With a little help from the YoYoGames community themselves for question ideas, I contacted YoYoGames and we arranged for an interview. This is the result of our efforts. We hope you find it interesting. NOTE: Mike Dailly deserves a lot of credit for all the good work he did on most of the question answers.
1.) Do you mind introducing yourselves?
The YoYoGames team is headed up by Sandy Duncan CEO, Russell Kay COO and Mike Dailly, Head of Development with approximately 20 plus years each of game development experience. YoYoGames is the home of GameMaker, the development tool that creates games without any programming knowledge. We have expanded to approximately 16 employees in the Dundee-based office.
2.) What is your motivation for supporting the indie community?
The games industry started on the back of bedroom coders and is something close to the hearts to the tech team at YoYo. As the industry grew, so did budgets and it became very difficult to break into. Now, we are seeing a return to simple games being made as home projects and having access to get this to market i.e. on iOS. This is great news for all developers; in fact you don’t have to be a coder at all anymore. It has opened opportunities to anyone who has enough creativity to give it a go. The indie community is just brimming with talent.
3.) How is your iOS campaign doing?
We’re doing pretty well on the YoYo published games on iOS… Our ad backed Solitaire game has done very well, so much so we’ve released a paid version. Karoshi won 2011’s Android game of the year award from Pocket Gamer and others like They Need to be Fed, Reflexions, Pollushot etc. have all done great sales as well.
4.) Do you have any major plans with your publishing division? What does it take to get a game to be published by you?
We’re finishing off the first version of GraveMaker, our first foray into multiplatform social gaming and this is a pretty big title for us. We’re also continually looking for more markets for our existing games, and have just started to release them onto the web. We’ve moved more to making games ourselves; We’re always interested in unique concepts, something that’s different.
We do hope to be able to offer submissions from developers in the future but at present we are currently focused on creating games in-house for the foreseeable future.
5.) Are there any mysterious, future plans you can tell us about?
We’re just putting the finishing touches on GameMaker: Studio, and this is going to be a massive product for us. This tool really does make cross platform development a breeze, and we’re incredibly excited about it! The games guys still go home to play with their own projects using it, even after working with it all day, and that’s something pretty special. We also have a roadmap planned out that will bring some really cool enhancements later in the year, but we’re not quite ready to announce these yet.
6.) What is next for GameMaker? C++ instead of Delphi?
Looking into 2013, GameMaker will get a full rewrite so the IDE is totally cross platform and the Mac and possibly even Linux editions will all be on par with the Windows version. This is a big step, but it will be well worth it. We’re also redesigning the whole interface, the scripting language (GML) will get a revamp and the game engines themselves will get rewritten. It’s a huge undertaking, but the results will be something special. While we will improve 3D support, we still think GameMaker’s strength is in 2D, and that’s where most of the effort will go. Before this, we’re always looking for more platforms to support, and may well add some as time goes on – it’s not a massive task to add a new platform, and that’s one of GameMaker’s real strengths.
7.) Is there a release date for GameMaker 9?
8.) Darn. People say that your forum (the Yoyogames Forum) is really buggy and people think you forgot about it. What do you have to say to the community? Is there a possibility of getting new forums?
We have two sets of forums, the GMC (Game Maker Community) and the YoYo- Games forum. The YoYoGames forum is part of the sandbox portion of our site and we would love to revamp it but at the moment the whole company is very focused on finishing GameMaker: Studio. The GMC has become our main point of interaction with the community.
9.) Interesting question from another forum goer. When should we celebrate GameMaker’s birthday? 15th of November, 11th of August or whenever YoYoGames bought it off Mark?
I guess whenever Mark released the first version. GameMaker pre-dates YoYoGames, and we shouldn’t try to pretend that it doesn’t. Mark Overmars did an amazing job before YoYoGames ever got involved – which is why YoYoGames got involved in the first place! Mark is the best person to ask really when it was first released and use that as a proper birthday – I think it’s almost 13 years old now.
10.) What is Mark Overmars up to now? Is he in touch?
Mark is still very much involved in YoYoGames, and while he doesn’t write GameMaker directly anymore, he’s on the board of directors, and is consulted in all major decisions. He also makes games to sell as well – Super Snake was developed by him and he has plans for many more. So while he’s not at the forefront of YoYo’s day to day, he’s very much involved in the strategic direction of the company and the GameMaker technology.
11.) Any parting thoughts?
GameMaker is an amazing tool, a testament to Mark’s foresight, and we’re now working hard to bring it to new audiences. This doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten our roots though, education and the novice developer is still very important to us, but since we use the tools ourselves it makes sense that other more professional developers will be interested too. However, longer term, this can only be good news for younger budding developers. No longer will they feel they’ve finally learnt the tool and are now limited by it so should “move on,” but that GameMaker has enough depth and complexity to satisfy all their needs and demands. Our aim is to make GameMaker a tool anyone can start with, but also a tool that you can grow into, making ever larger, ever more professional products where you can actually get to the point of selling them, and making a career from it.
We know it’s possible, because we’re doing it already. In some respects, GameMaker’s life as a real developer tool has just started and it will simply just get better and more powerful as time goes on. We’re driven by the demands of not just the community, but our own development teams in house, and that means we will add real features that help development, making it ever easier for developers to make the next smash-hit game.
Thanks for your time, YoYoGames! Expect more from them some time in the future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nathan. He prefers his last name not to be known. He’s probably a high-class superspy, but we don’t mind. For a temporary amount of time, he is the editor of Indiegraph. He’s our point man for interviews, and occasionally he takes a blowtorch to a game to see whether it measures up to his standards. He runs Gamesbydesign, an IndieGraph affliate site dedicated to game design articles. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/VGR_Reviews.