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Tech

Early Access builds

Posted by Mike Dailly on 18 December 2013

With the advent of Studio V1.3, it became clear to us that there were a huge number of new features going in, most of which were largely untried, so they will have issues of some kind. Now, we can either sit on these or continue to test them in-house, or we can release them into the wild, and then get realistic feedback from those trying to use them. We have in the past opted for the second option, but this usually comes at a price; that being once we start doing that, we can no longer fix issues in the last stable build, and this makes Studio feel more unstable that it should.

So, with V1.3, we're going to do things a little differently. We've started a whole new product called "Studio Early Access", and this can be installed alongside the current stable version. This means we can now put in new or experimental features, and yet be safe in the knowledge that Studio itself is safe, and that we can still pull normal bug fixes over without worrying about the sweeping architectural changes that sometimes have to happen.

Steam users will still get access to this, but it'll be on a new branch so that it doesn't affect their ability to use Studio, although they will have to uninstall and reinstall the old one as Steam won't let us install 2 versions at once, in different locations.  One thing to note however, this version has broken the steam player (as the format has changed), and so you should not try to upload games created with it to steam either. 

Another thing to realise about these versions is that because it's a new product, you won't simply get it automatically on the beta channel, you will have to go and download it, and it has its own beta channel as well. So if you’re after the absolute cutting edge feature list Studio has to offer, then the Early Access version is the one for you.

 

A quick word of warning however - make sure you backup any project you import into it, because the project settings MAY not be backward compatible. Sometimes new features - like the new draw events, are simply not there, and this may well break your project if you try to import them into the current version of Studio, so back up, and have fun with all the new toys!

 

You can see the release notes here: Early Access Release Notes
You can download it from here: Studio Early Access Build
Steam users should select the early-access beta by right clicking on GameMaker-Studio, and selecting properties.


 

So what's in this new version?

Debugger

We've spoken about this before, but this will be a major update for anyone using Studio. The ability to put down breakpoints and single step your GML code is nothing short of amazing. Added to this, the ability to add watches, view data structures and arrays, and this turns into a major game changer for every GameMaker developer.

 

Vector Sprites

This is pretty huge as well, as it finally gives resolution independence for games. No longer do you have to supply full super HD res images so that it'll look great on an iPAD3, and still okay on an Android device, now you can create one set of assets and have then scale crisply. This new feature also allows those with Flash games to pull in assets easily, and while there are some limitations, it will for the most part allow the assets to come in unchanged, and be used just like any other GameMaker sprite.

 

IAP update

The In App Purchase API has been completely revamped. When it was first created, it was a brand new feature on iOS and Android, and support was pretty basic. Now however, years later, it's become a mature feature on many platforms, and so the API had to evolve to keep up. This update should finally allow you access to all the features you felt were just out of your reach.

 

Draw Events

Anyone who has done more than just draw a sprite in an event, will have hit an issue at some point where they need to set something up, and this usually ends up in the Step or End-Step event. This isn't a great place for drawing code, and it can either simply not work, or get lost in normal processing code. So with this version, we have introduced several new draw events, giving you even more control over how and when you draw things.

 

Android and iOS native Extension support

Last, but my no means least, Extensions. With this addition, you finally get to add your own advertisers, your own GPS module, your own online server code and lots more. No longer do you have to wait for us to add support for a feature, you can simply write it yourself. This will open up things like cameras, GPS, Advertisers, 3rd party controllers, 3rd party high scores and achievements - pretty much anything you can imagine.
It should be noted that this is pretty embryonic support right now, and we expect this to change and evolve over time, so use with care.

 

Push notifications

A popular request (one we've had for a long time), was the ability to use push notifications, and I'm please to say this is finally hear on iOS, Android and Tizen. So for those who have been itching to use this feature, you've finally gotten your wish!

 

 

Having fun with it...

So, with all these new features, the new Early Access build is going to be something pretty special, but like anything new and shiny, it's going to have issues. If you find any, please let us know about them, 1.3 issues will be prioritized over normal (non-critical) bugs for a while so that we can get everything stable, and move it over into the full Stable version of Studio.

If you're close to finishing a game, you probably don't want to use this version, and even if you’re not, please back up everything first, and maintain them. Source control is vital in modern game development, and there’s no real excuse to not using it these days, even if you’re a one man band - as it were.

 

So enjoy the new features, and let us know your experiences and suggestions on our forums.

 

 

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