What Is GameMaker: Studio? - dummies

By Michael Rohde

GameMaker: Studio software, from YoYo Games, is a game development tool that enables you to make video games. At the Game Developers Conference (GDC), some key players from YoYo Games displayed firsthand the level of excitement this team from Dundee, Scotland has.

It’s as if each of them embodied the spirit of a magical dragon, circling high overhead a misty mountaintop, ready to breathe down green flames of magical energy to level up all game developers with enhanced game-making attributes.

All game developers can benefit from GameMaker: Studio. Whether you’re a professional developer looking to enter the videogame community, or a university student interested in breaking into the videogame field, or a 10-year-old with no coding experience at all, GameMaker: Studio has the tools you need to make your vision a reality.

Drag and drop your way to making a game

You can make games with GameMaker: Studio without knowing code! That’s because GameMaker uses the drag-and-drop Actions. You use Actions to tell GameMaker how, what, when, and where you want something to happen during your game.

When you create an Action, GameMaker creates the code for you in the background. For example, say you create an Action so that when the player presses the spacebar, she shoots bullets from her plane.

When you make that Action, GameMaker creates the code that causes the plane to shoot a bullet when the player presses the spacebar. In that way, using the drag-and-drop Actions enables the non-developer to develop code.

The drag-and-drop Actions are also good for developers who do know how to code but want a quick and efficient way to write large blocks of code.

For example, a developer could sit down and write out the code by hand, which can be timely and can lead to typos and errors. Or, she can use the drag-and-drop Actions to create those same blocks of code, which can take seconds instead of hours.

Use code for your games if you want

The drag-and-drop Actions provide a quick and easy way to create code. But you should start your game-making adventure with an open mind for learning how to code because, ultimately, it will benefit you and your games. Plus, by learning code, you gain a better appreciation for how the Actions work.

Good game makers might not be developers, but they’re familiar enough with code that they can tweak existing code. Having this level of familiarity with how code works give you some background knowledge on what you’re doing when you drag and drop an Action.

If you’re a professional developer, and you want to write specific code for your own specific means, then GameMaker: Studio features a code-editing tool that most professional game developers should appreciate.

Publish games to different platforms

As of now, you can install GameMaker: Studio on a PC or on a Mac with a Windows emulator, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck making only games for Windows. Oh no, that’s far from the truth. When you’re ready to invest in the Professional or Master Collection version of GameMaker: Studio, you open yourself up to a world of platforms on which you can publish your game.

This figure shows the drop-down list showing the different platforms to which you can target your game.

You have lots of options for where to publish your game.
You have lots of options for where to publish your game.

If you don’t see your favorite platform on this list, it’s probably just a matter of time before it appears.

Some key features of GameMaker: Studio

GameMaker: Studio is so feature-rich, with such a multitude of tools, that ten books could be written on the subject!

For beginners, you can learn what an Object is, and how Objects relate to Instances, and how you can assign Events and Actions to Objects to make them do things, like create a flower blossoming into a beautiful display of color, and then have the player blow it all up. You know, fun stuff like that.

The interface for GameMaker: Studio is based on a series of windows. When you first open the software, you see a New Project window, from which you can do several things, such as open a tutorial, a demo, or a saved project, or start an entirely new project. When you start working on a project, the main window appears with a Resource tree, main menu, icon menu, and compile window.

Another critical feature of GameMaker: Studio is the robust coding window, complete with color coding to highlight text. YoYo Games is planning an upgrade to this code window so that it supports tabs. This feature might not available at the present.