Game Maker is game creation software that lets you make 2D games with ease. It’s one of the “industry standard” tools out there for hobbyist game making because it has a free and a paid Mac and PC version, great resources for learning to use it, and a thriving community. Some advanced developers may get frustrated with what it can’t do, but there are more and more people making professional games with it every week.
With Game Maker, you can manage assets – game graphics, sound effects, music, backgrounds, etc – and define complex behaviors for your game objects without using any code. It also features a built-in level editor for arranging those objects into various levels. While the drag-and-drop interface lets you skip actual coding, it still follows important programming principles and logic. You’ll find yourself learning important concepts such as if/then statements, loops, and instances. For those who want to create more advanced and even professional games, there is an extensive scripting language with over 1,000 built-in functions that are very useful for creating all kinds of games. If that’s still not enough, professional programmers can also use Dynamic-Link Libraries (DLLs) to extend Game Maker’s abilities.
Who is it for?
Game Maker is for everyone from aspiring programmers looking to learn scripting to professional designers looking for a rapid prototyping solution. Make no mistake – there is a learning curve if you intend to download it and dive in. Give yourself a few hours to really get started … but there are many resources to help you over the hurdles. There is a fantastic, helpful, and very active Game Maker community over at gmc.yoyogames.com. If you’re stuck on something and can’t figure it out, that’s the place to go. The best offline resource in our opinion is The Game Maker’s Apprentice, which was written in part by the creator of the software, Mark Overmars. Without ever going into programming, you can whip up a game in a few hours! For those who want to learn programming, Game Maker is a great platform for making the transition from concepts to writing actual code.
For professional programmers and small development teams, it offers a suite of tools and built-in functions to aid the creation of your masterpiece. All versions of Game Maker can export a standalone executable (meaning you can double-click it on your desktop and play), but if you want to make a commercial product and get rid of the Game Maker logo on the loading screen, you’ll need the Pro version. Creators retain full rights of their creations, which means you own what you make.
Where can I find it?
The company’s website, YoYoGames.com, offers a free download for the Lite version, which has everything you’ll need. When you find yourself needing some of the more advanced features found in the Standard version, upgrading is really easy and only $30. Game Maker 8 is available on PC and Game Maker 7 is available on Mac – also in Lite/Standard versions.
Who made it?
Mark Overmars created and developed Game Maker and now it is run by Yo Yo Games LTD, but Mark is still very involved with the ongoing development.
- All-around fantastic 2D game creation suite, with some 3D ability
- Still very actively developed, new versions and updates are frequent
- Ideal for beginners and professionals alike
- Infinitely expandable with scripts and libraries
- An active user community that is very generous with advice, help, and resources
- Only makes PC or Mac games (YoYo Games publishes some popular GM games to other platforms such as iOS).
- The Mac version is one behind the PC version, making cross-platform development harder.
- There is some learning curve. Even for seasoned game programmers, an hour or so of tutorials is required to learn Game Maker’s quirks and interface. For newbies that’s at least a few hours.