History of Game Maker
From YoYoGames Wiki
People regularly ask questions about how Game Maker was created. So here are some facts, describing the changes until the moment YoYo Games took over the development.
About the Author
- Main article: Mark Overmars
Game Maker was written by Mark Overmars. He is a full professor at the Institute of Information and Computing Sciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Here he heads the Center for Advanced Gaming and Simulation, that performs research in areas such as 3D modelling, animation, virtual characters, simulation, human-computer interaction, adaptive game play, and artistic aspects of games.
Game Maker was not written as part of the work at the university but started as a hobby project. It is though used in the course on game design. Since 2004 Game Maker is produced and distributed by The Game Maker Company, headed by Mark Overmars.
Mark has always been interested in computer games. In the eighties he was reviewing games for an Atari journal. He also wrote some games for the Atari ST computer (Super Breakout, Snake, Gobang). Mark does not actively play games anymore but does study the techniques used in creating them.
About the Program
- Main article: Game Maker
Game Maker is written in Delphi (version 7 at the moment). Almost all the code was written by Mark Overmars except for a few freeware components to read different image formats and to compress the data. The Game Maker source code is over 40.000 lines of code. The source code for the runner part is similar in size.
The maker part is heavily based on the Windows API. This makes it rather difficult to port it to a different platform. The runner part is based on DirectX (version 8.0 at the moment to keep it compatible with most older computers). Again, this makes it difficult to port it to other platforms. Don't expect versions that can make games for e.g. hand-held devices because of the many incomptibilities.
Game Maker's development was begun in 1999 by Mark Overmars, this account is written by him.
I started working on Game Maker (originally called Animo because my first idea was to make a simple system for creating 2-d animations) in the summer of 1999. The first public release was version 1.1. It was released on november 15, 1999. This version did already have a built-in programming language but was lacking sophistication. It did not use DirectX and it did not have a separate runner nor could it create executables. So games were simply played in the main window of the program. Since then I quickly created public versions 1.2, 1.2a, 1.3. It was not very much known or downloaded. For example in the whole December of 1999 Game Maker was downloaded a total of 366 times.
Version 1.4 was a major release. It got a bit more attention. Downloads went up: 1000 in february, 1500 in march, 2000 in june, and 8000 in august (after some special press attention). Version 2.0 was releases around september 2000. In the whole year 2000 the program was downloaded from my website a total of about 40.000 times.
I released version 3.0 which was the first to use DirectX for drawing. Additional version 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3 (april 2001) appeared. The popularity quickly increased. In march the program was downloaded about 14.000 times and in june this had increased to 21.000.
In january 2001 I decided that I had to redo Game Maker. I rewrote it completely from scratch, using all that I learned over the years. The interface was completely changed. The new version was also not compatible with the old version. The new red color of the icon symbolised that. Version 4.0 was released in july 2001. It was followed by 4.1 in december (which in particular added multiplayer support). Popularity increased further. In december there where 32.000 downloads. In the whole of 2001 the program was downloaded about 270.000 times.
Version 4.2 appeared in april 2002. The main feature was that stability had increased a lot. Version 4.3, having many small additions and improvements, appeared in november 2002. Popularity grew further. At the end of the year the program was downloaded about 2.000 times each DAY. The number of page views of the main page of the website grew from 2000 in october 2000 to 70.000 in october 2002. In the whole of 2002 the program was downloaded about 750.000 times.
Starting in january 2003 I asked for donations because the costs for developing Game Maker and maintaining the community are increasing all the time. Game Maker now has its own domain: www.gamemaker.nl. The website was completely redone. In april version 5.0 appeared with many new features, in particular data file resources and time lines. Also the code interpreter was extended and improved. The program got a whole facelift with nicer icons and images. A voluntary registration mechanism was included to support the development but the program can still be used for free.
At the end of august Game Maker was featured on TechTV which almost crashed our web server as 5000 people tried to download the program at the same moment.
In september version 5.1 appeared with many new features, in particular a particle system and the possibility to change resources on the fly. A number of the advanced features have been restricted to registered users to encourage (and reward) registration. The free version though remains available with most features intact.
We moved to a new (paid) forum that offers many more features and better control. The forum has quickly become very popular.
In december version 5.2 appeared with an improved room design form and additional actions for e.g. particles. Also included were functions to deal with data structures.
In 2003 there have been in total over 1.700.000 downloads of Game Maker (that is, attempts to download). So this is about 5000 per day. The program is used more and more at schools all over the world as part of their computer science training. Also it is used in many summer camps.
In April version 5.3 appeared with an improved path editor and motion planning functionality. The help file was converted to modern HTML help.
Since april I started to work on version 6.0. For 6.0 the whole graphics engine was rewritten, using Direct3D as underlying system. This considerably improved the quality of the graphics and the possibilities. Alpha transparency is now fast and easy, sprites can be color blended and rotated. Also there are advanced graphics functions to draw for example texture-mapped polygons. A font resource was added, allowing for much nicer (and faster) texts and even a set of functions for 3D graphics were included. Also the sound engine was rewritten resulting in better quality sound and more options, like sound effects and 3D sounds. All these changes made the program no longer fully compatible with the previous version. Unfortunately, due to quite a bit of hacking activity I also had to rewrite the registration system and had to add additional encryption. Version 6.0 appeared in October 2004.
Due to the large popularity of Game Maker the forum got more and more crowded and it became impossible to use a shared hosting service for that. In November 2004 we moved the forum to a new dedicated server that is almost exclusively used for the forum. There were some startup problems but things seem to work well by now.
In 2004 there have been in total about 1.600.000 downloads of Game Maker (that is, attempts to download). So that is about equal to the previous year. The website is visited about 10.000 times per day.
Game Maker was used as the development platform for a Game4Girls competition organized by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. It was also used as development tool at an Atari-sponsored event at the world famous Parsons School of Design in New York called "RetroRedux: The 24 Hour Game Design Jam".
In May 2005 version 6.1 of Game Maker appeared, with an improved image editor, a simple explosion and effects mechanism, drawing surfaces, and many small changes and bug corrections.
In July 2005 Game Maker was featured on G4TV. This for a day almost trippled the number of page views of the website (about 26,000 on a single day) and also increased the number of downloads considerably.
In August 2005 the Game Maker website reached 10.000.000 page views (since Oct 2000). Page views are pretty constant at around 11.000 per day. Also in August a game created with Game Maker, called Duch Doom, was featured on G4TV. They referred to the forum which almost blew up the forum. At one moment there were over 800 simultaneous visitors.
In September 2005 Game Maker was featured in five episodes of a Danish TV program. Also, in Australia there was a one-day conference that was largely dedicated to the use of Game Maker in education. Due to changes in the policy of the company providing the page counts, I decided to remove the page counts.
Game Maker is used as the development tool in the Dutch Make-A-Game competition for highschool students. Over 200 teams registered in the competition.
The first few months of the year were spent on finishing our book, together with Jacob Habgood. The title is The Game Maker's Apprentice: Game Development for Beginners and will be published by APress. It appeared at the end of June 2006. It is very popular. The first print run of 5000 copies was sold out within about 3 months. See the book website for further information.
In March 2006 we moved to a new much larger and faster server to handle the increased load of both the website and the forum. New statistic tools also made it easier to monitor the interest. The number of page views are now around 25,000 per day. There are close to 200,000 unique visitors per month. The site uses around 600 GB of bandwidth per month. Downloads stay constant at around 4,000 per day.
Since the summer I have been working on version 7.0 of the program. The major improvement is an extension mechanism that has been incorporated, which makes it easy to add additional functionality. A beta appeared at the beginning of november. The final version is expected at the end of january.
I am very excited that I am partnering with YoYo Games for the further development and distribution of Game Maker. YoYo Games is a new company based in the UK, setup by a group of former and current game industry execs, including Sandy Duncan, former head of Xbox in Europe. I am one of the directors of YoYo Games and will be supervising the further development of Game Maker there.
On Feb 28 version 7.0 of Game Maker was released through the new YoYo Games website. Soon after that website took over the current Game Maker website.
On 25 December Game Maker 8.0 was released.