Published on July 17th, 2013 | by Kieran Mackintosh0
Game in Scotland – YoYo Games
On Saturday, March 9th, my colleague Martin and I went together to do press coverage at Game in Scotland, an annual Scottish event where established local video game developers present and pitch themselves to the public. We interviewed four developers, all from different industry professions, perspectives and disciplines. We made impressions, shook hands and even had a laugh too.
After having lunch me and Martin then walked up to YoYo Games, who promised up an interview once the crowd had died down a bit. Gavin Smart, Associate Producer, was nominated to speak to us.
YoYo Games are most notable known for the Game Maker software, which – as the title implies – is a software designed for making video games. It was originally created by a university lecturer in the Netherlands as a teaching tool.
In 2007, YoYo Games bought the software. They then started developing it further and making it a better tool, a more professional tool.
In the beginning, YoYo started just bringing it up to scratch, then last year, in May, they released Game Maker: Studio – which is currently their main project.
Game Maker: Studio is essentially focused on multiplatform export. Basically, what the platform allows developers to do is take base codes from games – or even an entire game – and export them to several different platforms. Smart listed some examples for us: Mac, Windows, HTML 5, Android, iOS, Windows 8/Windows Phone 8 and Linux. Put simply, Game Maker: Studio can allow one game to jump between several platforms.
The software has a drag-and-drop interface, so users don’t have to know programming in order to use the software. For those who are adept in that field, Studio will allow them to through the “backdoor” and use their own code should they wish.
Studio even comes with its own scripting language, which – according to Smart – is quite a powerful one at that. The language itself is based on C, so if a user was familiar any C-based programming then they may get to grips with Studio quickly.
“If you are a programmer, you can go in and do whatever you want, but if you’re not then you’ve got interface to help you.”
With the thought of Studio’s easy-to-use interface and optional back door in mind, I asked Smart if the software was developer friendly for up-and-coming developers, who may think that other development kits might be a bit over their heads.
“Yeah, definitely. If you look at your Unreal or your Unity they charge a lot of money. Okay, their products are good — I’m not gonna deny it, a lot of people use them — but they charge a lot of money, they take a cut off your game at the end as well. We don’t do that. We provide a quick, easy solution that anybody can pick up and use to create a game in no time at all.”
Smart continued on to say that once users have bought their license, that’s them sorted. The license won’t expire and YoYo won’t ask anything from any games created – they may even feature the game on their website.
YoYo wants to expand Studio and bring it to everybody. It may have started out as a learning tool, that was later developed into a tool for indie developers, but the software is also aimed at bigger studios, too – they have a couple who are allegedly producing high quality games using Studio.
When I heard Smart mention licenses, I asked if each license was specific to each expansion of the Gamer Maker: Studio’s suite, and if users bought one license would it continually update with the latest version of the software.
“Well, Game Maker: Studio – if you buy a license for that, that’s you got your Game Maker: Studio license. Some of the export platforms – iOS, Android, HTML 5,Windows Phone and Ubuntu – are separate modules. So, you have to buy that in addiction to your license,” he said.
“What we do offer is Master Collection, which is Game Maker: Studio Professional with all the different modules bundled in for a one-time fee of $495. You get all featured updates to Game Maker: Studio (as standard) and you get all additional modules that we release as well.”
When I asked for clarification on if users would still get updates even if they don’t buy all the modules. Smart responded with that if users just buy Studio they will get all the updates to it.
There are also different features for each version – e.g. the free version has a lot more limited features than the Standard or the Professional versions.
Studio Professional, Smart told us, is more aimed at studios. So, that version has things like built-in source control, along with extra tools to help them along the way. Smart all also stressed that user need to buy Professional if they want to buy additional modules. For comparison, the Standard version only exports to Windows and Mac.
I told Smart that this was good, since it meant that developers that only want to develop for certain platforms don’t have to buy all of the modules at once, and just buy the ones they needed, instead of having to buy a whole product and end up not using some of the modules that come with it.
“Yeah, exactly. If you want to only work on Android you could buy Studio Professional & Android and that would save you roughly $200,” he said.
“However,” he continued, “if you do buy the Master Collection you will get all of the platforms, and it’s only $200 more? So, that’s essentially like buying iOS and Android but you’re getting three other modules right now and possibly future ones. So, you’re saving a lot of money – the savings are already up and over $300 to buy the Master Collection.”
So, we established that Studio can export to mobile devices, so I asked if it could export to PSN or XBL.
“Not yet. Hopefully, but we’ve not thought about it – it’s one of those things.
We are always looking to do new platforms. We have several coming out soon. We’ve just done something for Ubuntu, so that’s a new platform that’s coming out. We are doing new things, we work with new platform developers all the time.“
If users activated their Studio on Steam, users can upload their games to the Steam Workshop and share it with friends. Users can’t, however (Smart stressed), charge for it yet, but users can make a game with Studio and upload it themselves.
I then asked Smart to name any games that have been made with Studio, and that have done well.
“The most recent one that comes to mind is ‘Hotline Miami’,” that was released on Steam not that long ago. It was made with Game Maker, and it’s done really well – it’s one of those really good ones.”
Martin piped in and asked if YoYo would bring the Studio software to mobile devices. The example he used was that a lot of people have and use iPhones or Androids, and he was wondering if there would be a basic mobile counterpart to Studio that would sync to the full software through the PC.
Smart took a liking to the idea, but clarified that YoYo are quite limited in what they can do currently, and how developing a mobile counterpart would be too taxing.
He went on to say that there will be a new version of Studio at some point in the future, and implied that Martin’s idea could be a possibility, but it didn’t sound all that promising. He did say, “you never know,” but that future is still up in the air.
The interview then divulged into Martin suggesting ideas to Smart, which were taken on in kind but countered with how it would affect YoYo from a business standpoint, and how some of the ideas were too big for the company currently.
Shortly after that it then went into small talk, effectively ending the interview.
Speaking with Gavin Smart was interesting because it gave us an insight into not only game development, but into how game making software could be used to produce games. It’s good to hear that good games can be – and have been – created using Game Maker: Studio.
I look forward to seeing more games being created with Studio, and I hope YoYo Games continue to be successful with their continuous development of their software. Go check them out over on their website at www.yoyogames.com and/or follow them on Twitter @yoyogamemaker.