I’ve been using GameMaker Studio 2 for the last 4 or so months on a roguelike platformer with a ton of humor called Pyramid Plunge, and it’s kinda funny how I ended up really liking this engine. This is how it started…

So I heard about GameMaker several times for several years but it always looked too basic whenever I looked at it. I had an idea for a roguelike platformer and felt like experimenting a bit before actually starting the random level generation. So I decided to try something out. Try to make a simple platformer (static screen) where you can jump around and shoot enemies with a gun. I said I will try GameMaker and Unity side by side, i.e. give each engine a couple of days and decide from there. Now I’ve been using Unity for 10 years so I thought it was going to be an unfair comparison. But for 2D I was more used to NGUI and didn’t yet get to use all the 2D stuff tools they’ve been adding.

I decided to start with GameMaker Studio 2. I installed it, and started some asteroids tutorial just to get an idea of the engine. My first reaction when I realised the horror that each method needs to be in a separate file was, “WHAT IN THE HELL?? Uninstall!”. And that’s what I did.

So I went back to Unity and started on the simple platformer and for the couple of days I spent on Unity I was not really happy. It really felt that Unity was not made for 2d games, and that’s what it is. It has been adapted for 2d. I felt like I could do more in that time and also I wasn’t feeling the controls were anything close to what I wanted.

I decided to give GameMaker another chance. I re-installed it, and this time I said I will forget all about the nice OOP stuff we’re all used to, and the code editors, and try to forget about Unity for a couple of days. I finished the asteroids tutorial and then started doing the simple platformer with shooting. To my surprise I started getting a good feel for the platformer not to mention the speed to get things done. I can’t exactly pin-point why this is because on paper Unity is much more advanced. But the tools in GameMaker are so razor-sharp focused for 2D games and the API so simple to get you started that you feel like a rocket is attached to your chair.

Once I was happy with the controls and had a sort of fun toy where i could jump around with the character and feel the controls were precise enough, I thought I will probably get stuck when trying to do level generation since it’s more abstract. But I got something running after a couple of hours. From that point on I never looked back and kept improving on that prototype.

If you’re holding back from trying GameMaker because you’re used to Unity, and you want to do a 2D game, I strongly suggest you give GameMaker a chance. If you’re going to try it, prepare yourself for the following:

  • Forget the typical classes with methods. Each method is a script file and can therefore be used by unrelated objects. I’ve heard they will be changing this soon
  • Forget anonymous methods (lambda) although I’ve heard that is coming soon too
  • Forget about dropping PSDs and such. Unity’s import pipeline is much more straight forward but this is not a show stopper.
  • Forget about using animation tool for keyframes etc. It’s all code baby – just get used to programming the animations with tweens, as it should be. I never liked using keyframing animations anyway in Unity either. In fact I had done my own tweening library for unity. For gamemaker I use this: TweenGMS Pro
  • Forget playerprefs BUT there’s an awesome free plugin with the same functionality but you don’t need to remember calling Save – playerprefs_gm
  • You might get confused with the GameMaker versions they have at first, but in short the free version is limited to number of objects/scripts/etc you can create. You will get hooked and then buy the creator version (39$). This will not create optimised builds though as they have some VM version, and also it’s only for one platform that you run the IDE in. So you can then upgrade later to the Developer version (99$ or the difference if it’s just an upgrade). Then they have the console version which is just 199$

Once you get over the above, and change perspective on GameMaker, you’ll get up to speed and enjoy implementing your next 2d game really fast.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Unity but if the project is purely 2D, I’m convinced GameMaker is a better choice since it seems to be its main focus.

If you want to playtest the vertical slice of Pyramid Plunge join us on Discord 

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