constructed. In most cases you will see that most of the perceived detail comes from rendering, not the model itself. Once you realize that, and see how simplistic the models that are used in video games actually are you will realize it is worth your time to make your own simplistic models. But, go ahead, download that truck or car and have some fun with it. I did, and it taught me that I would rather build my own most of the time. Take a look at the tutorials for 3D RAD and for Open FX and Ultimate Unwrap. Learn those tools and you’ll be making what you want to make pretty quickly.
I like TurboSquid because it requires membership. Not a big deal, costs nothing, but it allows them to know you and you them. I don’t have to worry about contaminated files. They have free downloads, and they also have content you can purchase pretty cheaply and download and use in your creations.
Okay, none of these places paid me to link them. No kickbacks or click-throughs either. Just stuff that works for me and should work for you. If you find anything on this page that is not as I said, or that has changed, please let me know about it. In the meantime enjoy 3D Game Building!
I hope this helped. If you have something of use you would like to list drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and if it’s good I’ll list it.