GameMaker Studio 2: Changing the GameMaker

YoYo Games has seen a lot of evolution in recent years. We need to go back to 1999 to find the start of this journey. At the time, Animo was released as a tool for creating 2D animations. Over time that software changed its name to GameMaker and has since gone on to great acclaim for its ease of use, accessibility for areas like education and its ability to push games to many platforms.

The list of games with critical acclaim made in the engine speak for themselves – Hotline Miami, Downwell, Nidhogg, Spelunky, 10 Second Ninja, Undertale, and Hyper Light Drifter. The projects range from pixelated platformers to artsy point and click adventures. The engine’s versatility is not in doubt.

However this has taken place over the course of 17 years and while the software has iterated into its final form, GameMaker Studio, the team at YoYo Games has now created its successor – GameMaker Studio 2.

The new Integrated Development Environment makes GMS2 even more accessible and even more powerful
James Cox, YoYo Games 

One of the things that we’ve noticed is important when it comes to game engines is speed. Speed not only in the games that you create but also in getting games made and out to be iterated. GameMaker Studio 2 has been designed with speed in mind.

There’s a greater focus on all-in-one creation with the addition of an in-built image editor, a simplified workflow, being able to dock windows into the same workspace and integrated tutorials. But the drag and drop setup for the engine is going to help the beginner level developer the most. The key to these improvements is simplification.

“One of the features aiming to make game development easier for beginners is our drag and drop feature,” explains James Cox, general manager at YoYo Games. “This allows aspiring developers to create gameplay behaviour without having to write any code. What we’ve added to GMS2 is the ‘live’ code preview of the user’s drag and drop objects, showing them how their drag and drop behaviour turns into actual code. This can really help a beginner get started on making their game, but also reassure them that they can become an expert developer over time.”

“We’ve completely revamped the tile engine,” says head of engineering, Mike Dailly, “making it much simpler to use and much, much faster. We’ve also allowed fast runtime manipulation and querying of them allowing simpler procedural work, and easier collision detection. On top of that, we’ve automated the task of placing buffers around tilemap artwork allowing them to be rendered without the “cracks” that are common in many engines.”

One of the barriers to entry fordevelopers, from students just starting out to indies looking to get their game on digital shelves, is the time commitment required to understand repetition and processes. GameMaker’s changes try to eliminate those barriers, as Russell Kay, CTO of YoYo Games explains.

“We have taken the pain away from tedious packaging and administrative tasks when creating games ready to be uploaded to stores. Tasks that should be automated (and most professional developers will already do this, but it has been hand crafted at each studio and incrementally added to over the years). Out of the box we automate most of these so that immediately out of the gate the development process has been smoothed out and you don’t need to think about these parts.”

GameMaker Studio has been used in education for a while now and while the newest iteration is getting the full support of YoYo Games, they understand that the process of schools upgrading software can be slow. “GMS2 is designed to utilise many widely recognised game engine features, with an easy way for users to organise their projects based around these features,” says Cox. “This works well for our general consumers, but it also applies very nicely to education.

“On top of this we provide free tutorials and demos, which teachers can integrate into their coursework. With our new low price education offering being announced in April, this gives a nicely rounded game engine and tools package to teach game development. All of which any school or college can test out for free with our trial version. We like the ‘try before you buy’ philosophy.”

The engine now has extra features that can allow students to see in real-time what their actions are doing to the code of a game. While the easiest entry point is still drag and drop, the code review window will show you exactly what’s happening to the game.

“The new live preview system lets you view the script code that is generated from the drag and drop feature dynamically,” says Dailly, “so as you move things around the script will update in real-time showing a user exactly what they’re making, and allowing them to play with more complex coding and seeing the resulting script at once.”

“We have spent considerable timemaking it cleaner, more accessible and more appealing to education,” explains head of production, Stuart Poole. “This allows students to see what their game is doing in code and when they feel confident enough they can switch from drag and drop over to coding.

One of the biggest changes to GameMaker Studio 2 is the complete rewrite of the engine’s Integrated Development Environment.

“The new IDE makes GMS2 even more accessible and even more powerful,” says Cox. “That’s not just marketing chaff either, the total rewrite of the IDE has made workflows faster and the tool more enjoyable to use. It has also allowed us to create a Mac version of the IDE, which is gathering lots of interest. Plus, adding new features and platforms to GMS2 is now even easier to do, so expect more to arrive this year and next.”

“The new IDE is looking great,” adds Poole. “The workflow has been massively improved and we have new features in GameMaker Studio 2 that optimize development time, allowing developers to focus on iteration and make successful games rather than dealing with technical headaches.”

“The faster workflow, and the more powerful layering and tile systems should mean games are just simpler to make,” Dailly concludes. “And get to market quicker – ignoring Indie perfectionism of course.” 

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