A look back at GameMaker: Studio 1.x

YoYoGames released GameMaker Studio 1.4.9999 today, the last planned release for the 1.x branch. With GMS2 out for almost two yers, it’s time, right?

No. It’s really not.

When YYG released GameMaker Studio, they continued to support their old product, GameMaker 8, for about six years. Supporting a “professional” tool for only two years after a new version is released is not good enough. Businesses expect long-term support, plain and simple. No matter when they end-of-life GMS1, there will be complaints, but two years is far too soon.

Transitioning from GMS1 to GMS2 was supposed to be easy. Project conversion was a dream, it worked beautifully. Just import your GMS1 project into GMS2, and it would handle any obsolete code by generating conversion scripts, and for most projects, they worked without any further work needed. Import, compile, and it runs. Brilliant.

But the stability problems and project corruption problems that I’ve had with GMS2 make it too unreliable for everyday use. And for all the improvements introduced to the product, there are numerous usability issues with the new IDE, some minor, some major.

Looking back at GMS1.x, YoYoGames delivered a great, but not perfect, product, introduced many new features, and made the product worth the price hike. When I started using GM8, it cost just $20, later $35 for the full version, but there was a free edition also, which lacked certain features but was still useful for students and hobbyists. It was a no-brainer to pay for the full featured version, as cheap as it was.

GMS was much more expensive, starting at $200 for the basic Professional, but it delivered. YYG introduced some great new features. Building to HTML5, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, Linux, and other platforms. Box2D Physics, Shaders, language improvements, the Marketplace, and more. And they were delivered quickly. New major features arrived, regularly.

Then the PlayTech acquisition happened. YoYoGames CEO Sandy Duncan left. And I think that marked a major change in the way the product was managed and developed. Sandy Duncan had been talking about porting GameMaker to enable development on Linux as well as Mac OS X. With his departure, the Linux port was dropped. The Mac OS X port of GMS2 is currently in beta. The quality of the Windows version of GMS2 is sadly, still beta.

I’ve been using GameMaker since 2010, and it was exciting to see how quickly features and fixes were coming in 2012-15. Since then, it’s been slow, and what has been delivered has been plagued with problems.

I follow numerous communities around GameMaker, and from what I see, adoption of GMS2 is only about 50%, with most of the rest of users still on GMS1, and maybe a tiny number of users still using GM8.1, 8 years after it was released, and 2 years after YoYo officially dropped all support for it. In many forum posts, I see mostly complaints about project corruption, IDE crashes, and complaints about the user experience.

The peak years of the GMS1 era were optimistic, forward-looking, and fun. That feeling has, sadly, mostly gone. I still like working in GMS1, but knowing it will never be updated again, never be improved, and that all remaining issues with remain issues forever, is sad. Knowing that, in time, it will no longer support building to the latest versions the relevant platforms that gamers use, is sad. Knowing that the promised future represented by GMS2 arrived malformed and ridden with defects, and that YoYo hasn’t supported the product well at all since it was released, is sad.

I believed in YoYo, once, and I enjoyed using their product, making games, and fulfilling the dreams of my childhood. I’ll probably continue to use GameMaker for a while longer, and hope that the issues that prevent me from using GMS2 get resolved one day.

But I don’t have a lot of hope or optimism about it any longer, and I’ll be really surprised if someday they do fix the problems that have prevented me from adopting it. And that is perhaps the saddest of all.


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  1. Are your grievances of GMS2 such that you would advise beginners to go elsewhere?

    Would you recommend GMS2 to an artist/animator with little to no coding experience? I’ve gone through the demos of Clickteam Fusion 2.5 and Construct3 (really don’t like having to purchase a subscription though) and I find their respective event systems easy to understand and rather fun. Of course, someone with your level of proficiency in various coding languages would likely avoid these products but I wonder if you have an opinion on them.

    I’ve also tried going through the GODOT tutorials on the official site but I found them to be a little confusing. This was a few years ago and I was quite busy so I may give it another try.

    And what about Unity? I also have some courses purchased through Udemy (Complete Unity Developer course) which is quite thorough but very lengthy.

    I understand the choice of engine is highly dependent on the type of game one plans to develop as well as many other factors. As of right now I’m revisiting all the engines with a lot more focus than previous attempts so I hope the decision will be made more clear. Still, I wonder what general advice you would give to someone who primarily wants to make 2D games (side-scrollers, action-rpgs, 2d beat ’em ups) with respect to your disappointment with GMS2.



    1. It’s a tough call.

      For a beginner, it might still be fine. But I think GMS1 is better for beginners than GMS2 is, in all honesty. But I don’t think you can buy licenses for it any longer.

      Unity3d and Godot Engine are both popular. Unity3D is a good deal more popular than GameMaker, and it uses C#, so you get to learn a “real” programming language while you’re learning to make games, which is something that can turn into a “real” job (outside of games). Godot Engine is open source, and looks promising. It’s been in development for several years and has a strong following. If you haven’t looked at it in a while, it might be worth going back for a second look.

      There’s a lot of others to consider: Construct3 is a good choice. There’s also PICO-8, which is fun, although not necessarily the best for beginners, but if you like small games designed within tight constraints, it’s awesome.


      1. I actually have a GMS1 license. Purchased it on a Humble Bundle sale from a couple years back for about $12 I think it was. Incredible deal. Unfortunately, I have neglected to put in the time and effort to really dig in to it so I’m a bit fearful that if I start now, I could put myself in a hole later. I suppose, however, any skills that I might develop learning GMS1 would be transferable to GMS2 if I had to migrate a project over to it.

        The next step is all on me to just start with a small game project in each engine and determine which one is the right fit for me. I’ll look up PICO-8 even though its not beginner friendly. Might be something I can explore later once I acquire more knowledge.

        Thanks for your insight and swift reply, Chris. Have a good weekend.


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