Game authoring tools make computer game creation accessible to the masses. Is GameMaker: Studio the next Flash?
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Programming is the new black, or at least the modern day equivalent to what writing was in the '60s and '70s and what indie filmmaking was in the '70s and '80s. It's the favored means of self-expression and the framework for seeking fame and fortune.
But even as organizations like Mozilla are launching projects like Webmaker and startups like Codecademy are trying to teach the world to code, it has never been easier to create applications without real skill in computer science.
Take YoYo Games' GameMaker: Studio, for example. GameMaker: Studio, launched Tuesday, is the latest iteration of a 13-year-old development tool for making games without advanced programming knowledge.
"With Game Maker: Studio, you can write one game, one set of code, and can publish it on Steam, the Mac App Store, iTunes Apps Store, Google Play, and Facebook," said CEO Sandy Duncan in a phone interview.
Duncan acknowledges that there are quite a few cross-platform development tools out there, but says few of them are specifically focused on solving the problems of game design. That, he says, is where Game Maker excels.
"At the risk of trivializing everything, games are fundamentally about collisions or events, things bumping into each other," Duncan said. "In same way that Eskimos have 27 words for 'snow,' we have 27 kinds of collisions."
Game Maker: Studio combines a drag-and-drop integrated development environment (IDE) with the company's scripting language (GML) to allow the user to design computer games for cross-platform output.
The software can create executable files for OS X and Windows ($99), with additional paid modules for creating apps that run on Android ($199), iOS ($199), and HTML5 ($99). And YoYo Games says it intends to release support for additional target platforms in the future.
YoYo Games is also a game publisher, and while it's not comparable on a revenue basis with the likes of Electronic Arts or Zynga, the company has created a number of hit games using its technology. Its titles include Reflections (which topped sales lists in several countries' iTunes App Stores and was ranked third at one point on Google Play), Rick O'Shea, and Simply Solitaire.
What's surprising is that the company's games typically cost no more than $10,000 to produce and have all been profitable. "We've never lost money on a game," said Duncan.
While some might bemoan the fact that making it easier to create games ensures a proliferation of bad games, that's true in any medium where technology simplifies the production process. There have never been more bad videos than there are presently, but who'd give up YouTube and video-capable mobile phones to return to the time several decades ago when making films was expensive and mostly done by professionals?
Ultimately, the ability to create games quickly and inexpensively will promote innovation in game design and will help companies outside the entertainment industry experiment with games as business and social tools.
But Duncan believes Game Maker: Studio stands out from the rest. "We think, ultimately, this could be the next Flash," he said.
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