Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

The Era of Flash Comes to an End?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 25, 2013

When things end with a whimper, they aren’t exactly newsworthy.  I mean, when there’s an official sunset – some kind of milestone / gravestone where people can officially recognize its passing – by that point it has been practically dead and forgotten and only barely considered news. And bold proclamations of its upcoming demise when it’s still going strong with only a hint of its coming decline is easily ignored or mocked.  Proclaiming the death of something while it’s still in it’s gradual decline is even less newsworthy.

I guess it’s a good thing I’m not a news site.

As news, Unity’s announcement of it’s dropping of support for Flash export came as something of a non-event. Originally it was intended as an interesting way to develop content for modern (and future) versions of Flash. But it never really got off the ground.

I think the big trick is that Flash just wasn’t happening on iOS, and overall mobile support is just not there. That’s where the action is now.  The lack of Flash support on mobile platforms was pretty much a concession and telegraphing of the direction things were going to go.  Adobe seems to be embracing HTML5 itself, and its efforts in Flash seem to be more along the lines of helping it get phased out gracefully.

I dunno where things are going, quite. HTML 5 hasn’t quite hit the level of maturity where it can be considered a full replacement, but at this point “it” is where the action seems to be – but “it” really covers multiple technologies. Unity’s web player is pretty awesome, but hardly ubiquitous.

It’s funny how things change.

‘Course, “dying” means not dead yet, and I’m sure there’s still plenty of room (and money to be made) for Flash game programming right now. It still has a huge install base, and anything being developed soonishly in Flash may still be quite viable. Ditto for, say, the XBox 360. Let’s not forget that a Persona 4 was a huge hit on the PS2 a couple of years after the release of the PS3.  But now would probably not be the best time to get started making games for the XBox 360, the PS2, the PS3, or Flash.

But I guess that’s one thing about being a game programmer – it’s a constantly changing field.  My l33t Playstation 1 programming skills, hard-won over five years of intense development of hit games on that platform, are really not much in demand these days. The players, the platforms, the technologies – it can be hard to keep up.

But at least it is seldom boring.

Filed Under: Biz, Programming - Comments: 8 Comments to Read

  • Tamar said,

    I work as a Flash developer for my day job at a social games company. I do acknowledge that Adobe seems to be really flip-flopping with their support and goals for Flash over the past few years. It is annoying, but we manage.

    I won’t argue over people’s views of Flash, but there is one thing that should be clarified.

    Flash support for mobile *browsers* is dead, but you can still make applications for Android AND iOS (yes! you can!) using Flash packaged with Adobe AIR. We have been doing so for quite some time with great success. You can even get really good performance if you optimize your code and artwork.

    Flash as a platform is pretty interesting/fun/flexible, but I do think it is unjustly blamed because of what people *do* with Flash on a regular basis. Making terrible annoying ads and applications without monitoring CPU performance before putting it online or available for download is just bad. There are ways around this and the best Flash developer will take steps to correct the issue. Then again, the hard part these days is finding a *good* Flash developer.

    You can make equally intense CPU sapping applications with bad usage of JavaScript/Java/C++. But people seem to have forgotten this, especially after it Apple kept smacking it down.

    I like Flash and ActionScript 3. I really do. I acknowledge that I get a bit defensive when people talk about it in a bad light, but I try to state the facts as oppose to blindly siding with Adobe.

    Flash’s bad rap, though, does have a bit of a silver lining; it is spawning the creation of software that cross compiles to different targets now, including Flash itself. I’ve already begun to embrace HaXE and NME as a result. It’ll be interesting to see the different options that arise from this.

  • Walter said,

    @Tamar Do you know of any good tutorials for Flash game development in Haxe? All I could find in the way of examples was a Ski Free clone.

  • Eldiran said,

    Ironically, I can’t get Unity’s web player to work in ANY browser, EVER, so this is a bit disappointing for me. 😛

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Ewww, really, Eldiran? That sucks. I’ve never run into any compatibility problems myself, but I imagine I’d be pretty frustrated as the “odd man out” who just can’t get it to run.

    Tamar – I imagine there’s still hope that Adobe could pull something pretty cool off and reverse the trend, but it’s slim and diminishing daily. I think you are exactly right in that cross-platform tools are where it’s at. It’s a major reason I went with Unity. I can’t really rely on my own predictions as to what will be dominant 3 years from now, so it’s nice to not have to depend on them.

  • alanm said,

    Good riddance. Alas though, we’ll be stuck with flash forever. When I’m a toothless old pensioner I’ll probably still be sitting cursing flash player crashing my browser. Only good thing Jobs ever did was kill Flash on mobile.

  • Tamar said,

    @Walter – sorry, I don’t. I’ve been developing in Flash for the past four years, so I don’t really look at tutorials anymore 🙁 I usually just poke around the API docs.

    @Rampant Coyote – I like Unity’s goals and features. I just can’t get past the tool itself XD The whole scene editing portion is fine and dandy for games with definite level layout and enemy placement, but for making simple 2D puzzle games like I tend to make, it sorta complicates things. I’d rather just have a code editor in front of me.

  • Brian 'Psychochild' Green said,

    Telling people not to learn Flash because mobile browsers don’t support it feels a bit like telling people not to learn C++ because iOS mostly uses Objective-C and Android mostly uses Java.

    Flash has been “dying” for about as long as it’s been available. You’ll almost certainly be able to develop in Flash for years to come. It’s a reasonably full-featured platform that doesn’t need more bloat from constant development. Plus, you can get a nice IDE (FlashDevelop) for no cost.

    Flash ain’t dead yet, and you could make worse mistakes than learning AS3. Like not learning anything at all because tech changes so rapidly.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    TBH, I think Java has been on the decline for a while, too, and wouldn’t recommend it to beginners, either. But don’t tell Notch.

    You know what’s worse than any of the above? TorqueScript. Guess what language half of Frayed Knights was written in?

    So yeah – learning SOMETHING is better than nothing at all. There are guys around here who make games for antique systems which have virtually 0 market, but do it for the love of the old systems and love of games. I have tons of appreciation for that. But that’s people who know what they are doing and why they are doing it. I’d still be hesitant to push a beginner in those directions.