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If you have a passion for video games and you already know you want a future job in the game design industry, right now is the best time to start developing your skills and getting some experience. If you’re not yet in a position to take college level courses in programming or design, one of the best things you can do is start working with game design software at home. Here are three titles you can start with – all of them free.

1. Crystal Space – 3D Game Design Engine

This open source game engine is an excellent way to get your feet wet if you’re interested in multi-platform game development. Since it allows you to develop games using the C++ programming language, it is an an excellent design software title to start with. Besides allowing you to gain first hand experience in 3D visualization, Crystal Space will also help you develop your keyframe and skeletal frame game animation design skills too.

Since there are versions to download for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, anyone aspiring to get into the game design industry can gain a lot of experience by working with this on their home computer first. There is also a large support community online that can answer your questions and help you learn and develop your design skills with this title.

2. Cube – First Person Shooter Game Design Software

If you’re not quite up to programming in C++ yet, but still want to get a feel for game design, you should certainly download and try working with Cube. This is a first person shooter (FPS) game and game engine that is open source. If you enjoy titles like Quake and Doom, this engine will allow you to create your own game with similar action and physics.

With this software, you can design your own FPS game world and learn to work with basic game design features such as lighting, textures, and other graphics. You’ll also learn to program collision detection and other physics necessary to create realistic weapon functions. To top it off, the game you design can be programmed for single player and multiplayer modes. Again, this title is perfect for starting out in game design as it can be downloaded and run from a Windows PC, a Linux machine or a Mac.

3. DimensioneX – MMORPG Game Design Engine

With the popularity of massively multi-player online role playing games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft, you’ll probably want to get some experience with designing these types of games as well. If so, you should download and spend some time with DimensioneX. While most of the design software for MMORPGs is quite expensive, this title, like the ones above, is open source and free.

DimensioneX will allow you to develop multi-player games that run on a Java servlet and use a scripting code similar to BASIC. This means that not only is the programming language easy to master, but after you create the game, you can easily upload it to a webserver and others can play it with you online. Although you can’t create massive in-depth worlds with it, it will at least allow you to learn and work with important MMORPG game design concepts including maps, player communications, sounds and more.