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Sandy Duncan Interview: Game Maker 8.1 and beyond

In this section: Game Maker 8.1, C++ Runner, Game Maker Mac, Game Maker Linux?, Game Maker 9?, Bug reports, Future of YoYo Games

Game Maker 8.1 Top Bar
Andrew McCluskey's internal version of Game Maker 8.1

The Software

Russell is working on including in Game Maker 8.1 something that supports distributing games. I wouldn’t call it DRM in the strictest sense but you can’t just put the games on the YoYo Store and say “help yourselves” and have some people paying $2 for it and other people ripping it off. We’ve put a mechanism in place which says “have you properly paid for this game? If not, you can’t have it”.

I’ve learnt a lot from Apple in the last year, their view on piracy is don’t go chasing after those who don’t want to pay, go find the ones that want to. I like to follow this philosophy if not the precise approach.

We haven’t decided yet if the games we publish for Windows will be distributed on the C++ runner or continue to use the Delphi runner. Use of the C++ runner in future Game Maker versions is up in the air at the moment. One thing that is certain though is that we wont be writing it in Delphi in the future, whether it is the C++ runner or is a new runner written in C#, Mono or something else I’ve no idea at this stage.

Game Maker 8.1 is our priority at the moment. It’s not because there is some huge and exciting new feature but because we need to get it done.

Game Maker 8.1 Pro Early Beta Room Editor
Room zoom slider via Andrew McCluskey
If you’re a semi-professional developer the room editor will be a big bonus for you. We’ve done this because Mike and Russell as professional developers hated using the existing editor. Underlying all that we will fix bugs, I’m not aware of the guys having slipped in any more new features. The major change is that we will put in a mechanism we originally built for the Mac version that allows us to update on the fly.

There are also lots of bugs in the Mac version that we need to fix, we just haven’t had any time. It’s been neglected, we’ve just had other priorities. It would have been fixed and dusted off in the last couple of weeks, it was one of the things that was sacrificed along with 8.1 [for the HTML5 proof of concept and GDC].

As of next week we will go back to Game Maker 8.1 and tidying up Game Maker for Mac, there is a lot we can do there. Then we will figure out what we want to do next, there’s no precise agenda at the moment as to whether that will be the HTML5 version or something else.

We are all eager to see Game Maker 8.1 out, there will be a very short beta to because if there are bugs we can fix them incrementally afterwards. One of the problems we have is that we don’t get good bug reports. At we find people saying “Game Maker crashes”. What does that tell us? It probably does crash but we need to know more! It’s not helpful. When Russell did Game Maker for Mac he found that only 3 or 4 people gave him quality bug reports so instead of looking at a thousand user beta he just worked with those people.

The good news now though is that with Game Maker 8.1’s built in update mechanism as we find errors and can identify them we will very regularly update.

After Game Maker 8 it’s definitely our goal to unify the Mac and PC versions. Linux is not a platform we are focusing on as an IDE due to the various distributions which throws up so many problems for us. There is no enthusiasm within YoYo Games to do a Linux version of Game Maker. If we really wanted to have done it we would have by now.

The most disappointing and embarrassing thing for me, for the Game Maker community over the last four years, has been our inability to fix bugs, get out updates, add small features and incremental steps. You had to wait two years to go from Game Maker 7 to Game Maker 8 and if you have to wait again for Game Maker 9 you’ll of waited two years until the time you get it.

I don’t even think we are going to call it Game Maker 9. I think we should do something different for next year, it will be called Game Maker and will be a summary release of probably everything we’ve done so far. We’re not working on it yet but we know what it will be. Instead of “Game Maker 8.1” think of it as “Game Maker 8 the next release”, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3 are misleading. There will be plenty more iterative releases, they could happen daily, weekly or monthly. There is no cycle, when we’ve got cool stuff to add we will ship it out.

The Company

We started YoYo and it ran for about a year and I couldn’t find Mike and Russell, I was looking for them! It seemed really pointless paying 4 or 5 guys to keep things going. Nobody noticed when they left and for about a year and a half I ran most of it on my own. I had one other guy working for me part time as a systems admin and we contracted in web developers. The helpdesk was the real killer!

If you include me there are 9 full time employees on the payroll but there is actually a team of about 13 or 14 people. We’re taking advantage of what is really an excellent University for games, in QA for example we’ve got four guys who come in every week, if you add them together they’re at least the equivilant of a full time employee. We are trying to expand as you know we have an immediate vacancy for a Game Maker programmer, we think we might have found someone but we’re not going to be doing any aggressive recruiting until we decide what our next steps are.

The website is ready for a lot of changes. It actually isn’t going to take a tonne of money but we need to get it right. You will see a refreshed YoYo Games website in the future. When people see our Apps they will be attracted to Game Maker and will have higher expectations. Even if there are just twice as many people then the website will need work to go hand in hand with that. We want people who come to play games and those who come to make games to find the right part of the website for them as quickly as possible.

I just think everybody should be excited whether you are an occasional user of Game Maker or a dedicated member of the GMC who never writes games but just loves going on there and ranting!

Every penny we make is being reinvested back into the company. I haven’t been paid in 5 years. The company needs to make more money because people like me do eventually need to take a salary. It is a business, but it’s a business with its community at its heart and so we’ll try and do everything we can to grow and support the community and support the business at the same time. It does mean that for some people it feels like there is a kind of moral conflict going on, like between cyclists and motorists who can’t share the same street, it’s just silly. We’re actually all trying to do the same thing, just do it in different ways.

If you thought the last year was exciting, the next year is going to be utterly brilliant.

This is an edited transcript and is not a word-for-word account of the interview but it accurately reflects portions of the conversation that took place.

This is the last portion of my interview with Sandy. I would like to thank him for his time and for giving me a frank and honest insight into YoYo Games Ltd.

If you have enjoyed reading this series of articles perhaps you would consider helping to contribute to Game Maker Blog. It takes a large amount of time to run the website and even just a couple of hours a month on, for example, writing a review of a Game Maker game would be much appreciated.

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  1. “Linux is not a platform we are focusing on as an IDE due to the various distributions which throws up so many problems for us.”

    Sorry, but that’s a nonsense statement. It’s distributions’ job to package applications- all you need to release is a tarball. You know, like you have an executable and a bunch of linked shared object files. Just like Windows. And OSX. (Also see Ryan Gordon’s MojoSetup, which solves this non-issue further.)

    “There is no enthusiasm within YoYo Games to do a Linux version of Game Maker. If we really wanted to have done it we would have by now.”

    I have some contacts that might be interested in easing that burden. 🙂

    Look, let’s get real here: you went to the bother of porting to OSX already. It’s pretty much a stone’s throw even if GM was written by the bottom of a junior programming class.

    Oh, while we’re on the topic of porting, the Unity folk are making their move finally; now would be a VERY good time to look into at least having Linux as a target platform.


  2. So you’re saying that game maker still won’t be compiled into C++ executable?

    Wow, ENIGMA really does have the upper hand here, i highly recommend compiling natively, no interpreters, C++ or DELPHI

  3. “We haven’t decided yet if the games we publish for Windows will be distributed on the C++ runner or continue to use the Delphi runner.”

    Really? It’s a difficult decision?

  4. “Let’s just hope 8.1 gets rid of Softwrap. Caused more headaches than an immense iron bar being brought down onto someone’s head repeatedly.”

    I love the way you think YoYo can do better than a company who makes it their business.

  5. “…or a dedicated member of the GMC who never writes games but just loves going on there and ranting…”

    Was that an NPT shout-out? ;D

    Anyway, great set of posts, really insightful and very interesting. I am genuinely excited for where GM goes next. Good luck YYG!

Russell Kay at Game Developers Conference

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