I’ve probably worked harder over the last 12 months than I’ve ever done before, and that’s including my two year stint in the games industry. In fact, I’m not entirely sure where I’ve managed to find the time to update this blog at all, but I’m glad I have. And although some amazing opportunities have come my way, I can’t help but feel a tad deflated by many of the things that have happened to the Flash platform in that time. I’m not gonna dwell too much on the negatives though. On the whole it’s been a fantastic year for me personally, and I’ve got many exciting projects I’d like to undertake this year.
I’ll talk about my plans for 2012 in another post, but for now here’s a recap of what I managed in 2011:
Flash iOS Apps Cookbook
I’m excited to say that my book, Flash iOS Apps Cookbook, went off to the printers last week and will soon be available. It’s been quite an amazing experience and an opportunity I never thought I’d be given. The book’s been 13 months in the making and focuses on iOS development using Flash Professional CS5 & CS5.5.
In an attempt to make it as accessible to as many newcomers as possible I spent considerable time covering Apple’s dreaded provisioning process and explaining the fundamental steps for setting-up Flash to publish native iOS applications. By the end of the third chapter you’ll have made your first app and have it running on your iPhone. For those already familiar with these steps, there’s plenty on offer, including hardware accelerated rendering, utilizing native iOS text controls, and working with H.264 video. There’s also a whole chapter dedicated to tips and tricks for optimizing and converting desktop projects to mobile.
I’ll cover my book in more detail soon and plan to post frequently to support it over the coming twelve months.
I’ve enjoyed a very good year at work too. I was lucky enough to work on some exciting things, including a complete re-write of our WeeMee Avatar Builder, which is something I’ve been itching to do for almost five years now. The old version was bursting at the seams as it had to pre-load every single asset, which given our growing catalogue, was causing some pretty bad load times. That’s all resolved now, and thanks to the new architecture, everything loads in a jiffy. Yay!
Although we have a dedicated department of Objective-C programmers beavering away on cool iPhone games, we took the opportunity to try porting one of our web games to iPad using Flash. To be honest, so many negative things have been said about Flash’s performance on mobile that I don’t think anyone actually expected me to pull it off. However, after chipping away at it over the space of a fortnight, Doppelganger for iPad was born. Flash’s vector renderer really did prove to be invaluable for this project and the outcome was a game that ran silky smooth on both iPad 1 and 2.
I also documented many of the performance optimizations for those who are interested.
Bitmap graphics and sprite sheets are in. While it might seem like a backwards step for many used to Flash’s traditional display list and vector tools, there’s no denying that pushing textures to the GPU can produce some terrific results. Although writing my book left me with almost no spare time, I did manage to spend a week or so experimenting with the Starling framework. It was a lot of fun, particularly messing around with particles, and is something I hope to return to this year. I’m praying that Adobe’s Stage 3D support for iOS hits the mark and that Starling gets to a position where it’s optimized for mobile. In fact, Adobe really need to make sure this happens.
My X-wing Targeting Computer App
I swear this one could have made me rich. After years of trying, I finally come up with a good idea for a mobile app, only for George bloody Lucas of all people to put a stop to it. Typical. Well to be honest, it wasn’t George himself, but his licensing department.
Anyway, after trying to get permission to release my X-wing Targeting Computer app, I finally had to admit defeat and shelve the project. I’d originally tried some games companies with little luck before being given contact details for Lucas Licensing. Unfortunately they weren’t interested, leaving me with no option but to finish pursuing it. It was all a bit of a shame because the response regarding the app was so overwhelmingly positive that I was convinced I’d have no trouble getting it released.
Nevertheless, it was a great little project to work on and being famous on the web for 5 minutes was a lot of fun.
Adobe Dropping Flash Player for Mobile
If Adobe’s intentions were to drive as many people away from the Flash platform as possible then their decision to drop Flash player for mobile was a raging success. In fact, they’ve probably done a better job of it than Apple ever managed to do. To be honest, with Flash player indefinitely banned from iOS, it’s hard to argue against their decision. However, the way they communicated things was simply disastrous and has left a bitter taste with many Flash developers (or should that be ex-Flash developers).
While Flash player’s use on mobile phones was limited, I always thought it had promise on tablets. Some of the more recent tablets were managing some good playback performance and I felt things were heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, while the hardware will definitely be there in a year or two, HTML5’s rise to domination has meant that Adobe (and Flash mobile Player) have simply run out of time.
Finally, I took my first steps into the world of 3D graphics. I had been planning on spending some time with one of the many 3D engines built on top of Stage 3D, but my brother recommended I look at Unreal Development Kit (UDK) instead. I thought it was an odd suggestion at first but it has helped me to get to grips with many 3D concepts without getting bogged down in code – you can quite easily build 3D worlds entirely with drag and drop. Plus my brother has two years professional experience with Unreal Engine, making him a great help when I get stuck.
It’s early days for me, and I had to stop sooner than I’d like due to my book commitments, but I’m looking forward to picking up where I left off. I’m also quite excited about the Flash export options that will be making their way into UDK at some point.
Native iOS and Android Apps
We saw some nice apps released on mobile. A few of the stand-out ones included
Age of Defenders, Machinarium, Red Bull Illume HD, Rossignol Experience, and Tweet Hunt. It’ll be interesting to see what’s possible when Stage 3D eventually makes it to AIR for iOS and Android.
It’s Been a Good Year
So all in all, I’m happy with my achievements and feel that I’ve had a very successful and enjoyable year. Hopefully the next twelve months will be just as busy, and I promise I’ll try and update my blog more frequently.