Best Options for Easy (Meaning Fast and Extensible) Game Creation?

I'm working on a grant application to digitize archival materials and then make a game from them (and do lots of cool stuff with the digital archives with full text searching and georeferencing to make them more useful artifacts-into-data sets and such). I think the game will be a selling point of the project because it will be a pretty and "easy" way to see what the infrastructure for the digitized artifacts can do. In order to make the game work as part of the project, I've been looking at toolkits and builders for making games and the two that seem best are the Torque Game Builder and Neverwinter Nights Aurora Toolkit. While my project, like so many others, could use Flash, Flash doesn't migrate forward as nicely as I'd like it to and it can be cumbersome to create longer games. Something like OpenLaszlo that allows for the simultaneous creation of a Flash SWF and DHTML file that backends to a database would work, but I think the development time would still be a problem.

It seems like there are many great game projects that don't get completed when using the full commercial game design approach and they then have to change to a simple approach. In hopes of not suffering from the same problems, I've been looking at easy game development options. The ease is important here not just for the game designer, who will know how to program and design, but for all others involved in the project so everyone can help support the general development process. With an easy-to-understand framework, if/when something happens (a programmer leaves and a new person comes in, or the funds run out without the project being completed), then the project doesn't have to die. An easier infrastructure should make the process less likely to have catastrophic problems.

Builders and kits that look easy enough (by my own subjective judgment) are the Torque Game Builder and the Neverwinter Nights Toolkits (Aurora for NWN or the new kit for NWN2). Since my project needs to run on k-12 computers, the NWN2 kit isn't an option (the modules require the game and the game requirements are too high). By the same token, since games made with the NWN Aurora toolkit require NWN and it doesn't seem to be easily available online at a cheap rate, this likely isn't really an option either (darn! because it is easy, and modular, and familiar for players). That leaves me with the Torque Game Builder. I've started playing with the 30 day demo I downloaded from their website and it looks like a good choice.

For similar projects, I'm wondering what other tools people have used or considered using and why? My project is still in the development-of-proposal phase, so I'm not wed to any technologies yet. My constraints are definitely related to budget and time, but what other constraints have people been under or what other game builders or other alternatives should I consider? Any recommendations, suggestions, or general commentary would be helpful!

Scratch

Hey Laurie, MIT Media Lab's Scratch recently came to my attention in the Literature + seminar I'm taking this quarter.

I haven't had a chance to play around with it much myself yet, so I'm not sure if it would meet your exact needs, but on the surface it seems like a very flexible and free game creation tool along the lines of what you're looking for. It's designed for ages 8+ and runs on both Mac and PC. I've seen flash-style games up through FPS's made with it, so it might be worth looking into.

-Amanda

Game Creation

Hi Laurie,
Did you make any progress on the game? If so, post some information here! Good luck!

If you are still looking, i

If you are still looking, i would suggest playcrafter. It is very easy to deploy. Game quality is also high. By the way, it would not be a best option if you want to practice and learn any programming skills. just my two cents.