GameMaker is currently available in two versions. GameMaker 8.1 is the older version of the software. GameMaker Studio is a completely new version of the software. Each one can be downloaded and used for free with some limitations.
If you want to work (or start work for free) - go with GameMaker 8.1. If you are willing/able to spend money, 8.1 is cheaper (educational institutions can buy bulk licenses: 10 for ~$175, $40 otherwise) and probably the option to go for. GameMaker Studio is $50 and the standard version would not get you a whole lot extra, stepping up to the Pro editions for $99 gets you Team features, which make it easier to integrate multiple people’s work into one project (something that otherwise can be a challenge).
GameMaker 8.1 Lite (Free)
The missing features are mostly eye candy:
- Ability to arbitrarily scale/rotate sprites (for things like pointing the direction a ship is going you have to fake with subframes pointing different directions and changing which frame you show – but this is clunky and doesn’t play well with trying to use subframes for their real purpose : animation).
- Use the particle/effects systems for things like explosions and smoke
- Load external resources, play movies, splash screens, etc…
- Some of the fancier drawing tools (gradients, scaled text, some of the GML drawing commands)
- Change the cursor
GameMaker Studio (Free)
Most of the eye candy stuff works, but they limit how many resources you can use (detailed list here). You are very likely to bump into these restrictions if your game is even moderately complex.
- Limit of 5 rooms, 20 sprites, 10 sounds, 15 objects…
- Functionality that is disabled is:
- export modules (HTML/iOS/etc)
- things that could help you get around resource limitation (can’t load external files, can’t do texture manipulations)
The Studio version can open most 8.1 projects and save to version 8.1, but 8.1 cannot open Studio projects.
Guest post from Max Maroe, OGPC Game Jam Mentor
Thank you very much for having me as a Mentor at the OGPC kickoff in Redmond, OR! I really enjoyed my time there and the student project ideas were incredibly creative and fun! I was blown away by the teamwork and how well everyone interacted, both within their groups and between groups during the “elevator pitch” presentations!
I take game development very seriously and I believe if there’s ever been a time to learn how to make games, it’s now. The tools available are getting so amazing, and a lot of these tools are either cheap or free for use. One of my favorite tool sets is Unity3d, which individuals can get a license for to develop for the PC, Mac, and Web deployment targets for FREE! I like the tools so much I started a web-based video tutorial series called Cooking With Unity where I go over how to create many different types of games using Unity3d. The show focuses mostly on scripting/game design and less on art due to my personal expertise, but it does show a lot of tricks and secrets of the trade. The first few episodes are a little rough, so keep in mind it does get a LOT better. Instead of doing them in order I suggest picking a set of episodes that are about the type of game YOU want to make to start; though if you don’t have a particular preference there’s nothing wrong with starting at the beginning.
You can email me at PushyPixels@PushyPixels.com with any questions you have, either about my show or about game development in general!
One of the earliest computer game genres was the text adventure. Perhaps the best-known text adventure game is Zork, which was published in 1980 by Infocom. Text adventure games are pretty much exactly what they sound like - adventure games featuring puzzles that consit entirely of a text parser.
Players would enter simple sentences such as, “open mailbox,” and, “read leaflet,” or even, “hit the orc with the Elvish sword,” and the game would respond with ways in which the world changed as a result of your action. Understandably, these games only understood the nouns and verbs needed for the game and don’t recognize a full range of English input.
The text adventure is alive and well today, although the community of developers and gamers who play them prefer the term _interactive fiction_ or IF for short. There are several languages and platforms for programming IF and one of the most interesting is Inform 7.
Rather than requriing you to learn a programming languauge, Inform 7 allows you to describe your game using the same language that your players will use to enjoy it - English. This doesn’t mean you can type in your short story and hope Inform 7 can figure it out. Inform 7 requires you to follow some very exacting standards so that it can interpret what you write.
Inform 7 also supports extensions, which allows you to download complex items that other people have written - such as vehicles and locks - and include them in your games.
Inform 7 runs on Linux, OSX, and Windows. It’s free to download and use and comes with very comprehensive documentation that walks you through everything you need to make your own interactive fiction game.
Inform 7 makes it possible to create engaging and dynamic game environments, even if you aren’t a programmer or an artist, and yet it still teaches you to think logically and use a more demanding language structure, hinting at what it’s like to write in a programming language.
If you’re a team with excellent writing skills, a great idea for a game, but no art or programming skills, consider being the first OGPC team to submit an interactive fiction game!
This week’s TotT post is for the artists on your team. Since I’m an artist myself, and an advocate for FOSS (free and open source software), you’re going to notice more opinions in this week’s post than last week’s.
There are two types basic methods of creating 2D art on a computer - raster and vector. Raster images are commonly called bitmaps, but have multiple common file formats with different strengths and weaknesses. You’re probably already familiar with .BMP, .JPG, .GIF, and (hopefully) .PNG* file formats. These images are made of individual pixels of color and cannot be made larger without losing a lot of information.
Vector images are created by programs like Adobe Illustrator, an expensive and proprietary profesisonal-grade application, and Inkscape, a free and open-source professional-grade application. Inkscape uses proprietary file formats and Inkscape uses the SVG (scalable vector graphic) format, which is an extension of XML and can be viewed by most modern web browsers (finally).
Vector images are created using mathematic calculations to define geometric shapes. Every time you scale a vector image the math is recalculated, meaning you always get crisp clear lines… unless you’ve applied a mathematic formula to blur the edges, in which case that gets recalculated too, so you always have a predictable amount of blur.
Many people are under the impression that vector images are only good for logos and text, but as you can see from the Inkscape screenshot to the left, a talented artist can do so much more than that with vectors.**
Now, those of you who’ve used GameMaker Studio or Stencyl before know that they allow you to import raster files, not vector. So why would you want to use Inkscape to make art for your 2D game? Scalability is the most important answer. You may decide to increase the resolution of your game and scaling all of your art assets is not going to be fun if the originals are all raster files. Inkscape easily exports to the PNG file format, so if you need a character or UI element to be larger, it’s a simple matter of re-exporting your art to a higher resolution.
Personally, I also prefer to work large and with clearly delineated forms as opposed to working small and with shades of color. Crafting 32x32 grids comprised of dots of color simply doesn’t make a lot of sense to my brain. With Inkscape, I can work in a manner that makes sense to me and still contribute meaningfully to projects that require small icons and sprites.
Finally, if you’re working on an HTML5 game, SVG files can be used natively and programmers tend to love them, since they can open them up and edit them using a text-editor to create groups and assign item names that make sense to the code and structure of the web page, all without touching the art you so carefully crafted for them.
*As an illustrator and designer who loves crisp lines and rich color palettes along with clean transparency, .PNGs are the only raster file type I like to use for my work.
**That’s not my work, sadly. Click the Iron Man image for more examples of great vector art.