I spent this fall teaching middle school students how to develop games with Stencyl. It was my first time in a public (charter) school, my previous experience was teaching in 4-hour blocks, four Saturdays in a row. Having worked with Stencyl for three years now I thought I'd throw out my top Pros and Cons, the latter to see if the Stencyl team is planning any future updates to address them.
- Free. I teach a lot of financially disadvantaged kids and my primary goal is to make sure they can continue to make games after the class is over. Free software is a hard prerequisite for me and it's what keeps me from using other tools (GameSalad, etc)
- Cross platform. I often don't know what location and resources will be available when setting up a class. I've even had to switch from a PC lab to a Mac lab mid session, so this feature has saved my class at least once. Plus, it's great if the students work on one platform in class but only have the other available at home.
- Easy on beginners / accessible. It's awesome to guide students toward programming in three incremental steps. Behaviors -> Code Blocks -> Text code. I'll also note that the interface feels less intimidating that, say, GameMaker (I'd hazard to say more gender neutral as well, which is important to me as I always push to have equal representation of girls and boys).
Publishing to Stencyl web page - I love the new option to publish the game to a web page on the Stencyl site. It's much more user friendly than how it worked previously with publishing to StencylForge.
Long compile time - the time it takes from when the student presses "Test Game" to the time they can play their changes is so long that it causes them to lose focus and interest. It also greatly impacts how many iterations they can make in a single class. When I'm there with them I find myself trying to find ways to engage them. My dream platform would permit live editing of most content, but in lieu of that I'd love to see the compile time shortened dramatically.
StencylForge - I really wanted to love this. I tried with several classes to have students use StencylForge to download assets. However, this always resulted in massive headaches. Most assets would come down with some (often many) bad behaviors attached to them. Finding and pruning out the bad behaviors resulted in a lot of lost time and was a very negative experience for students fresh to Stencyl. I've decided for all future classes to provide my own repository of clean, verified safe assets.
Pencyl - a great idea that is almost there except for the lack of multiple undo. When students find that there is only one undo they usually stop using it.
I've definitely encountered some pretty frustrating bugs and have some gripes about specific UI/UX stuff, but I chalk some of that up to my own lack of fluency in Stencyl, to the issues I mentioned with downloading StencylForge assets, and just general "hey, that's software development".
All in all, Stencyl is a great tool and really glad that it's available with a free version that is educator-friendly. I hope you continue to improve on it!