Sunday, November 28, 2010

The progression of flash, and gaming on the web

For my first post, I'd like to talk about the medium that a large portion of the Indie community is using to convey their ideas, stories, and creative prowess. This medium, or platform rather, is Adobe Flash, and how it's affected gaming on the internet, and what could very well happen to it in the near future. 

As a Flash animator and game designer, It almost pains me to say this, but Flash has done its job; and very soon it will be on its way out. Flash really started popping up 10 years ago and provided the web with fully interactive content, changing the way we saw the internet. Before Flash, what did we have...text and images really. Flash supported multimedia (Games, videos, interactive websites, etc) on the web while our technology has evolved enough that multimedia on the web can support itself without having to embed everything into a .swf file. But now, new technology is at our disposal. Unity will most likely replace gaming on the browser, HTML5 will provide better websites, and ToonBoom and After Effects will replace cartoons.

Adobe doesn't treat Flash as a gaming platform. In fact, on the Flash CS5 Professional website, it says it's for "Interactive Content" "Web Applications" and "Embedding Video". Yes, games fall into those categories, but you can easily tell it's not their priority. Truth be told, I'm not sure Flash even knows what Flash is for, so it's trying to do everything.

Unity is a program used to make advanced 3D games that can run in the browser, you don't have to download anything but a plugin, much like early days of Flash. Unity allows developers to expand beyond 2D games and create rich 3D games more easily than ever. It's around this point that most people say "But Flash3D is in the works, and it looks amazing". While this is true, there are 2 key differences that set them apart.

1. Unity can export to Mac, PC, Linux, iPad, iPhone, PS3, Wii, Xbox, and even Widgets. Flash just runs in the browser, with limited support for exporting to iPhone/iPad. While many people may say "Well, I just want to make 3D flash games", the big appeal will be game developers saying "Wow, I can make 3D browser game, hit "export" and have the game go up on the Xbox live store, iPad/iPhone without even recoding at all?" There's a much bigger market there for that now too.

2. Unity is made for games. Flash3D looks cool, but it will probably miss out on a LOT of cool features that Unity has, because its still trying to do everything and not focus on how to make that one experience better. Which is why Unity will definitely pull ahead.
My friend Marco made the argument that "There's not one Music creating software, why does there have to be just one game making software" This is a valid argument. I can definetily see users who love Flash sticking with it into the 3D days. But it's those reasons above that i think while flash may stick around, evidentially  more people will turn to Unity, especially since you can get it for free.

ToonBoom (TB) is a program that is made for creating 2D animations. Simpsons, Family guy, Adventure time, Princess and the Frog, most shows and 2D movies today are animated in ToonBoom. It's more advanced and allows you to do more complex animations, easier. Flash currently beats out ToonBoom in web-toons because of Actionscript, the ability to make preloaders, menu's, and much more interaction than TB. (It's also much cheaper than TB). This all ties into HTML5 replacing embedding video in the browser too, but all in all, flash will eventually be replaced by either TB or another 2D animation software. Keep in mind Adobe doesn't even consider Flash as an animation program, which is really too bad because there's alot of people getting their start in animation on their platform. I use the term "replace" pretty loosely here too, it's not like flash will one day just *snap* disappear, but it would slowly fizzle out in favor of newer products, as the entire world works that way.

I've heard another argument that says "If browser game hosting sites were to open the floodgates for Unity tomorrow, very few people would start making 3D games because its easier to make flash games, so nobody would switch". That's irrational. I don't deny it would be a slow transition, but soon you'd start to see more and more Unity games, they'd probably be lower quality, but every so often a REALLY good few would start to appear. When flash games really started up, it was the kids who wanted to make games at the age of 13 that picked it up, turned into these crazy 20 year old flash game developers and really pushed the bar on what flash can do. Well the people who are 11+ today who will see these new Unity games, say "Omg i want to make them", and start learning it. By the time they're 20-ish, they will be pushing the Unity limits. It's like this with every generation, so much like how 3D first invaded Cinema and console games, it will soon take over the web.

Flash has done it's job, it covered the internets ass when all we had was text and pictures. You know the saying "First you get good, then you get fast"? Well, the internet has been getting good, and it really has gotten content rich thanks to Flash. Now it's time to get fast, by pushing onto new technology. and so on and so forth

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