Game Maker: a tool for anyone

Many people feel intimidated by the idea of developing games. After all, modern AAA titles require years of development with teams of dozens – sometimes even hundreds – of world-class professionals banding together to create something that could be considered “acceptable consumption” by a mainstream audience. And then they often have their work spat right out again because one whiny connoisseur wanted it to be served with fries and ketchup.

This perception of game development, however, is remarkably slanted: most indie developers occupy themselves with much smaller and simpler projects, many of which enjoy a great deal of success without ever having to put the finished product on a store shelf. More importantly, the tools used to create these things don’t need to be horribly complicated: sometimes all it takes is a friendly interface and a flexible system. A system like the one presented by Game Maker.

Once you have the basics down, Game Maker is about as complicated as cabbage soup.

Game Maker is a rapid game development tool first released by Mark Overmars way back in 1999. It began as a simple graphics creation tool, but quickly evolved into a system that allowed even the most hopelessly drool-inclined, dunce cap programmers to create games visually with a drag-and-drop interface.

Game Maker is great because not only does it cater to complete beginners, but actually allows advanced users to create some very impressive products using its built-in script system and its faithful reproduction of real object-oriented programming concepts.

Derek Yu's Spelunky. Expect lots of snakes, spikes and cheesy Indiana Jones references.
Derek Yu's Spelunky. Expect lots of snakes, spikes and cheesy Indiana Jones references.

Recent offerings from Game Maker include Spelunky, a Roguelike cave exploration game made by renowned indie game developer Derek Yu, and Battleships Forever, a freeware RTS that was nominated for an award in the 2008 IGF. These are just two representatives of an entire army of great games built in GM.

Game Maker also has an online portal called YoYo games, which is dedicated to showcasing Game Maker creations and building a community of GM developers. Signing up allows others to play your GM games straight from the Website and receive comments, user ratings and reviews on the game’s page. The community is extremely large and consists of many knowledgeable and passionate individuals who can help out any budding developer.

So, give Game Maker a shot. The download is pretty small and the official website contains a set of tutorials that serve as a brilliant springboard into the system. No matter who you are, you’ll be creating your own awesome projects in no time. Ketchup and fries included.

If you have any further queries about Game Maker – or simply want to get in touch with a local community of developers – sign up at the Game.Dev forums and ask around. Beginners are always welcome.