Tag Archives: Unity

Getting Started with 2D Game Development Using GameMaker


by Nick Landry

Anyone who knows me personally or follows me on Twitter knows that I’m a huge gamer. The problem is that between work, community events, social life, my wife and twin babies, I virtually have no time to play games. I now game vicariously through occasional mobile games, listening to gaming podcasts when I drive, and buying games I’ll probably never have time to play. I have over 20 MMOs installed on my home rig, and I’m addicted to Steam sales (I even have the 250+ badge on Steam).

The cool thing is that Steam started selling software a while back and during one such Steam sale over the holidays, I snagged a copy of GameMaker: Professional for only $25 (that’s 75% off). I decided to take it for a spin (thanks to my colleagues Joe Healy and Daniel Egan for the push). I’m no game development expert. I’m more of a game development enthusiast. I’m also learning Unity on the side, and my game development background is with XNA – a topic I have covered at many conferences and user groups over the last 7 years.

Game development has to be one of the most rewarding forms of software development. You’re basically using your programming skills to make something fun! But game development is also not for the faint of heart as it can truly test your programming skills, knowledge of math, creative juices, imagination and patience. Fortunately, there are cool game engines and IDEs like GameMaker to simplify our lives as we seek to produce fun games in less time.


What is GameMaker?

As its name implies, GameMaker is a game development environment and engine produced by YoYo Games that lets you design and build cross-platform games for desktop computers, the Web, mobile phones and tablets.

How much does GameMaker cost?

GameMaker: Studio starts out free with the Standard edition. You can download it here from YoYo Games. There used to be 4 editions of GameMaker, where the free edition was limited in the number of resources you could use in your game projects (which translates in the complexity of the game you can build). The free version now has unlimited resources, and that is great news. In terms of support platforms for your games, the free Studio edition used to support Windows Desktop, Mac OS X and Windows Apps (i.e. Windows Store apps on 8.x). Now the free version only supports Windows Desktop.

This means you can start building Windows games for free and anyone with a standard Windows 7 or 8 computer can play your game from the desktop. Distribution won’t be easy though. Publishing to Steam is not that easy and self-publishing outside of public stores can be frustrating. You’ll probably want to publish it to the Windows Store. For that you need to upgrade to the Professional edition for $100. There are other features you will get in the Professional edition, such as texture management, multiple configurations, mobile testing and more. It’s a great bargain and if you already work as a professional developer during the day, surely you can afford a $100 tool.

Important Note: YoYo Games is currently running a Summer sale at the time of this writing. You can get GameMaker Studio Professional for a mere $60. That’s the cost of a single console video game. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this deal. Other deals have been announced on the other modules. Read more about the sale here.

Beyond Windows Desktop and Windows Store, GameMaker also support additional mobile platforms, but you’ll have to first upgrade to the professional edition, and then buy these modules separately:

  • Windows Phone 8
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Web / HTML5
  • Mac OS X

And quite a few other platform exports are supported too. The following table shows the three editions of GameMaker, their respective features and add-ons. More details on the YoYo Game website here.


You might be wondering where to buy GameMaker: from Steam or directly from YoYo Games? I’m told that the Steam version has a tendency to lag behind a bit in terms of updates, so you should probably buy direct from YoYo Games if you’re about to pay full price. You’ll also get the option of getting early access builds this way too. Steam does run sales often, so if you can get a great deal, get it on Steam instead.

GameMaker vs. Unity, Construct2, XNA/MonoGame, etc.

Why should I use GameMaker?

Why not use Unity? I hear it’s great and it gives me more exports for free?

These are valid questions. Game development preferences – just like with games – can be quite subjective. Unity is great and I’m learning that engine too. It’s true that GameMaker is not exactly a professional tool, it’s more of a hobbyist & indie tool. That said, I love how GameMaker is much easier to pick-up and build something fast compared to Unity. Unity is by far more powerful than GameMaker, and has a much larger and richer ecosystem around it, but the learning curve with Unity is steeper. Unity was also originally designed as a 3D game development engine. The 2D support added in Unity 4.3 makes it much easier to build 2D games, but it’s not exactly as easy as GameMaker to get started with it.

My game development background is with XNA. It was an awesome framework that simplified game development by creating a level of abstraction above DirectX in managed code and it made it accessible to C# developers. The XNA Content Processing pipeline also made it easy to import media assets in your projects. Unfortunately XNA is no longer being developed on at Microsoft. While it lives on across multiple platforms thanks to the awesome MonoGame project, once you’ve tasted the ease of use of a game development engine like Unity or GameMaker, it’s hard to go back to coding everything yourself, be it in C++ or C#.

There are countless other popular game engines like Construct 2, GameSalad, Cocos2d and Torque, but I’m not familiar with any of them yet. Some are even simpler than GameMaker as they try to avoid scripting/coding as much as possible, while other engines like Unreal, Havok, Marmalade and Hero Engine are for the “big leagues” professional game developers who only swear by C++.

Choosing a game engine is ultimately a personal choice. You should first look at the cost, the programming skills required, the learning curve and the supported platforms. This post is about GameMaker and once you’ve tried it, you’ll know soon enough if it’s for you, or not.



Some Games Built with GameMaker

GameMaker may not have the impressive portfolio of professional AAA or indie games that Unity has, but there are still quite many good games that are powered by GameMaker. It’s a great engine for mobile and indie game development. Some examples include:

There are of course many more games built in GameMaker. Check out the Showcase page here for 30+ more featured GameMaker titles. if you know of other cool games made with GameMaker (even your own), feel free to link them in the comments below.

Learning GameMaker Through Tutorials

This blog post is not about teaching you GameMaker (yet). YoYo Games already has a great set of learning resources for you to get started, and I won’t pretend to supersede that with my own walkthrough. My recommendation is that you go through the tutorials baked directly in the product:

  • Install and launch GameMaker
  • The New Project dialog will be shown. Select the “Tutorials” tab
  • Expand the “Beginner” tutorials branch on the left, select 01_My_First_Game and go through that tutorial, following the step by step instructions for the “bouncing clown” game.

This should give you a good taste of the GameMaker experience. Once you’re done, you can explore the other tutorials.

Screenshot 2014-03-17 14.50.49

There are many more great tutorials available, including:

  • GameMaker Tutorials by YoYo Games
  • GameMaker Tutorials by Shaun Spalding
  • RPG Tutorial Video Series: This series by rm2kdev is fantastic and I’m still going through it myself. I highly recommend it if you’re interested in building a retro RPG in 2D. Note that the series uses the art from the RPG Maker RTP engine, and you are not allowed to use it in games that you publish or sell. This is for learning purposes only.

Speaking of art… where should get your graphics and other media assets for your games?

Obtaining Art Assets for your Games

Since most developers (including myself) are not artists, figuring out which art files to use can be a big challenge when getting started with game development. You can partner-up with an artist to build a joint project together, but it’s usually a good idea to get started on your own with some pre-made assets as you learn the tools of the trade. Once you’ve built one or two test games, you’ll have a better idea on what to look for in an artist, and you’ll be more productive as you collaborate together on a game.

Here are some sources where you can look for pre-made art:

  • YoYo Games Marketplace: This is still new and in the “Early Access” stage. You’ll need the early access version of GameStudio too.
  • OpenGameArt.org: Carefully review the license for any art assets you find there before using them in your games.
  • Unity Asset Store: While this store is optimized for Unity developers, you can still find some good assets there too – some paid, some free.

If you have other sources of open art assets for game developers, please post it in the comments section below and I’ll add it to my post after review.

Remember that you are legally not allowed to simply lift any graphics from the Internet or other games for your own projects. It’s ok to do so if this is just for your own learning experience, but don’t publish these games until you’ve replaced the art with assets you are legally licensed to use.



Packaging Your Game for the Windows Store

Running your game locally or creating an executable capable of running on the Windows desktop is all fine and dandy. That said, I bet you’d like to publish your game in a mobile app store to make it available to millions of users and (hopefully) make some money. You’ll need to buy GameMaker Professional and some additional export modules to package & publish your games to iOS, Android or Windows Phone. Luckily for us, packaging & publishing your game to Windows 8 or Windows RT computers, laptops or tablets via the Windows Store is included in the base Professional edition of GameMaker without the need to buy any extra modules.

If you have an existing GameMaker game you’d like to port to the Windows Store, make sure to read this blog post by my colleague Amanda Lange.

Read this knowledge base article to prepare your GameMaker environment for Windows Store development (referred to as Windows 8 in GameMaker).

Read this other knowledge base article to publish your game to the Windows Store.

For any other questions you might have about publishing GameMaker games to the Windows Store, refer to the GameMaker Windows 8 Knowledge Base here.

GameMaker Reference links

If you have other GameMaker resources to recommend, feel free to include them in the comments below.

You can expect more posts on this blog about game development in the coming weeks and months. Some will be for GameMaker, and others will be for Unity as I explore both tools. have you tried GameMaker before? What did you think of it? Have you published GameMaker titles? Let me know in the comments section below or on Twitter at @ActiveNick.


Announcing Nokia DVLUP Day New York City: March 22


Learn to make amazing Windows Phone apps at Nokia DVLUP Day in New York City on Saturday March 22, 2014 and win big prizes just for participating. Join Nokia Developer Ambassadors Nick Landry & Lance McCarthy, as well as several Microsoft Technical Evangelists, as they provide hands-on Windows Phone development training in a dynamic and fun event. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or barely know how to code, you will walk away with the ability to write a mobile app.

With full sample source code and step-by-step instructions, you will learn how to make an app or game from scratch, or learn new techniques to enhance your current apps & games. No matter what you want to build – an app or a game – or what your programming skill level is, four individual tracks to choose from means there is something for everyone.

DVLUP Day is a unique community event that combines presentations by Windows Phone experts along with a hands-on workshop to help attendees get started on their apps. BRING YOUR LAPTOP! Work with our experts, get started on your app or game, publish it within 3 weeks after the event and get a free Windows Phone 8 device!

Register for free on Eventbrite here


DVLUP Day New York City will be held on March 22, 2014 at the new Microsoft Office in Manhattan at:

11 Times Square, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10036

Click here for a map and directions

What You Will Receive

As an attendee of DVLUP Day NYC you will be eligible for the following:

  • A Windows Phone 8 device. Every attendee who publishes a new app or game within 3 weeks of the event will get a new Nokia Lumia Windows Phone 8 device. Developers who update an app or game older than 6 months with significant changes are also eligible.
  • A heavy-duty DVLUP backpack. The first 150 registered attendees to sign-in the morning of the event will receive a swag bag full of goodies, even the backpack itself is worth $89 (it’s a Wenger, Swiss Gear TSA friendly laptop bag). We’ll have swag, t-shirts and other goodies for everyone too.
  • A Nokia Developer Offers token. This is worth hundreds of dollars and contains the following:
    • Microsoft Windows Phone DevCenter account (this is your portal to publish apps to the Windows Phone Store and also unlocks physical devices for building apps)
    • Telerik UI for Windows Phone license
    • Infragistics NetAdvantage for Windows Phone license
    • BugSense Performance Monitoring solution for Windows Phone (3 months)
  • $50 AdDuplex credit (approx. 20,000 ad impressions). AdDuplex is an ideal network to cross-promote your app with others. You’ll learn about AdDuplex in the App Marketing & Advertising lightning talk.

There will be multiple random drawings for all attendees to win a Nokia Lumia “Hero” device of their choice (Lumia 1020, 928, 925, 920) and other prizes. In addition to the phones, we’ll be giving away other prizes from Nokia & Microsoft, including JBL PowerUp Bluetooth Speakers, Xbox ONE and Xbox 360 games, software licenses, gadgets and more. The first drawing will be during the Lightning Talks after the day of training for all attendees. Another drawing will be held near the end of the event in the evening for the attendees who stayed to code and get help during the hands-on workshop.

Breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner will be served. Come see the latest Windows Phone & Windows 8 devices in our device bar, and connect with other developers in the community

Register for free today! This is a unique event you just can’t miss!

DVLUP Day NYC Agenda – March 22, 2014

8:00am – Registration Opens: Continental breakfast & coffee will be served.

9:00am – Opening Session: Introduction from Nokia, meet the experts, housekeeping.

*** 15 min break ***

10:00am – Windows Phone Breakout Sessions: 4 tracks

  • Track 1: App Development – Getting Started & App Studio
  • Track 2: App Development – Maps, Imaging & Cloud Services
  • Track 3: Game Development – Getting Started with Unity
  • Track 4: Game Development – Porting Unity Games to Windows Phone

12:30pm – Lunch Break

1:30pm – Breakout Sessions Continue (same tracks)

*** 15 min break ***

3:00pm –Lightning Talks with Q&A

  • App Design & User Experience
  • Windows Phone Packaging & App Store Submission
  • App Marketing & Advertising

4:00pm – Hands-on workshop begins – All staff on hand to help you get started

6:30pm – Dinner Break

9:30pm – Event Ends

Register for free on Eventbrite here

Track 1: App Development – Getting Started & App Studio

Learn how to write Windows Phone apps with XAML/C# and explore the amazing APIs available to you. See first-hand how to use the powerful tools, Visual Studio and Blend, to produce great apps with amazing UIs. You will also learn how to generate a store-ready Windows Phone app in under an hour using Microsoft App Studio. Learn how to get started with App Studio and have a store ready app without having to write a single line of code. Then take a dive into the downloadable source code to discover how to customize your app further.

Track 2: App Development – Maps, Imaging & Cloud Development

So you’re already experienced with Windows Phone app development and you want to take your apps to the next level. Join us for a deeper dive into some specific SDKs for Windows Phone developers. You’ll learn about location services, maps and how to call Geospatial Information Services (GIS) from your apps. We’ll also explore the Nokia Imaging SDK, letting you easily add advanced imaging effects and filters when dealing with photos in your apps. Finally, we’ll see how your apps can reach leverage Windows Azure to create a custom back-end to store structured and unstructured data in the cloud and deliver a compelling user experiences. We’ll discuss how you can use Windows Azure to extend the on-line presence of your app by building additional channels to showcase your application and interact with your end-users.

Track 3: Game Development – Getting Started with Unity

Learn how to make fun games for Windows Phone using Unity. In this track you will learn how to code casual 2D games for Windows Phone using one of the best game engines and toolset – used by Indies and Pros alike. And the best part is it’s free! Game development is one of the most fun and rewarding forms of software development. If you’ve ever considered writing games, this is your chance to get started.

Track 4: Game Development – Porting Unity Games to Windows Phone

If you’re already an experienced Unity developer and have published games on other platforms like iOS =, Android, PC or others, come join this session to learn how you can reach a whole new audience of gamers on the Windows Phone platform. Learn about adapting your game for touch controls, how to deal with Windows Phone specific considerations, and we’ll even help you to bring your game to the Windows Store too.

Developer Environment Needed

Windows Phone 8 development requires Windows 8.x Pro to install the SDK and emulator. If you’re running Windows 7, you can still build Windows Phone 7.8 apps using the 7.1 SDK. If you’re using a Mac, you can create a Windows 8.x Pro virtualized environment using Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion.

All attendees can build Windows Phone applications using a web browser and Microsoft App Studio, as covered in Track 1.

For more information on getting started, visit http://www.ageofmobility.com/?page_id=961.

See You There!

DVLUP Day was a huge hit with developers in 2013, with stops in Boston, Tampa, Sunnyvale and Vancouver. This is going to be an awesome day in New York City and I look forward to seeing you all there. Just for showing up and learning, you get hooked up. Just for publishing an app, you get hooked up. Mark off that Saturday March 22, register now and come join us.