YoYo Games, based in Dundee, Scotland, is the home of GameMaker, and GameDev.net met with them during GDC to learn more about YoYo, GameMaker, and what they offer developers.
Attending the meeting from YoYo Games were James Cox (General Manager), Andrew Turner (Senior Marketing Manager), and Russell Kay (CTO).
As a company, YoYo’s GameMaker customers are students, hobbyists, indies, and full development studios. They recently announced support for the Nintendo Switch, are celebrating their first full year of GameMaker Studio 2, and their new Creator license that allows publishing to Mac or Windows desktops for a low price point.
Localization is also coming soon with support for French, German, and Spanish languages. When asked why localization, the YoYo crew explained that schools have been requesting localization because 11-13 year old children don’t necessarily have enough of a grasp of English in order to be able to use the tools effectively.
GameMaker’s audience ranges from children learning how to make games and learning coding all the way up to experienced industry developers. In fact, YoYo wants to help bring game developers up through the ranks, starting with building the solid technical education with children but providing an extensible enough technology platform that allows more experienced developers to do more with GameMaker.
Built as a 2D game development toolset, GameMaker can also run across a variety of target platforms, including Android, iOS, HTML5, PS4, Xbox One, Windows Desktop, OS X, Ubuntu, Windows UWP (soon Nintendo Switch).
Developers interested in GameMaker just need a desire to start. Programmers can typically get up and running quickly, but even artists and designers can use the drag and drop interface. YoYo also sees a lot of sophisticated game developers use GameMaker to quickly get a game together and use it as a fast prototyping tool - or even for Game Jams.
So what’s happening with GameMaker? YoYo is planning to add more visual editing, more language support, and improved tutorials.
Late last year they added instance variables, which allow designers to apply attributes to objects with more data driven layers - minimizing the work for programmers.
In November 2017 they started the Creator license, which at $39 for a single platform, 12-month license, allows a developer to evaluate the paid features at a lower price point. Creator is available for Mac or Windows.
For tutorials, they’re looking at how to help developers get up and running with GameMaker as quickly as possible, including the idea of a video on how to make a very simple game in 30 minutes or less.
They are also a big supporter of game jams and provide free licenses for developers to use during the jams.
Speaking of licensing, YoYo offers both 12 month or permanent licensing tiers. The permanent licenses are available on a per-platform basis - for example, $99 for desktop, $399 for mobile, etc. Console platforms require a 12-month license. Educational institutions can get GameMaker at a reduced rate.
Of course, a free, non-expiring trial license is also available.
The GameMaker ecosystem is strong and growing. Several hundred thousand GameMaker developers have licenses, and tens of thousands of developers are signing up for GameMaker every month.
Some of the games you might have played that use GameMaker include:
2017 Independent Games Festival winner Hyper Light Drifter (Audience Award and Excellence in Visual Art, nominated for Excellence in Audio and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize)
highly rated 2017 Independent Games Festival entrant Crashlands
2012 IGF entrant and popular stealth puzzle game Gunpoint
2016 IGF entrant Blackhole
2016 Independent Games Festival Audience Award winner Undertale
We asked YoYo how engines like Unity affect their space, but YoYo isn’t concerned with other engines. They are focused on productivity in 2D games and on providing a toolset that is easy for beginners to jump into right away - or even to be a place for developers who are struggling with other engines.
But YoYo is also providing incentives for developers to stay with them. Through GameMaker’s extensibility, experienced developers can implement features customized for their game instead of using GameMaker’s stock features.
That may be the strength of GameMaker: YoYo is providing a framework that allows developers to solve game design problems in a way that makes sense for the developer, giving them freedom and choice in how their games are created.