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6. December 2017


GameMaker is a seminal game engine, with roots dating back to the late 1990s.  It is a cross platform 2D game engine with tools that run on Windows and Mac machines while capable of targeting both desktop operating systems as well as Ubuntu Linux, Android, iOS, UWP, HTML5, XBox One and PlayStation 4 consoles.  GameMaker is commercial software with a free trial available, we will discuss pricing shortly. 

The closer look series is a combination of overview, review and getting started tutorial aimed at helping you decide if a given engine is the right choice for you.  As always, there is an HD video version available here and embedded below.

Let’s jump right in with GameMaker Studio 2!


The Tools

GameMaker Studio is an all in one integrated environment for creating games.  It includes everything you need in a single application with a tabbed working environment and a unique virtual desktop style approach supporting multiple editing windows at once.  The all in one all tools at hand nature of GameMaker is probably one of it’s greatest selling points.


The Main Interface

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Side and bottom panels can be collapsed down to give more room:

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The primary work area is tabbed, supporting multiple open views at once:

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As mentioned earlier, GMS has a workspace setup that enables you to work with and pan between multiple editors at once, like a giant virtual desktop.

GMSDesktop


The resource panel is commonly used across the various editors and contains the various assets that make up your game.  You can also drag and drop assets onto this window to import them for use in your game.  For example, dropping in an image file will create a new Sprite entity for you.

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You can also create new entities via the dynamic right click menu.  For example, right clicking the Tile Sets area will bring up this menu:

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The Room Editor

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This is your traditional level editor, where you can create various layers of entities that compose your game level.  A top left you have the layers controls, enabling you to create/delete/hide the various layers that make up your game.  Layers can be composed of instances (objects), backgrounds, tile maps and paths.  The editors below the layer controls change dynamically based on what kind of layer is selected.


Selecting a tile layer brings up the tile map editing tools, including a palette of tiles you can paint with.

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GMS even has support for auto tiling, if your tileset is compatible.


The Sprite Editor

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This editor enables you to define how a sprite is imported, the various frames of animation if any as well as a preview of the sprite or animation.  Additionally, clicking Edit Image brings up a full blown image editor within GameMaker.

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This is a full blown sprite editing package with a variety of brushes available, full layer support, the ability to paint across frames, several tools such as text tools, polygon tools, a magic wand selection tool, mirroring tools and more.  Pretty much all the functionality you would expect for creating or editing sprites is available directly in GMS.


Sound Editor

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You also have control over sound effect details via the sound editor/mixer.  Supported audio files include wav, mp3, wma and ogg.


Tileset Editor

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As mentioned earlier, the room editor has full support for tileset layers.  There is an editor for defining tilesets as well as defining auto tiling support.  There are also editors for defining tile animations and creating predefined tile brushes.


Path Editor

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This editor is used to define paths, either straight line or curves.  Often used for AI paths, the generated paths can be used and editing directly in the room editor.


Script Editor

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This is the built in editor for developing games using GameMaker Script.  It has syntax highlight, code suggestions and a selection of other features.

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The code editor is also used for shaders.


Drag and Drop Editor

In addition to GMS scripting, GameMaker also provides a drag and drop programming option.

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You can use drag and drop from the toolbox to script your programs behaviour.  We will cover both programming options in more detail shortly.


Font Editor

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Enables you to import and preview fonts for use in your game.  Fonts can be in either true type or open font formats.


Object Editor

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The Object Editor is where you will start to tie your various resources together.  For example, your main character will be an object that connects to a sprite, while handling various different events.  Objects are created in the Object Layers in the room editor and generally represent the entities that make up your world.  We will look at objects in a bit more detail later.


Programming In GameMaker

You may be wondering at this point how exactly you implement gameplay logic in your GameMaker game?  Essentially you attach logic to objects in the game world.  When you edit an object you will notice there is an Events option.

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Click the Add Event button and you will see the various events you can respond to in your game:

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These are called at various points by the game engine and are analogous to the game loop in other engines.  Step is called once per pass through the game loop and is most commonly where you will handle update logic.  There are also events for when the object is created, destroyed, etc… as well as various options for responding directly to events such as collisions, touches, etc.


You can also wire up code to be called when a Room is created, via the Creation Code button:

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Next it’s a matter of deciding HOW you want to program in GameMaker, via Drag and Drop as well as directly using GameMaker scripting.


Scripting

Scripting is done using Game Maker Language, or GML, which is a C like scripting language.  The syntax is fairly simple and if you’ve had any prior C, Python, C++ or similar language experience, picking the language up should be fairly simple.  There are built in methods for most functions you would want to perform such as graphics drawing, audio code, networking, platform specific tasks like in app purchases etc.  There are also built in data types such as Stacks, Lists, Maps and Queues.  Actually teaching GML is beyond the scope of this document but you can access the language reference here.

If functionality is lacking it may be available on the GameMaker Market Place or you can add it yourself by creating a native extension.  You can add new functions to GML in this manner.


Drag And Drop

Programming via drag and drop in GameMaker is your other option and is a great choice for people that just want to jump in and figure things out on their own.  Don't worry too much about performance as the DnD code is ultimately generating GML script so performance should be roughly the same.  In fact, you can switch freely between the two programming methods at will within the same project or call GML directly in your DnD script.

Creating scripts in DnD is as simple as dragging in predefined functions to create a flow chart of sorts that occurs top down, like so:

GMLDnD

Once again, you can freely switch between the two methods.  Additionally, in any script your can right click and select Convert To Drag and Drop.  A reference of all the drag and drop tiles is available here.


The Price

GameMaker is commercial software, so that means there is a price tag attached.  There are multiple versions available for GameMaker as well as addition platforms coming with an additional price tag.  Pricing (as of today, 12/6/17) breaks down as follows:

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In addition to these various different platforms, there is also now a new $39 per year ( most of the above non-console licenses are permanent buy once ) Creator Edition aimed at hobbyist developers.  It is fully featured but requires you to choose Windows or Mac and also requires your game display a splash screen.  There is also a heavily limited free trail available.  For more information on pricing or to download the trial visit here.


Community and Documentation

As you might expect for such a long lived game engine, there is also a very well established community.  The forums are available here.  With almost 20K registered users and 230K posts, the forums are quite active and contain a wealth of knowledge, although much of it is for earlier 1.x versions.  Questions seem to be answered fairly quickly.  In addition to the forums there is also the YoYoGames help desk containing several guides and how-tos.

There is also a fairly comprehensive GameMaker Studio manual available online which can be opened directly within Studio.

Additionally, there are several books available for GameMaker Studio such as:


In addition there are several tutorials and start kits available on the online marketplace, which we will talk about…


Online Marketplace

Quickly becoming the must have feature of modern game engines, GameMaker has an online store available, containing free and commercial assets including demos, scripts, sprites, shaders, extensions and more.

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You do not need to have GameMaker Studio installed to access the marketplace, you can browse it in your browser here.


Conclusion


At the end of the day, GameMaker Studio faces a challenging new world as it is facing increasing competition from free and free to start game engines.  Is it worth it?  That is impossible for me to answer, as value is very subjective.  Game Maker is certainly a very complete 2D engine with a vibrant community and tons of resources.  Compared to the previous versions, the 2.x editor contains a great deal more polish and most every tool you would need is included out of the box.   Game Maker has certainly proven itself a production capable engine, having powered such titles as Hotline Miami, Undertale and Spelunky, all titles that have seen commercial success.

A proven catalog of game is always a strong selling point.

Personally, if you are working on a 2D title using Windows or Mac, Game Maker is certainly worth considering.  Do keep in mind however that as you add more platforms, you also add more cost.  In many cases though, this means you are ready to commercialize your title, so hopefully cost isn't as much of a concern.  I do think however they are making a mistake in charging for the Creator Edition.  Personally I would do away with the trial completely, make Creator free and charge people to deploy to additional platforms.  If this was the case it would be a great deal easier for me to recommend you check out GameMaker yourself.  Without a free option, its hard to recommend in the face of so many free/free to start options out there.  The engine is great, productive, proven and easy to learn… just saddled with a bit of a dinosaur business model.


The Video

Programming, General, Design , , ,

23. November 2017


For the past several years on Black Friday I have tracked the best deals of interest to game developers (artists, programmers, musicians and designers) from around the web.  This year of course is no exception!  The following are the deals I could find that would be on interest in the world of game development.  If you find something I haven’t listed, be sure to mention it in the comments below!

This list will be updated as I find more deals so be sure to check back often.


Amazon


Steam


Unity


Unreal Engine

    • Cyber Monday For Sale – Stay tuned

Misc

3D Coat

Adobe

Allegorithmic

  • Sale starting at 3PM EST 11/23

APress

Autodesk

CGTrader

Daz3D

Dell

HackingWithSwift

Marmoset

Microsoft Store

Packt

PluralSight

Quixel

Smith Micro

TurboSquid

Udemy

General ,

27. September 2017


Aseprite, a pixel based drawing and animation app, just released version 1.2.  New features include pixel aspect ratios, gradients, reference layers and more.  There were also several bug fixes and improvements.


From the release blog post:


Aseprite v1.2 is finally the new stable version (*). If you were already using the beta version, you will not notice substantial changes. But if you were using Aseprite v1.1.13, there are a lot of new features for you (like pixel aspect ratio, layer groups, overlapping frame tags, gradients, reference layers, etc.)

This is a list of the changes from v1.2-beta12 to the final v1.2:

  • Added new Addition, Subtract, Divide blending modes
  • Added support to change theme and UI scaling without restarting (#471)
  • Disable transformation handles in the selection when a Shift or Shift+Alt are pressed by default (reported here)
  • Fixed high CPU usage on Timeline when we copy layers/frames/cels (bug report)
  • Fixed snap to grid bug with selection tool
  • Fixed crash closing all files & opening a new one when preview window was playing an animation
  • Windows: New x64 version (included in the installer and on Steam, it’ll install the x64 version on x64 machines)
  • Windows: New --disable-wintab option to avoid loading wintab32.dll
  • Removed Windows XP support (Please contact us in case that you still need a previous version with Windows XP support.)
  • macOS: Use the native macOS menu bar (#135)
  • macOS: Now ⌘M and ⌘H will Minimize and Hide the window respectively. Use Ctrl+M for Color Curves, and Ctrl+H to change View > Show Extras options.
  • macOS: Fixed bug setting broken mouse cursors in some special cases
  • macOS: Retina support (#903)
  • Fixed other bugs (including #1569, and #1423 thanks to @cebolan)

Several new features were delayed just to create a more stable v1.2 version. So sorry for everybody that don’t get what they asked for :’( Soon I’ll release the first v1.3-beta1 with some crazy new stuff, so stay tuned.


We took a look at Aseprite in action in this video should you wish to learn more.

GameDev News, Art ,

26. September 2017


Do you find that 8/16-bit games aren’t retro enough?  Yearning for an even earlier art start?  Well then, do I have the perfect software for you!  RexPaint, an ANSI painting package.  So, how exactly does it work?  Well just like any other paint package frankly, except instead of drawing with pixels or voxels, you using ASCII characters.  RexPaint supports many of the features you would expect from a modern art package, multiple drawing tools, palette tools, layer support etc.  The end result can then be exported as a PNG or in several text formats.


To see RexPaint in action, be sure to watch the video below.  Oh, and it’s completely free.

Art ,

19. September 2017


Perhaps the biggest complaint about Blender is the user experience and this argument has some merit.  Once you learn Blender it starts to become somewhat zen to use, but getting there is a painful process.  3+ key hotkeys are rampant to do some of the most common tasks and a few of the design decisions, such as right click selection are just simply bad.  Granted many of these options can be configured away but that again requires a fairly advanced amount of understanding and by that point many new users have already been turned off.


You would think, being an open source project and all, someone would have forked it and made a more accessible version by now?  Well… someone has!  Meet BForArtists (as in Be For Artists), a Blender fork focused on making the user interface more intuitive.  How did they do that? 


Well first is an over all face lift.  Better contrasted theme really does make it easier to distinguish different features and functions.

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You no doubt also noticed the prevelence of icons throughout the interface:

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This cuts down on the amount of scrolling and is useful for people who learn by exploring.  They have also configured toolbars for common tasks:

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And perhaps nicest of all, have camera pre-set controls available as icons instead of just hotkeys:

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On the topic of hotkeys, they have also reconfigured most of them.  One nice option available is the ability to display the most common hotkeys in the background of the window:

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Other new options are the ability to lock and outright hide the 3D cursor… a point of confusion for many new users.  You also have extended control over wireframe display, very useful for modellers.

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Menus have also been greatly streamline:

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While default layouts for common tasks have been added:

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They even have their own manual!  What’s impressive is, at least so far, they’ve kept up with each new release of Blender.  There are of course downsides to learning via BForArtists, a great deal of the tutorials for Blender wont work without translation.  Additionally once mastered, Blenders default user interface can be great.  In my opinion though, BForArtists is a vastly superior experience for new developers and one I recommend to those put off by Blenders user experience in the past.


BForArtists is free and open source available for download here and in source form here.


Art , ,

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