Posted by Rampant Coyote on August 7, 2014
PC Gamer’s recent article, “No coding required: How new designers are using GameMaker to create indie smash hits” was pretty enjoyable and seemed reasonably accurate – even if its headline is a bit misleading. Part of the reason I picked up GameMaker several months ago and wrote a little arcade game in it was because I’ve been recommending it to wannabe game developers for a while… and thought I should actually get some first-hand experience if I was to keep doing that.
And yeah, I’ll keep doing that. While I don’t see it in my future as my development platform of choice, I came away reasonably impressed. With GameMaker, and a few of the many, many tutorials available online, it’s a pretty awesome way for a person with dreams but little experience to get their feet wet in the game development world.
But that has always been the case. If anything, I’d say it’s a little harder to use now than when I first encountered it many years ago. Originally it was intended more as a learning tool, but YoYo Games has made it more of a professional tool with each iteration. At least based on my dim recollection circa 2006 or so, it seems like the software has gotten a lot more powerful at the cost of some user (especially newbie) friendliness. That’s to be expected – if nothing else, it’s a major chore to keep things even close. I think the tool deserves praise for retaining it’s ease-of-use for new developers.
For a new developer who is doing a genre-specific title, like a 16-bit style console RPG, I might recommend a more specific tool, like RPG Maker, AGS, etc. If you aren’t deviating much from the formula, these kinds of tools might offer something close to the “minimal code” ideal. The tools offer a great deal of power and (relative) ease-of-use at the expense of flexibility.
That’s really the trade-off. Based on my own limited experience and comments from others, GameMaker has achieved a pretty good balance, probably still erring on the side of catering to inexperienced developers. It has good support, an active community (for getting help or answers when needed), a decent feature set for making 2D games, and is still (relatively) easy to learn. That’s awesome.
It’s also good to see that plenty of indie developers are making popular, successful games with it. In the final analysis, that’s really all that matters: How much did it help you make your game, and how did it help you make it successful? That means different things to different developers. But if the tool solves your problems, is comfortable to work with, and is capable of handling the kind of game you have in mind, it’s pretty golden. For the brave new indie world littered with 2D and “retro” titles, it seems like a pretty hard-to-beat tool.
So, yeah. I still recommend it. But it’s still not my engine of choice.
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