For some people, the whole reason for buying computer in the early 1980s was the romantic notion of conjuring up a game of their own. They had a great idea for a new game, and were ready to unleash their own creation on the world. Yet only the mysteries of machine language stood in the way. That is until Activision released Garry Kitchen's GameMaker for the Apple II and Commodore 64. If you were trying to create a simple, old-school-arcade-style game, this was just the ticket.
The bulk of the work in Garry Kitchen's GameMaker is done in three areas. The programming portion of the system uses a proprietary language, so budding gamesmiths couldn't really count on learning any language that would be of use outside of this particular program. The payoff, however, was that the programming was made faster and easier by hotkey combos to call up frequently utilized statements. The language is actually surprisingly comprehensive, including such features as collision detects (a vital part of any game which lets you know when one object has come in contact with another on the screen) and some rudimentary physics (for example if a collision occurs, you can cause both objects to bounce backward by a specified distance or even by a random one).
Arguably, the most fun that can be had in Garry Kitchen's GameMaker is in the sprite creation tool. Sprites are animated characters that serve as any part of the playing field that is non-static, and this tool allows for the creation of fairly colorful animations. The catch is that the program's proprietary code only allows it to track eight small objects. Larger sprites can be made, but a double-size object takes up the memory allotment for two small objects, and a quadruple-size object, the largest allowed, gobbles up half of the sprite memory, so you'd better have a good reason for using it.
Minimal sounds and music can be created with other tools, and then comes the real test: play-testing the game (and then usually going back to revamp something). Completed games can be saved to self-booting disks, but those games are prefaced with a "[game title] by [author's name], created with Garry Kitchen's GameMaker" screen. So much for taking all the credit for your own work!
Garry Kitchen's GameMaker is a milestone of creativity software, and it's entirely possible to make fun games with it. It may not give you a resume' piece to send off to Sega, but it does offer a great deal of insight into how videogames work, as well as offering Shigeru Miyamoto wannabes a chance to tell their friends they actually made that game they've been talking about for so many years. ~ Earl Green, All Game Guide
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