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GameMaker User Guide

This guide answers frequently asked questions about GameMaker including: how to get started using it, where to get help learning and working with GameMaker, and how video games made with GameMaker can be used for science and engineering fairs as well as other educational purposes.

What is GameMaker?

GameMaker is an easy-to-use programming environment that anyone, middle school-aged and older, can use to make their own video games. A basic version, called GameMaker Lite, can be downloaded free of charge from its publisher, YoYo Games, and is available for both Windows and Mac operating systems. The lite version can be upgraded to an edition with more features for less than $50.

How do I learn to use GameMaker?

Here are the first steps to getting started with GameMaker:

  1. Download GameMaker Lite for Windows or Mac.
  2. Follow the onscreen instructions to install and open GameMaker.
  3. Familiarize yourself with how GameMaker works by working through these two tutorials (approximately 30 minutes each):
    1. Your First Game (comes packaged with the GameMaker software);
    2. Dropcycle (found at the Activate! website: http://activategames.org/challenges/dropcycle).
  4. Start playing with GameMaker to create whatever games you dream up!
    1. If you want to learn more about how to use GameMaker, try some of the other tutorials listed in Table 1 below.
    2. For insights on how to design a good video game try the What Is a Good Game? tutorial and the Tips and Resources for Making Video and Computer Games page.

The great thing about GameMaker is that no previous programming experience is needed to use it. In fact, GameMaker is a fine starting point for beginners interested in going on to more complex programming languages. Furthermore, all the free tutorials from YoYo Games (the publisher of GameMaker) and Activate! (a free website and curriculum to help students learn how to make fun games about today's big problems) make it easy to learn about GameMaker while creating games.

Tutorial Name Tutorial Location Skills You Will Learn Intended for Comments
What Is a Good Game? YoYo Games website http://sandbox.yoyogames.com/ make/tutorials
  • How to design a good video game
Everyone These general-purpose lessons on game design can be applied to making video games using other programming packages too.
Your First Game Comes packaged with the GameMaker software
  • General introduction to using GameMaker
Beginner
(level 1)
Complete this tutorial to become familiar with the software before trying to program anything of your own.
Dropcycle Activate! website http://activategames.org/ challenges/dropcycle
  • General introduction to using GameMaker
Beginner
(level 1)
Complete this tutorial to become familiar with the software before trying to program anything of your own.
Solarball Activate! website http://activategames.org/ challenges/solarball
  • Creating collisions
  • Allowing player to control action using the keyboard
Beginner
(level 1)
 
Smog Cloud Madness Activate! website http://activategames.org/ challenges/smog-cloud
  • Making a sprite disappear during game play
  • Creating an enemy
Beginner
(level 2)
 
Operation Green Clean Activate! website http://activategames.org/ challenges/green-clean
  • Setting enemy movement patterns
  • Using logic conditions like "if this happens, then do this"
  • Adding multiple levels
Beginner
(level 2)
 
Maze Games YoYo Games website http://sandbox.yoyogames.com/ make/tutorials
  • Displaying scores and lives
  • Creating enemies
  • Using movable blocks
Beginner
(level 2)
 
Lights Off Activate! website http://activategames.org/lights
  • Using logic conditions
  • Enabling more complex behaviors
Beginner
(level 3)
 
Scrolling Shooter Comes packaged with the GameMaker software
  • Using variables
  • Making scrolling background
  • Creating a scoring tracker
Beginner
(level 3)
 
Platform Games YoYo Games website http://sandbox.yoyogames.com/ make/tutorials
  • Enabling jumping and other player movement
  • Programming player-enemy interactions
  • Using tiled backgrounds
Intermediate  
3-Dimensional Games YoYo Games website http://sandbox.yoyogames.com/ make/tutorials
  • Creating a 3-dimensional look, including depth and image scaling
Intermediate  
Multiplayer Games YoYo Games website http://sandbox.yoyogames.com/ make/tutorials
  • Programming multiplayer features and communication
Advanced Requires a pro version of GameMaker, rather than the free Lite version, as well as previous GameMaker programming experience
A First Person Shooter YoYo Games website http://sandbox.yoyogames.com/ make/tutorials
  • Creating a 3-dimensional look from a first-person perspective
Advanced Requires a pro version of GameMaker, rather than the free Lite version, as well as previous GameMaker programming experience
Table 1. Many free tutorials show you how to make different types of video games using GameMaker. If you are new to GameMaker and programming, start with the Beginner (Level 1) tutorials and work your way through the Levels 2 and 3 Beginner tutorials. If you are already familiar with programming, any Beginner or Intermediate tutorial will familiarize you with GameMaker.

Where can I get GameMaker audio, graphics, or other features to add to my video games?

One of the advantages to GameMaker is that you can create your own audio and graphics files to use in the game.

You can use audio and image programs to make your own, search for free versions available on the Internet, or download versions made by other GameMaker users from http://sandbox.yoyogames.com/resources/.

Help! I am stuck programming and do not know what to do next.

If you want to do something specific in GameMaker and get stuck, you can turn to several places for help:

Can I use GameMaker to make something to enter in my local fair or engineering fair?

Yes! A video game you create yourself is usually a fine entry in the computer science division of your local science fair or engineering fair, as long as you have followed the Engineering Design Process. The Tips and Resources for Making Video and Computer Games page offers more information about how a video game can be part of a science or engineering project.

I am interested in video game-making. Where can I learn more?

There are many books, tools, and websites about video game-making. Several are reviewed and featured throughout the Science Buddies website. Table 2 below shows the list of resources on the Science Buddies website that deal with the fun and challenges of video game design.

Science Buddies Video Game-making Resource Description
Video & Computer Games Science Fair Project Ideas Free game-related project ideas for science fairs and engineering fairs.
Computer Science Fair Project Ideas Free programming-related project ideas for science fairs and engineering fairs.
Tips and Resources for Making Video and Computer Games Tips on
  • How to use video games in science and engineering fair projects
  • Where to learn more about video game design
Kid-Friendly Programming Languages A review of kid-friendly programming languages for making video games, animations, and simulations
Resources for STEM Education Through Video Game and Animation Creation A guide for educators and parents about the educational aspects of video game-making and digital animation creation
Programming language help pages: Individual help pages for getting started with different programming languages used in various Science Buddies Project Ideas.
Table 2. List of Science Buddies website resources on designing and making video games and digital animations