Game development basics

There are three basic components of your development environment that you must decide on before you start developing an Android game. These include:

  • Game engines
  • Integrated development environments (IDEs)
  • Graphics APIs

Develop with game engines

A game engine is a software framework that includes a set of libraries and tools for game development. Using a game engine lets you focus on game content and optimization, while easily implementing things like:

  • Graphics
  • Animation
  • Sound
  • Game loops
  • Input device support

Game engines usually include an IDE and other tools for configuring features, designing, developing, compiling, and exporting your game to Android and other platforms.

To work with a game engine, you can choose from among the following approaches:

  • Use an unmodified game engine (recommended)
  • Customize an existing game engine
  • Develop a new game engine

Working with an unmodified game engine is the simplest approach to developing Android games. To do so, you must choose a game engine that meets Android development requirements.

Game engines you can use without modification

Here are some existing game engines that support Android development:

  • Unity: commercial; uses the C# programming language.
  • Godot: open source; supports multiple programming languages including GDScript, C#, and C++.
  • Defold: open source; uses the Lua programming language.
  • Unreal: commercial; uses the Blueprint visual scripting system and C++. (Specializes in high-end 3D graphics)

For information about setting up and working with these engines, see Using a game engine on Android.

Develop with IDEs

The IDE you use to develop Android games depends on the game engine you use and your workflow. The most common game engines include a game editor for design and code editing, which game developers typically use along with Android Studio.

Game editors

A game editor often tightly integrates game design features with code editing. In some cases these editors help designers complete development tasks without writing code.

If you are developing your first Android game, the simplest and best option is to use a game editor along with Android Studio, because game editors:

  • Provide UI and a toolset focused on game design.
  • Integrate asset design and code editing tasks.
  • Focus on the supported programming language.
  • Include modeling and rendering tools.

Android Studio

Android Studio is the official IDE for developing Android apps. You should install it along with any other IDEs that you plan to use. With Android Studio, you can:

  • Debug code written in C/C++, Java, or Kotlin.
  • Manage the Android SDK, which you must use to build Android games.
  • Build, test, profile, and optimize games.
  • Edit C/C++ code using the Android NDK.
  • Configure app packages and Google Play settings.

For more information, see Android Studio.

Visual Studio

If you're developing your game on Windows using Visual Studio, you can add Android as a target using the Android Game Development Extension (AGDE) for Visual Studio. This option for advanced game developers targets games that are already in development using a Visual C++ project. You can use AGDE to do the following:

  • Use an existing Visual C++ project to create an Android game.
  • Debug and profile your game using Visual Studio.
  • Use distributed build systems such as Incredibuild or SN-DBS.

For more information, see AGDE.

Develop with Graphics APIs

To achieve the best 2D and 3D graphics performance, your Android game must use a low-level graphics API to communicate with a GPU. The most widely supported options for Android game development are:

  • OpenGL ES
  • Vulkan

OpenGL ES or Vulkan are required to use the Android Games Development Kit (AGDK) to develop a game in C or C++. They are the only two graphics APIs supported by the Android GPU Inspector (AGI) graphics profiling tool.

For information about the Android GPU Inspector, see AGI.