In the last few years I’ve dabbled in several different game engines. I’ve also tried my hand at writing my own game engine in C++ (educational but not exactly efficient). Of the engines I’ve tried, four in particular stand out as products I’d recommend trying; Unity, Unreal Engine, Construct 2, and Game Maker Studio. Each one has different strengths and weaknesses, but for right now, I’ve decided that the right tool for me personally is Game Maker Studio. With that said, I’d like to present some of the reasons that have swayed me that way. Maybe they’ll help you in your decision-making process.
- It’s simple – yet advanced.
One of the things that I really liked about Construct 2 was its drag-and-drop visual coding style. In case you’ve never used that tool, here’s how it works: You write zero actual code. Instead, you drag events and actions onto what they call an event sheet and you program the logic of the game that way. This tool is perfect for anyone who hasn’t yet learned to code but wants to get into that. For me however, I found this system to be lacking very quickly. As someone who does know how to code, I wanted to be able to see the lines of code and tweak them.
Enter Game Maker Studio. This tool allows you similar drag-and-drop functionality like Construct 2 while still allowing you to write code instead of (or in addition to) dragging and dropping. This makes it really easy for the student to move from drag-and-drop logic to actual code. Since those methods can be mixed and matched it makes that transition even simpler. In spots where you understand code, write it. If a problem seems easy via drag-and-drop but you can’t understand the code, just use that method. Its got something for everyone.
- It’s a legitimate game engine.
Game Maker Studio has been used to make some really top-notch games in the last few years. Among the list of games made using the engine are Hotline Miami, Risk of Rain, Spelunky, Gunpoint, Fenix Rage, and Nidhogg. That’s a pretty impressive list of games right there. Many game engines feel…cheap, as though they are just learning tools and that nothing of true value could be made using them. Game Maker Studio proves that just because an engine is simple to learn doesn’t mean it can’t be powerful too.
- It’s cheap.
You can make a Windows game in Game Maker Studio for the low, low price of zero. The caveat there is that the game’s executable will include a “Made With Game Maker Studio” splash screen. I’m also not sure about the legality of releasing a game using the free version. Never fear though, because the professional version is a mere $50. So, for a whopping $50 you can create a professional quality game that can be put up on Steam Greenlight, Desura, GoG, Green Man Gaming, etc. In addition, as far as I can tell the free version gives you access to Game Maker Studio’s entire suite of tools. So you can make your game from start to finish without sacrificing any features that the engine won’t allow you to use and then if the game seems good, you can pay the $50 to remove the splash screen and start making some cash.
- Its export options are very robust.
Game Maker Studio allows you to output your games not only in Windows format but also for Linux, Mac, iOS, Android, Xbox, Playstation, and more. Now, I have a confession to make here: each one of those export types is a separate “module” that must be purchased individually, and some of them aren’t cheap. The Mac OSX export is $99.99 while the Xbox and Playstation exports are $299.99 each. Here’s the thing though: I’m kind of okay with that because for the $50 I can make my game and get it up on several digital PC stores. If the game manages to get a little press and take off from there, then I can decide what other platforms might be worthwhile. In addition, if I’m targeting mobile devices, I still only need to buy a maximum of two export modules right off the bat. In addition to all of that, these modules don’t need to be purchased on a per-game basis. Once you buy them, you own them. So if you make a simple PC game and it makes a couple thousand dollars, you can buy some (or all) of the modules and re-use them for every project you make after that. One other thing too, they offer a “Master Collection” which gives you access to all of the export modules for $799. If your game did really well on PC and you wanted to port it everywhere, that is a huge savings compared to buying all the modules separately. It’s not the cheapest solution overall but what it does do is give developers freedom to create games with little hassle and then decide later how much to invest in the tool. I prefer this over having to spend over $200 for a tool right off the bat not knowing whether or not I’ll ever actually make anything of value using it.
- It has a great community.
Like any engine, Game Maker Studio can feel daunting at first. There is a lot to learn, and even if you’re familiar with another tool this one will undoubtedly structure things differently. Luckily the community that uses Game Maker Studio feels active and helpful. I’ve yet to find a single problem that I couldn’t solve using Google, and each time the results seemed to send me to the product’s forums where someone had already asked my exact question and gotten a clear and concise answer. I know that Game Maker Studio isn’t the only tool that has a good community, so it’s not a standout in that sense, but I’ve also used products that don’t have a great community and those stand out for all the wrong reasons. It’s very important when choosing a tool to know that you’ll be able to find the answers to your questions easily and GM:S definitely provides that.