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Microsoft Simplifies Game Development With Popfly Game Creator

The mashup can be used to create any kind of two-dimensional game like the original Super Mario, Frogger, or Asteroids.
Microsoft on Friday announced the alpha release of Popfly Game Creator, a mashup authoring tool for the creation of casual computer games.

A blog post on the Popfly team site explains that Game Creator can be used to create "any kind of two-dimensional game, a category that includes things like the original Super Mario, Frogger, Asteroids, and a host of other old arcade games. To make it easy, Popfly is still focused on getting as much done as possible without having to write any code."

John Montgomery, group program manager at Microsoft for Popfly and Visual Studio Express, explained in a phone interview that Microsoft's goal was to build an on-ramp to ease people into programming.

"We're really trying to get people who have never tried programming before to get excited about the ideas of building things in general, whether its Web pages, or mashups, or in this case games," said Montgomery. "So we're kind of going after a customer who is anywhere from the 8- to 14-year-old kid might be interested in playing around to somebody who's maybe a little older and is bored with the games on a site like MSN Game Zone and is actually interested in building his own."

Popfly Game Creator includes more than 15 game templates and a large library of image and sound assets for game construction. Popfly games can be embedded on Web sites or social networking sites, as well as the Windows Vista Sidebar. "The goal isn't to have people go to," said Montgomery. "It's actually for the people to create these things to put them in the places where they live and where their friends go to see their stuff."

Montgomery sees Popfly Game Creator helping would-be game programmers make the transition into more complicated game authoring. "With the Popfly Game Creator, we've pushed the low-end down a lot lower," he said. "So the barrier to entry is lower. And you can go pretty far within the Popfly Game Creator in terms of actually stepping into code, writing JavaScript code, creating XAML animations, and so on in there. Once you kind of top that out, you can open your Popfly project in Visual Studio."

Rather, you will be able to do so. Currently, said Montgomery, the tool that allows that, Popfly Explorer, doesn't support game projects, but it will soon. The goal is to allow game creators who are ready for more sophisticated tools to step up to something like Microsoft's XNA gaming technologies.

Microsoft has posted a video that explains Popfly video creator. It also plans to present the new Game Creator tool at this weekend's Maker Faire, at the San Mateo County Expo Center, just south of San Francisco.