Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why I Love Stencyl

Are you a spriter? Have you had bad experiences with working with others on games? Do you suck at programming?

I do. And before this summer, that meant that I had to rely on others to make my games. I would just make the sprites, sprinkle some ideas in, and let the programmer do the work. This was a great deal with the great programmers I've worked with in the past (and present). But there were times that I've just wanted to make a game.

There are times where I don't feel like waiting! I don't want to rely on someone else. But because I can't program... what can I do? I can make sprites, and then make a team request. But what if I want to make levels?

I can't remember how I found Stencyl, but I'm really glad that I did. It's currently in a closed beta (I think that's what they call it) so I had to make a request thing to sign up. I got in pretty quickly (if I can get in, you can too) and I got to work.

Being able to make a game by yourself is such a great feeling. Here's what Stencyl does to help non-programmers like myself. There are things called "Kits" that you open up and start working with. It's like a pre-made engine. You just go in there and replace your sprites with the placeholders, and you've gotten your work into a game.

Here's the first issue that I found with Stencyl. The kits are very bloated- when I opened up the Platformer Kit, I was intimidated. There were tons of "actors" (objects such as player characters and enemies) and "behaviors" (scripts that you can assign to different actors) and I didn't know where to start.

So I had to do something that I didn't plan on doing- I had to adjust, and practice. I deactivated behaviors to see what would happen to the game if they weren't there, I played around with the physics, and stuff like that. I learned through trial and error. And because of my excitement for Stencyl, I was able to work through these things.

The number one thing that Stencyl has going for it, in terms of people who can't code, is StencylForge. That is where you find the kits that I talked about earlier. It is also where you can download games, games that have been made, and look at how they did things. If you're making a game and you need a behavior, you can go into a game that has that behavior and plop it into your game. It's beautiful.

Now, I can't give you the coders perspective of Stencyl... because I'm not a coder! But there are tons of programmers that are part of the community (obviously, because that's how we get the kits and stuff in the first place) and it's all built around collaboration. If you are a coder that needs sprites, you can look on StencylForge. If you're a person who just wants to make games as a hobby, and can't make resources or code, you'd be able to make games with Stencyl!

In my experience, it seems that Stencyl is built around this one fact of life- no one can do everything. But everyone can do something. And with StencylForge, you can compensate for your humanly imperfections and create things that you haven't before- all because Stencyl gives you a place to find these resources.

I've made and released three games with Stencyl (and of course, I coded none of them.) I've released all of these games on Kongregate and Newgrounds, and I'm proud of them. The flaws in the games are because of mistakes made by myself, not flaws in Stencyl (as far as I know).

So give this thing a try. If you're expecting to just get in there and start making hit games, you're mistaken. Like anything it takes time, and of course, practice. It's possible that because I'm taking the spriters perspective here that I'm missing out on some of Stencyl's major flaws, and it's entirely possible that I don't know enough about Flash libraries to judge this. Regardless, I love Stencyl.

Thanks for reading.


turboRamble said...

Why I hate Stencyl ---

I'm mainly a programmer. I can do some art, but not much. Stencyl just frustrates me with how limited the programming functions are. Things that would be simple to check for in Game Maker are stupidly frustrating in Stencyl. I got to the point where it just stopped me from progressing and I lost a ton of ideas to it, so eventually I just quit it because I couldn't stand it any longer. :/

Ethan said...

I understand- again, this is from my perspective, which is a perspective coming from a person who can't use GM... haha :P

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