A Serious Question About Tools

Earlier this week, I finally joined the IGDA.  Some of that was to support my friend Corvus’ bid for for the board. But I wouldn’t have done it at all if I didn’t want to make and write about games.  Games intrigue me because I’m about half writer and half programmer.  Yeah, that means there’s a lot of game-stuff I’m not good at (art and music, for example) but I want to tell stories, and help other people tell stories.  And I’ve been programming computers of one kind of another since I was a teenager, back in the Dark Ages.

My first computer game was written at computer camp over two weeks, when the instructor realized there were two of us who already knew everything she was going to teach, so we sat down at our Apple ][s and typed in a multiple guess adventure game.  I was in middle school, and ironically, responsible for the art assets (I made a fire breathing dragon in lo-res graphics! and animated the fire!)  I’ve worked on a lot of half-projects,  my most recent experiments are with HTML5 Canvas, both raw and with Akihabara.

Anyway, I’ve mostly worked with free tools, they’re what I can afford. Indie’s can’t afford a lot of fancy stuff, and I’m not even an indie.  I’m just a hobbyist.  But there are some cool tools out there. There’s the Impact game engine — not that I’m sure how it stacks up against Akihabara, which is free.

And that sort of encapsulates my problem: I’ve got a bit of money, about $100 to spend, and I’d like to get something to help me make games.  That’s kind of a broad category but only having $100 sort of limits it.  I work in Windows (xp and 7) and can work with Linux tools pretty easily as well,  would prefer my output to go to as wide an audience as possible.  Web platforms: HTML5 and Flash are preferred, but ease of use and flexibility of the tool are a bigger issue.

What’s out there that I could put this money towards? What would you use or license?  Would you save the money, and get something slightly more expensive later?

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