‘GameMaker: Studio’ – Lord Over The Pixels

A famous line from the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire was, “…You had me at hello.” Well, with video games, for me personally, it all started with one sprite (and presumedly one pixel) that mesmerized me in much the same way. A solitary little white square on a dark background, bouncing back and forth between two vertical lines, for which most of you will know (or remember) as Pong back in the 70’s. From that first childhood moment of awe, I was smitten to forevermore bask in the soft screen glows, chasing every progression of video game from console to computer. And on that journey, I secretly desired to control those pixels like virtual Legos and make my own games. Unfortunately, my life’s path never took me into computers professionally nor allowed for me to learn how to code. Well, enter into the picture, GameMaker: Studios by YoYo Games. Now, that dream can become your reality, free of intimidating source code programming.

GameMaker: Studio removes the daunting task of learning a programming language and coding a game from it’s bare inception. Instead, YoYo Games uses signature drag-and-drop series of in-software commands. Although these instructions can have a number of functions, they breakdown the strategy of programming and simplify coding at it’s core. Thus, lending the user an alternative perspective. This simplified structure enables you to have control over each in-game object through event-driven behaviors and modifiers.

The biggest challenge (for some) in creating a game using GameMaker: Studio, is going to be gathering the required resources. These are the components that when assembled, make up the game as a whole. Think of these pieces in the way that a processor, hard drive, memory, motherboard, power supply, cabling, and computer case, when combined, make up a desktop computer. Well, it’s the same for GameMaker: Studio, you will need static sprites, animated sprites,  backgrounds, tile sets, dialog, sounds, music, and a often storyline to complete a full game; in the traditional sense.

In using GameMaker: Studio, you are assumedly a one person development team. If this is the case, then you will need to dip into your creative skill-sets to create each of these aforementioned resources yourself. Otherwise, you will need to find them elsewhere on the internet. Fortunately, there are a good amount of people using and supporting GameMaker: Studio overall, on YoYo Games website, wikisforums, or Steam.

Once you get something tangible to run (or play), even a demo, you can play it directly inside GameMaker: Studio to see how it works, test it for bugs, and tweak it along the way. But the greatest aspiration is getting your game exported and ready to play on a PC or mobile device. GameMaker: Studios offers a robust variety of exporting modules to get the game onto the device, machine, or site of your choice; all with a single click. However, some pre-education and internet digging may be required in order to set up that proverbial “single-click” operation; as with Android for example. Also, if you are planning on running apps on your iOS device, you will need to first pay for and obtain the necessary certifications and licenses from registering as an Apple Developer; which for iOS starts at $99/year. Yet, if you do, at least GameMaker: Studio offers IAP’s to make free “demos” flip into full versions, which could potentially make it worth your while.

Unless you’re courageous enough to go all in and use something else such as a game engine like Unity, I believe GameMaker: Studio is an excellent place to start for the budding game developer or novice enthusiast. There are numerous tutorials to take an apt pupil through a bit of a nostalgic tour of the more common games types; from both past to present. In doing so, one is allowed to peel back the pixelated layers and see what really goes on behind the screen (and that’s not eluding to: Recognizer’s, the MCP, or the fear of being derezzed).

While GameMaker: Studio may have its presumed limitations, the creative mind usually prospers, and can think outside the box to bend the rules using the provided toolset; much like console developers have done in the past. But if you make it to that level, then may leap out into a full on coding language and take “the blue pill”. Then again, you might prefer the comfort zone that GameMaker: Studio provides, and it could end up being all you ever need. It really depends on your ultimate design goals and how you wish to obtain them. Besides, YoYo Games is continually developing their software and updating often.

Speaking of updates (and versions), that brings me to a final point. If you buy GameMaker: Studio on Steam, you are slightly limited as to which version you can run as opposed to purchasing it directly from YoYo Games. Additionally, one thing to keep in mind before you pay for the software; which depends on your needs and especially in targeting specific versions of GameMaker: Studio. If you get it direct from YoYo Games, you can request and obtain free Steam Keys (as a courtesy) to run it on Steam as well. Yet, if you buy it from Steam, you cannot receive a YoYo Games direct license to run it independently of Valve’s client software.


List of Popular Games developed using GameMaker: Studio

  • Spelunky
  • Stealth Bastard Deluxe
  • Hotline Miami
  • Gunpoint
  • Quadropus Rampage
  • Risk of Rain
  • Home
  • Aces of the Luftwaffe
  • Starship Corporation


The full list can be found on YoYo Games website under their showcase section. Additionally, you can look on the App Store or Google Play for a number of games (such as Reflexions for example) that have been made by YoYo Games Ltd themselves, by seeking more from this developer.

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