Tag: theme

GMS2 alternative skins

So it’s little over a year since YoYoGames released the public beta for GameMaker Studio 2.

For a lot of the past year, I’ve been sticking with GMS1.4 in order to work on a project that isn’t yet ready to migrate to GMS2, but I’m also trying to use GMS2 when I can, to keep up to date with it and to get used to the changes. Overall, GMS2 is definitely better, and from a language standpoint GML is only slightly different, and what differences they’ve made to the language are all improvements.

On the IDE side, though, I constantly find myself wishing that YYG had made a less radical redesign of the user interface. I’ve had a number of issues with the new UI, from the way the new workspaces and chain-view windows work to the fact that saving works differently. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. (I’ll probably touch on those in future articles at some point.)

GMS2 Dark theme

The default Dark theme for GMS2.

One of the things that I haven’t been able to get used to with GMS2’s new IDE is the new Dark theme. For years, GameMaker has opted for a default IDE theme that uses light text on a dark background, and with GMS2, YoYoGames took this concept to its logical extreme, opting for a black background and white-on-black icons and white label text everywhere.

GMS1 GMgreen theme

The default theme for GMS1, GMgreen, was likewise dark.

I didn’t mind the dark grey background of the window panes of GMS1.x, and the resource tree’s pane used black text on a white background, and the code editor’s dark grey background with colorful, syntax-highlighted text, and the toolbas with their colored icons. While it’s not the standard Windows theme colors, it’s usable and reasonably attractive, and if you’re the sort of person who prefers to look at light text on a dark background, it’s quite good.

And to be fair, GMS1’s IDE definitely had its failings. Certain windows were “modal“, meaning that you could not switch focus to any other part of the UI when that window is open, when there was no good reason for them to be. And the user interface for the marketplace My Library had terrible performance-killing bugs with large manifests, which makes it all but useless.

But with GMS2, I feel the Dark theme has gone overboard with being too dark, particularly with the toolbar button icons. Being white-on-black only just makes them harder to read and harder to distinguish from one another, and this slows me down when I try to use GMS2, and this is frustrating, since the whole point of the tool is to make me more productive.

There has also always been a light theme that YoYoGames provides “out of the box” with GameMaker, in case you’re the sort of person who prefers to look at dark text on a white background.

GMS2 light theme

The light theme for GMS2, appeals to users who prefer reading dark text on a light background, but I still prefer something with a bit more color and contrast, and sharper outlines so I can easily differentiate between different parts of the IDE UI.

There are certain colors in the syntax highlighting that contrast poorly against a white background. These should be fixed, but YoYo’s attitude about it seems to be “you can fix it, so fix it yourself.” So they provide preferences that allow you to set the colors yourself if you want to. So, great, you can have exactly the color scheme you want in the code editor, isn’t that wonderful?

The problem with this is, if you want to take screen captures of your IDE and share them with others, your non-standard code highlighting will be apparent to your audience, and may hinder in their ability to parse the text. It’s hardly surprising that we become dependent on the syntax highlighting we see all the time, to the point that once we get used to it, someone else’s color scheme will look “wrong” to us and become more of a hindrance than an assist.

If you want a full makeover for your IDE, you have to go beyond the syntax highlighting colors, and create your own IDE theme. Doing so will give you full control over the appearance of the entire IDE. The downside is that YYG doesn’t support anything but their own themes, so if their themeing templates ever change, breaking your custom theme, you’ll have to fix it. Also, it’s possible that installing updates can either a) overwrite the theme directory, so keep a backup of your theme files.¬†Fun! So instead of spending all your time doing game development, you can take a slice of your time hacking the IDE to do things that arguably the vendor should have gotten right, or at least implemented better so that you wouldn’t have such a temptation.¬†Hopefully this doesn’t happen regularly.

While I like tools that can be customized, I prefer to focus on developing games, not customizing the tools that make games. Too much customizing turns me from a game developer into a game development tool developer. While the skillsets overlap, I really want to maximize the time I put into being a game developer.

Naturally, this has head to some third parties releasing their themes, sharing them with the user community, thus saving you from having to do all the work yourself.

GMS2 VS blue custom theme

Based on the default Windows theme colors and Microsoft VisualStudio, this custom theme called VS blue, is excellent. Very readable, and easy on the eyes.

I really like this Visual Studio-inspired theme. The missing option that YYG did not provide in addition to their Light and Dark themes was a “native Windows” theme, and this is pretty much that. In fact, I would love it if YoYo would embrace this theme, give the developer who created it, iluvfuz, a reward, and make it an officially supported theme. This would erase 100% of the snarkiness in this article.

It’s very similar to the GM8 theme for GMS1.x, in that it uses mostly system colors for the window chrome. The GM8 theme was my favorite on GMS1.x, so of course the VS blue custom theme is my favorite for GMS2.

GMS1 GM8 theme

The GM8 theme for GMS1.x was my preferred way to theme my IDE, because it mostly followed the Windows standard theme colors.


Site update: New theme

There are always N+1 problems, where N = the number of problems you think you have.

Yesterday, I updated some WordPress plugins and the site broke:/ Some kind of CSS problem, as though a stylesheet failed to load.

I determined that the most recent update to JetPack apparently causes the problem, though exactly what the bug is I haven’t determined — all I know right now is that if I install and activate Jetpack, everything is fine, but the moment I connect my site to wordpress.com, which is necessary to make any meaningful use of Jetpack, something happens to cause the .css from my wp theme to fail to load and/or render. Update 2013/12/15: I have determined the cause of the problem to be a conflict between Jetpack and an outdated extension called Scripts Gzip, which I have since discontinued using.

In troubleshooting, I noticed that the theme I’d been using for the last year plus, Fudo, hasn’t been updated in a few years, and may not be compatible with the latest WP. Potential problem #2.

So I ditched it, and am currently running the 2013 WP theme until I figure out what I like. But actually I might like 2013 just fine. It’s typographically attractive, and I assume it should be well supported by Automattic since it’s an official theme.

But whatever the problem is that is being caused by JetPack 2.7 on my site, it seems to affect all themes (or at least all that I have tried so far) so I’m guessing WP will release an update to JetPack in short order and fix the problem. In the meantime I’ve started a dialog with their support and am attempting to work with them through the issue.

Until then, I’m running with JetPack disabled, so the features it provided will be absent until I turn it back on. Yay.

So, wp support advised me to delete the jetpack directory from my plugins, and try manually re-installing to see if that will fix the problem. Only thing is, right now I can’t, because for some reason I’m being denied when I try to delete the files. Not sure what’s going on there, but I surmise it may be due to some server migration issues that my current host has been experiencing lately. Regular readers (ha!) may have noticed considerable problems with uptime lately, and the host is working on migrating the server to new hardware in order to alleviate the issue. I’m not very aware of the details of this, but it seems to be an ongoing issue that has been getting worse in recent weeks. Problem #3.

Due to these problems with uptime, I’ve decided that it’s time for me to move the site to a more capable host. I’ve been with my current host since the site went up in late 2010, and I don’t feel like I have a right to complain about the recent problems because I’m not paying for the hosting service. But considering how google pagerank treats sites with poor uptime, I really can’t accept it, either, so it’s time for this site to move. I’m coming up on my 60,000th visitor, according to my wordpress stats, and the daily site traffic continues to grow (although thanks to the frequent downtime of late my monthly numbers have been rather flat.)

So hopefully, I’ll be updating soon from the new host, just as soon as I get files and database moved over, and working, and switch DNS over.

Stay tuned:)