The Dream Engine. I want to make tiny games.
I am not much of a programmer, but I do enjoy making games. However, I feel like I don't have the time to learn a "big boy" engine and make it do what I want (tried in the past, issues were had) and definitely lack the skills to write my own engine from scratch. Because of that, for some time now I am on the hunt for an engine or framework built for making tiny pixel art games with a retro feel.
What I mean by that, is an engine or framework that lets me manipulate pixels in a similar manner like old consoles and micros did: palette swapping, accessing/changing pixel data (and screen) at runtime, drawing directly to screen, etc. Basically I am looking for something like PICO-8, sans the restrictions. In a perfect world, it could also export to both HTML5 and native apps and let me code in something relatively simple... will make a proper list of my dream features later.
The plan is to find (and they tend to be hard to find) bunch of engines, check them out and try to make a tiny game in my favorite this winter.
Currently considered #
micro Studio - I just discovered it today, haven't had time to check it out yet. Definitely could become a contender. Still missing some features (sound/music), but is under active development. Really like the lua-like script (although would prefer a pure lua, I really like lua's tables). Not sure if it can be used offline. Will come back with my findings
Bitmelo - my current favorite. It is still early in its development, but already does most of what I need. Everything is done in the editor/IDE. You code in js, currently everything has to exist in a single file, which is not too bad for my needs.
Pyxel - a really strong contender. It started as Yet-Another-Fantasy-Console-Clone, but has turned into more of a Python framework for low-rez pixel games (with an odd hybrid ide). What currently holds it back is lack of good documentation and no html export (currently only exports to .py file or a native app). The html export is planned, so I will be checking back on it.
TileEngine - this looks like a really good framework designed for exactly what I was looking for, but I don't currently have setup for writing in C (and honestly, never did before, C is still a bit scary) and the documentation is missing stuff (e.g it mentions tilesheets and tilemaps as specific resources with a dedicated format, but they are not explained in API). Still something to keep tabs on.
PixelBox js - lastly, the framework/IDE that lead me on this quest. PixelBox is a really good start, but right now it feels just a bit too unpolished to use (I have run into some annoying (but not breaking) bugs). It is missing some the stuff I am looking for and the documentation is not quite there. If the dev continues with development it might be THE framework to use, but right now, I am feeling like I am too often fighting the engine.
Honorary mentions go to tools for making games for actual retro machines: NESmaker, gbStudio and Multi-Platform Arcade Game Designer - they make gamedev for the retro systems much easier, but they are limiting in what you can do.
And of course ALL the fantasy consoles!