Interview

YoYo Games' Sandy Duncan on why GameMaker for HTML5 is right place, right time for all developers

YoYo Games' Sandy Duncan on why GameMaker for HTML5 is right place, right time for all developers
There can't be many game-making tools that have been in continuous use for 13 years, but that's the deal with GameMaker.

Originally created by Dutch academic Mark Overmars as an educational package, it's been updated ever since; most recently gaining the backing of Scottish outfit YoYo Games, which has slowly been building a proper business around it.

One element has seen the PC/Flash-focused tool expanding so it now also supports iOS, Android, PSP and Mac.

In conjunction with this, YoYo Games has become a game publisher, taking the best titles from the community, such as They Need To Be Fed, Mr Karoshi, and Ninjamming Beat-Jitsu, and hand polishing them up for commercial deployment.

"Publishing games has forced us to improve GameMaker, and that, in turn, makes the games better. It's a symbiotic process," explains Sandy Duncan, YoYo Games' CEO, and previously the vice president of Xbox Europe.

Structured for success

This is reflected in the company's structure with two four-man teams getting games ready for release - two per month is the planned schedule. Another five or so people are focused on the core GameMaker technology.

Including Overmars, as well as veterans of the Scottish gaming scene such as Russell Kay and Mike Dailly (both of Lemmings fame), their work is now coming to the fore with the beta launch of GameMaker for HTML5 at the end of September.

As the name suggests, this will be a new version of the package that just supports the new web standard which is expected to get a massive boost when Facebook releases its new HTML5 platform - the much rumoured Project Spartan.

Ready for the new web

"To be honest, we started working on HTML5 because it was cool. We didn't see the web as a way of making money," Duncan explains.

However, with HTML5 gaining strong momentum across the web - especially in gaming - as a potential Flash replacement, and offering strong performance benefits, he's hoping it will be the foundation that will enable YoYo Games to establish GameMaker as a tool for professional studios.

"At the moment, we have about 1.5 million free downloads of GameMaker per year," Duncan reveals. "We reckon only about 20 percent actually attempt to use it properly, but that's still a lot of people.

"So while we've previously been more about kids and bedroom coders, I think HTML5 is going to kickstart a new generation of web games, so we want to create a proper platform to enable this."

Ready for all

Indeed, he argues GameMaker sits in the sweetspot for developers, being a drag-and-drop package with a scripting language. The new version will also add team collaboration features, as well as the ability to call external JavaScript libraries.

For these reasons, it will be more expensive. GameMaker 8.1 is currently $40, while during the beta - from later September - GameMaker HTML5 will be $99, rising to $200 when it's formally released as version 1.0.

In turn, sometime in early 2012, there will be an even more capable version called GameMaker Studio that will complete the circle, combining HTML5 support with iOS, Android, Symbian, PC and Mac.

You can find out more about GameMaker for HTML5 here, including a playable demo of the excellent They Need To Be Fed.

You can also get an idea of what you'll be able to make using the package in the following video of YoYo Game's work in progress demo Grave Maker.


Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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