Ten Things for the Game Design/Creation Lovers
Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for bugs and other threats before dumping the programs into your hard drive.
Adventure Games Studio "allows you to create your own point-and-click adventure games, similar to the early 90's Sierra and Lucasarts adventures. It consists of an easy-to-use editor to create your games, and a run-time engine to play them. The game interface is fully customizable, with classic Sierra and Verb Coin templates provided by default. AGS manages most of the game so that you don't have to - it does all the donkey work like load/save game functions, pathfinding and scrolling rooms so that you can concentrate on the parts of your game that make it unique" (OS: Windows 2000, XP or Vista. Designer's note: "The AGS Editor will also run on Windows 98, but some features are not available if you do so. You also need to have the .NET Framework 2.0 (or later) installed in order to run the editor. The installer will tell you if you don't have this and need to download it.")
AutoRealm mapping freeware allows you to design and create "maps of castles, cities, dungeons and more." (OS: Windows)
BYOJeopardy "helps you make custom game boards that you can use in the classroom or play with friends. Features for BYOJeopary include the ability to bold, italicize, and underline text. You can insert symbols° and small images. You can use different fonts or specify the font size. You can use subscript and superscript. You can add media like Quicktime (*.mov) and Windows media player (*.wmf) files to your board" (OS: Windows with the designer's note: "There are TWO versions available: one requires the .NET framework & will NOT run on Win95, the other does not & will run on ALL versions of Windows. Make sure you choose the correct download")
The just-released 0.97.5 version of Construct is "a FREE development studio geared for creating DirectX games and software in a WYSIWYG environment" (OS: Win 2000/XP/Vista)
DimensioneX is an "open source software kit for developing and running multiplayer adventure games" (OS: Any/All)
Golden Realm [not freeware, but for $2.50 it might as well be] is " as user-friendly and anti-programming as possible. A simple understanding of basic GML is suggested but not required. You can do a ton with this engine without any understanding of programming. This is a very easy-to-use Game Maker engine" (OS: not specified)
Jarum Game Creator "allows you to create games and compile them into "exe" files using a simple programming language. Features include a Game Wizard that allows you to create simple games with out having to code them from scratch and a debugger that allows you to find errors in your code quickly and easily. A Sprite Masker that adds a mask to your sprites. A compiler that compiles your games into standalone executable programs. A Help File that includes a list of commands and topics on how to use the game creator." (OS: Windows, Vista)
Official Hamster Republic Role Playing Game Construction Engine is "a free open-source utility that you can use to create your own RPG game in a style similar to the classic Final Fantasy games on the NES, SNES and GBA which have so shaped the RPG genre" (OS: No specific system required, but Has been tested on various Windows and Linux and has a page here with the test results)
Scratch is "a new programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art -- and share your creations on the web. Scratch is designed to help young people (ages 8 and up) develop 21st century learning skills. As they create Scratch projects, young people learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the process of design" (OS: Win 9x/ME/NT/2K/XP/2K3, Mac OSX 10.3 or later)
World Creator allows you to "create your Artwork for Games quickly and easily, specialises in Game Tiles, 2D, Platform, Overhead, Isometric, Pseudo3D, and Animations. The World Creator has a unique Tiling & Masking system with an open ended structure, so you can design and create / use your own Textures and Masks which in turn provides an ever expanding library which can be exchanged between users" (OS: Windows)
Ambrosine.com has a page here with an extensive resource/link list of more sites, freeware, shareware and software to buy for game design and creation for pratically every skill level and operating system.
If you'd like to practice making games online, test drive the free online game maker at Fyrebug.com (also, according to the site, if you register you can create your own images and mp3s for use in games.)
If you need music for your game, you might take a look at the work being done by game music composers over at Sakari Infinity (downloads and uploads are free, but evidently you do have to register first. I don't see any cost involved, but check it out thoroughly before you join.)