GameMaker Studio 2 Adds Console Export Modules
The Good News
June 22, 2017: YoYo Games announces triumphantly that Console Export Modules for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have arrived
Now this is great news, it really is; console exporting at the click of a button is a grand idea and really lends itself to getting out there and making the next big hit on some of the newest console platforms available: PS4 and Xbox One. Let’s be clear though, console export modules already exist in GameMaker: Studio 1.4 and users have had access to the following console modules for free: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and Xbox One; as long as they were registered developers with Sony or Microsoft. There is still an important reason to make the upgrade to Game Maker Studio 2; support for GameMaker: Studio 1.4 will be ending next year in 2018. You can read about YoYo Games official sunset schedule here: GameMaker: Studio 1.4 Sunset. This means if you are thinking of starting or currently in the early stages of console development for PlayStation 4 or Xbox One it is advised you upgrade to GameMaker Studio 2 although timing might be important as the new console export modules are for the first time ever: Yearly Subscription based.
Leasing Export Modules?
So let’s get to some quick details on the subscription plans being offered by YoYo Games for GameMaker Studio 2:
- PS4 Only: $799.99 per Year and comes with Windows/Mac Test Run ability
- Xbox One Only: $799.99 per Year and comes with Windows/Mac Test Run ability
- Ultimate: $1500.00 per Year and comes with every Platform (Windows, Mac, Ubuntu, HTML5, Microsoft UWP, Android, iOS, PS4, Xbox One); with the requirement that for PS4 or Xbox One you still need to be a registered developer
Now at first glance this all seems pretty steep and when considering these are going to be yearly fees, the price for console game development increases sharply if you are currently using the free console exports on GameMaker: Studio 1.4. This did not go unnoticed among the GameMaker Community as quite a few threads showed up questioning the decision behind a yearly subscription and how this hurts any small Indie Development company from entering the console market. Of course the biggest question that came up is: “If GameMaker: Studio 1.4 console export modules were free, why charge for them now?”; and to anyone looking at this from a fresh perspective it does indeed seem odd, YoYo Games had never done a subscription based model before and console exports were indeed free previously so what gives? The answers to those questions, and there are answers, show up from GameMaker lead developer and legendary programmer: YoYo Games employee Mike.
I wanna be, I wanna be like Mike
Seriously, Mike is great and in case you are not familiar with why (Mike has been featured on this blog in the past) here is a quick summary:
- Name: Mike Dailly [@mdf200]
- YoYo Games Employee: Head of Development
- Game Creator: Grand Theft Auto, Lemmings, Lemmings 2
- Multitudes of low level system code in C, C++, Java for everything from 3D Engines to the GameMaker runners (A runner is the component that lets GameMaker projects run on different platform targets)
- Lead Developer of “Your World”: GameMaker: Studio 1.4 Open World engine and framework that has some really great features including map creation from a bitmap you create yourself, car steering and traffic system and pedestrian path system. Open source and free to use – Your World
- Created the “Inside GameMaker Studio 2 – Remake” youtube series in which Mike recreates a game from scratch using GameMaker Studio 2 and really hits on some great features such as tilemap collision and surfaces – Remakes
I fully intend to go into a few of the bits above in separate posts as I do not think some of the topics got the community attention they deserved. Your Worlds is a great engine, has a lot of code to learn from and works out of the box. The Remake youtube series shows great insights into what is possible with GameMaker Studio 2 and I just want to get more exposure for these topics.
Back to the original point
Mike responded with some much needed information and clarification on why a subscription model was pursued by YoYo Games for the GameMaker Studio 2 Console Export Modules:
“1) The console exports have never been free. While developers have never paid for them, they were been paid for by platform holders. They are no longer doing this, so they have to be paid for by someone.”
I want to point out here that a “platform holder” is the company that owns the given platform which in this case refers to Sony for PlayStation 4 and Microsoft for Xbox One. We can see earlier evidence that Sony and Microsoft were covering these costs in a previous post by Mike:
“Console exports were never “free”. Sony and Microsoft pre-paid for them, they now aren’t.”
These 2 points are very important as it goes a long way to showing that YoYo Games is not intentionally creating extra fees for console export modules, these fees always existed but were previously subsidized by Sony and Microsoft.
“2) By comparison to desktop users, there number of console developers is tiny. The work required for each console export is significant – more so than for the likes of windows. The SDKs are upgraded all the time (and the changes can be significant), and we will spend huge amounts of time maintaining and upgrading these runtimes.”
A smaller user base combined with increased work on top of new fees that must covered provide further evidence for a subscription based model, but the explanation is not done yet.
“3) Console development is hard. While the games themselves usually “just export”, that is a fraction of the work required for consoles. TRC requirements means users need significant hands on help from us. We spend a huge amount of time with console developers helping them with things like certification failures, performance issues, crashes and other issues that are usually time critical as they prepare for shows, demos and time slotted submissions. This extra level of support was again something previously paid for by platform holders, and again no longer do. However console developers need this level of support.
Because of this, a single, small, payment for a game that could take years, no longer works. Support is not “free”, someone has to pay for it.
4) keeping all this in mind, not only are you paying for access to the module, but you’re getting some extra support (beyond what desktop users get for example), especially through submission.”
These are major touchpoints and the main justification for a subscription based model, once again Sony and Microsoft had subsidized the actual export process and now they do not; YoYo Games could have just left it at compiling to the target but that would leave console developers, especially Indie console developers to handle all technical issues alone. Such a situation would not end with a good experience for anyone so YoYo Games decided to go the support route.
“5) We consulted with many of our current console developers when trying to judge a fair price for the work involved.”
One contention that came up in the forums was if any GameMaker: Studio console developers were even asked for input about these changes; as pointed out by Mike, YoYo Games did do the responsible thing and involved the current users when working out the subscription model.
“6) If you are looking to start a console project soon, you should not even consider using 1.x as support for that will stop next year – as has been previously announced, and not only do console games tend to get updated a lot (so you need on going support), you will have to port and submit it long before this time.”
This is another reference to GameMaker: Studio 1.4 being sunset next year and is of course very good advice. Console development takes considerable effort and time so the longer a project stays on 1.4 the larger the risk of running out of time for support becomes.
“No one will ever get the module, click export and put it on the store and be done. Console development is hard, time consuming, and costs. TRCs alone complicate things beyond what an new indie dev has ever come up against.”
TRCs for those that may not know refer to “Technical Requirements Checklist” which is a set of functional tests and requirements that must be passed in order for a game to be published on a given platform. Some examples can include:
- More than 5 seconds of black screen after a disc is inserted into the system
- Setting the wrong language for the game or software
- Wrong render resolution support
These checklists are set by the platform holder and if your game fails too many it will be rejected; so without proper support or having gone through the TRC process many times already it can become quickly overwhelming.
We have the good news which is PS4 and Xbox One platform export support is now available for GameMaker Studio 2, but that is tempered with a new subscription model. This raises a serious question for any Indie Developer looking to break into console game development: increase the cost of development per year for your upcoming console game or find a different engine. That question will ultimately come down to the personal choice of the Indie Company or Developer but it is important to keep in mind that if you subscribe to a console export package you will also get full support from YoYo Games for releasing the console game which might even out the balance sheets at the end of the day.
Please leave me any comments or questions below.
Good Luck in all things,