Using GameMaker to Create Your Own Games

Posted by | February 24, 2015 | Feature, News, Opinion, Video | 4 Comments

Creating a video game can seem like a great mystery that’s too complicated to unravel without a college degree. However, many young gamers have an interest in making games themselves. Accessible development tools like GameMaker: Studio are lowering the barrier to entry in game development by simplifying things and injecting fun into the process. If you’ve got aspiring game makers in your household, you can turn creating a game a into family project. Here’s a quick primer on GameMaker: Studio to get you started! In the video above, I’ll show you how I made my own game in GameMaker.

GameMaker: Studio in a Nutshell

GameMaker: Studio (GM:S) is a game development tool made by YoYo Games that lets you design and create 2D games from scratch without having to code. (GM:S has its own fully-developed coding language for advanced users, called GML. But using code is entirely optional.) First-time game developers find it’s very user-friendly, thanks to an intuitive object-based system and simple drag-and-drop interface. In fact, the GameMaker community has many younger users who are able to create amazing projects with it.

Even if you don’t know anything about game design, it’s surprisingly easy to just dive in and start tinkering. Seeing your ideas come to life is very rewarding. There are also lots of built-in tutorials and plenty of YouTube videos available to help ease you into the more complicated aspects of the system.

GameMaker: Studio has a free version available to get started with. This version is perfect for tinkering, though you’ll want to spring for the paid Pro version if you want to create more elaborate games. It’s a bit pricey but also more affordable than other similar tools. GM:S only runs on PC, though you can use it to create games for a wide range of platforms, including iOS, PS4, Mac, Android, and more.

What Can You Make with It?

So you might be wondering, “what types of games can you create with GM:S?” While it’s possible to make some very primitive 3D games, GameMaker is primarily designed for 2D game creation. That still leaves a lot of wiggle room to let your creativity run wild. Side-scrolling shooters, platformers, adventure, puzzle, and role-playing games can all be created with this software. But many users find increasingly creative ways to use GameMaker to concoct unusual and experimental projects too.

GameMaker Studio has a built-in tool for creating and animating art.

GameMaker Studio has a built-in tool for creating and animating art.

Because GameMaker: Studio has built-in drawing and animation tools, it’s great for creating retro-style pixel-art games. You can also create art with other programs or import and animate your own hand-drawn art. That’s what my small indie team did with our first game, Go To Bed: Survive The Night.

Here’s a short list a several popular games made with GameMaker: Studio to show you some of the possibilities.

Fenix Rage
Hyper Light Drifter
Risk of Rain
Cook, Serve, Delicious
Coin Crypt

How Does It Work?

To make the process of creating games easier for first-time developers, GameMaker uses an object-based system for designing gameplay. These objects could represent the player character, monsters, power-ups, terrain, obstacles, menu items, or just about anything else you can imagine. Artwork, sound effects, and even special effects can be added to these objects. To bring your game objects to life, you use simple drag-and-drop command icons to create events and actions that determine how the objects interact in the game world. Then all you have to do is create a “room” or stage for your game and drop the objects where you want them. Then you can press play and test your game idea out on the fly before going back in to fine-tune it.

With tons of different commands available, you can create entire games without using a single line of code. Once you get adept at using the simple drag-and-drop system, learning the GML code language unlocks even greater potential for your games. It’s also possible to mix and match both GML code snippets and drag-and-drop, so it’s a very flexible system.

GameMaker Studio is available in a number of versions that contain different features and different prices.

GameMaker Studio is available in a number of versions that contain different features and different prices.

Once you’ve finished your game, you can create a splash screen and easily compile it into a stand-alone game file that you can distribute freely or even sell commercially! GameMaker: Studio has lots of different versions available for upgrade. These allow more flexibility, like the ability to export your games to lots of different popular systems and formats. The ability to create standalone PC games is a built-in feature of the core version of GameMaker.

Game Making Fun for the Whole Family

Game development is very much a team project, so it’s a great thing for families to do together. Each family member could be involved in different aspects of designing a game. Learning together as a group can be a lot of fun, and there’s plenty of room for everyone to pitch in. From creating sound effects and character artwork to level design, drag-and-drop “coding,” and overall gameplay concepts, there’s plenty for everyone to do.

If you skipped it, don’t forget to scroll back up and watch the video above to get a closer hands-on look at how GameMaker: Studio can be used to make an actual game! Don’t forget to let us know about any cool projects you wind up making too! Happy creating!

Nathan Meunier

About Nathan Meunier

Nathan Meunier has been slinging words about video games for close to a decade, writing for more than 40+ publications ranging from IGN and Nintendo Power to What They Play and Official Xbox Magazine. Now he makes games, too! You can read more of his freelance writing, check out his books, or scope his other assorted creative projects over at NathanMeunier.com.