I have looked at a number of design tools that support HTML5/JS and Windows 8.  Ok I also reviewed some tools that do not directly build to Windows 8.

It came down to basically two tools: Blend for Visual Studio 12 and Scirra (Scirra.com) for the tools that support both HTML5/JS and Windows 8 with no added effort.  I reviewed ease of use, support and cost.  The winner is:

Winner: Scirra

Scirra (http://wwwScirra.com) and their Construct2 tool, with an excellent community as well as clear documentation that is supported by an active community.  I was able to build a simple game using the Scirra tools and tutorials in a short time.  The tools generate a Windows 8 type of output and there are few problems with the generated Windows 8 code, but that is easily fixed if you know JavaScript quite well. Which I don’t, so I am working through the process slowly.  Support is amazing, with changes implemented quickly and accurately.

Positive:

This is a great example of build once, works in many areas.  I didn’t test the other technologies, but from the comments it appears that everything works.  So you can create an HTML 5 app that then functions on the Chrome Web Store, Facebook, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone 7 (through Phone Gap), Windows 8 directly, and Android.  Good use of your time. 

Issue:

  • If you are a hardcore coder, then the visual interface will be annoying.  In my opinion, we just have to suck it up, the world is changing.

Scirra definitely demonstrates what a couple of guys can do to excite a community.  Good job!

Second place, a distant second: Blend for Visual Studio 12

Let me be clear, the judging was for a rapid game design tool that also supports Windows 8 directly.  According to my research there are only two tools: Scirra and Blend.  Blend has been around in the Expression Suite for a number of years and well loved by people who are able to work through the quagmire of documentation, broken links and so forth.  There are excellent documents for Blend, but these get confused with older documentation for earlier versions.  Scirra shows what ownership of products is capable of.  Scirra of course needs a few more years and we will see just how their documentation is doing, but for now it doing quite well!

So what is Blend?

Blend is a generalized tool that supports a broad audience and can be used to build games just like any HTML editor can be used, except better and easily repeatable for non-coders.  However, there are a number of issues that Microsoft needs to deal with:

1. Documentation is all over the place and not focused. 

  • It is difficult to break out the current version from previous versions to figure out how to implement workflow items. 
    • For instance the memory game takes a 9 part tutorial to just show you how to use the excellent Blend IDE to build the memory game.  Now once you understand how Blend and Visual Studio work together it is a super tool, but seriously if you are a casual designer Scirra does a much better job at documentation and implementation of game design (but will it in 5 years? We don’t know, they are up to version 97 as of today)

Positive:

Blend is a general purpose tool that could be loved by hard core coders who work with graphics designers working with software designers.

Issue:

There are a number of issues:

Documentation for this product needs to be cleaned up, broken links (as of this post) are numerous, demonstration of actual games need to be created, basically someone at Microsoft needs to show ownership of this product’s documentation.    Really, this product could be solid basis for a company like Scirra to build a game design tool, the interface is completely documented (poorly) and open to add-ins that could support javascript tools like Scirra or CanvasJS.

There is an excellent SDK for Blend that has been neglected and this impacts the game world as extensions like Physics Helper suffered from the variation of the Blend and Expression tool

Conclusion:

There is a cost for Scirra if you are going to make money, check the site for the cost, but initially it is free.  Scirra is focused on fun of course and if you want to get a Windows 8 game then it is the one to use, but to get it on the marketplace a few things are needed.  Blend for Visual Studio 12 is an excellent tool for general use in combination with Visual Studio, especially with setting up CSS, but for games, it has potential (which since it has been around for a number of years is a disappointment) that has never been realized.  So go with Scirra for fun!