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Due to the massive complexity of the majority of major programming languages, and the difficulty of actually learning them in the first place, a small-but-dedicated subgenre of software has arisen: the "game maker".

Simply put, a "game maker" is a software "toolkit" that usually contains a pre-designed framework for a particular type of game. Often, these toolkits will include art assets, a fairly simple (though robust and versatile) scripting system, and a pre-built "library" of sound effects, visual effects, sprites, and other game-design material.

The intent of the "game-builder's toolkit" concept is to permit even the most inexperienced and computer-unfamiliar person to design, test, and publish a basic game in a matter of minutes (as opposed to days, months, or years).

Such programming toolboxes usually come with some form of tutorial or instruction file, containing a general overview of the toolkit itself, along with some more in-depth (but very casual and easily-followed) instructions that are intended to walk a beginner through creating a very simple "starter" game. A complete, playable version of the tutorial/starter game is most often included with the toolkit, so that the truly-confused first-time user can examine the "finished version" to see how it was put together, and what it's supposed to look like when it's finished.

While it is possible to construct a commercial-quality game using these toolkits, it's often extremely difficult to do so -- to save space and time, the art and sounds provided are usually a very small, basic collection, aimed at speeding development rather than enhancing the program.

Contrast with Game Engine. The main distinction between a Game Engine and a Game Maker is that Game Makers are very focused on a specific genre or style of game. RPG Maker will rarely make anything other than Role Playing Games, whereas a real Game Engine can make a wide variety of styles of game. Game Makers are a step up from level editing, but not enough to be full-fledged game engines.

When looking at the games made with these, be warned: Sturgeon's Law is in full force.

Not to be confused with Mark Overmars' Game Maker which is sufficiently complex to be considered a full-fledged 2D Game Engine, or for that matter Garry Kitchen's GameMaker, a Commodore 64 application released in 1985.

Examples of Game Maker include:
  • Klik & Play / The Games Factory / Multimedia Fusion
    • An object-oriented program and its two successors, developed by Clickteam. The bulk of the "programming" is done in the Event Screen for each level, which puts individual conditions into rows, and applies them to gameplay aspects and objects which have columns. One of TGF's most promiment additions was actual screen scrolling, which KnP didn't include. MMF's functionality could be enhanced with various downloadable plug-ins.
  • RPG Maker
    • RPG Maker is, obviously, for Role Playing Games. The latest model is RPG Maker MZ. For the Japanese, a demo with caps on how many items of each type you can use is available, and it is assumed that they can be changed into fully-featured "registered versions" after the actual release. The English version has full functionality for 30 days before it expires and you'd have to buy it. The previous versions, RPG Maker MV, RPG Maker VX Ace, RPG Maker VX and RPG Maker XP, were released similarly. Prior versions, including RPG Maker 95 (97?), RPG Maker 2000 was never translated into English (RPG Maker 2003 is now officially in English), so any English-language versions you find across the Internet are (a) buggy and (b) illegal.
      • There are plenty of high- quality games made in RPG Maker, a few of them arguably better than some "actual" RPGs. It is also possible to make non-RPGs in the maker (there have been platformers and Civilization-style games made), but it is difficult and not usually worth the effort.
      • One important thing to note with RPG Maker, at least with earlier versions, is that level-ups and stat growth have much less effect in RPG Maker than in many real RPGs. It would be extremely difficult and require a great deal of trickery to make a game with the very dramatic power escalation of a Final Fantasy title, for instance.
    • The three most recent entries in the series; XP, VX and VX Ace; come equipped with Ruby scripting that allows people making a game in the maker to drastically alter the in-game engine, which allows for numerous different types of games (the most common alteration is taking the boring front-view turn-based battle system that they both come with and changing it into a side-view active-time battle system.)
  • Adventure Game Studio
    • AGS is a fairly robust toolkit for making Sierra- and Lucas Arts-style point-and-click adventure games. The Web site features listings of games made with AGS; some good, some bad. It's actually pretty impressive how far someone can push the engine (e.g., Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw's platform action games).
    • The OHRRPGCE is a freeware, open-source editor that was originally a DOS application, but has now been ported to FreeBASIC for support with new Operating Systems. It boasts flexibility and a powerful scripting engine, though has strict limitations that still exist from the DOS versions. The games made use a Final Fantasy IV-style battle engine, with potential for complex attacks. Graphics must be drawn by the user, but has allowed creativity as a result. The engine is suited for any style of game, having a library of both high quality titles and quick fun distractions.
  • Power Game Factory
    • The premier game creation program for Mac OS X, Power Game Factory is best suited for platformers such as Super Mario Bros.. or Contra. Sprites, sounds, enemy behavior and more can be customized, and parallax scrolling is supported for backgrounds. The latest version, 1.1, allows two sizes for background tiles: 64×64 and 32×32 pixels. It also includes two complete games: Greenland Invasion and Zombie Holiday.
    • The most robust engine for 2D Fighting Games out there, MUGEN sports a huge variety of features that enable makers to do damn near anything with it. There are a few full games out there, mostly fan games like Brutal Paws of Fury Remix and Mortal Kombat: Integral, but far more common are stand-alone characters that can simply be plugged into the engine and used against each other in an anything-goes slugfest.
  • Shoot-Em-Up Construction Kit, or SEUCK for short, was the starting point for quite a few Amiga, Commodore 64 and Atari ST public domain games.
  • Ren'Py
    • A Python-based engine designed with Visual Novels in mind. It doesn't come with many resources; you have to provide your own art and music. However, the engine is very flexible, and its functions can be expanded if one is handy with Python. There are just over 300 games already made for the engine.
  • Zelda Classic
    • While it started life as simply a faithful reverse-engineered version of the original Legend of Zelda, it quickly grew into an engine for creating one's own Zelda-style games based on the Zelda 1 engine. The current development versions add scripting to the mix of features.
  • Open Zelda. This one is based on the A Link To The Past engine and used scripting from the start.
  • Graal Online
    • Started as an online Zelda 3 clone; now it's hosting servers for anyone who can make about $100 a year. Hypothetically free if you bring in enough subscribers -- sadly, last check they frown on their developers letting people play for free...
  • Construct Classic (formerly known as simply Construct) is a point-and-click system with some very deep systems for performing events and actions. Can get simple games up in as little as five minutes. Somewhat buggy due to its continual development state. Though the official developers are no longer working on it, members of the community are making new updates for it, probably until its successor catches up in terms of functionality. Speaking of which...
    • Construct 2, while effectively in primitive, bare-bones state, basically a complete re-do of the original, but with a much better codebase thanks to the developers learning tons from their experiences with developing the original Construct. A licencing system is planned, though the fact that it won't be free is offset by the fact that its developers will be able to work on it full-time, resulting in faster and better updates. Designed with a modular exporting system which has the potential to allow exporting games to every platform under the sun, the first and current exporter is HTML5, as it is a reasonable multi-platform starting point, effectively making Construct 2 the first native HTML5 game maker. Despite its current development state, the Construct community has demonstrated its usual habit of defying limitations and made some neat stuff anyway.
  • ADRIFT, TADS, and Inform 7 are currently the most popular entry points for Interactive Fiction designers. ADRIFT is perhaps slightly easier for the novice, as its environment simply slots all game elements into various nested menus without scripting, but older versions hits their limits fairly quickly when the designer tries something out of the ordinary (a problem that Adrift 5 is supposed to address). Inform 7 is really more of a language than a game maker, but it's one of the friendliest languages out there (natural language statements! Playable rooms within a minute!) and it scales very nicely with the programmer's experience. TADS is the most complex of the three, allowing for full object-oriented programming of game logic. All three handle very sophisticated levels of grammar parsing of commands.
    • For those who want something even easier, there's the RAGS suite, which is basically point and click!
    • This is not a new idea either. There were at least two products released for the TRS-80 Color Computer which allowed a user to specify vocabulary, rooms, items, and characters and then generated a BASIC program that implemented the game.
  • Stencyl is a finished after years of waiting product that is sort of a Game Engine for Game Makers. It has some of the functionality of a Game Engine, but rather than making a game, you use it to make a "Kit". Kits define the basic behavior of the style of game, like Shoot Em Ups or Platform Games. Then, it becomes a Game Maker for that particular style of game.
  • Older Than the NES: Quicksilva released a program called Games Designer for the ZX Spectrum in 1983. It was fairly rudimentary, and rubbish, and it could only make four different types of shoot-em-ups, meaning that it may well have inspired SEUCK, but it was a designer and it did the job.
    • Bill Budge's Pinball Construction Set came out for the Apple II in 1982, making it the probable Ur Example.
  • The Quill, and its later upgrade PAWS, were Text Adventure (British for Interactive Fiction) creators of similar vintage.
  • Another of the earliest was Adventure Construction Set, released by Electronic Arts for Commodore64 and Apple II in 1985.
  • SUDS
    • SUDS [Single User Dungeon System] is a text adventure maker for Windows.
  • Blade
  • There are a veritable ton of Phoenix Wright case makers on various fansites around the Internet; some complex, some not-so complex.
  • World Builder was a popular graphic adventure game maker in the black-and-white Macintosh era, and was best known for the commercial game Enchanted Scepters (among amateur authors, Ray Dunakin and Louise Hope are probably the most noted). Its creator went on to found Cyberflix Interactive and develop an FMV Game engine called Dream Factory.
  • Step Mania is a vanilla build of Dance Dance Revolution, allowing people to make their own rhythm games from it. Hell, it's what In the Groove and Mungyodance were built off of.
  • Wario Ware DIY is a Game Maker that offers an easy-but-effective game making engine, though the games are limited to the four- to eight-second duration the series is known for. A hack, however, can be used to create "boss-type" games, which have no time limit.
  • Unlimited Adventures allows to create Gold Box-style RPG games.
  • The RPG Toolkit. You can make other types of games with it, but it's pretty hard. The learning curve for the programming language is steep, too, since (as of Version 3.0) it's now based entirely on C++.
  • Captain Gamemaker was an early example, which made a list of 30 bad titles in PC Gamer UK circa 1997. A quick glance at Google turns up no results for it, but it was definitely there.
  • The Mission Architect in City of Heroes can be considered to be one of these. It allows a player to create a story arc with up to five missions, and for each mission chose from a list of maps, populate them with enemies and setpieces, set player objectives, write dialog for NPCs, mission briefings and debriefings, and such. The author can even use the same character creator that was used for making his own player character to create custom NPCs for use in his missions.
  • Neverwinter Nights came bundled with a toolkit from which sprang a large modding community, supported by Bioware completely. Many module series were pretty clearly superior to the original game.
  • Also on the Apple II were Arcade Machine, which used a positively Byzantine system to create shoot-em-up games.
    • And then there was Maze Craze, which essentially just allowed you to create new boards and sprites for Pac-Man.
  • Any Bethesda game based on the Gamebryo Game Engine (The Elder Scrolls III and IV, Fallout3) have editing tools released by Bethesda that have full functionality with which they created the game, allowing Total Conversion Mods to be created. (In addition, Fallout: New Vegas can be edited with the Fallout3 version of the editor.) Nehrim is one such example of a mod (in this case, using the Oblivion Engine)
  • Atmosphir is a Game Maker that as of this writing includes platforming, multiplayer coop, multiplayer battle, and racing. Despite all these genres, it is not yet a full-fledged Game Engine.
  • Touhou Danmakufu, a tool for making Touhou-like Shoot 'Em Ups.
  • BYOND is a 2-D online game engine available for free. It's a hybrid between a full-service Game Maker and a programming IDE. Gameplay customization is achieved through writing Python-like code, but you can build a graphical map and wander through it with your friends before you write a single line of code.
  • Shooting Game Builder is a shoot 'em up maker, used mostly for freeware doujin games.
  • Knytt Stories could be considered a tool for making Metroidvania games. Download it here.
  • Warcraft III has a map desginer that can be considered this, why? it's a RTS map maker that was used to create things as varied as a Freak'n racing game and Defense of the Ancients. a MOBA.