A website offering step-by-step Game Maker video courses has launched. GameSpark has been developed by a company which runs game design and robotics camps so the people behind the site have experience teaching game design.
The site claims to offer “Everything you need to make a game” and along with the teaching side also has a resource store where you can purchase sprites and backgrounds for your game for either personal (~$1.75) or commercial (~$17.50) use.
Each lesson consists of well over an hour of video tutorials, all the resources you need to make a game and some short ‘how to’ guides. It’s not just lessons though. ‘Customise game’ features suggest additions and modifications that can be added to the taught games along with some hints as to how to go about implementing them. ‘Extended Learning’ offers suggestions as to what you might want to do next with sample code where appropriate and finally a Quiz asks multiple choice questions about Game Maker and the reasons behind aspects of the created game.
There are currently six Game Maker ‘courses’ available, which in reality are detailed tutorials since they only teach one game, starting with novice level 2D maze and platform game courses and then quickly advancing to a 3D racing game, maze, arena and scrolling shooters. All the courses have video tutorials available for both Game Maker 8 and Game Maker 7 (for Mac). For the intermediate and advanced courses the Pro version of Game Maker is required.
The individual pricing is set at $20 for the earlier and $30 for more advanced courses. Access to all six courses is $50 for a year. Wisely the course aims to sell to parents, schools and summer camps rather than children themselves though it will be interesting to see how GameSpark plan to get the product it front of these people. There is a free trial which will enable free access the first five lessons of the 2D Maze tutorial.
I haven’t had the time to work my way through a course so can’t vouch for the accuracy of the material but since the tutorials are presented in video format nothing should be missed out or overlooked. Some do see a bit regimental “do this, do that!” often with a very brief (if any) explanation as to why an action is being performed. Telling us how to spell each resource name letter by letter – T.E.D.I.O.U.S!
The courses have obviously been under development for a while as the second beta version of Game Maker 8 is used in at least some videos.
Comparisons will inevitably be made with freely available video tutorials and Jacob Habgood’s books. A detailed help system with comprehensive coverage of potential issues you may encounter when working on each game helps make GameSpark package far more useful than any series of free online Game Maker video tutorials I have seen.
A notice omission is the presence of partial (or even complete) editable .GMK files for the taught games. Though given the educational targeting for the courses this makes sense.
Verdict: The best Game Maker video series though the cost is likely to put most people off. If I had to choose between a annual GameSpark subscription and a book I would probably opt for the book. I think for something this in-depth the videos would quickly get boring though for use in education the videos would probably come out on top.