Archive for the ‘Flash’ Category
Photoshop, I’ve worked with Fireworks. I know Fireworks. Fireworks has been a friend of mine. Photoshop, you’re no Fireworks.
Dramatic? Maybe. far from the truth? Nope.
Anyone who has used and loved Adobe Fireworks will understand where I’m coming from. Back before Adobe swallowed it, Macromedia was making a suite of elegant, modern apps while Photoshop was mired in it’s way of doing things. Click a layer to select objects. Poor type controls. Fireworks came along and was an intuitive revelation. You could add and remove filters at will. Objects were actual objects, separate and clickable, dragabble, resizeable. Autoshapes gave you dynamic control over rounded corners (at the time the holy grail of web design) – the entire program had an object oriented workflow to it. Similar to it’s cousin Flash, also by Macromedia, a generation of designers became acquainted with the object oriented approach dedicated programmers already enjoyed with code.
I tried to go back to Photoshop. I’d see beautiful imagery that was Photoshopped. The program seemed to be the choice of power users, of professionals, of big design businesses. But every time i picked it up I was boggled as to why I couldn’t add a filter and decide to remove it later. I didn’t get why there was no real undo. Why couldn’t I just click and drag an object? Over the years Photoshop began to wisely incorporate some similar functionality, no doubt inspired by Adobe’s shiny new acquisitions. But to this day Photoshop has never matched the Pixel (focus on PIXELS here) love that Fireworks has delivered.
Fireworks was made for the web from the ground up. When you enter the world of Fireworks, you enter the world of pixels. These tiny little square become as much a part of you obsessive workflow as anything else. You also love to hate the idiosyncrasies. You learn to explain to clients that Fireworks PNG files will only contain layers if opened in Fireworks. You wonder why the rounded top left corner is JUST a bit fuzzier than the top right.
Photoshop always seemed snobbish to me. I’d come across endless posts about how Fireworks users just needed to stop whining and learn how to do things Photoshop’s way. Fireworks doesn’t ask you to do that. You work your way and it works with you. It’s kind of funny to assign a sort of humanization to a piece of software. But these things are complex organisms that are only going to get more so. They have their ways, their fans, their detractors, and now with Adobe’s decision, their assassins. Knowing that everything that made Firework’s workflow special will now cease to be feels like a punch in the gut.
Yes we can switch to Photoshop. Yes we’ll toe the line. Designers are not their software. Bla. Bla. Bla. It’s not about the logical, it goes beyond that. It’s about art, a touch, a feeling, a way of thinking and the pure glee that accompanies a piece of software that ‘gets’ the way you work.
Hopefully there will be a spiritual successor that will pick up where Fireworks leaves off. Already apps like webcode are grabbing attention as Fireworks lovers approach the changing era with a bit of trepidation and some sadness.
Photoshop is a great app, no doubt. And to be honest an ‘all you can eat’ subscription buffet sounds like it will bring many benefits for the Cloud Generation. But for today, for a moment, i’d like to reminisce with an old friend and say how thankful I am for all the amazing little touches, the moments, the colors that Fireworks has shared with me, and thank it for helping me transform the messes in the whitespaces of my mind into something on the web that everyone could share.
The lack of Flash support on the iPad is a serious blow to the identity of Flash.
I became a Flash designer because of 2 things – its unrestrained creative freedom to deliver almost anything i could think of making, and its cross platform and deep penetration across the internet. Now I could create beautiful things and share them with the world. Well, that world has become increasingly mobile in mind and market share. And it’s a world from which Flash is being largely excluded.
First, kudos. I love Flash, I do. And if you didn’t love it too it wouldn’t inflame such passion and give rise to so many blog posts. Flash isn’t under attack because of it’s a poor product. On the contrary, it’s like an athlete at the Olympics going for gold. Flash is so great at so many things that we just want it to be even better – perfect perhaps. But Flash has been denied perfection because of 2 fatal flaws in its DNA.
First, it’s proprietary technology, and this is an ugly truth that I try to forget every time I use it. It’s owned and operated by ‘Big Design’ (you know who you are) and although their intentions and efforts are noble, it still remains a closed platform and cannot achieve the adoption rates and democratic zeitgeist of open source standards like HTML.
Second is performance which, backroom deals aside, has been a large deterrent to its adoption on mobile devices. Yes, apparently Flash and Flash lite players are available on millions of mobile devices. Well I’ve been developing flash apps for years and honestly I wouldn’t know it. Flash has a history of poor performance on Macs so I can understand why the Mac faithful haven’t been rushing to defend a platform that’s forsaken their interests for a long time. Performance anxiety is not only the result of the Flash player itself either, which is a beautiful and compact piece of software engineering (if it wasn’t we wouldn’t be having this discussion). Flash developers are an industrious creative lot who love nothing more than to create something they said couldn’t be created. As such you have a huge ecosystem of flash media on the web pushing the boundaries of even new PC performance. How could this ever be restrained to the emerging mobile ecosystem that thrives on prudent power consumption?
Enter the iPad.
The wild success of the iPhone and iPod Touch had Flash developers scurrying into Apple App development, and with good reason.
Beyond the ability to browse in the bathroom (you do it too), they offered a relatively open ecosystem and a ‘for-dummies’ ecommerce infrastructure that let small developers make more than a few dollars while expressing themselves creatively.
Now the iPad offers people a sexy new way to experience the internet, and at 499 and up, it’s going to sell millions. Apple’s share of the mobile market space is already huge and the iPad will just see this share grow. And guess what? Flash will not be invited to the party. So it’s decided to crash it in the form of Flash CS5′s admittedly nifty Mac App export tool.
The problem with Adobe’s answer to Flash on the iPhone is this: By restricting it (not by their choice) to the app store ecosystem they are erasing many things that make Flash Flash, the most important being delivery by web browser, perhaps THE defining quality of Flash, erased like it never existed. No longer the clever way to circumvent Big Media and deliver content straight to The People without big budgets, it becomes a ‘me too’ entry into Apple’s App Store ecosystem. It becomes subject to the developer fees and approval process of the App Store queue, which, while hardly exorbitant or stifling, represents quite a change in pipeline for developers accustomed to few restraints on creative freedom.
It also positions Flash as an application development platform rather than a web browsing experience. This is a well deserved position since Adobe has made great strides to develop Actionscript 3 as a robust and powerful language in its own right. Just be aware it comes with it’s own identity crisis for Flash. Is it the best way to reach millions via the web, in which case it should be available on the exponentially growing mobile market, or is it an application development tool, in which case we should see performance boosts equal to other app development frameworks like c++ and Cocoa.
So then, what’s the sexy new way to circumvent authority?
So we’re left with the big quandary. Flash does so many things right. It’s increasingly open source. Performance has increased. 3D in flash is really coming on strong. All’s right on the left side of the brain. But on the other side, the concept of Flash as a technology that can reach anyone anywhere (in other words, via the web browser) is eroding. And the thing about standards is that they are great when it comes to accessibility, but unless you’re a creative genius they just aren’t up to snuff (yet) when it comes to delivering the rich media (ugg…) experience that proprietary plugins like Flash and Unity can deliver. I waited YEARS for 3d to come to browser via software based Flash and hardware accelerated Unity 3D. Now I’m told i can’t have it if i want unfettered reach to the mobile market, and I have to run back to standards.
Where do we go from here?
Turn it into an open standard. I mean an open standard like HTML, not corporate initiatives with the word OPEN attached to them. Actionscript that everyone can contribute to. Free players for all. Open source the entire thing and make money Adobe by selling the best IDE’s to harness the power of a newly open sourced phenomenon.
Let’s face it. There’s an opening for an open source, non-proprietary, performance savvy method of delivering rich media experiences on the mobile and non-mobile web. Who ever fills it is going to have the future in their hands.
I’ve just posted an open beta version of Nimian Garden : Waterfall Woods here:
I’m going to be listening to feedback and watching it over the next little while to see what works and what doesn’t. I like to think of it as an Action-Adventure Garden game – that’s a nice little niche genre that remains relatively unexplored so far.
It takes place in the Continent of Nimia, the setting for some of my other games like Nimian Hunter and Nimian Flyer Legends (are you starting to see a theme here?). The game was created using the free Sandy 3D API for flash http://www.flashsandy.org/ , a very game-friendly/artist-friendly way to get 3d into your flash games.
After reading John Grden’s post about Unity 3D and this post on the subject, I thought I’d add my opinion. Let me say that i am a longtime flash developer coming from an artist’s background. I love Flash and am attracted to Unity 3D, and think there is plenty of room for both. That said:
The Current Situation
Flash is a well-tested technology with a lot of goodwill behind it. Decisions to limit the capabilities of the Flash player to ensure ubiquity have been good ones, but now the imagination of it’s users is outpacing the power of the flash player. Flash’s primary draw has been it’s effectiveness as a creation tool and delivery method for a variety of media (games, music, videos, animation, apps), but while the delivery method is still pitch perfect, the creation tools are lacking.
Why Flash is King
Slower on mac and haphazardly on Linux perhaps but it works. As for Unity, I have installed the Unity 3D web plug in twice. The first time i checked out a unity example with it, it threw up a black screen that required a restart of my computer to get out of. I gave it another test today with another Unity example and had the same results. My computer specs are not an issue for the point i am trying to make – flash works even on my old system, Unity didn’t.
Flash and Unity 3D are like PCs and Televisions.
Televisions do one thing very well. They turn on instantly. They don’t crash. They are easy to use. But the trade off is that they are not very flexible. My television cannot create rich internet applications if I decide to try that.
PCs Personal Computers do many things with less reliability than a television turning on and off. They crash. They frustrate. They don’t work and then suddenly they do. They take an age to turn on and off. But unlike the specialized television they can literally do millions of things. Run air traffic control centers. Surf the internet. Play music. Explore Mars.
Flash is like the PC in this analogy. It doesn’t harness the most power or create 3d as well as Unity, but it has consistently offered people who are willing to try a surprisingly unlimited range of opportunities. Unity specializes in games and does it really well. Flash is less specialized but does more – games, motion graphics, video, music, animations, apps, banners and more
Why Unity Rocks
Read John Grden’s post and you will notice something – he is excited. The kind of “I’m staying up all night because wow the power of this is so cool” excitement that keeps flash developers working past their bedtime and without encouragement from the outside. Unity offers the kind of sexy interface and promise of power that made flash a phenomenon in the first place. I’m excited about it and it essentially crashed my computer twice.
Everyone has wanted this since 1999. Powerful, simple, accessible 3D for the web. Is anyone surprised that an app like Unity is making such a splash by delivering the holy Grail?
Flash doesnt deliver enough graphic power for many situations, and people looking to create powerful applications that can be distributed online are reluctantly looking elsewhere. When Flash superstars like Bit 101 start blogging about the ABC’s of iPhone development with the zeal of a kid in a candyshop, code and tutorials included, the trend is clear. There are new ways to deliver your creations to the masses and this will quickly eat into flash’s userbase. Especially since i don’t see full-powered Actionscript 3 flash apps being available on any devices besides the desktop and laptop anytime soon.
If Unity 3D didn’t have a web player, we would not be having this conversation. Unity would be just another game creation app, albeit a very attractive one. It is Unity’s developing ability to deliver 3D on the web that will directly compete with Flash.
How Flash can Compete
The following suggestions are for Adobe to consider:
Open your vision of Flash
No excuses about how Flash is meant for this or that and Unity is meant for something else.
Flash is not the ‘industry-leading-authoring-platform-for-delivering-engaging-interactive-experiences-and-deploying- accessible-and-content-rich-internet-applications-on-the-world-wide- web-and-breathe-whew! ‘. Flash is the best way of getting your imagination out on the web for all to see. And it has done a terrific job of doing that no matter what kind of imagination you might have.
Acknowledge the Competition
Unity 3d with its web plug in offers exactly the same thing – imagination online. Adobe -get moving! Everyone knows you are the monopoly and we all know what happens to monopolies in terms of innovation – it falters. You have got to surprise us by giving the fans what they want, and for the better part of the last decade, that dream has been hardware acceleration and web 3d. Learn from them and acknowledge they are offering something out of the box (powerful gorgeous 3d web) you aren’t. No it won’t be easy – but do it or someone else will
Leverage the Power of the Flash Player
Reading a few posts on Adobe’s new C/C++ to Flash solution Alchemy and the open source meta compiler Haxe has surprised me:
1. Flash player IS capable of native OS-like speeds
2. Flash player is capable of delivering all kinds of code bases
I love the flash player – i can play it windowed, full screen, in a web page – my choice. There’s no reason Adobe or anyone cant create a new IDE that leverages more powerful 3d tools and compile this down to something the flash player can play. Keep the player – expand the technology that can use it. After all it’s everywhere, its well known, its cute and it works. Adobe has already done this with Flash CS series and Flex. Yes they both use actionscript, but they are two separate apps that compile to the same player. People are willing to use whatever tool they need to to get the job done.
The Buyout Option
Quite frankly, it looks like the Unity team is doing just fine on their own. I’m not sure Adobe buying them would have such a positive effect. Yes it would stifle Adobe’s competition in this area, but it would potentially shake up Unity’s corporate culture in negative ways. Unity has a cool, young app here, so cool we have people buying Macs just to use it. And I know there are a bunch of flash developers just waiting to pounce once a PC version arrives. Yes, they are doing something right so let them flourish. Instead of buying them out, innovate.
The Bottom Line
New technologies that allow content creators to deliver more graphically intensive and powerful games and apps across the internet are emerging.
The Unity Web Player will overcome any instabilities and its content creation tools will go cross platform, attracting hundreds of thousands of developers aching for powerful web 3d in an instant.The Apple appstore reaches millions of customers and the iphone and iPod touch themselves outperform the graphic capabilities of flash on the desktop. The Flash player has excellent reach, easy of use and cross platform capabilities. What it lacks now is raw power and an expanded vision to compete with these new technologies.
The good news that while i see Unity 3D and Apple apps only continue to expand their marketshare and user base (which is a good thing), the same will be true with Flash if it addresses these concerns.