GameMaker Studio 2: Educating Gamemakers

GameMaker Studio 2 from YoYo Games came out for general release earlier this year, following a two and a
half year complete rewrite and modernisation of the GameMaker IDE. One of the big features with the new version is the accessibility of the engine, including a Mac version of the 2D engine, which at time of writing is in beta before release with version 2.1.

But it isn’t just Mac users that YoYo Games are aiming for with GameMaker Studio 2. Education is another area where accessibility is key to not only the future of the engine but the future of developers. “We know our audience is quite diverse,” says Russell Kay, CTO at YoYo Games. “Everybody from eight year old kids doing school work right through to secondary school then on to university.

You can take your project from concept to launch. We don’t want people to feel they’ve hit limits

Russell Kay, YoYo Games

“Then indie devs, those who do game jams – a lot of people use it exclusively just for that. Then we have a lot of teachers using it, who we were surprised weren’t just using it to teach computer science, but someone like a geography teacher who wanted to use it to illustrate something and make it more dynamic.”

“GameMaker has been in education since it’s beginning, it was born out of education,” says Cox. “Recently we’ve started some pilot programs. This we find is a good way to test the water, make sure we do something that’s actually needed and relevant. We’re partnering with education company to be able to provide courses and industry certifications.

“There’s some good basics if teachers want to build their own particular types of courses for whatever they’re syllabus happens to be, there’s a few raw materials that they can already use. Then we have some other education establishments, some non-profit organisations that we’ve been starting pilot programs with to support people with short-term trial licences, without console support, and for game jams where we give a full access 48 hour license.”

GameMaker Studio is known as a good starter engine, arguably because of its ties to education. But that isn’t the full picture. “There’s not a heavy strategy from our point for education and we’re not trying to exclude anyone else either,” says Cox.

“But from what we’ve seen with things like Scratch, a next good step is GameMaker, certainly. We’ve seen it from research, different schools teach different things. My son’s school uses PHP. Others use GameMaker if they’ve been using it for a hobby, or have just found out about it. Making the tool generally accessible, that is a strategy. Therefore it really works for education so you can start at quite a young age.”

“GameMaker has always been a ‘my first game engine’,” says Kay. “That was where it was initially positioned. What we’ve tried to do as YoYo Games is lift the limits that were in place. GameMaker was always fast to get into but you started to hit limits – ‘you can’t do this’, and ‘no, you can’t do that’. We’re trying to eliminate that completely from the GameMaker vocabulary with ‘you can do this, you do it this way.’ You can take your project from concept to launch and stay in GameMaker. We don’t want people to feel they’ve hit those limits.

“The main thing about GameMaker is that you can iterate on your projects very quickly. So just being able to try something means you can get things easily on to a tablet. You can prototype something and try it out on the actual device without having to go through lots of setup.”

2D game design is very much GameMaker’s realm and it makes no apologies for being an engine that caters to that market. But that’s not to say that there isn’t more that the engine can do. “I think there’s advanced uses of 2D, that’s where we get in to vectors and skeletons and Spine animation, and we support those particular workflows,” says Kay.

“That’s where we see 2D developing. There’s also that idea of using 3D assets within a 2D environment. We’re not adverse to 3D. But supporting workflows to create a 2D game with various different types of assets is something we’ll be looking to do in the future.

“We find we have different groups of users. Some of them create mobile games, some of them are a longer form magnum opus, and that’s fine. We also have another group of users that want to go onto Steam and then to console. That’s perfectly acceptable. We’ve got another group of users who just want to do HTML 5. So they need to have a route and a vector as to how they could do that.”

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