Redlands Computer Science Game Maker:

Tutorial #1


You will need two images for the two game objects. Such images are called sprites in GameMaker (just like when you programmed in Scratch).
There is a lot to know about sprites but, for the moment, simply think of them as little images which we will display in our game.
For making these images you can use any drawing program you like, for example the paint program that is part of any Windows system, but GameMaker also has a built-in sprite editor for this purpose. Creating nice-looking sprites is an art that requires a lot of practice, but fortunately there are large collections of images of all sorts available for free. By searching the web and you are bound to find images in large quantities, but make sure you read and follow the licences that accompany them before including them in any of your games.
For our little game we use the following two sprites, which can be found by clicking here: Catch The Clown Assets
Just place these in the folder of your choice to use with this tutorial.

The clown: The wall:

To add these sprites to the game we proceed as follows:
  1. From the Resources drop down menu at the top of the main GameMaker window, choose Create Sprite. The Sprite Properties form appears, like the one shown below.

  2. Click on the Name field where currently is says sprite0 (the default name for the sprite). Rename it to "spr_clown".

  3. Click on the Load Sprite button. This opens a file browser.

  4. Navigate to the Catch The Clown Assets folder that came with this tutorial and selected the image file clown.png. The sprite properties should now look like this:

  5. Press the OK button to close the form.

You should also now set the sprite origin to its center. The origin is the point at which GameMaker: Studio will draw the sprite in the game room, and all you have to do here is press the button marked Center to place the draw origin at the center of the sprite. You should also change the collision mask of the sprite to be the full image and a circle as we will want it to bounce later and this mask shape will give the best results. The collision mask is what GameMaker: Studio will use to base all the collisions

between different instances off of and as such it enables you to give a complex sprite a simple collision shape, as you can see in this image:

Next we will add the wall object in the same way:

  1. From the Resources menu, choose Create Sprite. Click on the Name field and rename it to "spr_wall".

  2. Click on the Load Sprite button and select the image file wall.png.

  3. Press the OK button to close the form.

No need to change the origin, nor the collision mask for this sprite as they are fine as they are.

As you might have noticed, the clown and wall sprite have now appeared in the list of resources at the left of the Game Maker window. Here you will always find all the sprites, sounds, objects, rooms, etc... that you have created for your game. Together we call them the resources, or assets, of the game and they form part of what is known as Resource Tree.

You can select a resource from the tree by clicking on its name, and then you can use the Edit menu to change the resource, duplicate it, or delete it. Right-clicking on the resource name will show a similar menu, and is often quicker to use. Note that this overview of resources will become crucial when you are creating more complicated games.

Adding Sounds

Now that we have created the sprites, we will need to create two sound effects as well. We want one to play when the clown hits a wall and the other to play when the clown is successfully "caught" with the mouse by the player. We will use two wave (*.wav) format files for this as wave files are excellent for short sound effects.

To create two sound resources:
  1. From the Resources menu, choose Create Sound. The Sound Properties form appears, and you should click on the Name field and rename it to "snd_bounce".

  2. Click on the Load Sound button, navigate to the Catch The Clown Assets folder that came with the tutorial, and select the sound file bounce.wav. The form should now look like this:

  3. Click the "OK" button to close the form.

  4. Create another sound resource and name it "snd_click".

  5. Click the Load Sound button and select the sound file click.wav.

  6. Close the form.

Within the sound properties form you can use the play button, with the green triangle pointing to the right, to listen to the sound which is repeated constantly unless you press the red stop button. There are also a few other options relating to sound quality, but for now we can ignore these as the default values are fine for most games. Notice again that the two sounds are shown in the resource tree on the left of the main GameMaker window.

Objects, Events and Actions

Having created the sprites and sounds does not mean that anything is going to happen in your game. Sprites are only the images for game objects and we have not yet defined any game objects. Similarly, sounds will only play if we tell them to be played, and we can only tell them to be played from a game object too. So we need to create our two game objects next...


However, before we do this you will have to understand the basic way in which GameMaker: Studio operates. As we have indicated before, in a game we have a number of different game objects and during the running of the game one or more instances of these game objects will be present on the screen or, more general, in the game world. Note that there can be multiple instances of the same game object. So for example, in our "Catch the Clown" game there will be one wall object, but a large number of instances of that object surrounding the playing field, and there will be just one instance of the clown object. Think of objects as a blueprint, and instances as something created from that blueprint.


Instances of game objects donít do anything unless you tell them how to act, and you do this by indicating how the instances of the object must react to events that happen. There are many different events that can happen as your game progresses, but the first (and often most important) event that we are going to look at is when the instance is created. This event is called the Create Event, and more often than not some action is required here, for example we must tell the instance of the clown object that it should start moving in a particular direction.

Another important event happens when two instances collide with each other and is called a Collision Event. For example, when the instance of the clown collides with an instance of the wall, the clown must react and change its direction of motion.

Other events happen when the player presses a key on the keyboard or clicks with mouse on an instance etc... For the clown in our game we will use a Mouse Event to make it react to a press of the mouse on it.


To indicate what must happen in any given event, you must specify D'n'D actions. There are many useful actions for you to choose from, for example there in an action that sets the instance in motion in a particular direction, or there is an action to change the score, or an action to play sounds.
So, to sum up the above, defining a game object that we can create instances of consists of:

Before continuing, just lets revise a very important distinction that you should always keep in mind, and that is the distinction between objects and instances of those objects. An object defines a particular game object with its behaviour (that is, its reaction to events). Of this object there can be one or more instances in the game and these instances will act according to the defined behaviour. Stated differently, an object is an abstract thing - like in normal life, we can talk about a chair as an abstract object that you can sit on, but we can also talk about a particular chair, that is an instance of the chair object, which actually exists in our home.

Adding Objects

So how does this all this come together for the game we are making? To start with, we will need two objects. Let's first create the very simple wall object, as this object needs no behaviour at all since it will not react to any events in the game world.

To create the wall object you must follow these steps:
  1. From the drop down Resources menu in the main GameMaker window choose Create Object. The Object Properties form appears, as is shown below:

  2. Click on the Name field and rename the object to "obj_wall".

  3. Click on the Menu icon at the end of the Sprite field and in the list of available sprites select the "spr_wall" sprite.

  4. Instances of the wall object must be "flagged" as solid, that is, no other instances should be allowed to penetrate them. To this end click on the box next to the Solid property to enable it.

  5. Press OK to close the form.
For the clown object we start in the same way:
  1. From the Resources menu, choose Create Object.

  2. Click on the Name field and rename the object to "obj_clown".

  3. Click on the icon at the end of the Sprite field and select the "spr_clown" sprite.

Note that we do not make the clown object solid! Moving instances should never be flagged as solid in their object properties as that can cause some serious issues with collisions, so reserve this option for wall objects, platform objects and other things that shouldn't move around the room when added as instances. Now, for the clown there is a lot more that needs to be done as we have to specify its behaviour, which we will do on the next page...

The Create Event

Appart from the object details, the rest of the Object Properties window is taken up by two sub-windows: one for adding events, and one for adding actions to those events. With the buttons below the Events window you can add events, delete events or change events, of which there are a large number of different ones you can use.

Next to the events there is an empty list of actions that must be performed for the selected event (if any), and at the right of this list that are a number of tabbed pages with little icons. These icons represent the different actions and in total there are close to 100 different actions you can choose from. If you hold your mouse above one of the icons a short description of the corresponding action is given in a tooltip. You can drag actions from the tabbed pages at the right to the action list to make them happen when the event occurs. This is called the Drag and Drop system of programming (D'n'D for short).

So, to get things started with programming our game, we are now going to define what should happen when an instance of the clown object is first created. In this case we want the clown to start moving in an arbitrary direction at a fixed speed so proceed with the following:
  1. Press the Add Event button. The Event Selector, as shown below, will appear.

  2. Click on the Create Event button. The Create event is now added to the list of events, and it is automatically selected (you should see it highlighted in the IDE).

  3. Next you need to include a Move Fixed action in the list of actions. To this end, open the Move tab and then press and hold the mouse on the action image with the eight green arrows in the page at the right, drag it to the empty actions list, and release the mouse to drop it into the action list for the event. An action window will now open asking for information about the action.

  4. In the action window for the Move Fixed action you can indicate in which direction the instance should start moving. Select all eight directions (not the middle one which corresponds to no motion), and note that the selected directions turn red. When multiple directions are selected one is chosen at random when the event is run. Also set the Speed to 4. The "speed" of an instance is calculated as "pixels per step", so 4 means that the instance will move 4 pixels in the given direction every game step.

  5. Press OK to indicate that we are ready with this action.

You have now specified behaviour that must be executed when an instance of the clown object is created, by adding the event, including an action, and setting the action properties. The object properties window for the clown object should now look like this:

The Collision Event

The next event we will define is a Collision Event with the wall object. The collision event is triggered once for every step of the game that two instances are touching, and an instance is considered as touching when a part of its collision mask (as defined in the Sprite Properties overlaps that of the other instance in a collision. In this case we want the clown to bounce against the wall, changing direction and playing the bounce sound effect at the same time.

To do this, follow these steps:
  1. Press the Add Event button. In the Event Selector click on the Collision Event button and select "obj_wall". The collision event between "obj_clown" and "obj_wall" is now added to the list of events.

  2. Include a Bounce action by dragging it from the page at the right (from the "Move" tab, "Jump" section).

  3. Leave the default values for this action. We are not interested in precise bounces and we want to bounce against solid objects (since we flagged the "obj_wall" object as solid in it's object properties).

  4. Press OK to close the action window.

  5. Select the tab "Main1", and from it include the Play Sound action in the collision event action list.

  6. Drag the Play Sound action below the Bounce action already present. In the action window, click on the icon to the right of the Sound property which will bring up a list of all available sound assets (from the resource tree), and from the list select "snd_bounce". Leave the Loop property as false since we want to play the sound only once, not have it looping constantly.

  7. Press OK to close the action.

That concludes the collision event with the wall object! It now has two actions to be performed (in the given order) when the collision occurs. If you have made a mistake, you can right-click with the mouse on an action you added and, for example, choose Delete to remove the action (or press the <Delete> key on the keyboard). You can also choose Edit Values to change the properties of the action (double-clicking on the action will do the same), and you can drag them up and down to change the order in which they are executed within the action list for the event.

The Mouse Event

Finally we need to define what to do when the user clicks with the left mouse button when the cursor is over the clown. We are going to add four actions here...

First of the actions that we will add to the event is to add 10 points to the score. This is easy as GameMaker has a built in variable that can automatically keep a score for you. The next action we want to play the click sound, and then, after this, we will jump the clown to a random position, setting a new random direction of motion with a slightly increased speed. Finally, the last two actions are added to gradually increase the difficulty of the game.

The following steps explain how to create the mouse event that we require:
  1. Press the Add Event button. In the Event Selector click on the Mouse Event and in the sub-menu that appears select Left Pressed. This event happens when the user presses the left mouse button while the mouse cursor is on top of the instance and will only be triggered once for each press. Note that, like collisions, a normal mouse event will only be triggered when the cursor is considered to be touching the collision mask of the instance, so if the instance has no sprite assigned, this event will not trigger!

  2. From the tab labelled Score include the Set Score action.

  3. As new score indicate a value of 10 and also click on the box next to the property Relative to enable it. When Relative is enabled the value is added to the current score, otherwise the score would be replaced by the value.

  4. From the tab Main1 include a Play Soundaction and for the sound indicate "snd_click". Leave Loop as false.

  5. From the Move tab, include a Jump to Random action, which places the instance in a random, collision-free position. The parameters can be left unchanged for this action.

  6. Finally we include a Move Fixed action.

  7. Again select all eight arrows (and not the centre square) and for the speed indicate a value of 0.5 and enable the Relative property to add 0.5 to the current speed. If you don't flag the "relative" box, then the speed will be set to 0.5 (and if you keep relative ticked and use -0.5, the speed will decrease by the given amount).


That is all the actions we need for the Mouse Event and the finished event list should look like this:
We are now finished with the clown object. We have included actions for the three events that are important, so press the OK button to close the Object
Properties window and get ready to actually see your game come to life as we create a room and place some instances into it!

Adding A Room

Now that we have created the game objects there is one more thing to do. We need to create the room in which the game takes place!

For most games, designing effective rooms (which can be considered as generally the "levels" of the game) is a time-consuming task because here we must find the right balance and progression in the game. But for "Catch the Clown" the room is going to be very simple: a walled area with one instance of the clown object inside it, bouncing around.

To start with, from the drop down Resources menu in the main GameMaker window, choose Create Room. This will create a room and open the Room Editor window (you can also right click on the "Rooms" folder in the resource tree and select Create Room). On the left you can see some tabbed pages, and here you should select the tab labelled Settings.

These are the base settings for your room, with the room width and height (in pixels) and the room speed being the important things to note. The room speed is basically the number of times that a game step occurs in a second, so our game will run the step event 30 times each second. We don't need to change these values, so leave them as they are and follow these steps:
  1. In the Name field type in "rm_main". This is the name that will identify this resource in your game, much like the sprite names, sound names, and object names that we have already defined. Note that in programming these names are called indexes, so the room name is also the room index, as the sprite name, for example, is also known as the sprite index. This naming is not important for this tutorial, but as you progress further with GameMaker you will see it used more and more to refer to resources.

  2. Select the Objects tab. Enlarge the window somewhat such that you can see the complete room (you can use the mouse wheel to zoom the game room in and out too).

  3. At the top of the room editor, make sure the value for Snap X and Snap Y is 32, as the size of our sprites is 32x32 pixels and this makes it easier to place the sprites at the correct locations. These values are not used anywhere else except the Room Editor and are used simply as a guide for placing things.

  4. On the left you can see the image of the an object, which is the currently selected object. it should be the clown, but if it is not, then click the image and select the "obj_clown" object. Now, place one instance of it in the room by clicking with the mouse somewhere in the centre of the grey area. If you place more than one by mistake, you can right-click on it and select Delete to remove it again.

  5. Click on the icon with the menu symbol next to the field "obj_clown". Here you can also select which object to add, and you should now select "obj_wall".

  6. Click on the different "cells" bordering the room to put instances there. To speed this up, you can press and hold the <Shift> and <Control> keys on the keyboard and drag the mouse with the mouse button pressed (it is recommended that the option Delete Underlying is switched on for this so as to avoid placing more than one instance in the same position). As mentioned previously, you can remove instances using the right mouse button and selecting Delete from the subsequent pop-up menu, or by holding down the <Control> key while right clicking.

  7. Once you have placed the walls as shown in the image below, change objects and place an instance of the clown in the middle of the room.

When you are happy with the results, you should click on the green tick at the top left of the window to close and save your room.

Saving and Testing

You might not have realized it but our game is ready now to play! The sprites and sounds have been added, the game objects have been designed and the first (and only!) room in which the game takes place has been created. Now it is time to save the game and to test it.

Saving the games works as in almost any other Windows program - just click the Save icon and GameMaker will save your project. You can also go to the File menu and choose Save As to rename your game and save it in a different folder. Also note that GameMaker: Studio will automatically save your game every time you press play, so if you have made changes and are not sure whether they are going to be kept after testing or not, it may be a good idea to save the project under a different name before making the changes and testing.

Next we need to test the game. Testing is a crucial component of creating a game, and although you can test it yourself, you should also ask others to test it when you are nearing completion of the project. Testing (or running the game in general) is simple! Choose the command Run Normally from the drop down Run menu in the main GameMaker window, or press the green Play button at the top of the IDE. The game will be saved, and then run, and if you did not make any mistakes, the room will appear on the screen with the clown moving inside it.

Try testing it now and see whether the game behaves as expected. You should hear the correct sounds and the speed of the clown should increase every time you click on it. To end the game click on the "close" button at the top right of the game window.

Now it is time to fine tune the game. You should ask yourself, for example, the following questions: Is the initial speed correct? Is the increase in speed correct? Is the room size correct? Did we pick effective sprites and sounds for the game? If you are not happy, change these aspects in the game and test again. Remember that you should also let somebody else test the game, because since you designed the game it might be easier for you than for other people.

Once you are happy with your game you should create a stand-alone executable for the game. This is a version of the game that can run without the need for GameMaker. This is very simple to do, but first you must choose a "target" for your game from the drop-down menu at the top of t he GameMaker window. I suggest choosing "Windows" just now, as that is what this game is designed for. In the File Menu choose the command Create Application. You have to indicate the place to save the installer too, as well as give the file a name. Once you have done this, you'll see the compile window showing you the progress and when it reads "Finished!" you're all set. You can now close GameMaker and still play the game by installing it on your machine, or distribute it for friends to play.

Final Polish - Backgrounds

Our first game is ready but it needs some finishing touches to make it a bit nicer. For example, some music, a score display, a nicer background... These are all things that will improve the game and make it a nicer experience for those that play. To start with, let's add a background...

The grey background of the room is rather boring, and so we are going to use a new type of resource, the Background resource. To add one, go to the Resources Menu and choose Create Background. The Background Properties window will appear, and you should click on the "Name" field and rename it to "bck_main". Now, click on the Load Background button, navigate to the Catch the Clown Assets folder and select the image file background.png.

We need to assign this background image to the room, so double click on the game room in the resource tree to open it up, then click on the "Backgrounds" tab. You then need to de-select the property Draw Background Colour (as we do not need to) then click on the little menu icon in the middle and pick the "bck_main" in the pop-up menu.

As you will see, in the room we suddenly have a nice background. Note the two properties Tile Hor. and Tile Vert. that are available on this tab. They indicate that the background must be tiled horizontally and vertically, that is, repeated to fill the whole room. For this to work correctly the background image must be made such that it nicely fits against itself without showing cracks.

The room editor tab should now look like this:

Play the game again and you should notice that this simple change gives a big improvement to the final "look" of your game!

Final Polish - The Clown

Even though the clown speeds up every click, it is still quite easy to click on it as the direction it moves in is always a straight line. To make it more difficult we will let the clown change its direction of motion from time to time. To this end we are going to use an Alarm. Each instance can have multiple alarms (up to 12, numbered from 0 to 11) and these alarms tick down every step (game tick) and at the moment they reach 0 the associated Alarm Event happens.

In the Create Event of the clown we will set the alarm, and in the alarm event we will change the direction of motion and set the alarm again. To do this, follow these steps:
  1. Re-open the clown object by double clicking on it in the resource list at the left of the window.

  2. Select the Create event and from the Main2 tab add a Set Alarm action.

  3. In a game, time is split into steps and the steps are defined by the room speed, which is the number of steps that the game has to complete per second. The default is 30, so the game completes 30 steps in every second of real time. The alarm is calculated in steps too and we want it to run every two seconds, so there we should have a value of 60 (two times the current room speed). The alarm number should be left as 0, as it is the Alarm[0] Event that we are wanting to trigger.

  4. Click on Add Event and choose the button Alarm, then from the pop-up menu select Alarm 0. In the event include the Move Fixed action (from the move tab), select all eight arrows and set the speed to 0 but, unlike previous uses of this action, enable the Relative property. In this way 0 is added to the speed, that is, it does not change.

  5. To set the alarm clock again, include another Set Alarm action, and set it to 60 steps for Alarm[0], exactly as before. This will cause a loop in the alarm and it will now run every 2 seconds of your game.

Test your game again now and you'll find that it presents much more of a challenge than previously!

We can also make the clown face the direction that it is moving in. As you can see, the sprite is currently facing to the right, and in GameMaker: Studio, this represents 0 degrees. So, what we want to do is add in an action to change the angle the sprite is drawn at every time it changes direction. So, we need to go to Main1 tab and select the Transform Sprite action: In this action, you can scale the sprite, rotate the sprite and also mirror the sprite around the horizontal or vertical axis, but for now we just need to use the angle. In the space provided write the word "direction". This is a special variable (like the "score" variable, as we will see) that GameMaker: Studio uses to get the angle at which an instance is moving, and placing it here will now make the sprite angle rotate to face the direction of movement. Go ahead and place copies of this new action in each event of the clown object, after the actions that change it's direction (the Create Event, the Collision Event and the Alarm[0] Event), then test your game again to see how this changes things.

Final Polish - Control II

The final thing we are going to add to the game is a controller object. Many games have special objects with no sprites assigned to them that are used to control elements of the game that are not directly related to the gameplay. In this case, our controller will show the score and play some background music.

First lets add some music to the resources for the game:
  1. From the Resources drop down menu, choose Create Sound, which will open a new Sound Properties window. Click on the Name field and rename it to "snd_music".

  2. Click on the Load Sound button, navigate to the Resources folder and select the sound file music.mp3.

  3. We don't need to change anything else here as GameMaker will detect that it is an *.mp3 file and make the necessary changes. Note that this sound file uses the *.mp3 format as it keeps the file size smaller, and this follows the general rule of thumb that *.wav files are for sound effects and *.mp3 files are for music. Now press the "OK" button to close the window.

Create a new object by opening the Resources drop down menu and selecting Create Object, or by right clicking on the "Objects" folder in the resource tree and selecting "New Object. Give this object the name "obj_control" and add a Create Event to it. In this event, drag a Play Sound action into it and for a sound indicate "snd_music" and set Loop to true because we want the music to repeat itself forever while playing.

We want to display the player score with this object too, so you need to add a Draw Event to your object. In this Draw Event you should go to the Score tab and drag the Draw Score action into the action list.

The position for drawing the score is defined by the x and y values that you input here, so set them both to 64, and leave the "Caption" as it is, since it is the score we are showing and not some other value.

The last thing we need to do is to add this object into the room, so double click the game room to open it again a,d then in the Objects tab, select "obj_control" and place it in the room anywhere. Since the object does not have a sprite, you will see that GameMaker shows you it's position with a little blue ball marker with a question mark. this will not be shown in the game and is only there as a reminder to you that you have placed a spriteless instance in the room.


Your first game is now complete! it may not seem like much, but thanks to this short tutorial you have learned the basics of creating games with GameMaker: Studio... You now know about resources and how to create them. You know how to create objects and the difference between them and instances. You know how to make a room, and add instances into it. These things are the building blocks on which you will construct better games in the future!

However, before going off to start work on your first real masterpiece, it is strongly recommended that you run through at least a couple of the other tutorials that come with GameMaker, as each one introduces different aspects and techniques, all of which you will need to know to get the most out of the software. It is also recommended that you have the manual open at all times as it provides a valuable source of reference material for all aspects of GameMaker.

With that said, this first tutorial is now complete and we hope that you have had fun making your first game!
Run the game now and see how everything works together!

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