Over the past 6 months I’ve started building a handful of games in my spare time and I recently decided to replace Multimedia Fusion 2 with a different game creation tool.
Back when I was looking at Multimedia Fusion 2, I had also played around with Game Maker Studio. And while GM is probably the most powerful, it also requires the most work because you have write all the script logic for your game.
So with MMF2 and GM off the table, it really came down to Stencyl and Construct 2. I’m still debating which one I want to go with (leaning towards C2) but here’s my impressions of the two so far.
One of my gripes with MMF2 was that I wasn’t able to fully utilize the product until I paid for it. This was a definite roadblock for me as I wanted to be able to really dig into development but give myself sometime to save up some money for it. This is one of the features that drew me to Stencyl. You basically get access to all the features and when you’re ready to publish your game (or want to use Stencyl 3.0) you just pay an annual subscription fee (which will allow you to publish your games for the year).
This pricing model is also a con if you’re publishing every year (options range from $79/yr – $199/yr). But at least you can stay up-to-date on Stencyl without having to pay for upgrades or expensive export modules (GM and MMF2 do this).
Although I’m not a Mac user, one of the prominent features among some of the game creation tools is multi-platform support. Stencyl does a great job on this forefront as they support Windows, Mac, and Linux. It’s nice to know that you have an option to create on whatever platform you feel comfortable working with.
The publishing options for Stencyl are pretty good. By default Stencyl generates Flash-based games, so you’ll tend to see a lot of their games show up in places like Newgrounds and Kongregate. With Stencyl 2.x, games can also be published to iOS and Desktop. However, now with the inevitable demise of Flash in the near future you’re probably wondering about the viability of Stencyl. Good news though, they’ve already got that covered. In Stencyl 3.0 they’ve actually redesigned the game engine so that it’s not specific to certain technologies and also now support Android and HTML5 publishing. The developers of Stencyl recognize that technology is constantly shifting and they seem to do an excellent job of keeping up and giving users a roadmap of future functionality.
So now let’s finally get down to using Stencyl. I’ll admit the first few times I dove into Stencyl it was confusing to me. I think this mainly stemmed from the fact that I’m used to working with other tools that utilize some sort of event sheet/grid. The interface is organized and clean and presents you with a good number of examples. A surprising drawback I discovered with Stencyl later on is that due to its Flash-based nature there is no gamepad support. For Desktop games you could potentially package a program like Joy2Key to facilitate that but it’s just not the same as having built-in support. At the time of writing this feature was still not present in Stencyl 3.0.
Stencyl is a little interesting in how it sets up its game objects. Simply put you have a Scene (level) and Actors (sprites). But as I said, rather than using an event sheet/grid for defining the interactions between the objects, Stencyl utilizes something called Behaviors. Behaviors are basically blocks of logic that usually define a function or some sort of interaction that you assign to an Actor. So if you have an Actor that you wanted to be able to jump, then you would assign a Jump behavior to it. This gives a good sense of modularity so that you can assign certain behaviors to Actors but leave others out in some situations (i.e. not all enemies can jump).
Stencyl comes with a bunch of already defined Behaviors for common game types (platform, shooter, puzzle). Of course, the real power is that you can customize these Behaviors or create your own. This is made possible by an interface where you merely drag-and-drop different elements to build the logic. If you’re a little more adventurous you can write the code for the logic yourself as the former is merely a visualization of underlying ActionScript that is auto-generated. It can definitely take while to get a hang of this interface but it’s definitely not a deterent for me.
Behaviors aside, construction of the Scene and Actors is pretty straightforward. The Scene can utilize multiple layers and tilesets. Tilesets is a feature that Stencyl beats C2 hands down in. They make tile selection and placement very easy and you can easily define custom collision shapes for the different tiles. Stencyl by default implements basic physics and so you have options for adjusting the weight, friction, and gravity of Actors. Animations for Actors are simple to setup and give you handy options for flipping horizontally/vertically so you’ll only need to render images for one direction.
All in all even if I don’t go with it, Stencyl is a great product. Here’s my breakdown of pros and cons.
- Don’t need to pay until you’re ready to start publishing
- Powerful system for building custom Behaviors
- Runs on Mac, Linux, and Windows
- Exports to Flash, Desktop, iOS, Android, and HTML5
- Easy usage of Tilesets in Scenes
- Project files are stored in XML (helps you see changes if using Version Control Software)
- Publishing games on a regular basis means you’ll need to pay the subscription every year
- Sometimes Tilesets collisions seem a little jagged when on an angle
- Stencyl 2.x is tied to Flash (3.0 breaks away from this though)
- Doesn’t have gamepad support (a limitation of Flash, hasn’t been addressed in 3.0 as far as I know)
Right off the bat, I have to say from most of the reviews that I’ve seen people do tend to prefer C2 over Stencyl because it’s simpler to use (that’s debatable though) and seems more friendly. I do tend to agree with that though as the interface tries to stay modern by using a ribbon design (although most of the game editing is done outside of that). With that said C2 is currently a Windows-only product, there has been some demand for a Linux version but it’s not currently viable for the company to pursue it.
One of the primary things you should know about C2 is that it’s built by a team of just 2 developers. Development of C2 doesn’t appear to have a roadmap for future development, the focus seems to be on whatever features the developers/community deem as being important or useful. This model definitely works for them though as they don’t allow themselves to fall behind in technology.
As with Stencyl, C2 offers a free version that users can utilize without needing to buy a license. However, C2 does limit what you can do. This free version only allows you so many events, effects, and layers. It also doesn’t give you some of the more organized features like Project Subfolders, Event Search, Object Families, and Instant Preview over WiFi. Nevertheless, it gives enough of the package to get the base things setup and running before you’re ready to pay for it. When you’re to ready to shell out, C2 offers two licenses to choose from. Personal gives you all the capabilities of C2 (publishing to iOS, Android, Linux, Windows, and Mac) and costs $119. The only limitation is that if you make over $5000 with your creations then you’ll need to purchase the Business license, which costs $399. Obviously the Business license isn’t cheap but if you’re already banking over $5000 then it’s a solid investment. I like that C2 (along with Stencyl) is one of those companies that doesn’t charge you extra for the ability to export to specific platforms.
Setting up sprites and animations is very easy to do. You only need to render images for one direction and then using events, C2 can mirror the sprite for you. Sadly, C2 doesn’t have the Tilesets feature that Stencyl does. There is a workaround to do this sort of thing but it’s certainly more time-consuming. I forgot to mention, games made with C2 are HTML5-based. So when you run your game you have the option of opening it up in different browsers (Chrome is the best choice because it can use the gamepad).
C2 is a great product with a few shortcomings but it definitely stands on level ground with Stencyl.
- Cheaper in the long run than Stencyl
- Clean, organized, easy-to-use interface
- Exports to Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, HTML5, and Android
- Use of HTML5 helps future proof games from becoming victims of dying technologies
- Event Sheet is handier than having to write Behaviors for everything (Stencyl)
- Gamepad support (limited to Google Chrome though)
- Free version removes some of the features that help with organization
- Only runs on Windows-based systems
- Doesn’t have a good way of dealing with Tilesets
- Project files are binary (not ideal for use with a Version Control System)
So there you have it. I can’t really tout one as being better than the other at this point because they both address a lot of the same concerns and the development teams are constantly moving these products forward. If you’re trying to pick between these two my best advice would be to create a demo and replicate it using both of these tools. From there determine which one you thought did the job better and go with that.
Update: September 9, 2013
Added information on gampad support.