Getting Started with Game Maker

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a great believer in experiential learning, and learning through doing. So working under the assumption that we’ll learn most about game design from actually trying to build a game or two, I’ve found an game creation application that let’s us do exactly that…

Game Maker has been developed since 1999 as an educational, game development application by Mark Overmars.

Game Maker provides a complete game creation environment, that allows you to design, build and play your own computer games. Game Maker is ideal for building 2 dimensional arcade style games, although it can also be used to create 3D games. There are several game development environments designed specifically for creating 3D games, but they tend to be rather complex.

One of the advantages of Game Maker’s visual design interface is that you don’t need any experience of computer programing to get started, (although if you are a programmer, you’ll find there are ways of getting your hands actual code if you want to!).

So, before we being, you’ll need to download and install Game Maker

Download Game Maker (for free) from the YoYo Games website:

Install it on your computer…

When you start Game Maker, you will be asked if you want to register for the commercial version. From looking at what the free version of Game Maker offers, I think it will do just fine (so you can just say no to buying the commercial version of the game – click on “Don’t Upgrade Now”), but if you do want to pay for the upgrade, I won’t stop you!

Game Maker will only run under a Windows operating system (which is a pain for Mac users like me :-(

If you do have an Intel Mac computer, Game Maker seems to run okay on a Windows partition installed under Boot Camp or Parallels.

(Y)Our First Game :-)

“Your First Game” is a simple, 2D arcade game in which you must catch clown as it runs around a circus arena. I’m guessing that the first activity I’m going to suggest should take 1 to 2 hours to complete, at the end of which time you will have built your very own computer game.

Over the weekend, I’ll post some ideas on how to customise the game further to create your own, unique interpretation of the game.

What I’m going to try to do is find a way of structuring the Game Maker activities to help you achieve two things:

1) gain a hands-on understanding of the software technologies and techniques that underpin interactive computer games; and

2) explore the design and development process used in the production of interactive computer games.

As with many software applications that are published on the web, Game Maker is supported by some online documentation and tutorials. Learning how to make effective use of online support materials is an important skill, so fto give myself and easy start, i suggest that you follow the opening tutorial provided on the Game Maker website.

So here you are: download and open the “Your First Game” tutorial, which can be found on

(IT Skills: although there are several files associated with the tutorial, you only have to download one – a ‘zipped’ archive file. This file contains all the tutorial files in a compressed, space saving format, making it ideal for transporting several files from one computer to another all in one go. Most computers can ‘unbundle’ a zipped file automatically, although other standalone applications can also do it for you. (These tools will also typically support ‘zipping’ a folder and all its contents to create a single, zip archive file from a collection of documents.) Example applications: Winzip, ALZip.)

Once you’ve got Game Maker up and running, work through the “Your First Game” tutorial to create your own game.

In the same way as I suggested you try to be mindful of how you were interacting with the Kongregate tutorial, try to step back every so often as you ‘play’ with Game Maker and pay attention to the following:

1) How is the game initially described?

2) How is the design of the game specified? What elements or components of the game are described?

3) Is there any relationship between the elements identified in the Design Document and the physical layout of the Game Maker environment?

Once you have finished your game, play with it, and maybe even show the game off to someone you know.

Feel free to start customising it – maybe even post a few suggestions as to how you can customise it as comments to this post.

I’ll post a few ideas of my own about how to customise the game over the next day or two…

I’ll also post some ideas about how you can share any games you produce, as well as how to grab screenshots of the game, and maybe even how to make some movies of it being played…

Have fun! :-)


30 Responses to “Getting Started with Game Maker”

  1. 1 Rebecca March 7, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Oh, I was looking forward to doing this with my son, but it doesn’t work on the Mac :-(

    • 2 Greg Sully October 8, 2009 at 9:06 pm

      Dear Rebecca, I have only just today been able to access the course, But there is a beta version of the Gamecreator available for the Mac. Below is the reply from YoYo games I got today.

      Ticket #510486: Mr, B.A.
      Status: hold
      Comment by: Help desk Manager

      | Go to (you will need to register) ENJOY…a bit buggy, but lookout for a new release in the next 2 weeks.

      I have yet to try it out. But I should be up and running in the next couple of days. They where very helpful.

  2. 3 Tony Hirst March 7, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    I’m sorry about that – and it’s been the one thing that has been really bugging me about Game Maker…

    As an alternative, I was going to introduce Scratch at some point – – but I didn’t really want to fork the activities just yet…

    It’s a great, child friendly environment for all sorts of interactive multimedia experimentation – and I’m pretty sure it works on a Mac;-)

    I actually posted about it on the Science and Technology blog when the application first came out:

    It’s gone from strength to strength since then…

    The reason I chose Game Maker over it (and I was mentioning to someone only last week how I’d potentially made a Windows only rod for my own back with the Game Maker selection) was that it provides more of a ‘trad-arcade game’ like structure, which I thought would help shape the direction of the activities.

    That said, I did want to try to be responsive with the direction of this blog, so I’ll take the dog for a walk and ponder how we might be able to work with both Scratch and Game Maker…

    If you want to download Scratch and start doing some pathfinder activities, that’d be great:-)

    If you wanted to write a blog post or two on Scratch, I could post them for you – or even make you a contributor… :-)

    • 4 Keith Falconer September 28, 2011 at 7:48 pm

      I use Scratch with my 1st year Computing pupils, they really enjoy it. I find it a useful tool for introducing pupils to program controls and structure

      Best Wishes


  3. 5 louise March 7, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Now I’m torn. I’ve managed quite nicely up to now without installing Windows on my Mac desktop.

    But I want to play …

  4. 6 Rebecca March 7, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Ah – we’ve already got Scratch. Excellent program.

  5. 7 Andy Mee March 7, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Fantastic – my clown game really worked!

    I’ve spent a little time customising it with extra walls in the middle of the screen which made it even more fun (and frustrating as the speed increased)!

  6. 8 Tony Hirst March 8, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Hi Andy-

    Good stuff :-)

    I’ve been wondering about we might sort out sharing screenshots and ideas…? One way might be to upload screenshots to flickr, and then share a tag so we can pull in everyone’s images?

    Another would be to set up a network – I booked one out on Ning ( just in case…

    What do you think? If you wanted to share screenshots of your game, or even the game itself, with other readers of the Digital Worlds blog, how would you go about it?

  7. 9 Tony Hirst March 8, 2008 at 9:17 am


    You mentioned you already started customising your game…

    Here are some things to things about that may (or may not!) help shape that activity a little:

    – To what extent do colour themes affect your enjoyment of the game? Do you think that the selection of a colour them might affect the usability of your game? That is, how easy it is to play?

    – Do you think that different colour themes can be used to change the ‘tone’ of a game, from something light hearted, for example, to something dark and brooding. In the same way that particular colour pairings may ‘clash’, do you thing that a colour scheme can ‘clash’ with an audio soundtrack?

    – How important is getting the difficulty level right to your enjoyment of the game, and continued engagement with it? If the game *doesn’t* get any harder as time goes on, does that make it boring? And what is a ‘harder’ level of difficulty anyway?

    (I think you already started thinking about that last question by adding a wall in the centre of the room ;-)

    In the longer term:

    – To what extent does the visibility or otherwise of a running score keep you engaged with a game? Does the provision of a high score table affect your desire to replay a game?

    I’ll be posting some notes on how to do the above in Game Maker, but don’t let that stop you exploring for yourself what else you can do with it ;-)

  8. 10 louise March 8, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    I found the tutorial good fun — I can see many hours lost with this program. It’s a shame it doesn’t produce cross-platform output (or perhaps it does? I haven’t really looked).

    My first attempt:

  9. 11 Andy Mee March 8, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    I really like the idea of tags and flickr but I guess that wouldn’t work for sharing the games. I’m thinking it would be better to share the game and the screenshots in the same place to keep it simple.

    Ning would be interesting (as I haven’t used it yet) but would the availablility of forums move the discussion away from the blog? Would you want that as the course leader?

    If I was sharing the screenshots and games without your guidance I’d probably write a post on my own blog and use trackback/ping I think. Or maybe load them to a web server at work and link to them through the comments here. It’s a shame this blog won’t allow attachments to comments as that would be a simple way of sharing.

    I’m happy using any method really :-)

  10. 12 Andy Mee March 8, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    – the colour theme would be vital to my enjoyment of the game. I wouldn’t like to be chasing a lime coloured clown around a neon yellow arena at all and, with my eyesight, I’d find it difficult to see.

    – I’d find it difficult to change the tone of my game from something light hearted to something dark and brooding with colour alone but am sure the colour would contribute to the tone. My gut feeling is the soundtrack would contribute more to the tone than the colour. I’m sure the colour scheme can clash with the audio soundtrack.

    – I think the difficulty level is important. I think I’d lose interest quickly if the game was too difficult or too easy at the outset. I’d also lose interest if the difficulty didn’t change – that’s the challenge.

    – the challenge of beating my own score kept me playing my game for longer. I imagine having a high score table would make the game more appealing, especially if the other players were my friends. I’d want to kick their butts.

    I’ll try and make changes of colour and audio and see what happens :-)

  11. 13 Tony Hirst March 9, 2008 at 1:03 am


    Thanks for your thoughts re sharing. I agree that if I open a Ning site, the discussion could well move there… so maybe I’d then have to blog the uncourse there rather than here?

    As a way forward for file sharing, I’ve added a widget to the blog. This means *I* can share files with blog readers, though as it currently stands I have to upload the files to it…

    I think I can share the folder with other users. If you want to experiment with this, I can mail you a collaboration invite.

    This moves away from a really loosely coupled way of managing file sharing, though…

    As far as sharing via your own blog goes – if you want to make a post, and perhaps share a game maker file, for example, and maybe link back here, we can see if anything comes to mind about managing sharing in a completely loosely coupled, distributed collaboration sort of way…

  12. 14 Tony Hirst March 9, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Thanks for sharing the Game Maker file of your first game via your blog, via a trackback/pingback, Louise :-)

    I’ve been wondering what the best way to support sharing might be, and for anyone with a blog, being able to link to a post particular here (and generate a trackback for it), is an excellent way…

    I also wondered whether it might be possible to share files with, but that requires people having a a/c, as well as me sharing my Digital Worlds folder on box with them…

    The third option was to create a network on Ning and then anyone with an a/c could upload content there…

    A further option would be to upload games to the YoYo community site, and then post a link here…

    …but as has been pointed out, those latter two options would split any community that might build around this blog?

    Anyway – I look forward to playing a few more of your games :-)

    And reading your blog, if you maybe start getting back into it?! ;-)

  13. 15 catrah-pete March 10, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    In the grand tradition of OU students having to self-help against the hegemony of Microsoft I’ve implemented my interpretation of the task in Scratch.

    A basic implementation but it should be easily customizable.

    31 lines of code – but I wasn’t counting.

  14. 16 catrah-pete March 10, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Revised gameplay now available – perpetual beta

  15. 17 Tony Hirst March 18, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    “In the grand tradition of OU students ”

    Heh heh – sorry about the delay in accepting this comment too – it got passed into the spam bucket here ;-)

    BTW – this may be of interest: Right hand, Meet Left hand. Left Hand, Meet Right Hand… ( ) – OU policy on Macs… sort of…

    Re scratch – good stuff ;-) Do arcade style games come naturally in it though?

  16. 18 Matthew May 4, 2010 at 8:27 pm


    thats well fun, i may of got carried a way and made my own lil game lol.
    we do need a website we can post these on arrr i love this course lol
    my lil game i made isnt to bad your a ghost taht has to zap teh clowns by running in to them, if you hit the walls you lose point or if you run in to some fire you lose lots of points :)
    i did get a little carid away with the walls tho.

  17. 19 Matthew May 6, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Just thought I should ask the other tutorials are they for later in the course or can I start going though them now ?

  18. 20 Marty Jones May 6, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Just reading some of the comments regarding Gamemaker being a windows only app. I find it works perfectly well under WINE on Ubuntu NBR 10.04 Lucid Lynx. The games too, even when compiled as a stand alone exe work fine under WINE..


  19. 21 Phil Southam October 13, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    what a fun little addictive game :)
    i got my mum to try it out and it was hillarious watching her try and click on the clown as it slowly got faster and faster. she gave up when i added the change in direction.
    when i made this though the image of the clown wasnt in any of the folders so i had to use pacman monster instead, but it still works which is the important bit.

  20. 22 Phil October 26, 2010 at 6:19 am

    I only see an empty frame when I run the game, and running debug makes no difference. Are there any diagnostics available for game 1 ?

  21. 23 Phil October 26, 2010 at 7:06 am

    Problem sorted. I repeated the exercise and this time it worked, so I must have missed a step somewhere,

    • 24 Anna November 28, 2010 at 4:26 pm

      @ Phil Southam (13/10/10)

      I believe the Pacman image etc are in the example images that come with GameMaker itself (ie in Program Files > subdirectories…) rather than with the downloaded tutorial. When I downloaded the zip file for the tutorial (‘Your First Game’) it had the clown, wall and background images to use, I had to navigate to that directory to find the images as I think Vista had “helpfully” opened it in Program Files at first, so maybe this has happened to you as well!

  1. 1 blog in the basement » Blog Archive » Not a course — screenshot of first game Trackback on March 9, 2008 at 1:47 pm
  2. 2 Balloon Buster « Thoughts Under Construction Trackback on March 9, 2008 at 9:58 pm
  3. 3 Moving on With Game Maker - A Maze Game « Digital Worlds - Interactive Media and Game Design Trackback on March 15, 2008 at 2:28 pm
  4. 4 Editing a Sprite « Digital Worlds - Interactive Media and Game Design Trackback on March 21, 2008 at 11:27 am
  5. 5 Customising ‘Catch a Clown’ « Digital Worlds - Interactive Media and Game Design Trackback on March 21, 2008 at 11:27 am
  6. 6 Free Game Maker » » Cyber XtcCyber Xtc Trackback on September 29, 2011 at 2:42 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: