- Game Maker 27.7 million hits
- Etoys 2.5 million hits
- Squeak 5.7 million hits
More significantly, the Game Maker forum is very active. I just went there and there were 149 current active users. I've recently subscribed to the Squeakland forum and receive one or two messages a day. No comparison.
Why is Game Maker far more popular than Etoys / Squeak? From the following comparisons it seems clear to me that Etoys / Squeak is a superior program which has been poorly promoted and which also has some quirks that slows its uptake.
1) The name. Game Maker makes a direct appeal to the millions who want to make games. This is a significant but achievable challenge, to make a game. To whom does the name Etoys / Squeak appeal to? Hard to say but it doesn't quite cut it.
2) With Game Maker the concept is simple, clean and appealing. It does one sort of thing and does it well.
On the other hand, while Etoys is developed for young people (with its drag and drop features) the concept is not so clear. You can make games with Etoys but that is just one of many things you can do with it. Moreover, this other stuff is not very clear from the website. Initially, there is just vague talk about "multimedia"
Apart from Etoys, Squeak itself is a multifaceted, ambitious program which branches out into Seaside (dynamic web apps), Croquet (collaborative 3D multi-user online applications), Sophie (digital media assembly tool) and others
With Game Maker all the energy goes into developing Game Maker. With Squeak, the energy goes in all sorts of directions, not just Etoys.
3) Mentioning either of the words Education or Learning is potentially a big turn off for young people. The Game Maker website front page does not make this mistake. But the Squeakland website falls straight into it, with it's banner "come play and learn with us"
4) Documentation and Tutorials.
With Game Maker these are clearly presented with comprehensive tutorials available and labelled for different skill levels: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced.
For Etoys the English website (Squeakland) is a dogs breakfast with bits and pieces scattered more or less at random throughout the site. It took me many visits to put it all together.
Game Maker is Windows only whilst Etoys / Squeak runs on all platforms
6) License and development community.
Game Maker is Proprietary, Etoys / Squeak is free and open source. The main developer is Mark Overmars and he has been very energetic in bringing out 7 versions in as many years. It is evident that the Etoys / Squeak development process is much more messy, with no benevolent dictator stepping forward (as there is for some other FOSS communities). This 2004 paper by Ned Konz is a frank assessment of some of the problems within the Squeak development community.
7) Drag and drop
Both programs have great drag and drop features to help a beginner make a quick start. I would say the Etoys version is superior because the variables can be seen on the same page as the animation (and even altered while the program is running, due to Squeak's late binding)
8) Multilingual diversity.
Game Maker is available in Dutch and English. Etoys / Squeak is much broader than that and attempts to reach all audiences. The Site Map page of the Squeakland site boasts links to communities in Japan, Germany, Spain, Nepal and Brazil.
9) Philosophical and educational base
Prof Dr Mark Overmars teaches Game Making at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and is clearly an expert in that area.
Alan Kay (the head of the Smalltalk team from which Squeak / Etoys arose) would have to be classified as one of the most original and creative thinkers of our time both for his own inventions and extraordinary breadth and depth of knowledge
10) User Interface
Game maker has a conventional Windows UI
Etoys / Squeak uses the innovative Morphic UI, which most users have not seen before. Morphic is great once you get used to it but it is different from what is currently running on 95% of the world's computers.
Game maker games do not run on the web. Etoy projects do.
Both Game Maker and Squeak have 3D but the 3D in Squeak, which looks superior, is not currently part of Etoys.
Game maker is a specialist but conventional Windows program
Etoys / Squeak has quite a few quirks. eg. on the Windows platform you have to use the middle mouse button to see the morphic haloes
Unlike Game maker, Etoys / Squeak is being distributed on the One Laptop per Child Project, which might solve some of its current distribution problems :-)