Stencyl - Easily Create Flash-based Web Games

Matt Barton's picture

StencylStencylIan Bogost recently pointed me towards an upcoming project called Stencyl, which looks a wonderful tool for anyone like me more interested in game design than programming. It uses some technology from Scratch, but is focused on browser-based Flash games. They also promise to have plenty of free assets available for non-artists and musicians. It looks like a brilliant idea, and one I could use myself as well as with students. I applied for the public beta.

I can't seem to find any information about their pricing structure and what rights you'll have over games you submit to Stencyl, though I haven't dug deeply into the website yet.

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
The guy who created Maxis

The guy who created Maxis (bill something) had something like this about 2 years ago. I was a beta tester on it. You made games with flash based tools (pretty much drag and drop) I see its gone now (I hadnt looked in over a year or so) maybe its out of beta and live? This looks far more robust and does look interesting.

Matt if you really want to do some games GAMEMAKER is really the best place to start. There inst much it cant do if you put the effort in. Its by far the easiest to get ahold of and make somthing. Push something out in that and then move to some of the higher end tools.

Gamebryo is pretty flexible and not to hard with some basic programing langage behind you.
Torque is another it was free at one time for non comercial use (dont think it still is)

Of course when its free
Unity (which I know some of you already have tried)
DX Studio
Heck even Unreal.

If you really want to dive in I still say Gamemaker is the best way to start. If you cant make something in that you are not going to get anywhere with the others.

Rowdy Rob
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Joined: 09/04/2006
Modern game creation
clok1966 wrote:

Matt if you really want to do some games GAMEMAKER is really the best place to start.

My first reaction when I read this was "wait a minute... what about UNITY 3D????"

The more I thought about it, though, I think that you're right.

Gamemaker has a point-and-click style programming system for simple games that's relatively easy to learn, with the option to use the Javascript-like GML language for more advanced projects. Since it is generally geared for 2D games, designing sprites and backgrounds only requires some proficiency with a 2D painting-drawing program. Most people who are contemplating creating a game are capable of handling a paint program, or at least find a team member who is. The point-and-click programming interface makes game creation about as accessible as possible for non-coders.

Unity, on the other hand, requires newbie game designers to learn not only a 3D graphics system/interface (not unlike 3D rendering programs like Maya or Lightwave), but a programming language as well. And the choices of programming languages you're given are Boo, C#, and Unityscript/Javascript. None of these languages are particularly easy to learn.

The trade-off is that Unity games can look (and hopefully play) like professional games (and possibly BE professional games), where Gamemaker games rarely seem to leap beyond the freeware realm. And also, Unity games can be played on many different platforms or even via a web browser (with Unity plug-in).

As a former 3D art hobbyist, I found the 3D aspect of Unity to be quite comfortable and not much of a leap to grasp, but that's not going to be the case with most new users of Unity, who will have to think "in 3D" from scratch! And then, on top of that, they'll have to learn the tough syntax of Javascript (unless you want to go the less-supported Boo or C# route).

I found learning Javascript to be extremely frustrating! Considering it's the year 2011, can't we have something that's more accessible than these so-called "modern" programming languages? I think it's the syntax that scares away most people from modern programming. I still have a lot of trouble thinking in Javascript, so obscure is the syntax (to me)!

Something like the "Stencyl" or "Alice" approach (thanks for the link on "Stencyl," Matt!) would seem to make much more sense with something like Unity, making game creation much more accessible to beginners. We had "Basic" back in the day that was the stepping-stone for many of us to learn programming, but today's machines are so much more powerful that I can't believe a more accessible "stepping-stone" isn't more available today.

The few "Stencyl" games I tried were surprisingly smooth and playable, so "Stencyl" gets an initial thumbs-up from me, considering its point-and-click programming style. If they added such a programming system to Unity, that would make it a killer-ultimate game creation package!

clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
Rob, yes Im talking purely

Rob, yes Im talking purely from a Starting point. Unity is a much better tool, but a much higher learning curve. I guess I subscribe to the 'walk before you run" thing. If you cant make somthing fun in gamemaker I think it would raise questions on if you would ever get anything done in Unity. Also with a easier tool, you can see your creative limitations much sooner and the frustration level is much lower. I just think if you cant churn out a game in gamemaker you may be stepping into something way over your head with UNITY.

Of course there is something to be said for learning on "hard" mode. it will possilby make you much better at a quicker rate if you can stick to it without becoming frustrated.

Done- yes i ment in a more general sence Matt. No systme will ever die it seems, there will always be supporters. But I think phone/tablet/social network gaming is a "new " area really. I look at some of the most successfull early phone games. Orcs and Elves (RPG) would look horrilby dated and have little to no responce on a PC as it was all done 10 years ago. But ont he phone, it was "new". I just think these markets will let some creative "re-imagining" of old titles benafit the maker (and have a user base ready and willing and not jaded like console and PC users are sometimes).

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
I agree, clok, the main

I agree, clok, the main danger is always starting out too big, too ambitious. Sure, you may want to create the next great RPG, the next great social game, the next great whatever, but if you haven't made your first simple game that flat out works, then you'll never get to the "next great" part. I waver all the time on what programming environment to use since there are so many good ones (and classic BASIC on classic systems constantly tempts me), but I have to say that for starting out, I always come back to GameMaker. Whether my time will ever allow me to actually implement any of my ideas even at this is beyond me, but you never know.

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Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Thanks, Clok. You're the

Thanks, Clok. You're the master here; I'm just a pup!

I did look at Unity 3D and saw what it could do, but it's going to take a lot of investment to make stuff with it. I might be able to tackle that during my sabbatical, but I was really hoping for something that someone could just pick up and run with. I did work with Gamemaker a few years ago and made a working prototype of my Crystal Commander game, so I know what that's like. I also did some work with Blitz Basic and found it pretty accessible.

The main reason I'm excited about Stencyl is that it's hooked into Facebook and all that social networking stuff. That's what I'm really interested in -- making social games perhaps like the old BBS door games but better. I'd also like to do some academic/rhetorical stuff for professional reasons. I could get a lot of promotional weight out of designing some "persuasive games" and learning games and putting that on my CV. Above all, though, I'd like something I could spend a few classes on with my juniors/seniors and graduates and have them use it to make those games, too. That'd be awesome!!!

Anyway, I sadly haven't heard anything back from the Stencyl group...:(

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
hehe suck up! no master

hehe suck up! no master here. But I tend to dig and dig and start stuff I never finish :) I do agree the presentation on there website makes it look very interesting. I have became very interested in Android gameing myslef. PC gameing (lets face it) is pretty much a done deal ..as in nothing new under the sun, only variations. facebook/phones/handhelds are the new frontier, whats old and done on consoles and PC's new again. I do agree the Dope Wars/gangster wars/ farmville addictions games might be a great spot to go. built in players.

Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
I don't think any platform

I don't think any platform still in use is "done" really. As Bill likes to point out, any device capable of playing a game will have games made for it, whether just for fun (homebrew) or to make money. One thing the other platforms will never have is the PC's versatility and openness. Mobile phones and Facebook are perhaps most interesting now because their technical limitations make them ideal for small teams or even solo devs. Those same groups benefit from all the network distribution we're seeing on the platforms--walled gardens for the most part, but still the barriers are WAY lower than they would be to release a 360 or Wii game on a disc. I guess the same is true for all the PC devs relying on STEAM and other web-based distribution portals.

It's really the best time EVER to be a solo or small team developer. So many options, so many tools.

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