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Designing Games with GameMaker
Designing Games with GameMaker

Getting started

Creating your first game is always a challenge. But if you are willing to put a little bit of effort in it, it will actually be rather easy. You can have it running within an hour.

Even though it is really easy to make games with GameMaker you will need to understand some of the basic concepts. To this end you are strongly recommended to follow the tutorial that is shown when GameMaker is started. If you did remove the tutorial from view, you can always make it visible again by choosing Tutorial in the Help menu.

The Global idea

Before delving into the possibilities of GameMaker it is good to get a feeling for the global idea behind the program. Games created with GameMaker take place in one or more rooms. (Rooms are flat, not 3D, but they can contain 3D-looking graphics.) In these rooms you place objects, which you can define in the program. Typical objects are the walls, moving balls, the main character, monsters, etc. Some objects, like walls, just sit there and donít do anything. Other objects, like the main character, will move around and react to input from the player (keyboard, mouse, and joystick) and to each other. For example, when the main character meets a monster he might die. Objects are the most important ingredients of games made with GameMaker, so let us talk a bit more about them.

First of all, most objects need some image to make them visible on the screen. Such images are called sprites. A sprite is often not a single image but a set of images that are shown one after the other to create an animation. In this way it looks like the character walks, a ball rotates, a spaceship explodes, etc. During the game, the sprite for a particular object can change. (So the character can look different when it walks to the left or to the right.) You can create you own sprites in GameMaker or load them from files (e.g. PNG files or animated GIFís). Many sprites come bundled with GameMaker that you can use free of charge in your games.

Certain things will happen to objects. Such happenings are called events. Objects can take certain actions when events happen. There are a large number of different events that can take place and a large number of different actions that you can let your objects take. For example, there is a creation event when the object gets created. (To be more precise, when an instance of an object gets created; there can be multiple instances of the same object.) For example, when a ball object gets created you can give it some motion action so that it starts moving. When two objects meet, you get a collision event. In such a case you can make the ball stop or reverse direction. You can also play a sound effect. To this end GameMaker lets you define sounds. When the player presses a key on the keyboard there is a keyboard event, and the object can take an appropriate action, like moving in the direction indicated. We hope you get the idea. For each object you design, you can indicate actions for various events; in this way defining the behavior of the object.

Once you have defined your objects it is time to define the rooms in which they will live. Rooms can be used for levels in your game or to check out different places. There are actions to move from one room to another. Rooms, first of all, have a background. This can be a simple color or an image. Such background images can be created in GameMaker or you can load them from files. (The background can do a lot of things but for the time being, just consider it as something that makes the rooms look nice.) Next, you can place the objects in the room. You can place multiple instances of the same object in a room. So, for example, you need to define just one wall object and can use it at many places. Also you can have multiple instances of the same monster objects, as long as they have the same behavior.

Now you are ready to run the game. The first room will be shown and objects will come to life because of the actions in their creation events. They will start reacting to each other due to actions in collision events and they can react to the player using the actions in keyboard or mouse events.

So in summary, the following things (often called resources) play a crucial role:

  • objects: which are the true entities in the game
  • rooms: the places (levels) in which the objects live
  • sprites: (animated) images that are used to represent the objects
  • sounds: these can be used in games, either as background music or as effects
  • backgrounds: the images used as background for the rooms

There are actually a number of other types of resources: paths, scripts, fonts, and time lines. These are only important for more complicated games. You will only see them when you run GameMaker in advanced mode. They will be treated in the advanced chapters later in this document.

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