15 Years!

Tools of the Trade: Which GameMaker?

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.

Summary

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)

Compatibility

The Studio version can open most 8.1 projects and save to version 8.1, but 8.1 cannot open Studio projects.