You may know that I got into game development a couple of years ago. Since then, I've noticed that those who are new to game development have troubles choosing what game engine to use. I plan on continuing a series of articles related to game making tools, to give a broad idea of what tools are out there. Keep in mind these are not actual reviews (just overviews), and that I will not go deep into all the different engines because that would require deeper knowledge of the different tools.
This time I will give you an overview of GameMaker, by YoYo games. GameMaker is basically a 2D engine, and, unlike UDK, it’s not really designed for specific game types or genres (for example, UDK is mostly optimized for first person games, although you can do any kind of game with it).
GameMaker aims to be very user-friendly and flexible, even for non-programmers, because you can use and combine different behaviors or actions to add functionality to your characters, environments, or pretty much any object. All actions are associated to a specific event, and they can be executed one after another. You can also create blocks of actions that are executed if certain conditions are met.
There are a wide variety of actions ready to be used, meaning you can create simple games without writing a single line of code. This doesn’t mean these actions are a complete solution, though. As your projects become more complex, you will certainly need to code your own functions.
Asset management in GameMaker is very convenient, although it can improve. The interface presents a pane on one side, where you can find sprites, sounds, animations, and any other asset used in your current project (game). The different categories are presented in a tree view, and every time you create a specific asset type, it’s added to the corresponding category. In essence, you can only import image and audio files, but these can be used to create specific asset types. For example, images can be used to create an animated sequence, a character, a background, etc. Keeping track of all the different assets can be difficult as the projects get bigger, so it’s unfortunate this asset manager doesn’t include a way to find assets (like a search box that’s so common in media production applications, like After Effects).
GameMaker also includes a sprite editor. As I stated before, you can import images into GameMaker and use them for characters, objects or environments. However, you can also create your own images using this editor. The sprite editor is very basic, so it’s not really a replacement for Photoshop, or any other real image editor.
The people at YoYo Games have aimed to create a multiplatform solution with GameMaker. There are different editions to the software, from a free edition to a Master edition that allows you to compile games for PC, Mac, HTML5, iOS, Windows Phone and Android. I can’t really tell how the mobile compilers work, because I used the free version of the software (it only compiles for PC and Mac). You should keep in mind making mobile ports of your PC games is never a simple “click to compile” process (even if the developers say it is), simply because designing games for PC and mobile are two very different things (due to input methods, screen sizes and resolutions, etc.). Still, it’s good to know the same tool can be used to develop the same game for multiple platforms.
If you’d like to experiment with 2D game development, GameMaker is a very good place to start. The software is easy to understand, and ships with a few tutorials to get you started. Also, as you make more complex games, you can find useful resources most of the time, which is a very good thing. Remember that GameMaker is free to try, so if you want to see for yourself what it is capable of, just visit their website and download the free edition.
Also check out Sergio's Game Development Tools: UDK
Sergio Aris Rosa [nemirc], is Sr. Staff Writer for the Renderosity Front Page News. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields. You can follow him on Twitter, and if you want to see what he's up to you can visit his blog.
June 24, 2013
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