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GameMaker Isn't Accessible Enough for Youth

RekNepZ

GMC Historian
The year is 2006 and I'm 10 years old. My friend learns about a program that can be used to make games! We wait an hour for the download on the slow dial-up internet that was outdated even back then, and get started. We're both hooked and, after a few months and lots of pestering, we get the $20 for the full registered edition. This is how a lot of people first used GameMaker. Kids and teens getting their first start in game development with this simple free program.

Now, unfortunately, I feel such an experience is impossible for much of today's youth. Sure there is a one-month free trial, but after that you've gotta commit to $50 for a year. To adults that sounds like a pretty good deal, but that's quite a lot when you're a kid. If I were a 10-year-old today I probably never would have gotten started in this hobby, and I feel it's the same for many other people.

I will concede that having so many young people did give GM a mixed reputation. The sites for GM games were usually spammed with tutorial edits and the forums were often toxic. Yet, out of this came communities that still survive to this day; and also came some of the biggest names in Game Maker. If the program was priced like it is now, would we ever have seen people like Cactus, Jwaap, Messhof, or numerous other rising to stardom? I feel that with YYG's heavy focus on making things "professional" and making big profits we've lost something quite special; that may even come back to bite us.

YoyoGames has got to make profits somehow, and maybe it's all for the best, but I think we've lost the once-close community that made GameMaker special to me. By not having any sort of permanent free version; even with the severely-reduced functionality of older versions, I feel this has turned into just another group of 20-30-something year-old indi-devs focused only on their own success. Many may see this as an improvement, but I personally greatly miss what's been lost.
 
GM was only extremely popular for a time because it was the best option at that time, and for a good while it was also the only entry-level option with potential for advanced development. This is no longer the case and there are serious competitors. If you were a 10-year-old today, you probably would have gotten started in this hobby, albeit through another, more popular engine. Kids today don't have to beg their parents to pay $20 to buy [X] Engine Pro Edition. They don't even have to spend a single cent. There are other engines nowadays that are completely free for hobbyists, and thanks to the internet ballooning in size, they're even more popular than GM was at the time. Even if it still cost $20, if a kid is going to have to choose between "convince my parents to spend $20" and "use a different engine for free", they're going to pick option B 99% of the time.

This is purely speculation, but I don't think GM would be able to continue existing without the current monetization model. GM's lack of 3D functionality has seriously hindered its potential audience and it can't compete on even grounds, so it's created its own by carving out a niche. General 2D development is still easier in GM than almost any of the alternatives, but it's no longer the top dog general-purpose indie game engine. That's fine.
 
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FrostyCat

Member
They would still have started with the hobby, just perhaps not with GM.

In 2006, GM was pretty much the only established option in the market for low-cost, low-entry general game development. This is no longer the case in 2020. The lowest entry point for kids is now satisfied by a solution from MIT, and for people above that level, there's the blue gearhead. And as we speak, there's one competitor on Humble Bundle right now whose MSRP for the whole deal is $50, not just a 1-year subscription, and it includes Windows, HTML5 and iOS+Android out of the box, 2D+3D included. There are so many low-cost and no-cost options today, it's not like YoYo alone has a monopoly and is depriving children today of anything.

Couple that with a poorly organized onboarding experience, and even adults today regularly get screwed by YoYo even if they can afford it. For the Humble Bundle I've mentioned earlier, I've purchased up to the level where the official workbooks were available, just to do research for the GMC community curriculum. Sure, they still have some of that copy-and-paste tinge, but at least they are current and cohesively ordered. I'm certain that any kid can learn from the workbooks if they aren't entirely passive and functionally illiterate. Compare that to the Learn page's sorry state. In 2018, they were sticking legacy 8.1 tutorials in there while GMS 2 is already mainstream. And right now that page has a crisis where the GML 2020 syntax has rendered most to all tutorials there incompatible with current standards.

If YoYo doesn't like the sound of that for market share reasons, that's for them to sort out. Nostalgia solves nothing.
 
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Sliding in with a little positivity, I do think a little too much credit is given to GM's price/cost as the reason it was popular with kids (or perhaps better description: people newer to tech/coding). Overmars was a professor who built GM for his students.. it was designed with learning in mind, and what a fantastic job he did there. Literally grandmothers could and did use older GM to make games.

GM is not being driven by an educator anymore, and I think that's reflected on the product.. both in a positive (and negative) way.

And in 2020, if you're a poor student, the correct stack is Github (free, and you can publish pages) and plain old javascript. You can code with notepad, put it on github, hit publish and you're live to the world. Coding with modern javascript + html canvas is comparable to GML, but the skill can scale far beyond the confides of the GM sandbox.
 

EvanSki

King of Raccoons
The year is 2006 and I'm 10 years old. My friend learns about a program that can be used to make games! We wait an hour for the download on the slow dial-up internet that was outdated even back then, and get started. We're both hooked and, after a few months and lots of pestering, we get the $20 for the full registered edition. This is how a lot of people first used GameMaker. Kids and teens getting their first start in game development with this simple free program.
Neat. Here's my story. Ahem.
The year is 2015, I'm 15 years old. This cool neat game undertale has come out and everyone and there grandma is talking about it, and I love the crap out of it, turns out its made on this thing called Game maker! OOOo they have a free trial, so of course I look up a tutorial.
people like Cactus, Jwaap, Messhof, or numerous other rising to stardom?
Never heard of any of those guys until right now, no I found this British dude Shaun Spalding and he gave me some pointers and inspiration to make worst shooter The worlds ever seen but I thought would make millions!
This provided me with the inspiration and willingness to discover a passion That I love and will love until I die.
yada yada, Boom hey theres this GMC thing and it looks pretty neto for helping me make my RPG that I want to make now being more experienced with game maker 1.4, yada yada, GMS 2.0 comes out and I snag the 100$ permanent license, and here I am with something I love with a community I love.


~~~~Response~~~~
Now, unfortunately, I feel such an experience is impossible for much of today's youth. Sure there is a one-month free trial, but after that you've gotta commit to $50 for a year. To adults that sounds like a pretty good deal, but that's quite a lot when you're a kid. If I were a 10-year-old today I probably never would have gotten started in this hobby, and I feel it's the same for many other people.
Honestly doubtful no one will have any motivational inspiring experience. I feel the one month trial is the perfect amount of time to play around with all the features and develop a thought of "oh yeah I want to do this!"
as for the price I honestly goodness to god dont get what the deal is. Yeah I get it if you ask your parents for money to get it. but you see no one complaining about 70$ for fork-knife skins or the new cod-of-moody games.
100$ for the permanent life time license for GMS 2.0 seems super generous and a steal!

I will concede that having so many young people did give GM a mixed reputation. The sites for GM games were usually spammed with tutorial edits and the forums were often toxic. Yet, out of this came communities that still survive to this day; and also came some of the biggest names in Game Maker. If the program was priced like it is now, would we ever have seen people like Cactus, Jwaap, Messhof, or numerous other rising to stardom? I feel that with YYG's heavy focus on making things "professional" and making big profits we've lost something quite special; that may even come back to bite us.
I agree that young people on the internet with the programmer community being...chaotic good, isnt a good thing. but theres a level of expectation to be involved, did you read the manual? did you try to figure it out yourself before posting? Thank god this isn't StackOverflow. As for toxic? I wasnt here for the start of this fourm, so I cant say from its beginnings but for the time i've been here, I consider this site and the people on it my second family! This community is wonderful and If i ever quit game dev or game maker, I'd still be on this site for the people here alone.
As for stardom of people with gamemaker. I dont really see a stardom from it, Sure theres well known names in the community and for tutorials and such but I dont think anyone here will be on New york times's front page.
That said, even if game maker was the way it is now back then, there would still be people being well known for tutorials and such, no matter what price range or payments it is.
I feel like every company should strive for professionalism, You're a face to a service and should be professional, I dont see an issue in that regard. As for focusing on making big profits, I dont really see them focusing on profit only, If anything recently the've been really focused on updates and the community and the response from the communities!,

we've lost something quite special; that may even come back to bite us.

YoyoGames has got to make profits somehow, and maybe it's all for the best, but I think we've lost the once-close community that made GameMaker special to me. By not having any sort of permanent free version; even with the severely-reduced functionality of older versions, I feel this has turned into just another group of 20-30-something year-old indi-devs focused only on their own success. Many may see this as an improvement, but I personally greatly miss what's been lost.
I don't think we've lost anything special with gamemaker because of pricing or the lack of a permanent free trial, as I've said I think the price is very cheap considering and the one month is perfect for getting your feet wet and knowing wither or not you really want to try game dev personally or as a hobby, no one is holding a gun to your head at the end of the trial and saying Money or you'll never game dev again!

I don't think we've lost a close-community either, I feel this is the strongest community I've ever seen! I'm apart of 5 different communities of things and none of them are as tight, close, or well managed as this one, As I've said This community is a family and its amazing, The only real rule is be considerate and a slang term for a donkey.

I don't think not having a permit free version is making 20-30-somthing year old's focused only on their own success. And if they are, So?, Like I said 99% of this community is so all together its Amazing, there's loads of people dedicated to helping others, to seeing what others make, and making amazing stuff! And I think that's the goal Yoyo wants for gamemaker is to be a tool for a community/to create a community that promotes helping others and making amazing things in the world of game dev.

TL;DR
Nothing has been lost, Yoyo isnt market hungry, The community is as close as its ever been.
I think the goal Yoyo wants for gamemaker is to be a tool for a community/to create a community that promotes helping others and making amazing things in the world of game dev.
 
Never heard of any of those guys until right now
If you've heard of Vlambeer (maybe you haven't, I'm not sure, lol) then you've heard of Cactus, he's one half of that team. (I'm completely wrong, lol)

I think OP's misgivings are aimed at the wrong thing. The 20 somethings trying to become game dev famous are around not because GMS and the community with it has changed (although, it certainly has), but because indie game development has changed as a whole.

Going back to when I started (around, 2001-2002-ish I believe), there was almost no concept of making money from games. I certainly didn't think about it. I wanted to be "professional" (whatever that meant to 13-14 year old me), and I wanted to make games that people would play, but I didn't have the spectre of launching on Steam or selling on itch.io or gamejolt floating around my head. I had some files uploaded to host-a.net (I think that was the name?) and my dads webserver.

The hobbyist scene existed in a totally different landscape back then. 90% of us were a bunch of kids making stupid stuff. You can pick a random game from either the WIP or Completed subforum right now and it would be better than like 75% of what was being released back then. Everyone's grown up, the internet has grown up, indie games became a thing that could make money and that changed the scene everywhere not just at the GMC.

Once the ability to actually make money became a thing, indie kid developers stopped dreaming of simply having people playing their games and started dreaming about making the next Braid or World of Goo and becoming millionaires. No-one can really be faulted for that. The only thing better than doing what you love is getting paid to do it.

So yeah, the community has changed, but it was always going to evolve anyway, that's what life does. Nostalgia baiting about the past is certainly melancholic, but it's not particularly useful and the back then wasn't even really better than now, just different. In terms of resources to become actual coders, there's a million million more options now than there was then (hell, I wrote articles as a 13 year old that were well received within the community, and I knew less than jack****), so it's not as though kids are missing out on some mystical "only available then" source of information. They have way more pathways than I did growing up. We're not losing a generation of coders because GMS doesn't have a 100% free option. We're seeing a generation with access to more information than ever make better stuff than most of us older people could at the same age. Which is pretty cool IMO.
 
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If you've heard of Vlambeer (maybe you haven't, I'm not sure, lol) then you've heard of Cactus, he's one half of that team.
You have your people confused. Vlambeer was Rami Ismail and Jan Nijman. Cactus is Jonatan Söderström. Cactus is better known these days as the programming part of Dennaton Games, whose biggest work so far is Hotline Miami.
 
You have your people confused. Vlambeer was Rami Ismail and Jan Nijman. Cactus is Jonatan Söderström. Cactus is better known these days as the programming part of Dennaton Games, whose biggest work so far is Hotline Miami.
Lol, I've watched like 20 talks from Rami, and I have always thought his co-conspirator was Cactus...I'm a fool of a took.
 

angelwire

Member
That's an interesting point about the differences between a community of developers making games for profit and a community of developers making games just for fun. But like others have stated already, the world has changed to where it's much more difficult to have a community of developers who are purely in it for the fun (although having a close-knit discord server is pretty reminiscent of those kind of vibes from what I've experienced). I don't think the pricing structure would change anything (look at the Unity forums or Unreal forums for example).

But one thing I'd like to mention regarding accessibility is that I wish educational licenses were free. When competing engines are free, it must be hard for a teacher to convince school administrators that Gamemaker is worth the price (no matter how much easier it is to use or teach with). Each school that chooses to use Gamemaker over Unity or Unreal will force a whole classroom of students to start making games with Gamemaker. So it seems like such a waste to not get highschool or college students "hooked" on Gamemaker while in school.
 

Khao

Member
If I were a 10-year-old today I probably never would have gotten started in this hobby.
I can guarantee there's 10-year-olds today getting into Game Dev with other engines such as Unreal, Unity or Godot. Game Maker is ridiculously easy to use and you can do some pretty cool stuff in a freaking tiny amount of time. But it's definitely not the only way to make games for the first time.
 

Joe Ellis

Member
Back in 2000 when I was 10, we couldn't get anything to make a game with. My dad was wondering whether to buy me visual c++ and I used to imagine waking up on christmas morning and unwrapping the box of visual c++. But he did get me visual basic 6, and I learnt how to make picture boxes move and change frames with timers, and I programmed whole levels with about 300 timers of each thing that could happen.
So if I managed to do that when I was 10-11, why is it so bad for young people now that have at least 40 different instantly buyable and downloadable programs? They have the privilege of internet and can read up and decide which one they want and then ask their parents to get it them for christmas. I remember one year I was realllllly hoping I'd get a cd writer, and I did and it was amazing. Another year I saved up a whole £100 of £5 a week pocket money to buy a scanner.
I just feel the youth of today are so privileged that they feel unfortunate.

My point is, If you have the passion, you will go to amazing lengths to fulfill it! Nothing will stop true passion, as long as the person isn't in severe poverty.
 

Suttebun

Member
It's definitely left where it was when it follow Window's native UI - back when it was developed by that teacher.
The debugger is spooky, and drag & drop does not feel the same. (I blame Scratch and the other kids programming tools that standardized what visual programming was - and left the open'ness of GameMaker's strange object building workflow)

The cost is not helpful.
The advertising of games on the homepage is wrong.
The sleek car theme removes the software'ness and makes it trendy.

When I was growing up, I blamed it on GameMaker being sold to a Casino Company -
because suddenly it seemed like everyone wasn't authentic anymore.

BUT THE COMMUNITY IS COOL; and that's how to learn.
If people could quit making cinematic tutorial series and start exploring game design like how games are meant to be.. gosh dang.
 

Elodman

Member
Satisfied, happy, disrespectful, heartless talks, creating less and less charm to go on chatting.
Spoiled, 1st world problems (in an overly digitized age not uncommon), or matters, no outsider can influence.

Pondering, would Apple be what it is today if it had allowed easy, cheap access to its goods, domain, religion?
Sometimes fewer (users) can mean more - for both sides.

Sleep. Code. BeHappy. Behave. Repeat.
 

Toque

Member
Inflation. 20$ in 2004 buys more. Wages were less too. So the cost hasn’t really gone up that much.

I agree with most people here. There is so many options and free ones too.

it’s actually way easier and cheaper to make a game now.

kids make games in school as part of their programs.

The previous engine I was using was 300$/ year. I bought GM for 150$ permanent licence. I thought it’s basically free how are they staying in business??

I made a game in 1987. I had to do it secretly so my computer teacher wouldn’t find out. Distribution was a Floppy in a baggie with photocopy instruction going to every computer Store trying to get them to sell it. But the game engine was free!
 
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Joe Ellis

Member
@Toque did you get any stores to sell it? Also do you have a copy of it or screenshots? It'd be interesting to see what an indie game from that long ago is like. Also what was the engine? (I have no idea how things were programmed back then)
 
It'd be interesting to see what an indie game from that long ago is like. Also what was the engine? (I have no idea how things were programmed back then)
A ton of PC games back then (and basically all before the Nintendo era) were made by one or a couple of dudes in a basement. There weren't any outwardly obvious differences between indie and published games. It'd be hard to get your hands on indie games from that period, since the internet was not yet mainstream and the storage media is old and likely already thrown out.

There were no engines as we think of them today. The closest you could get was BASIC, but that's still just a programming language. You could usually just program directly in to the home screen of the computer and just run whatever compiler you needed.

 

Toque

Member
@Toque did you get any stores to sell it? Also do you have a copy of it or screenshots? It'd be interesting to see what an indie game from that long ago is like. Also what was the engine? (I have no idea how things were programmed back then)
Because I had bought my  IIe there he sold my game. 4$. I sold maybe five.
One other store carried it but never sold any there.

I was being sarcastic about a “game engine”.
I made the game in basic. There was no engine as we know them as today.

Screen shot? Funny. Never thought of taking a photo of the game getting the film developed. Waiting a week then going back and getting the pictures. It would of never crossed my mind. I guess I could of borrowed a poloroid from someone.
The screenshot on the instructions was hand drawn.

I still had everything until I was married and the box was re-classified from “my cool stuff” to “junk”.
 
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Toque

Member
A ton of PC games back then (and basically all before the Nintendo era) were made by one or a couple of dudes in a basement. There weren't any outwardly obvious differences between indie and published games. It'd be hard to get your hands on indie games from that period, since the internet was not yet mainstream and the storage media is old and likely already thrown out.

There were no engines as we think of them today. The closest you could get was BASIC, but that's still just a programming language. You could usually just program directly in to the home screen of the computer and just run whatever compiler you needed.

Yes that sounds right. Though there was software companies that made games. None in my area to talk to. I assume many early games were done in university labs. Not sure. I didn’t make another game for 30 years!
 

SSJCoder

Member
I'm sure more engines will come out, and there are quite a few options. Beginner programmers can start with JS today, as for whether a tool as good and well priced as old school GameMaker will come up is a question only time will answer.

I'm pretty sure someone will come up with something, given enough time. Sure, GameMaker is probably not what it used to be, but at the end of the day there are plenty of intelligent, knowledgeable programmers out there. Mark Overmars created something unique and special, came up with the original concept of GameMaker .. that means that people can even use that as reference, and don't have to come up with an entirely new concept.

If you want to know my opinion, I will tell you, I'm basically certain that something much better (and free) than old school GameMaker will dominate that market, which is (at this point) basically begging to be tapped into.
 
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