When I was a kid, the only thing better than playing video games was actually building them. The tools to actually do so, however, weren’t exactly kid-friendly.
Back in the early ’90s, when I got my first computer (a Packard Bell 386 with a whopping 2 megs of RAM, Windows 3.1, and a VGA monitor), the machine still came with BASIC, but the programs I was able to make were a far cry from professional products. It was a lot easier to do text-based games than full graphical arcade-quality ones. I knew BASIC was a dead end, but C++ was still too big to get my head around. Plus, the development kits were fairly expensive.
I don’t necessarily want to make one of those posts that tell kids how good they have it today, but a new tool allows young (and not-so-young) aspiring game developers to build their own games in Flash. It’s called Stencyl, and it’s based on the Scratch project created by MIT.
Stencyl allows anyone to create a Flash-based game. The StencylWorks development kit is a free download for either Mac or Windows. It comes with everything you need to get started.
The best part is that you don’t have to be an expert coder, or even a coder at all. The game logic is created by simply dragging and dropping. There are the standard variables, and if-then-else logic, all presented in an intuitive way. If you are an experience Flash developer, you can also use ActionScript. You can use pre-made graphics or create your own in the included graphics program. The central metaphor is game characters (“Actors”) acting in a scene. You can tweak your Actors in the Actor Editor, and the scene in the Scene Editor.
You can also upload any resources, including Actors and tiles, into the showcase for others to use. They are working on their own app store which will be available at some time in the future. This looks like a great way for kids to discover computing and how games are put together.