Stencyl, a new game creation studio that launches today.Although it's getting a lot easier to build your own video games, many of the tools out there for doing so require you have a background in programming. Not so with with
"Our goal is to build the ultimate game creation experience, one that democratizes the game creation process by eliminating all technical barriers, leaving one's imagination as the limiting factor," says Stencyl co-founder Jonathan Chung.
For those familiar with MIT's Scratch, Stencyl's game design tool will look pretty familiar. Stencyl uses a similar drag-and-drop system, where users pull together different building blocks in order to create programs. More advanced users can also create their own building blocks that can in turn be shared with others.
And like Scratch, this means that Stencyl could be a great tool for placing game creation in the hands of some of gaming's biggest fans: kids. "Teaching kids how to code is a hard problem because the rules of syntax and other similar intricacies get in the way of learning the core concepts of learning how to think logically," says Chung. "I believe that kids, even younger ones, have the ability to think logically. As we've seen in our beta program, using a visual programming environment like Stencyl or MIT Scratch, breaks down barriers and allows kids to grasp those fundamentals and build sophisticated games on their own."
The success of Scratch doesn't just come from that visual programming element or from having an easy-to-use toolset. Rather it's a result of a great community around the project as well. Stencyl has also modeled itself on Scratch in this way with its "StencylForce," its own game development community. This will allow users to get support and ideas from one another, as well as share and download openly-licensed resources.
Currently, the game creation tool lets users build Flash games for Mac and PC, but the company plans to roll out support for iOS over the summer. It has a much larger roadmap as well, with plans for an iTunes-like marketplace - for games and for the games' building blocks - as well.
Stencyl's game creation software is currently free and works on Mac, Windows, and Ubuntu.