Friday, August 16, 2013

A Review - "Learning Stencyl 3.x Game Development: Beginner's Guide"

The following review deals with a book about Stencyl. Stencyl is "a drag-and-drop gameplay designer" (Stencyl), modeled after the MIT Scratch project. Basically, it's blocks-based programming made specifically for game design. The sweet part for teachers is that it is free. Now, on to the book review...

Have a Go, Hero...

I've spent some enjoyable moments over the last two weeks working through Packt Publishing's "Learning Stencyl 3.x Game Development: Beginner's Guide", by Innes Borkwood. This is a great book for teachers who want to do more with game design and development in their classroom, but aren't that well versed with coding and programming.
 
I've been using Stencyl, off and on, with students for two years now. It has still managed to elude me up to this point. I had done the crash course and watched plenty of YouTube Videos. None of it helped. My students would ask me questions, and I would feel clueless. I think that they were starting to see through my Socrative responses, "That is a problem. What have you tried? Hmm, perhaps you could Google it..." 

This book promises to
guide you through learning the essential skills that are required to create your own video games without knowing how to write computer code. We're going to start with a blank screen and, before we reach the end of the book, we'll have developed a complete game, ready for publishing. We won't stop with just the basics in place— we're going all the way, right through to including many of the important features that we would expect to find in a professional production! (Learning Stencyl 3.x Game Development Beginner's Guide (Kindle Locations 500-503). Packt Publishing.)  
It did not disappoint. Each section is set up like a well planned lesson. There's a hook, where we look at what we'll be doing and why, often identifying a problem in the game we're developing along with the book. Next, it's "Time for Action", which is a step by step tutorial of how to apply this particular skill in your game. Then, we review in the "What just Happened?" section. Finally, it's time to "Have a Go, Hero". where you practice the skill.

In the end, I'm not only excited to teach Stencyl this year but also to start developing some of my own epistemic games for my classroom and my colleagues!

If you are teaching Game Design in your classroom, you need to consider adding Stencyl to your application library. And I highly recommend adding "Learning Stencyl 3.x Game Development: Beginner's Guide" to your personal or classroom library.

Final notes:

"Learning Stencyl 3.x Game Development: Beginner's Guide" does assume you are using Stencyl 3.x. According to the Stencyl Web Site, Stencyl 3.0 is currently only available to paid customers through a closed beta program. I successfully completed this book using Stencyl 2.1.0. If you would like to do the same, make sure you visit the following discussion within the official Stencyl.com forums: http://community.stencyl.com/index.php/topic,23398.0.html. The first entry in this forum contains a downloadable document which explains the differences that users of Stencyl 2.2 will find when following the tutorials in the book.