Game Maker is one of the most awesome things ever. I’m really a big fan.
I used to use The Games Factory (and Klik n Play before that), which was totally amazing when I was 10. Really, it was a great introduction to the logic of programming without any of the hard work. However, trying to make anything that was actually playable/serious/useful with either program was very difficult. It just didn’t allow you to dive in and change how things worked (Especially as far as collision detection. Yuck.). I was always too cheap to buy Multimedia Fusion, the next big step after The Games Factory, so I was kind of left out after that.
I tried quite a few “game making programs for the lazy” (I should copyright that, actually) for a while, including the RPG Maker series, Adventure Game Studio, and Inform 7, but it seemed like those tools, while very easy to use, were just TOO focused and didn’t do what I wanted them to while still not making me actually do any real work. At one point I tried Game Maker but it was just too different from Games Factory logic for me to really get.
But recently I decided that I should just stop talking and start making stuff (something I’ve yet to fully accomplish, really. I just really like to talk.). I bit the bullet and downloaded Game Maker again, this time, I decided, I was going to blast through the tutorials regardless of how frustrated I got.
So I made the first tutorial game, Click the Clown. If you have not played this groundbreaking game, it involves clicking a clown until it gets fast enough to be impossible. I was very excited when I was done and showed it to my wife, who said “Sorry, but that’s the worst game I’ve ever played.” However, I was not disheartened.
I then proceeded to slog through the second tutorial, realizing along the way that I finally “got” it (and also that these tutorials sucked (Sorry Mr. Overmars)) and gave up halfway through. And then I started making my own game.
Man, it’s freakin’ easy. Mr. Derek Yu, propagator of the wonderful Independent Gaming Source has compared game making programs to pre-mixed paint in lead tubes that made the impressionist movement possible, and I think that’s a great analogy. It really makes the quick development of pretty solid games possible for novices and experts alike. And the fact that you can do everything drag and drop OR by scripting is very impressive to me.
Anyway, this has gotten very long winded. I’ll end it by saying that Game Maker, to me at least, is more than just a stepping stone to “real programming.” It is a real, usable, and completely legitimate tool all by itself. (See: cactus) And I think it’s freakin’ awesome.