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Poll – Is GameMaker Still Beginner Friendly?

The jump from GameMaker 8 to GameMaker Studio brought with it a design overhaul and hundreds of new additions. Recently we’ve seen features like command line debugging, data structure accessors, and shaders (with multiple code editors) added to the popular game development engine. You might even find yourself configuring external programs like Visual Studio and Xcode if you plan to make full use of GameMaker Studio.

Older versions of GameMaker are so accessible that they’re being used in schools and education worldwide. GameMaker is known for being a beginner friendly entry-level engine, but is that still the case with GameMaker Studio?

Recent sales and promotions have introduced thousands of aspiring game developers to GameMaker Studio. In a discussion thread on Reddit a new user said, “Maybe I’ll try to learn a little bit of it. It’s just that opening the program and seeing all the options is so overwhelming. I don’t know where to start.”

We want to know whether you think GameMaker Studio is beginner friendly (especially compared to older versions of GameMaker if you’ve used them). Vote for the answer in our poll below, and leave a comment explaining your vote if you’d like.

[polldaddy poll=7834232]

What do you think?

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  1. I have also just upgraded to Professional from Standard. I bought the GM Apprentice and GM Companion. I am sorry they (YYG) removed some of the functions that were designed to make GM easier for the Noobs. They are excellent books for learning GM DnD, GML and game design but don’t work under GM Studio. The books are even better than the many tutorials out there. Maybe the authors could consider another set of editions of the books for the new GM Studio Standard release?

    Hobbyist or schools won’t worry about any other platform than Windows. Sadly the old 8.1 version won’t run under Windows 7 and won’t work under Virtual machines either 🙁
    Although Click Team’s tools are still out there GM’s GML and built in Graphic tools are superior and more suited to teaching good game design. Not everyone is going to write games for HTML5 etc…

    • I’ve used GM 8.1 on a Windows 7 desktop and had no problems with it. If you’re having trouble with it on Windows 7, it’s something on your computer that is affecting it. I know it’s possible that the computer is the problem. I had a laptop with Windows 98 and a desktop 98 (different brands) and the then current GM wouldn’t work correctly on the laptop. In that case, it was related to the graphics card on the laptop.


  2. First let me say, I love your site. it’s very informative. I was motivated to check out GameMaker: Studio based on a lot of what I read here and what I’ve read about GameMaker. I don’t have a programming background but I have designed web sites so I’m not an expert in coding but I know the basics and have an idea how it works.

    Going through the tutorials that are packed with GameMaker I have to say, it is beginner friendly. i feel like it’s somewhat easy to learn but difficult to master. What I like about it is there is room for growth. I don’t necessarily think that just anyone can pick up GameMaker and excel with it. I think they must have certain aptitudes and skill sets.

    Another thing that’s somewhat frustrating for me is going through the tutorials, it will be very detailed which is great for someone who wants to learn things step by step and who will learn from doing but then all of a sudden information will just be missing. So you kind of have to fill in the blanks but for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing yet that isn’t a very easy thing to do.

    • I started using the software just 3 days ago. My background is knowledge of PHP, HTML and CSS. The tutorials held my hand at first but expected me to know everything which once has been explained. Some repetition would have been nice, but I figured it out nonetheless. Also, i stumbled about the mentioned variable issue and was briefly confused even though I understand variables. I managed to figure it out myself though. I’m now feeling very motivated to do my own stuff. So to me, yes, this tool is very beginner friendly.

  3. I haven’t done enough with GM:S to have gotten any error codes but I feel it is not beginner friendly for several reasons, most of which have to do with my age. Not all beginners are teenagers or studying computer languages in high school or college. Some of us are grandparents. The color schemes and tiny font size in GM:S is impossible to read for anyone with vision problems whether due to age or genetics. The font is so small, I can’t even read the help file to learn how to increase the font size. I will try something a GMC forum member suggested for earlier versions of GM to see if that helps. I would love to be able to make games for non PC devices but for now, that’s not going to happen any time soon.

  4. I think, it’s clear that YYG don’t want to have their Game Maker Studio such non-programmer friendly as GM8 was. Trying to make Game Maker more powerful, they implemented new principles without making changes foolproof, easy-to-use and heavily supported. Main idea probably is, to leave behind nothing-really-producing kids bombarding every forum with questions like “What kind of icon I should use if I want to make my MMORPG instantly? Please no codes..”. But I’m sure that various knowledge levels can co-exist together using one IDE, one paradigma basis, one language. YYG obviously don’t believe that.

  5. I don’t think GameMaker has gotten any less beginner-friendly; the main difference is that its options have grown. If beginners try to use Studio to its fullest extent, sure, they might get overwhelmed, but that doesn’t make the “beginner parts” of GameMaker any less usable or accessible.

  6. Well GMS is not beginner friendly, but that doesn’t make it a bad program. The only thing that frustrates me is that YYG says, and i quote, “GameMaker: Studio caters to entry-level novices and seasoned game development professionals equally, allowing them to create cross-platform games in record time and at a fraction of the cost!” For one. Construct is cheaper. Two its not easy to understand. I should know from experience. It took me around a year and a half to just get D&D down. Now that im using GML i still find it very hard to pick up on. Another thing is that YYG refuses to release video tutorials on how to use their software. An excellent example of that is the new multiplayer functions. I want to learn that but YYG will not (even after i pestered them for weeks) release a video about ANYTHING related to GMS tutorials. All i see on their YouTube channel is “New” and “Upcoming” features that will do what? Add more bug to GMS’s already buggy IDE. Now the bugs i have found i dont have time to list here but they are very annoying when im trying to code a game.

    So if i had to say Buy Try or Dont Buy
    it would be a TRY
    Since GMS is free for the standard version right now (until 3/2/14), take advantage of it if you want to try it. The only thing you need is to download it and enter your email, and if you like it upgrade later. (or now if you want to for $35)

    One more thing. The debugger right now is a pain in the rear. However im looking forward to the new one in the official 1.3 release. (not the “Early Access” build)

  7. Instead of making polls you should make some quality video tutorials. Maybe even hire a professional. I think few of those will hugely befit expanding GMS userbase and help existing, beginner users (like me).

      • I’m new to Game Maker Studio. Took advantage of the last free standard edition license and upgraded to professional for $35. Never used a previous version of the program, and just heard about it around 3 months ago.

        My previous experience with programming was BASIC on the Amstrad 30 years ago, and I didn’t use more commands than CLS and PRINT to set a message with a 10-line program in the shopping malls’ exhibition computers.

        With a toddler and a 3-year old, I’ve only been able to dedicate around 5 hours to Game Maker Studio (aside from the time dedicated to downloading the tutorials one by one), and I’ve been able to complete the first two tutorials and introduce some behaviours to objects which weren’t specified to do so in the tutorials (but learnt to do it through the tutorials).

        This is much more than I’ve achieved with any other program/language ever. Sure, I still have to get to scripting and GML, but Game Maker is the first tool I see which allows you to begin from zero without getting lost in manuals and books that have to be read before.

  8. I said “absolutely,” and I have good reason to. There’s so few programs that you can install, create a single room and object. Press the run button and boom! You have a running program!
    Yes, it is extremely more in-depth than Gamemaker 8. However, if you don’t want to use those additions, you really don’t have to.

    I rarely use shaders, yet it’s nice to have access to them when I do need them.
    Gamemaker Studio is a good balance between beginner friendly and useful for full game projects.


  9. GameMaker doesn’t cater to the people who think they can open the program up and everything works just perfect for them and have there awesome game made in a few hours. Like anything you really will have to put effort into learning the program, with the tutorials and lets be honest one of the more helpful communities. Someone who is an absolute beginner that was willing to spend time learning first will pickup the basics of GameMaker D&D within a week. Within a month they would have either improved their overall skill within GM or moved on to actual code and not using D&D.

    The debugger is another area and another beast…sometimes I ‘m not sure what the hell it’s trying to tell me xD, I usually figure it out easy enough though.

  10. GameMaker is a really good application that opens up possibilities for those of us who do not know how to code. What a great thing. Could it be better? Yes. Learning anything new can be challenging. There are small UI things that could make the experience easier. For instance, the interface to installing a new module. The receipt for purchasing a module has a link to the main download page. But that’s not the way you install an upgrade module. It didn’t seem right, so I contacted your help desk. Your help desk is a terrific resource. Another little UI thing – the tutorials. If you quit out, the tutorial window is gone. The solution is to open another instance, and toggle between the windows. Meanwhile, following directions in one window is a challenge for me. These are two simple fix examples from which the product would benefit.

  11. Sure! People here is forgetting the fact that actually a noob can make a game from scratch just using DnD actions and in no more than 5 minuts. This is not L-friendly? oh man. After that, of course you can get in coding for reach better results, but meanwhile you can afford a project with a structured thinking (like a programmer) but with the no need of coding.

  12. It is not “beginner friendly” in the sense of the word beginner. Sure, programming games is just not that easy, and I enjoy GMS because it is so much easier than other languages. But that does not make it really easy for beginners.

    To me GMS is not targeted anymore towards real beginners. But things like the cryptic error messages and guessing what is not working correctly in many other cases is annoying and should be improved.

  13. Truth be told, I don’t think YYG should be catering to the needs of every single potential user, it brings down the solidity of the software as a whole.

    The error code example above…you call it “rubbish” but it only takes a few seconds to understand the errors. If you’ve worked in any other language, you’ll find that error reporting and debugging with GameMaker is super easy. If you’ve not worked with any other language, and you find this error reporting to be confusing, it just takes some effort to learn the software.

    I mean, let’s take this example shown:
    Push :: Execution Error — Variable Get -1.test(100002, -1) // Obviously it is saying the execution of attempting to get the variable is failing and it even tells you what variable!
    Next line:
    at gml_Object_object0_CreateEvent_1 (line 3) — l=test; // This is clearly telling you where the code failed. The object, the event, the line, and condition that could not execute. That’s awesome! It’s specifically narrowing down where the fault is. It can’t hold your hand anymore than it already is.

    Consider this though, the general market of developers who are SERIOUS about being game developers professionally are just entertaining a fleeting notion. We know this. So that being said, I would rather YYG focus more on letting the software grow as they have the last two years, to be more of a solid tool for people who are trying to reach a professional state. You don’t charge 800 dollars for a collection of software that has bubble-wrap all over it, and I sure hope that my investment into the software isn’t twisted to cater to people who don’t even take the time to read the help files or even Google before asking “How do I make Flappy Bird.”

    In my opinion, along with the manual, the vast amount of examples out there, and the easy introduction into the software, it’s one of the easiest IDE’s to sink your teeth into.

    If GM is not considered novice friendly for someone, then it’s of my opinion they should stick to another hobby that they don’t have to put much thought into.

    • It isn’t immediately clear what the -1 is for. Is it because “self” is represented as -1 internally? Implementation details like that should be abstracted away from the user, and definitely moreso if being friendly to novices is supposed to be a selling point.

      You don’t necessarily have to sacrifice user-friendliness for scale.

      I’ve also noticed that Game Maker has a lot of gimmicks that you have to get accustomed to, such as the precise behavior of the “solid” checkbox and event overloading (although both of these have been an issue in old versions as well).

      It’s extremely friendly in the sense that it’s still the easiest to get a window up and running in, but the unpredictability of some of the features negates this advantage a bit.

      • I agree that it takes some understanding, but you’re dealing with programming here. There is an inherit complexity in code that is nearly impossible to convert to ‘common English’ when it covers so many possible issues. The ‘-1’ could say something like “MISSING INSTANCE” but instead it uses -1, and when the user learns what -1 means with GM they are able to take that knowledge further when dealing with layers of instances and variable scope! It’s helpful to them.

        And the manual, it covers these errors:

        I realize my original post may seem harsh and paint me as some kind of GML elitist, but in all actuality I am more of a ‘bootstraps’ kind of guy. Effort is required to use anything that is new to you, and I feel that GM makes a great effort to be as self explanatory as it can be, especially given the small team that it has working on it.

  14. No. [I’m going to briefly go on about how awesome I am by listing prior virtues :P] I’ve programmed in basic, c/c++,java,lua,php,c#… using tools such as qBasic, Visual Studio, Netbeans, Eclipse, Unity (much lesser extent) and C2. I can honestly say on a personal opinion. That GMS is not beginner friendly. Don’t get me wrong it’s far easier than say a non programmer to jump into Eclipse. But could it be easier. Very much so. I attempted to use it and follow the tutorial. I could follow it, I can use it, but it’s very far from intuitive.

    However I think GMS still has merits. GMS still tries to stick OOP design. GMS tries to keep devs on good design habits. Where as say personally C2 does a great job of letting devs do bad code and doesn’t do a lot to foster good game design.

  15. Game Maker is definitely not as beginner friendly.

    For example when one uses an undefined variable, the error message presented is:

    Push :: Execution Error – Variable Get -1.test(100002, -1)
    at gml_Object_object0_CreateEvent_1 (line 3) – l=test;

    Using undefined variables is one of the most common problems novice’s face, and when they do, that’s what they get?

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