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What's the Best Way to Start Making Your Own Video Games?


Video games spark imaginations like no other entertainment form. Where else can we run and jump like nimble Italian plumbers or blast demons with deadly space guns? If you play enough video games, chances are you’ll at least think about trying to make one yourself. With consumer-level video game development software, you can. Stencyl and Fuze4 are two of the most accessible tools for young people and programming novices, but which one should you use to start your game dev education? 

Which Tool Makes Cooler Games?

Because of their beginner-friendly limitations, consumer game development programs don’t let you make games quite as robust as their professional counterparts. With Stencyl, all you can make is flat 2D games, reminiscent of Flash games you may have played during the internet’s early days. That said, 2D development still provides plenty of creative potential. Stencyl lets you make platformers, puzzle games, shoot ‘em ups, and other game genres.

Stencyl game example

Fuze4, which also supports 2D games, stands out with 3D development tools that arguably surpass even our Editors’ Choice GameMaker. You can make rudimentary 3D racing games, arena shooters, and more, all with true collision detection. You can check how well your game performs with a built-in frame rate counter. Since Fuze4 is a Nintendo Switch app, you can take advantage of the console’s unique hardware features, such as motion controls and the touch screen. Unlike with Stencyl, Fuze4 lets you add multiplayer action to your games. 

Winner: Fuze4

Who Supports More Platforms?

You can use Stencyl for free and export your games to the web—they just get stamped with a Stencyl watermark. If you subscribe to one of its paid plans, starting at $99 per year, you gain access to more platforms including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. Expanding your audience expands your potential revenue. You can sell your PC games via online PC gaming marketplaces. Paid users can also add microtransactions, the lifeblood of successful “free” mobile games, to their projects. However, there’s no official way to port your games to consoles through Stencyl. You’ll have to do that work yourself.

Fuze games

Fuze4’s games run on the Nintendo Switch…and only the Nintendo Switch. Fuze4 is an educational tool, not a commercial one (previous Fuze releases targeted PCs like the Raspberry Pi). You can share your Fuze4 games through its online portal, but there’s no way to export them as separate projects to other platforms. This limits its utility for pursuing game development as a serious career; eventually you’ll need to outgrow it. Fortunately, Fuze4 only costs $20 and you own it forever. No need to opt into an ongoing subscription. 

Winner: Stencyl

Which Program Is Easier to Use?

Stencyl’s tutorial guides you through the game-making process without making you write a single line of code. Instead, you use an intuitive visual programming language, based on MIT’s Scratch, to create understandable if/then statements to power your game. These statements then become behaviors you add to actors and the game’s logic. When creating a platformer, use the sprite and tileset editor (or import your own audio and visual assets) to make the player character, enemies, and backgrounds. Behaviors then tell the character how to jump, enemies how to get squished, and game how to celebrate your victory.

Stencyl design mode

Stencyl is very easy to pick up, but it isn’t the best program for furthering your education. Using the visual language may be easier on your brain, but you won’t learn the advanced coding concepts needed for serious game development. Stencyl gives you the option to use a Haxe-based traditional text coding language. You’ll just need to take that initiative yourself. GameMaker and Construct do a better job gently weaving complex ideas into their beginner workflows. When real coding is harder to ignore, it’s easier to eventually make the transition. 

Fuze4 takes the opposite approach. Instead of a visual language, you program your game with good old-fashioned code and code alone. It’s a basic coding language that’s easy to learn. Still, you must learn specific syntax, and type a bunch of text. The app includes documentation full of example text to study or outright copy while experimenting with your prototypes. Fuze4 also provides an image editor and music synthesizer.

Fuze4’s focus on code will absolutely give you skills you can carry over into a serious game development job. However, it’s almost too powerful for its own good, or for its own platform. Making games this way requires so much mental effort that you might get frustrated you can’t export your games into something you can actually sell. Also, while the interface includes plenty of useful shortcuts, Switch controllers and a touch screen are not at all the best way to do this much typing. Plugging in a USB keyboard helps a lot, but I would still rather edit on a PC.  

Fuze4 editor

Stencyl and Fuze4 also offer marketplaces where you can freely download assets (images, sound effects, sample code) created by in-house teams as well as other users. Stencyl’s StencylForge store isn’t that active, whereas Fuze4 is limited by its locked platform.   

Winner: Stencyl

Press Start on Game Development

Game development skills are somewhat universal enough to carry with you from program to program, but we recommend mastering just one tool when starting out. Stencyl offers a great jumping on point for new developers. You can get a lot out of its free version and its paid version lets you make games you can actually sell. Its limits eventually hurt more than they help, but by the time you’re ready to move on to something more complicated, you’ll at least have a solid baseline knowledge. Fuze4 is more impressive and powerful in some aspects, especially for a $20 Nintendo Switch app. However, its focus on raw code makes it initially too intimidating, and not being on PC makes it ultimately too constrained. 

Overall Winner: Stencyl

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