Monday, February 23, 2009

Why Flash?

by: Jonathan White

Many possible technologies exist that can power web based games. Php, HTML, CGI and Java amongst them, but the most common plugin used to design browser games by far is Adobe Flash, previously known as Macromedia Flash. One of the biggest reasons for this is that Flash has become a definite web standard.

Many PCs come with the Flash player installed. It is compatible with Linux, Apple Mac, BSD, cellphones, PDAs and a whole host of other devices. Over 520 million unique installations of Flash have been recorded, and it has been around since the days of Windows 98. This statistic accounts for approximately 95% of all Internet users.

Flash Player is also a free download, so if the user does not have it, it's only a few seconds and negligible bandwidth away, no matter the platform. Likewise, Adobe Flash is a comparably cheap product for the developers, and time input required is minimal to create simple games, compared to using other technologies.

A powerful but often overlooked feature of Flash is that it makes small files. For ten megabytes, in Flash, you can get a full featured game. This helps Flash to appeal to dialup or slower broadband users where Java or C couldn't. Flash can also use database connectivity to save scoreboards, progress and account details, which is rare in a format so smooth.

Flash is efficient, applets made in it tend to run on computers that you'd be hard-pressed to find outside of an antique shop. It is the empowering technology of choice on a certain well-known pet site, which almost certainly has users on dialup and on poor computers.

Something to remember is that Browser Games have a completely different TA (target audience) than that of AAA list games. Browser games are made for the casual player, someone who wants to play immediately and at his/her convenience, as such it must load fast, play fast and keep the user's interest. Developing a successful Flash game is very difficult, because generally if a user becomes disinterested, one or two clicks will take him/her to a completely different game.

So, what about monetizing a Flash game? Well, the standard is based on the shareware model. You have a teaser version of a game on a website and then allow users to download a 'Deluxe' build for a set fee. Often the producer will allow lots of sites to list their 'teaser' games; this is a clever form of viral marketing.

Possibly the most solid reason to use Flash is that it would always be fairly easy to find people willing to draw in the Flash SWF vector format. Other technologies would require external animation but with Flash, the motion, the drawing and the script can all be done in a single interface.

Graphical objects within this interface can have specified alpha values, positionings, angles of rotation, explosion effects and many built in motion tweening effects. It is this versatility and built in function that makes it a real joy to work with.

Flash is fast-becoming the only standard for browser based gaming, because it requires no real programming knowledge. The scripting language is very well explained on several websites, and in the included tutorials.

But the main reason? Simple. There are many very dedicated sites out there which will effectively get your product out for free. Even if all the other points in this article didn't exist, it is the only format with true open distribution.