GameMaker: Studio

GameMaker: Studio

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TheEngiGuy Apr 19, 2014 @ 9:17am
Need some tips and help
Hi all. After some time, I decided to apply myself and learn to make games, for now using GameMaker which seems to be good for a game I want to make. Luckily I am a patient man so I'm fine with learning most of the stuff - or at least the essential ones - calmly before going on an adventure, even though I already did most of the official tutorials provided!

However, I'm having quite a hard time learning GameMaker's programming language even when checking tutorials and manuals. That's not a big deal since I can learn overtime, but I'd like some tips to get started.
The biggest problem I'm having also, is that I'm kinda stuck. I'm planning to make an isometric (possibly 8-directions) real-time strategy game with gunfights in urban environments, but I don't know how to make isometric maps (tried following Isometric tutorial but I don't understand it honestly) and neither how to make strategy game mechanics (mouse cursor, selecting units, AI, camera moving etc.). I'm aware that they require heavy coding, but as I said, learning all the functions individually in the manual doesn't lead me anywhere, for now at least.

Any help would be really appreciated :>
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Phil Strahl Apr 19, 2014 @ 1:21pm 
Hey EngiGuy! Without any encouragement let me tell you that what you're planning to do is a very very high shot for your first game, especially when you don't have much experience with programming, because you will run into problems you're unable to fix without starting right from the beginning again. At some point this will become so frustrating and your project so complicated that you end up giving up on it with a Frankenstein monster of a game, only it will be far from alive. That's the harsh truth and I know what I am talking about because that happened to me a couple of times in the past before, each time I wanted to give up programming altogether because in the end I had nothing to show apart from beady eyes and a boiling hate for compilers.

So don't be like me. Start out small. No great artist started out with their masterpiece, instead they did lots of sketches and earned experience until something was good enough to show to the world as their first piece of work. So it all comes down to practicing, trying out stuff and gradually becoming better. And you will become better, especially in the beginning with the rush little stuff that just works, first on its own, then in combination with other stuff you programmed. It’s really intoxicating!

So I advise you to start out with a very little game (nothing isometric for starters!) that you refine and polish before tackling different problems on their own. Maybe start out with one of the tutorials and try to change things on your own. Make it different, make it harder. The goal is to understand what kind of changes lead to what results.

If your big goal is your isometric RTS, try out everything you want to have in it on its own -- one by one. For example, try to make a program where you can select something and send it with a click on its way to a different portion of your map. Even make a small game with a little challenge out of this. Once you feel confident enough, move on to the next element.

Especially in code-heavy and dependency-rich programs having a clear course of action (and a naming convention on that note!) is key. And it's really hard mapping a course when you don't know enough about the terrain. Little projects make it easier for you to lay out and follow through.

Further, coding with GMS is kinda object-oriented and kinda it is not, depending on where you like to put actual code and where you prefer working with the drag-and-drop editor. I would advise you to get to grips with lots of videos and beginners tutorials on object-oriented programming (and programming in general) so you have a foundation for starting to code with GMS. In fact, start with tutorials and YouTube videos with the basics of programming, when you don't have any experiences.

Important stuff to learn are variables and types (integer, boolean, float), operators, conditions (if .. else) and loops (for, while, etc.). They are easy to understand and you can do some pretty interesting and complex stuff with just those things.

As for working with GM, here's an article I advise you to read (► 60 Ways to make Game Maker projects more maintainable[], even if you don't quite understand everything. In my opinion this knowledge is really valuable if you don’t want to get lost in your project, because GM-projects tend to get messy very quickly.

So my apologies if I make programming sound like hard work (well, it is) but also it's fun and solving difficult problem and seeing it in action is just so rewarding that you will get hooked. At least that worked for me. If you think that's just a load of self-righteous BS from me, it's okay. Just pick out the what works for you personally the best.

TheEngiGuy Apr 19, 2014 @ 3:00pm 
Many thanks for your response Phil, I will make something simple and keep adding more stuff into it for practice, and hoping to reach my goal in the future.

What about Pixel Art also? I'm not good at drawing at all, so I don't know how to make my own sprites and maps. Sticking with simple stickmans for now.
Phil Strahl Apr 20, 2014 @ 12:04pm 
Unfortunately, pixel art is an equally large feat, even when you have a background in traditional art. The problem is that a single misplaced pixel can completely mess up a small sprite and A LOT has to happen with psycho-visual tricks, the simplest being anti-aliasing to make something appear smooth/round.

I just found this on Google (30 Pixel Art Tutorials[]) which will give you an overview of common techniques and challenges involved in pixel art. Being a good coder and a decent artist is a very rare combination because you have to devote a lot of time practicing in either field. And with animations it gets even harder.

My advice is to to either devote a lot of time equally to coding and pixel pushing or just start making your first steps with what's closer to your heart. Coding with stick-figures and "programmer art" is common and there are a lot of pixel-sprite resources on the web you can use for developing. If your projects are getting more serious you can look for artists to help you out with the art so you can focus on programming.

Pretty much the same goes for audio. There are a large number of self-taught video-game-composers (of starkly varying quality) out there but sound-designers are few and far between, especially talented ones.

So, again: If you're feeling confident enough either spend much time practicing and honing your skills in all those fields (and if it's fun, that won't feel like work!) or get help from other talented and specialized indie-artists and don't risk to jeopardize the appeal of a game with excellent gameplay by just so-so screenshots.

I guess I have a habit of posting harsh and discouraging words here, but I am sure if you are passionate about your plans, you're brave enough to look the odds straight into the eye and challenge them. And for that I wish you all the best! And don't forget to keep us updated on your progress every now and then.
TheEngiGuy Apr 20, 2014 @ 12:32pm 
Don't worry, what you say is totally true and I'm aware that both coding and graphics take a lot of time and skill. Your words are what make others be prepared for anything, so I don't consider it harsh or something.

Thanks for your help.
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Date Posted: Apr 19, 2014 @ 9:17am
Posts: 4