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Second RE: GameMaker Studio. It's super newcomer friendly. I started using it more seriously about 2 years ago, just fiddling with drag and drop. Now I do a mix of proper code and dnd (when I'm feeling lazy or just tinkering), and I find I can prototype things SUPER fast with it.

I'm using it for my entry. You can get the free version which has basically all the stuff you need, except export to fancier consoles/platforms.

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If I can go off topic for a moment, I'm psyched your here. Your books have been my go-to guides when I started to pursue games journalism in addition to my development efforts last year. I've written a lot of stuff in a short time using your advice. You, sir, are a hero for what you do.

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Oh hey, thanks Todd! Nice to see you're on Contently! That's a great freelance jam, once you can lock down steady work through their system (took me a while, but its still one of my steady gigs), it's pretty awesome.

Thanks for the kind words! Love to help folks when I can. It's great, too, to be doing more work on this side of the fence. Game dev has been a very rewarding experience, despite it's many challenges. Definitely having a blast learning and creating this stuff! I'm also a huge pixel art nerd, so this jam is SO super suited for the kind of stuff I love to do. Looking forward to seeing what everyone else is cooking up!