Creating Executables for PyGame

Posted by
July 24th, 2012 6:04 pm

I’ve continued working on my prototype games using my overengineered game engine (ffld). In the last few weeks, I’ve started work on improving how I can build interfaces for games, as well as packaging the game into its final form. This post will discuss the latter.

My plan is as follows:

Code all of my project on Linux, using virtualenv and pip to install smaller dependencies

I’m a big fan of using virtualenv and pip to control my dependencies. One really nice thing is that I can keep my various projects and libraries in separate directories, then install them into eachother as necessary without having to move them around. If I install using “python develop”, then I can make changes to one library and have those changes instantly usable for another project (no need to reinstall the library). This means I don’t need to worry about moving directories around, or setting up symlinks, or anything like that. pip also makes it very easy to install a specific version of third-party software from pypi on a per-project basis.

Use two Windows virtualbox machines

To build to Windows, I’ll need one machine to actually perform the build. This machine needs to have all the software that is used to build the game. After the build is complete, it is packaged into a zip file, and I will transfer the zip file to a second Windows machine. This second windows machine has a “clean” build; it has nothing installed on it (no Python, no Pygame, no Microsoft Redistribution Package). Basically, if my build works on that computer, it should work on most computers of the same Windows Version.

I will once again use virtualenv and pip on Windows to handle all the dependencies. Of course, this will need to be a separate folder, but I don’t need to copy any code over since I can still access the code from a shared drive.

Use Pyinstaller

I’ve never had much luck with py2exe, so I tried out Pyinstaller, and it has worked pretty well. (Note: the name “pyinstaller” is actually a bit of a misnomer… it doesn’t actually build an installer; it just builds the exe and data structure needed for the exe to run standalone). I was able to use the default options of the tool to build an .exe with all the dependencies needed (including my custom dependencies like ffld, as well as dependencies that require DLLs like pygame). It even worked with virtualenv-installed dependencies.

The only issue that I had with it was that you needed to run the scripts inside of the pyinstaller directory. I really wanted to run the script from the directory where my virtualenv is. There was additionally a three-step process to create the exe, which I reduced to two (and hope to soon reduce to one). In the end, I wrote a script that wraps around pyinstaller. You can find that script ( on github. Now, I can do the following…

# Create a new 1942 directory. This sets up a new folder with a virtualenv.
# It saves the name of the main script (which pyinstaller needs)
# for later commands.
# This needs to be done once for a project.
python create 1942 E:\games\1942\1942\

# Now I activate the 1942 virtualenv and install dependencies as I need to
# using the windows command line. This needs to be done once, although
# if I later add new dependencies, I need to install the dependencies
# to the virtualenv.

# Finally, build the game!
# This runs pyinstaller’s, and
# scripts. When done, it adds the “data” directory that was found
# for the game to the distribution folder, then zips up the
# distribution folder and plops it out into the current directory.
python build 1942

I try to get any software I write close to a one step build. As Joel Spolsky writes in his post, your entire program should be able to be checked out of source control, compiled and packaged into the final format in exactly one step (typically, clicking or running a build script). Any more steps than that and you will waste time (both in running the steps and making user errors in the process). This is true of any software, but it would seem especially so of Ludum Dare. I don’t mind a few set up steps, so long as after I make that set up, I can rebuild the entire program later with just one command.

Feel free to use the script, although realize that it’s not going to work for you out of the box. I assume that pyinstaller is in a specific location, and that the script being used as the “main” script has a “data” directory next to it that will house all data.

8 Responses to “Creating Executables for PyGame”

  1. kddekadenz says:

    I do only develop games, which runs on Linux :)

  2. kelp says:


    Last Ludum Dare I used cx_freeze to make executables from python as it also support python 3.x. It was actually easier to distibute these exe files than c++ exes from visual studio. It is also fairly easy to make binary linux builds as well.

    Next time I use python for Ludum Dare I will try to make a mac build as well, but I don’t know how hard it is to make an OSX vm. (Or maybe I have to sneakily use my wife’s mac or a mac from work for the mac build)


  3. Emiel,

    Thanks for the comment, I’ll have to take a look at cx_freeze. Although working, I’m still not entirely 100% satisfied with the PyInstaller solution I have created above.

  4. Hegemege says:

    I found a special pygame2exe script which is py2exe but it takes all the pygame stuff needed and bundles them. Worked flawlessly

    I, too, probably need to use someone’s mac or possibly get a vm to build on mac. I heard there is a py2app project as well, does anyone have any experience of it so far?

  5. johnfn says:

    I’ve made executables with pygame for Ludum Dare before. Use py2exe for windows and py2app for osx. AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SPECIFY ALL THE FONTS THAT YOU USE IN YOUR CODE. Pygame implicitly uses a font that py2exe won’t find. You need to be precise about exactly what fonts you’re using. That took me so long to figure out.

    After that, it should work fine.

  6. geekygenius says:

    Thanks! This should be helpful, because I plan on using python to make my games!

  7. How are you getting pygame into your virtualenv? On windows at leas, I can’t get it to install with pip and gathering the dependencies to build from source is enough of a pain that I’ve gone back to trying to use pyinstaller without virtualenv. At the moment I’ve finally got the build scripts running to completion but not properly including pygame.

    The promise of not having to worry about a MS C++ Redistributable is compelling enough for me to be trying to stick with pyinstaller instead of py2exe.

  8. I too haven’t been able to get Pygame in a virtualenv without some trouble, so I just make sure to make the virtualenv with –system-site-packages. Then I apt-get on Linux, or install by the exe on Windows. When you do it this way, you can have Pygame (or any other hard-to-install-into-a-virtualenv-library) out in your system folder, but still keep all the other stuff in the virtualenv.

    Not a perfect solution, but it works well enough for now.

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