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Exclusive Interview With The Creator Of GameMaker

Today we’re joined by Professor Mark Overmars, the creator of GameMaker.

Continue reading for the full interview.


What have you been working on since you handed over development of GameMaker to the team at YoYo Games?

I am now running a new company called Tingly Games. Tingly Games has two lines of business. First of all, we develop HTML5 games for portals and as apps. Our goal is to produce many different games over the coming two years, resulting in a portfolio of hundreds of games. Also we created a blend of ecards and casual games, called Greeting Games.

mark-overmarsWe use HTML5 for everything. We do not use GameMaker but wrote our own engine and RAD environment to better support our development process that is focused on reuse, to very quickly produce many games. And we created a dedicated HTML5 game engine to get enough speed on older mobile devices. All these tools are only meant for in-house development. We do not license or sell them to others (so don’t ask).

The Game Maker Company, which you also own, holds a significant stake in YoYo Games. Do you have any direct involvement with GameMaker?

I have completely stopped the development of GameMaker. YoYo Games has a large team of very experienced developers that do all the work; I am a co-owner of YoYo Games and I have regular strategic discussions with Sandy Duncan but I am not involved in the day-to-day running of the company.

Compared to older versions of GameMaker, what impresses you the most about GameMaker Studio?

Obviously the fact that you can run the created games on all those different devices. Most of the fascinating changes have been made in the runner, like the ability to compile the code, the use of shaders, etc. The runner (or actually runners) has been completely rewritten. The builder still uses a lot of the old code and needs a considerable face-lift; but I understand YoYo Games is working on that.

GameMaker Studio has been rebranded to appeal to professional developers. Does GameMaker still have a place in education?

Yes. It is somewhat more difficult to use for young kids but for e.g. high schools it should still be fine. Obviously, you better not start creating Android apps because that requires additional knowledge. Of course, the original version was easier to use but that is the price to pay for more functionality and control. I think it is still a unique element of GameMaker that it can be used effectively by complete amateurs and by professionals.

Has GameMaker reached its peak? Aside from supporting more platforms, what else can be done to extend GameMaker in the coming years?

I think we are not even close to the peak of GameMaker. Obviously there are many other devices people would like to develop games for. And there are so many additional things that can be added. For example, in the area of animation.

But in the end the tool is only part of the equation. The most important thing is that we empower the developers to create the games they want to created. Extendibility of the tool is crucial for that. And that is another area where I expect major steps.

As a co-owner of YoYo Games, is the company expanding as quickly as you hoped it would?

The company has already become much larger than I had envisioned. It is now a major player in the area of game development tools. But I do expect it to grow further. In particular, in the area of support and training. We need to get even more people to experience the power of the tool.

What’s next for you? Are there any retirement plans on the horizon?

I stopped being a full professor at Utrecht University last fall to completely dedicate myself to my new company Tingly Games. So I am now a true entrepreneur. And I love it. In the coming years I will devote my time to making this into a success and to grow our company to a major casual games developer.

After that, who knows? I have so many ideas for new companies and there are so many other ways in which I could help improve the gaming ecosystem. It is such a wonderful field to be involved in.

Questions From Our Readers

Do you have any regrets about letting YoYo Games take over?

When YoYo Games took over GameMaker there where many complaints. And I still regular hear people say that things were better in the past. What they do not realize is that without YoYo Games GameMaker would not have existed anymore. It was impossible for me to continue developing the tool. And I did not have the expertise or time to do things like developing versions for other devices.

YoYo Games came exactly at the right moment. It kept the tool alive and then grew it hugely. So I still think it was the best decision I could have taken.

If you could go back in time, what would you have done differently with GameMaker?

That is hard to say. I think in the days before YoYo Games took over I could have invested in people to support me in the development and to market the tool better. That would have given GameMaker a more prominent place earlier on. Rather often I did not implement certain features because my time was limited. Also, GameMaker could have benefited (and still would) from a more polished look-and-feel. But in its essence it achieved exactly what I planned it to do (and it became much larger than I had anticipated).

And lastly, what is your favorite GameMaker game?

I cannot answer that question. When I play games in general I don’t know whether they are created with GameMaker or not. And that is a good thing. Obviously, GameMaker is very popular among indie developers and they have created amazing things with it. But I can be equally impressed by a 12-year-old that creates a simple maze game with a little twist.

Thank you for speaking with GameMaker Blog.

What do you think?

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  1. Good interview, with some good questions. It’s rare to see an interview where I was actually interested to know the answer to every question, and the length of the article ended just as I wanted to stop reading.

    Good answers from Mark, as well. Very satisfying. 🙂

  2. I know this won’t make it pass the moderator but still … this is something which I wish I could unread.

    He doesn’t even use the product which he created to develop his games instead he wrote a new-fangled, you beaut engine and RAD environment to create his games. So, to me as a relatively new GameMaker user it speaks volumes for the quality (or lack thereof) of GameMaker – when the original creator won’t even use it. And don’t think that us poor users are ever going to get this engine/RAD or even elements of it incorporated into GameMaker either because we just aren’t worthy of that consideration.

    So all-in-all it’s a rather sad read o(╥﹏╥)o … and I think it should be removed as it gives so much ammunition to other game development software.

    • I actually don’t agree, this won’t make me change using GMS, since yoyo has proven that they can update it and take big leaps to make it probably the best competitor against unity and probably the leader in 2D development for cross platform games.

      For me this seems more like a business decision, by Mark, than a platform debate..
      He made huge equity by building a prototype, and selling it off and keeping his eggs in that basket and now he is doing it again.

      Also, if you plan to only hit one export module (ie HTML5) and nothing else ever, then yes maybe it makes sense to develop a custom engine just for that.

      As we all know and debated to death though, if you want to make games, you will use an engine like GMS…not develop your own engine. So clearly he is in the game of developing software and not games.

      Just my opinion.

    • gamemaker is cross platform. you can make a much more optimised development environment if you concentrate on one platform and its specifics, especially if you got the skills and expertise.

      all game engines are not optimal. they’re just more user friendly and commercially viable. (saves you time and money).

  3. A great read and very interesting, glad Mark has joined games development full time since it shows the experts also believe in the market.

    Wow interesting that he will develop and maintain rapid HTML5 tech as his IP and competitive advantage.
    I guess it makes sense, since selling games with GMS there may be conflict of interest, since he also owns part of yoyogames.

    Good news for HTML5 none the less, but makes me wonder if we can compete in HTML5 with GMS?

  4. I enjoyed reading this. Nice job on securing the interview. It was a good choice of questions, and interesting answers from Mark. And it was fun to learn what Mark is doing these days. His business sounds interesting.

  5. Absolutely fantastic article! Good to hear Mr.Overmars is still in the business of making games.
    I think the playable ecard thing is a fantastic idea as well, I wish him all the best in his endeavors.

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