Developing Android games is a dream job for many and an exciting hobby for others. The game industry is booming and has outperformed the film industry for years. In 2020, the combined games industry was valued at $ 162.32. It is expected to grow to $ 295.63 billion by 2026. Most of that pie goes to mobile games, which are estimated to have 46% of the total market share.
Whether you’re making money as an indie developer, getting a job in a game development studio, or just wanting to make games out of love, there is a huge audience out there who are excited to try your creations!
Also read: The best Android developer tools to get you started
And here’s the best: Android game development is probably a lot easier than you think. Depending on the type of game you want to create, there are a number of extremely powerful tools available to make the process easier as well. Thanks to the minimal barriers to entry and the huge pre-built market, Android is arguably the easiest platform to get started with.
Android game development is probably a lot easier than you think.
This post is your one stop shop for learning Android game development. Find out what different options are available to you, what tools you need, and what resources will help you get to the next step.
This post is the beginning of your journey to becoming a full-fledged Android game developer!
Tools and options for Android game development
When you start developing Android games, the first thing you need to do is decide what type of game you want to create and what tools you are going to use to do it.
There are a variety of different programs, languages, and approaches you can use to create your first game. Which one is right for you depends on your goals and the type of game you want to play.
Here’s what you need to know about the most popular options.
This is the recommended method for the vast majority of Android game development. Unity is a “game engine,” meaning it has built-in physics, lighting, controls, and other elements. These streamline the game development process. Unity also provides a powerful yet simple interface for dragging and dropping items into your game world. Such features make this tool extremely efficient for creating platform games, 3D titles, and other graphically rich experiences.
It also has built-in support for virtual reality and easy cross-platform compilation. This means that you can publish the same game to Android, PC, and iOS with relatively little extra work!
Also read: How to Make an Android Game – For Beginners
However, this is by no means a watered down “game builder”. Coding in C # is required for virtually any application, and the tool is used by the vast majority of professional game development teams targeting Android. In fact, the most popular titles on the Google Play Store were made with Unity.
If you are planning on creating a 2D or 3D action game, want your title to be cross-platform, and don’t want to be constrained by your tools, Unity is an excellent choice. Just as long as you’re ready to learn C #.
Unity is also free for personal use, but you have to pay once your product receives large amounts of downloads.
Learn Android Game Development with Unity
To start developing Android games through Unity, you can download the tool from the official website. You’ll also need to purchase the Android SDK (Software Development Kit) and follow the instructions to set everything up.
We have many tutorials to help you start developing Android games in Unity:
These will give you a basic understanding of C #:
You can also find a number of great courses online:
I also wrote a book about developing Android games with Unity!
Android Studio is the “official” tool for Android development, which of course also includes the development of Android games. This tool comes straight from Google and supports Java and Kotlin as primary programming languages.
Android Studio is known as “IDE”. This stands for Integrated Development Environment. This is simply the interface through which you interact with the programming language and tools (Unity can also be classified as an IDE).
When you first download Android Studio, it comes with the Android SDK, an emulator, and a host of other useful tools for testing, debugging, and more.
If you have no programming experience, learning game development using Android Studio can be a daunting challenge
Why Android Studio is more of a challenge for game development
While Unity is primarily a game development platform with an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface, Android Studio is much more of a traditional IDE. This means that the first time you start up, you’ll be greeted by a series of files and pre-written code. The rest is up to you!
This can be daunting and challenging for newcomers. If you have no programming experience, learning to develop Android games this way can be a difficult challenge. You need to familiarize yourself with:
- Java or Kotlin as the primary programming language
- XML for creating “layout files” (although there is a visual editor, it cannot handle everything)
- Life cycles of the Android app
- The structure and hierarchy of various source files and resources in an Android app – what do all these files actually do? do?
- Dependencies, the Android manifest, gradle for creating your apps …
- The quirks of Android Studio itself
Google is constantly implementing new functions and tools (such as the current Motion Editor or Jetpack Compose). This can cause problems when trying to figure everything out! Of course, these additional elements do not have to be learned. But with so much Stuff It can be a headache just knowing where to start. There seems to be 10 ways to do it all!
Also read: Java tutorial for beginners: Write a simple app with no prior knowledge
Additionally, Android Studio doesn’t have built-in physics, rendering, or other useful features for Android game development. If you want to make a 3D game this way, you’ll either have to rely on external libraries and tools, or create all of the logic, physics, and rendering from scratch!
In short, this can dramatically increase development time for any type of action game, which is why even professional studios prefer Unity.
However, if you want to specifically learn Android game development, this official method will give you many marketable skills. Plus, you can keep your app up to date with the latest version of Android, achieve a Material Design aesthetic, and edit each puzzle piece yourself.
Educational game development with Android Studio
Using Android Studio is a viable option if your game:
- A puzzle game made up of static screens rather than lots of animation
- OR a relatively simple 2D action title
- You already have coding experience
- OR you are ready to invest a lot of time and effort learning the official Android development tool
To get Android Studio working on your computer, you can download it here.
We have a lot of great tutorials for beginners:
You can also find a number of excellent courses online:
More options for Android game development
Together, Unity and Android Studio will be enough to handle just about any type of Android game development. However, there are other options available that may appeal to some developers in certain circumstances.
For example, Unreal Engine is a powerful alternative to Unity for those interested in developing 2D and 3D games. While Unreal is popular on PC due to its incredible graphical abilities, it’s harder to grapple with than Unity and isn’t as good for 2D mobile development. Updates are trying to change this little by little, but Unity remains the preferred choice for Android game development for now.
Visual Studio with the Xamarin extension is now a good alternative to Android Studio. If you don’t want to use a game engine but want to port your finished product to both Android and iOS, this is a good option. Many people find that Visual Studio is also more intuitive than Android Studio, and you code in the slightly simpler C # than Java. Support is a little less extensive than for Android Studio, though you don’t have to wait long for new updates to become available.
For those who don’t want to learn a lot of code, there are a number of game builders out there that involve little to no programming. By far the most powerful of these is GameMaker Studio 2. This is a powerful game engine and IDE that makes creating games as easy as possible. The tool is not free, although it is affordable and includes something Higher level code. Compared to Unity, however, it represents a significantly smaller learning curve and still offers a professional suite of tools. Indeed popular titles like Hyper Light Drifter were created with GameMaker.
There are also many more “Game Maker” options. One of the most beginner-friendly options if you’re not planning on turning a pro is with GameSalad.
See also: A simple GameMaker Studio tutorial for beginners
As you can then see, Android game development can mean a lot of different things depending on your preferred tastes. The best advice I can give you is to just start. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel: pose a simple challenge that structures your learning and encourages your development, then move on to larger projects. If I were forced to choose, I would also recommend choosing Unity as the best tool for most developers.
Whatever you choose, Android game development is an extremely fun and rewarding process. Stick with it and who knows what you could create!
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