This section has mentioned Game Maker in the past, but if you’re still not entirely comfortable with getting your hands dirty, then maybe it’s time for a crash course. Here you’ll create your first Game Maker project, from download to executable, after only 500 words.

To start with, grab a copy of the tool from YoYo Games and install it. Skip registration for now.

You’ll be presented with a blank workspace – look for the red Pacman symbol in the icon bar and click on it to create your first sprite. This will be the “skin” for our main character object: give it an appropriate name (“GoodGuy_s”, perhaps), go to “Edit Sprite”, double-click on the green square and draw something in the default space (leave the bottom-left pixel, that’s your transparency colour!). When finished, close the GoodGuy sprite window and repeat the above to create a Pickup sprite (maybe a coin).

Next phase: create objects to attach our “skins” to! Click on the blue circle near the top panel’s sprite icon. On the left of the resulting window are your object name and sprite. Change the name to something appropriate, and change the sprite to the one you made earlier. Create your Pickup object in the same way. When that’s done, return to GoodGuy (if you’ve closed it already, you can still see it listed on the far left). Now we make stuff happen.

Recipe for a bare-bones GM experience: 2 sprites, 2 objects, 3 events and 1 room. That and love, of course.

Recipe for a bare-bones GM experience: 2 sprites, 2 objects, 3 events and 1 room. That and love, of course.

There are two things that we need our game to do: (1) respond to arrow keys, (2) end in victory when we hit the pickup. These actions are considered “game events”, so click on the “Add Event” button, select “Key Press” and choose “<up>”. Then look at the “move” tab on the right, search for the button with eight red arrows on it, and click and DRAG it into the white “actions” area. A new window opens. Select the up arrow and set the speed to 4. Bam! You have your “up” motion sorted out. Repeat the above for the other three main directions.

Now go to the “Add Event” menu again and select “collision”. You’ll be given two options: select the Pickup. Now we determine what happens when the GoodGuy sprite touches the Pickup in the game world! Click on the “main2” tab on the far right, find the red “End Game” icon and drag it into the action box. The game’s action set is now complete.

Close the object window, go to the top row of icons and look for “Create a Room” (right next to the object button). Left click in the room grid that pops up: you’ll automatically put down a copy of your Pickup object (known as instancing). Neato! Look for the white box that contains the current object’s name, then click on it and select the GoodGuy. Place that somewhere else inside the game room. With that, you can press F5 and play your very first Game Maker game! Well done.

Extra links:

Project example (if you get stuck)

Official Game Maker tutorials (the next step)