Interview: James Cox of YoYo Games about GameMaker Studio 2

Game development has always been an ambition for the curious, creative gamer. Playing and experiencing these interactive stories and adventures can spark the passion to create them yourself, and now, more than ever before, it’s remarkably accessible.

GameMaker Studios 2 by YoYo Games is a development tool that’s designed for new developers to quickly create 2D games, and we were fortunate enough to speak to James Cox, General Manager of YoYo Games, about this tool of theirs.

TiX: Could you briefly explain what GameMaker Studio 2 is for the uninitiated?

James Cox: GameMaker Studio 2 is a platform for building 2D games. It’s made for people who are just starting out and want to learn how to make robust video games but who don’t want to keep changing systems as they progress. It starts with Drag and Drop, progressing through coding before leading to the advanced game design features studios such as Heart Machine are using. Their game, Hyper Light Drifter, was made entirely in GameMaker. We’ve also seen a number of other developers release GameMaker authored releases on Xbox One including Rivals of Aether by developer Dan Fornace.

TiX: What would you say are the key features and enhancements over the original GameMaker Studio that make GameMaker Studio 2 an attractive upgrade?

James Cox: The difference with GameMaker Studio 2 is that it’s so much easier to use, and it allows you to make impressive games much quicker than before. We’ve also thrown in some really cool new editing features and monetization tools, and made the pathway from Drag and Drop to actual code seamless.

The latest iteration provides Mac and Windows versions as well as support for the Xbox Live Creators Program. This allows for quick and easy publishing to Xbox with our low-cost UWP license.

TiX: Compared to other game engines, what sets GameMaker Studio 2 apart?

James Cox: GameMaker fills an important place in the game engine market between platforms like Scratch – which is great for making simple games in a controlled environment – and then Unity and Unreal – those heavyweight, advanced systems. GameMaker’s simplicity and high skill ceiling with advanced functionality in a 2D environment acts as a catalyst for creating the advanced developers of the future, while it’s highly efficient, built-in workflow means games can be created incredibly quickly and easily published on virtually any platform, whether it is desktop, mobile or console.

GameMaker is both intuitive and simple, as well as allowing ample scope for ambitious developers to flex their creativity. Because of its efficiency and built-in workflow, games can also be created incredibly quickly and easily, publishable on virtually any platforms whether it’s desktop, mobile or console. We hope this process creates the advanced developers of the future.

TiX: Can you tell a little about yourself and your history with games and game development?

James Cox: I’m James Cox, General Manager at YoYo Games. I’ve been in games for more than 25 years creating AAA games, tools and technology. I love what I do and I’m passionate about making game development available to everyone. What inspires me most about GameMaker is our role in introducing people to game development and remaining with them as their interest transforms into a passion – then, in many cases, a career.

Previously, I led PlayStation Home tools and service as Head of Development to make PlayStation 3 content creation available to the wider development community. I also led the development of AAA titles including Pro Evolution Soccer as Studio Head for Konami, as well as Battalion Wars with Kuju/Nintendo and Resident Evil Gaiden with M4 Ltd/Virgin/Capcom.

TiX: Can you explain the different licenses available for GameMaker 2?

James Cox: Our licensing strategy is to support the small steps developers take in their progression. When you start out there’s a free license built-in to the download, letting you make your first game with both the Drag and Drop and code tutorials. There are also GameMaker basics tutorials, as well as the option to modify existing games, thereby allowing you to build up your familiarisation with the software.

The next step is our Creator license which we see as an advanced trial. It only costs $39 for a 12 month license and gives you an opportunity to try out all the advanced design functionality in GameMaker Studio 2. It lifts the asset restrictions of the free trial and gives you access to the Marketplace, so you can buy or sell ready-made items, or even explore demo games to either modify them or see how they are made. If your love of game development continues to blossom, we provide you with a 30% discount on the $99 Desktop license. This is a permanent license that gives you Mac and Windows publishing options and access to our advanced compiling tool for high performance games. Thereafter, our licenses support different publishing options, again in stages. We have an Amazon Fire license that supports publishing to the Amazon Appstore. Our Mobile license covers all Android app stores and iOS App Store. After that, you move into console territory, first with the UWP license that supports publishing to Windows 10 and Xbox Live, then with our full Xbox and PS4 console licenses, or the Ultimate license that gives you everything. For teachers, we also have a heavily discounted education license.

TiX: Currently GameMaker Studio 2 is solely a 2D game engine. Are there any plans to jump to 3D in the future?

James Cox: In a word, no! We fulfil an important niche between basic Drag and Drop systems and advanced 3D platforms. Our focus is entirely on improving the pathway for developers and the best way for us to do that is in 2D. Remember that more than 80% of games created are in 2D. That said, some of our developers have come up with incredibly clever ways to create 3D rendering using GameMaker!

TiX: How do you support your community to create games?

James Cox: We have many concurrent community activities going on all of the time. We support a lot of game jams, we have a community support forum to help with problem solving, our Tech blog is very active, along with our support and learning sections of our website. Our support team help with any problems getting started, our Marketplace is its own living, breathing ecosystem and, of course, we have a very active Twitter and Facebook account. All of our social media activity is coordinated by our dedicated Community Manager.

TiX: What tips do you have for aspiring game developers?

James Cox: Get stuck-in. Whether it’s with GameMaker or any other system, there’s nothing to stop you getting started for free. Take your time, be patient, go through the tutorials, learn from your mistakes and seek advice through all the many developer forums that exist on the internet. I would also check-out YouTube, because developers love nothing more than to share resources and support each other’s progress. In GameMaker, I would suggest doing the Drag and Drop first game tutorial, then do it in code, before going through the IDE basics tutorials and going back to modify those games.

TiX: Is there a particular genre that your community tends to develop with GameMaker Studio
2?

James Cox: Platform games, shooters, puzzle and role-playing games seem to be the most popular. But there really are no limits!

TiX: GameMaker Studio 2 now supports the creation of UWP games, allowing for titles to be published on the Windows store and through the Xbox One Creators Program. Can you tell us a little about your partnership with Microsoft and the potential for GameMaker Studio 2 games on the Xbox One Creators Program?

James Cox: The Creators program is a great addition because it provides a much more manageable step for mobile or desktop developers to follow the dream of getting into console game development. It cuts the administration requirement for publishing with Microsoft to the bare minimum, as well as the price – developers can do it with our $399 permanent UWP license which also allows them to publish to publish to Xbox One and Windows 10. Now it’s possible to develop and publish an Xbox One game at a low cost, then later developers can make the step to our Full Xbox One license which costs $799 for a 12 month license if they wish .It’s been great working with the Microsoft team to get this together. I can’t wait to see lots of GameMaker games making their way onto Xbox One via the Creators Program

We’d like to thank James Cox for taking the time to talk to us. You can find out more about GameMaker Studios 2 at its official website.