When to Take the Hard Route
There are some times when you want to do it all yourself.
If your goal is to learn about a particular aspect of game development and develop your skills, then consider diving in much deeper. If you want to major in computer science and become an engine or graphics developer, then it's worth you spending the time to build your own rendering engine and ray tracer. You'll get into the science and techniques of how that aspect of games work, and over time develop expertise. Then when you go to apply for jobs, you can talk to them about that experience. You could get your assets or art from somewhere else, but you handle the rendering.
If you want to become an audio engineer, making music and sound effects for games, then it's worth making your own music and sounds for your game. But you might never be interested in becoming a gameplay programmer, so you could use Game Maker to take care of that.
For each of these, notice how the aspect of the game that is being focused on is strategic. You aren't just saying "WELL I GUESS I'LL JUST MAKE EVERYTHING AND WORK ON MY GAME FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS AS A RESULT". You are strategically picking what you want to learn, and then targeting on that, while making the other aspects easy on yourself.
Some Great Resources
All that being said, here are some great resources for you to use:
Game Maker - Great engine for 2D games for Windows
Unity - Quickly becoming the most popular engine not just for 3D games, but for everything
Open Game Art - A full site with thousands of free assets for you to play with. Be sure to include attribution
Newgrounds Audio - Lots of good music and SFX resources here
dig cc mixter - Another good resource for creative commons music and sounds
One of the best things that you can do when you are working on your game is to be purposeful. Ask yourself, what is the purpose of me doing this? What is the purpose of me using this engine or coding my own enginer? What is the purpose of me making my own music versus using free music that's already out there? Do I want to learn? Do I want to get this done as quickly as possible?
As you start to grow as a game developer, then you'll start to become naturally more aligned with the own purposes you have. The key is to just start asking yourself the right questions.
[Brice Morrison is a Lead Game Designer and Editor of The Game Prodigy a site for building your game career. Visit for more strategies on how to become a pro game developer.]