GameMaker is a wonderful tool and it allows those with creative ideas who don’t have all the technical know-how to produce their own games.
But after many years, we’ve seen a lot of home brew games, and it’s about time some cliche features and thoughtless design failures are put to rest once and for all.
Boxes & Circles Don’t Make Good Characters
Creating a walking cycle (or even just requesting one) is apparently too much for some people. Instead we end up seeing endless amounts of games that substitute legitimate character design with colored gliding boxes and rolling balls.
Sure, at first it was cute controlling a cube with eyes. But this isn’t 1992; after years of lazy character development, those guilty of this can surely try a little harder at some actual graphical work. By all means, if a sphere or box is a legitimate part of your game design, go for it. Just be warned, it’s easy to tell when a feature was considered, and when it was slapped together.
A default load screen and default icons are really off-putting. They are designed as placeholders that can later be changed, and nothing more.
As much as we all love the program, you’ve failed your job as a designer if you haven’t solidly masked that your game is made in GameMaker. It’s another case of graphical laziness. Developing an icon takes minutes with a free tool like GIMP. And the default loading bar can be turned off if you really can’t be bothered whipping a custom one up. The same goes for GameMaker’s default dialogue boxes – don’t use the them unless you want to tell the world you are incapable of creating custom pop-up windows.
Be sure not to use default sprites either. They are there for initial experimenting with GameMaker. No project worth sharing has ever been made with default sprites and backgrounds.
There is a time and place for using full-screen, and it isn’t utilized as much as it should be. There is no problem in using windowed mode. It’s easier to work with, and depending on what kind of game you make it may be the best option for you. But in the GameMaker world there are a lot of games, especially 3D ones, that missed the opportunity to go full-screen. It only takes a few lines of code to adjust room sizes or views to any resolution, and adjusting GUI elements to sit correctly on any screen is a matter of simple X and Y positioning.
Embrace full-screen. It will make your game appear more professional, and the end user will appreciate a more immersive experience (it’s hard to get into a game in windowed mode, being constantly reminded you are looking at a computer screen.)
There is a strange obsession with creating game companies in the GameMaker community. New users are often guilty of this more than anyone else. You don’t need to create a logo, or a business name, or assemble a team of people you’ll never end up using (seek help only when you need it, team requests should be used sparingly). Don’t create a shoddy website for a non-existent, unregistered gaming company. Don’t put obnoxious trademarks on your software. If you want an identity associated with your work, use your username or your real name. Or how about linking to a YouTube channel where you can post videos of your game when it’s out?
In a nutshell, splash screens and bogus company names don’t make you look credible. Since most people abandon their GameMaker projects and teams, it’s best to leave any business details for later – and only if you plan to stick to it and produce more software. And if you want to protect your work legally and freely, copyright can instantly be applied to your work. You can also use a free Creative Commons license, if your game is freeware or open-source. As for trademarks, you don’t need them.
As indie developers, we have to do all the work ourselves. Sound, graphics, programming, design, and everything in between. And we all strive to finish our game and get it out there for the public to see. Sadly the one area that often suffers for this is the game storyline. It’s typical for a GameMaker project to feature an unsatisfying, small amount of levels, or even have an unfinished storyline. It doesn’t matter how good everything else in the game is if the duration of play is only ten minutes.
It is hard to get people to download and play your game, and you get one chance to make an impression. Do you think they will come back to play the update after you finish the storyline a month later? Yeah, keep dreaming.
The flip side to this is having a long storyline that sucks; this isn’t a problem for GameMaker games usually, but it’s worth putting that warning out there anyway.
Don’t fall into the crowded depressing world of cheap GameMaker creation flops. Tools like GameMaker make it easy to do a bad job. It takes a good job to reach an audience of players. It’s easy to cut corners; it’s not to create a decent game in an over-saturated indie world.