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My review of Gameguru after spending 30+ hours creating a simple FPS game
Scale: 1 = Trash or very primitive like 3DRad to 10 = High Quality Professional like Unreal Engine
GUI of Editor: 6/10 ( nice to look at, but limiting, not customizable and no way to swap mouse buttons for the 10% of the population. )
Graphical Quality: 5/10
Sound & Music: 3/10
Game Editor: 7/10
Tutorial & Guides: 3/10 (while adequate for the very basics and assumes your skilled already)
DLC: 4/10 (mainly due to price to quality and variety)
After spending over 30 hours building a simple fps with 2 complete levels, one outside and another indoor with a cave connecting them, enemies to fight, new weapons, and healing power ups, and custom menu screens with title music, here is my review.
Overall the GUI is pleasant to look at but very limited, but gets the job done. It is pretty easy to use if you're right-handed, because there is no way to swap mouse buttons for left-handed people like myself. Also it’s not customizable at all, so no docking/undocking or moving the icons around, but since there aren’t many icons in the first place it’s not that big deal.
The free graphical assets that come with GameGuru are equivalent to the 2008 to 2010 generation of 3D games. Now recently the textures to most of them have been upgraded to “Physics Based Dynamic” textures, but many are either way, way too shiny, or their resolution is still too low to make a noticeable improvement. The free “Expansion” DLC has 2004-2006 equivalent quality due to their low polygons and low resolution textures.
Gameguru does have a large selection of shades like Depth of Field, Motion Blur, Bloom, Ambient and Surface Lighting, which can be adjusted with sliders in game “test mode”, but there really isn’t any official guidance or tutorials available to describe how to adjust them properly so a lot of time will be spent in “test mode” tweaking them to make them acceptable.
Gameguru comes with 2 lighting systems, dynamic and static lightmap. I tried using both with 30-50 lights in the 2nd level of the game and both lighting systems are broken. While it’s advertised in Gameguru’s forum that they are upgrading the system so that an individual mesh could have up to 80 different lights, not all the lights will work. Using dynamic lights there were 3 point lights in one of the hallways that wouldn’t work no matter what I did, including deleting them and creating new ones. The static lightmap lights were extremely deem and 3 point lights in the barracks area wouldn’t light, even though the 3 in the before mentioned hallway did. In the forums there are posts that are at least 2 years old that point out that the lighting system is completely broken. Since games require good and consistent lighting which makes this a major issue in my opinion.
The free sounds, sound effects and music are very limited in both number available and quality and while most of them sound good, overall they are reminiscent of 2002-2004 high energy beat or dark horror, and has only a small handful of musical and ambient files.
The free demos or maps, both single player and multiplayer, show off some of the features of what Gameguru has to offer, but they are extremely basic and only one (the great escape) looked like it really had some work on it. The other ones look like they were done by complete amateurs and while they were pretty bug free, appeared to have been done in the afternoon.
The Editor for Gameguru is pretty much the easiest one I’ve ever seen and is only starting to be duplicated by other engines. It makes it pretty easy to adjust the landscape or tile down floors, walls and ceilings. The landscape can be raised, lowered, flattened and the flatten level can be temporarily saved, then used by somewhere else on the map! The engine allows for 16 texture at anyone time to be used on the landscape from stone, sand, gravel, cobblestones, etc., even though it does come with a rather annoying “banding.” The reason for the “banding” is to allow textures to blend is a logical way from one ground texture like stone to another like grass or sand, etc., each game engine that allows for landscape texturing have their quirks, but allowing the user to spray paint the layers individually themselves is usually the best, though probably harder to implement and more resource intensive. Also the engine required that all entities used in the game have to be placed on the map and cannot be created on the fly, even from scripts, which requires hiding enemies or placing them in the far corner on the map somewhere then having them teleport or become visible to mimic spawning and you have to determine ahead of time how many your going to use, because once they go “ragdoll” they cannot be reused again in the game. The editor also makes it fairly easy to drop enemies, powerups, and props onto the map too, though it can be buggy at times causing items to appear far away from where the user intended or under the ground. With the latter issue this will require a reload of a previous save since Gameguru doesn’t provide a list of assets that are currently deployed so that they can be quickly retrieved or removed. No matter what game engine a person uses, saving regularly is a requirement and Gameguru makes it pretty painless.
One of the great features that Gameguru offers is the EBE Editor, which allows squarish buildings of varying heights, widths, and lengths to be created easily, including doorways, windows and stairs. This system does have a few bugs like doorways blocking doors from normally working or enemies/players getting stuck in doorways and corners. Also exporting EBE buildings is hit or miss. Meaning that I didn’t appear to have a problem exporting them, but oftentimes when I imported them back in they were buggy or it wouldn’t load them at all. I was able to save and load them fine if they were saved in the map I was working on, but having the ability to export and reimport them bug free would make them so much more useful across levels and games.
The scripting system that Gameguru uses is Lua, which is a fairly easy language to learn from, but the documentation and tutorial provided assumes that the user is a knowledgeable programmer and there is no hand holding. Also you will need to use a separate text or script editor like Notepad or Notepad++ if you want to create or edit scripts. The scripts that come with Gameguru have not been documented very well and at the top of many of them it reads like “-- AI : Soldier Behavior”, “-- LUA Script - precede every function and global member with lowercase name of script + '_main'”, with something below it like “-- Player Enters Story Zone”, “ -- Player Collects Weapon”, but most of the scripts do not document beyond this. Now there are a few scripts that do have some documentation throughout, but the majority will require the user to try and learn Lua and to review the TGC’s (publisher The Game Creators) and Steam forums, which is a Godsend to say the least. While working on these game levels and testing them I discovered that many of the scripts that Gameguru provides are either broken or buggy and will require repeated trips to the forums or user re-scripting them to make them work right. The ones I encountered that were messed up were “health.lua”, “door.lua” and the complex soldier/combat A.I. Assigning the health script to a new object would cause that object to deduct health from the player, instead of adding it, or the object would just do nothing. If a door was placed inside an EBE building’s doorway the door would fail to detect the player and not work at all. Also the scripts for the “exploding” barrels are flaky because while some of them will cause an explosion sprites and sound to occur the barrels never disappear and either fell over or flew across the map! The A.I. for the soldiers/enemies are weird at the very least or downright insane. The soldiers often would not follow simple 2 point patrol markers, stand still and ignore the player until shot at, or if shot from afar would walk the opposite direction from the player up sheer mountain cliffs that the player couldn’t possibly attempt to climb. It eventually required placing invisible walls all over the place not to keep the player in, but the soldiers. Even then the soldiers would ignore the player and keep climbing, following the edge of invisible walls making them easy targets. Also in the indoor level when a soldier was killed they would oftentimes just stand there with their collision turned off or freeze in crazy, and twisted or disturbing poses. I’m sure a lot of these scripts could be fixed or replaced with better ones, but these are the scripts that normally come with Gameguru!
The forums for Gameguru are truly amazing and that is the truth. The dedication of many fellow users trying to help or answer questions is what really makes this engine. Seriously, they are great! Many of the people at the Gameguru forums are friendly, well knowledgeable and eager to help a newbie learn the many quirks, tricks and caveats of the Gameguru system.
Once I had finished building my levels I had to do the very boring and very tedious job of customizing the game’s title, about, lost (a.k.a player lost) and ending (a.k.a. Player won) screens. What made them annoying and tedious wasn’t the fact that you had to copy an existing folder with all of the screens, then open the individual files for each screen and button you wanted to change, then editing them in a separate 2D paint program like Gimp, Corel Paintshop Pro, or Adobe Photoshop. One of the annoying parts was having to either keep using the same button dimensions, or modifying the script files to put them where you wanted to. There is no built in GUI to help line anything up. The other is having to resize and save individually every screen for every resolution available which there are 8 different resolutions. Now there is at least one app available on Gameguru’s MarketPlace, but this really should have been built into the engine because it is very easy to miss scale 2 or 3 and not even know if someone else plays the game with one of those unlucky resolutions.
Gameguru allows the user to create stand alone games and even encrypts the files so that people don’t worry about having their art and sound assets stolen, which is a great feature that only a few engines have, but due to the numerous game crashing, A.I. and lighting bugs, games created with this engine and sold on steam have received very, very bad reviews due to them. There are like 3-5 of these games and while a couple were very simplistic and obvious cash grabs the others were done with a lot of care and sold at low prices, but with the buggy behavior, quirky lighting system and random crashes none of them have been even remotely successful. Now there are a few games that Gameguru hobbyists have created that play well, but again they can and do crash, have buggy behavior and even quirky or limiting lighting. Even TGCs have changed the Gameguru front page to discourage users from trying to sell their games created with their engine.
The last part of the very long review I’m going to talk about Gameguru’s DLC which I feel is rather overpriced for what you get. You can go on Youtube and look up these DLCs and see for yourself that while they are not bad, they are definitely for either old-school games or hobbyist and lack the polish that most indie studios release. Also the format of all of these art assets both that come with Gameguru, their DLCs, and most of the authors at the marketplace are DirectX, which makes it very difficult to import into other engines or even editor with Blender, even though the Gameguru developers have repeatedly stated that you can modify and use them in other engines and editors. The only 3D editor I know of that works easily with these assets is Fragmotion. It’s not a bad editor and is for sale at $35.00 USD, so it’s not expensive, and you can use all of its features without limitations for free for a week at a time if you type in the “Lord’s Prayer”. It’s UI and features are very old-school, but it does have a lot of very useful features like texture painting and skeletal animations. The Marketplace also has a lot of scripts, textures, art assets, but read carefully about their licensing because some are rather strict and their quality like Gameguru in general ranges from poor to good, but only a small handful are what most people would call polished quality, because many of them like most users of Gameguru are hobbyist.
To summarize I would say if you want an affordable game engine to build and sell indie games, that has a lot of documentation and high quality assets for free and purchase then Unreal, Unity or even Godot which doesn’t have a whole lot of documentation or even assets it’s completely free!
If you wish to just quickly plop down some baddies, props and build simple outdoor/indoor maps to play with your steam friends or share via Steam’s workshop then Garry’s Mod is only $9.99. It has Lua scripting and a ton of steam workshop stuff for free!
If you want something like Garry’s mod, but creates standalone games to understand how to create a complete game from top to bottom and maybe create a proto type or demo to show your progress, meet and talk to an amazing, friendly and helpful forum and don’t mind some bugs in the engine that you will never be able to fix or get the developers to fix, then wait till Gameguru and it’s DLCs are on sale.
If you look you’ll see that I’ve spent over 300 hours using Gameguru over the last 2 years and while I’m looking forward to and kind of dreading the $90+ Gameguru Max, the people at the forum are really amazing. They have so many suggestions, fixes, advice, that they keep you coming back for more. Gameguru itself gives such an illusion of ease of use and potential that it seriously breaks my heart that it has so many negatives and limitations. It has gotten better over the years, but seriously some of the things the author has done to get more money out of their fans is infuriating, especially with what they have given back to them in return. It’s just sad really. Anyway, I am very sorry for such a long and dragged out review, but I am writing this not to the Forum, but to the next person with dreamy eyes of making the next great FPS out there, to help me see things for what they are and not with what they appear they could be.