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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[coming soon] 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

[Coming Soon]

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 ,

19. July 2017


The following tweet, sparked off a bit of an interesting conversation about game development, game engines, game journalism and it’s affect on end users.

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I understand the perspective Adrian takes and I agree and disagree with him all at once.

First off, the part I agree with.   The end users should not be prejudging, or in this case, outright dismissing games based of the engine they are developed in.  This is like dismissing a film because of the way it was filmed.

However, that same analogy holds true.  Think back to the beginning of the 3D movie craze around the time of Avatar and all the CRAP films that were made because of this focus on 3D.  Dismissing a film because there was a 3D version available was a dumb thing to do... but being wary of it it certainly wasn’t.


This is where I stand on the subject, from a developers perspective.  When it comes to 2D games, I think this is pretty much a moot point.  The game engine is really quite transparent on 2D titles and really it’s the art that sets the tone.  With 3D however, it’s not so simple.  3D game engines certainly put their fingerprint on the games they create and game developers should be very aware of those fingerprints. 

There are two ways a game engine influences the underlying game, design and results.  Let’s quickly talk about both.

Design is when the structure of a game engine influences the structure of the underlying game.  For example Unity by default has a very level oriented work flow, while CryEngine has a very landscape/terrain focused design and both it and Unreal Engine are very 1st/3rd person oriented in their design.  In all cases this can be overcome...  Mortal Kombat is an Unreal Engine game, Cities: SkyLines was made using Unity and Star Citizen was made using CryEngine (now Lumberyard).  In every case though, this took a great deal of effort and wrangling an engine into doing what the engine didn’t want to do.  I remember a great deal of complaints among early Kickstarted CRPG games (like Wastelands 2) about the game engine negatively influencing the end game.

Where it is increasing noticeable though, its in the results (AKA graphics) and this is for a couple of different reasons.  First, when you are dealing with a 3D game, there is a great deal more computation going on behind the scenes than in a 2D title.  You have a 3D renderer, materials system, lighting system, physics system etc.  All of these things are complex and will come with defaults to make a developers life easier.  Thing is, every single time people go with the defaults, it’s a finger print left by the game engine on a game.  You will often see comments like “Unity games are ugly”, where in reality the end user is picking up on the default renderer, lighting, etc.  The other tell tale sign of a game engine is using assets from it’s collective asset store.  An asset store is a potential boon to developers, especially ones with limited resources.  On the other hand, hearing the same jingling, seeing the same model or texture, etc... will rapidly lead users to find the games feeling very “same-y”.  You would be amazed what our subconscious mind picks up, there is a reason we have Deja vu so often, and no... nothing was changed in the Matrix.

Another reason why end users might wish to be aware of what game engines a game was written in comes down to hardware.  Some engines simply run poorly on some hardware or have higher system requirements, etc.  For example, all CryEngine powered games could be customized and tweaked using the same process and could be expected to run similarly.  This is a very valid reason for consumers to be aware of what engine a game was written in.

Finally, some readers, even less technically inclined readers may in fact want a peek behind the curtain.  I certainly know I eat this kind of stuff up.


So, should journalists stop talking about what game engine a certain game is made with?  Certainly not.  Don’t focus on it, or condemn because of engine used, but discuss it?  For sure!

At the same time any gamer that’s dismissing games outright due to the engine they are created with are doing themselves and the games in question a massive disservice.  Finally, I don’t think game developers should be overly concerned which game engine they go with, so long as it fits their need.  They should however be very aware that these game engines do put their fingerprints all over their games if they aren’t careful!

General

31. January 2017

 

I found myself recently needed some rocks… I could easily download a collection of rocks, but I figured it would be extremely easy to just make my own.  My first thought was to simply take a cube, smoothly sub divide it a number of times, and apply a displacement modifier to it.  The end results however didn’t really bring the results I wanted:

Rock1

 

By the way, you can learn more about using the Displace modifier on my earlier tutorial on using Blender for level creation.

 

Ok, apparently this is going to take more than a few seconds…  hey… I wonder if there is a plugin?  Turns out, yes, yes there is.  The plugin add_mesh_rocks does exactly what it says.  You can download a tarball of the plugin here using the snapshot link.   You can get instructions for installing (a different but same process) plugin in Blender here.  Download and enable the plugin.

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Once you’ve downloaded and enabled the plugin, there is a new option in the Add->Mesh menu, Rock Generator:

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NOTE*** There seems to be a bug, the option wont be available if there isn’t any existing geometry in the scene.

TADA!

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Ok, I admit, that looks a bit more like a kidney bean than a rock, but it’s a start.  If you look in the Tool (T) panel, you will see initial creation options for Rock Builder:

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Click Generate materials if you want it to create a starting rock texture for you.  Every time you change any setting, you will get a completely different rock, like so:

Rock2

 

If you don’t want this behavior, turn off the random seed setting.  Once you’ve got a rock you are happy with… let’s destroy it!

 

Before we go to far though, if you dont want performance to absolutely crawl, we want to apply several modifiers that were created as part of the rock creation process.  Go to the modifiers tab and start applying the various modifiers:

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OK, back to destruction.  The first and most obvious option is the Explode modifier.  There are a few steps we have to take here… first go into edit mode, select all the vertices and in the vertex data tab create a new vertex group.  Now apply first a particle system modifier, then an explode modifier.  Finally wire up the vertex group, like so:

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The problem with explode is that it applies to the hull of the object only, so the results may not be way you want… as you can see:

Rock3

 

In some cases, that effect might be exactly what you are looking for.  Oh, and I turned gravity off to get the effect above. But if you instead want things to be a bit more… substantial, it’s time for a rethink.  In fact, it’s time for another plugin, but thankfully this one ships with Blender, it just needs to be enabled.   What you are looking for is “Cell Fracture”:

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Once enabled, in Object mode, there will now be a new option available in the Edit section of the Tools tab:

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Cell Fracture will split your object up into several solid pieces.  You’ve got tons of control over how the fracturing will occur.

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What I personally did was changed source limit (number of pieces) down to 12 and unchecked “Next Layer” so the fracture occurs in the primary layer.  Now you will notice you’ve got several meshes instead of one:

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In fact, you can now get rid of the source rock if you want.  You will notice your rock is actually 12 rocks now:

rock4

 

Instead of using a particle system like we did with explode, we are going to use Dynamics (Physics) instead.  Select all of the objects, switch to the physics tab and select Add Active.

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This means all of our rocks will now participate in the physics engine.  To see the result, quickly add a plane to the scene, make it a rigid body and turn dynamic off:

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And now press play in the timeline:

rock5

 

Now that looks much more realistic!  Now, what if we wanted our rock to explode instead of fall?  Well, physics are once again coming to our aid!  This time add a force field to the scene:

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Then crank the strength way up (or lower the mass of your objects), like so:

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Once again, I don’t want gravity to be part of the process, so I turn it off.  In the Scene tab, simply turn off gravity, like so:

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And voila, exploding rocks!

Rock6

Art, General , , ,

24. November 2016

 

Every year there are a large number of great Black Friday deals of interest to game developers.  This list is an attempt to capture as many of them as possible in one place.  If you see a great Black Friday or Cyber-Monday deal of interest to game developers that isn’t on the list below, please let me know in comments below. 

This list will be constantly updated so be sure to check back regularly!

 

Deals on Amazon

Software

 

Hardware

 

Deals on Steam – Autumn Sale

 

Deals on Unreal Engine

 

Deals on Unity

 

Misc

allegorithmic

udemy

Microsoft Store

Dell

HP

tsugi

 ClipStudio

3D Coat

Reallusion

ASoundEffect

GameMaster Audio

Smith Micro

Adobe

Corel

AutoDesk  -- Something Fishy with this promo.  Seems no longer available in Canada and never Available in the US.  BOO

Daz3D

Blender

PaintStorm

GameSalad

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