I have mixed feelings about the Flash community at the moment. At FlashForward, all the cool people get together and show off the crazy things and cool techniques they can do in Flash. The game industry has jaded my inner technophile. Pixel operations such as morphing of two images are nifty, but wasn’t that done in the mid 90’s on the desktop and even earlier in the research labs? One fellow showed off some crazy particle effects. They are certainly artistic, but the same basic stuff was being done on the Amiga and C64 in ages past. The demo scene for god sake…how can you forget the demo scene? It’s like someone playing Black and then claiming Criterion invented the FPS…because they never played that last decade worth of games.
Why the Web is cool
But complaining about the fact that Flash people think ancient technology is cool misses the whole point of Flash and web technologies in general. These platforms succeed based on two key points that the game industry might want to take to heart:
- Reduced barriers to entry for the customer
- Putting creative power in the hands of non-technical people.
- You don’t have to worry about a CD that you’ll inevitably lose.
- You don’t have to worry about putting something on your machine that will screw it up.
- You don’t have to worry about losing that silly application icon that gets lost in the crazy hierarchy of the Start Menu.
- You can type an easily remembered URL into your web browser and get to your stuff instantly.
From the author’s perspective, the benefits are equally cool.
- You do not need to be a technical expert. With a simple piece of software and bit of scrounging around the internet, anyone can just start making something. The 99% of the population who can’t code their way out of a paper bag can still make a blog. The 99% of artists who can code can still draw in flash and maybe even hook up a button or two. More passionate people working in a medium = better content. It is a simple thing.
- For many simple projects, configuration management, updating users about versions, etc, etc are a thing the past. Upload to a central location and your users get the newest stuff. The cost of maintaining content goes way down.
They use some simple drawing tools and the ability to navigate around. But that’s about it. No fancy pixel manipulation. No crazy XML integration. Just some basic tools and a lot of creative spark.
A pencil is a stick of graphite (but no body cares)
The best creative works are not only about technology. All artists have this pounded into their heads from an early age. A pencil is just a stick of graphite. It is cheap, readily available and easy to publish the results. It may not have the latest Gel Ink 5.0 technobabbloid writing engine. But that’s okay. Art is always about using what you have in a manner that inspires and entertains. The user doesn’t see a thousand flecks of graphite on a pressed sheet of paper fibers. They see a beautiful sketch by Leonardo.
The same goes for the web. The end user doesn’t care that Matt and Mike use Flash 5.0 instead of Flash 8.0. They could care less that the graphics technology behind Flicker or Google is 10 to 20 years old. These experiences are fun, hassle free. They showcase unique creative voices that may never have had a chance to blossom in other forms of media.
Imagine a day when two guys in an apartment working part time can make a world class game that garners more success than most big publisher properties. It has certainly happened in the past. The trends are such that it will happen again.
- As the middleware industry matures and morphs into artistically friendly tool
- As the deployment platforms become more standardized,
- As the language of game design becomes more accessible and broadly taught
- Production costs will fall and entry barriers to talented creative whackos will decrease.