This morning we’re launching an alpha of the Popfly Game Creator (http://www.popfly.com), a Silverlight-based environment that makes it easy for anyone to create and share a casual game – something like Space Invaders, Asteroids, or Breakout – without having to write a line of code. If you’re familiar with Popfly today, all the existing features like the web editor, mashup creator, and embedding functionality are still there and we’ve improved on them. But Popfly is about making it easy for people to discover how much fun it is to create things, and time and again people tell us that they really want to learn how to create games, so we added the game creator.

popflysceneeditor Here’s how it works: you log in to Popfly, and select “Create a Game” from the home page. You’ll then have two main options: create a game by starting with one of Popfly’s 18 templates, or start a game from scratch. Let’s say you start a game from scratch. You’ll then be able to create scenes (which are kind of like levels in the game) and add actors (the players and props of the game) to the scenes. Popfly comes with hundreds of backgrounds, animations, images, movies, and sounds that you can use to create any kind of game and you can upload your own if you don’t like the ones that come with Popfly.

popflydebugger Once you’ve included the basic scene and actors, you start to set behaviors on the Popfly actors, for example setting rules for how they move, when they shoot, when they appear, and so on. Popfly uses a unique “inside-out” view of the game eventing that’s easier for someone who’s never coded before to catch on to. Instead of starting by having an “onclick” event, Popfly reverses this and starts with an action (e.g. DisappearWhenClicked), then enables you to connect events, state changes, and sounds to the actions.

There are some other interesting aspects to the game creator. First, it’s not popflybehaviorshortcuts just a graphical interface: all the actions and events you create in the game creator are represented in code (either JavaScript or XML) and you can edit them using Popfly. That means that if the game creator UI can’t do something you want to do, you can click on the “code” icon and step into the code.

The second most interesting thing is that all the normal Popfly embedding and rating functions work for Popfly games. That means that you can create a game and, for example, embed it into Facebook or turn it into a Vista sidebar gadget.

The third most interesting thing for me has been how people have reacted to the game creator during our usability tests. We’ve pulled in people of all ages to see what they do and how they do it, and from the 8-10-year-old kids who came in and started to create complex animated stories to the older folks who tried to create the games of their youth (Pong, anyone?) we’ve seen people who would never think twice about programming spending hours glued to the game creator trying to get things “just right.”

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