Nov 152011
 

As you know, Adobe dropped the Flash Player for mobile platforms last week which caused a great uproar in the Flash community and in part in the wider technology community so I think it’s important to let you know where Tetragon is heading from now and what my thoughts are about the whole mess that Adobe has caused with their announcement.

The problem isn’t really that the mobile Flash Player was terminated, it’s the loss of trust in Adobe that comes with it. Adobe’s de facto monopoly claim on the Flash platform has always been a risk lurking at the horizon and now it has come close enough to bite us in the rear end. Adobe, keen on HTML5 like the rest of the internet committee, by now seems quite willing to throw Flash out of the window easily in exchange for jumping on the bandwagon of HTML5 hype. The signs that they are giving are quite clear. But have they asked the Flash programmers if we actually want to have Flash exchanged with HTML5. Of course they didn’t! All of a sudden some Flash devs seem to be strangely attracted by HTML5 and Javascript while others have a more exotic view toward the nature of the internet. I however have to be completely honest with you, I never will be attracted by HTML5 as a programming solution.

For the last ten years I have been a Flash developer, Flash made me learn programming, it made me learn OOP, then it made me learn to hate the Spaghetti coding of ActionScript 1 and love ActionScript 2 and then it made me learn to love ActionScript 3 a loathe ActionScript 2. Flash gave me easy access to learn a professional programming language for creating games. That’s what I always wanted to do. I learned to love ActionScript’s clean and typed syntax and it’s compact distribution form as compiled and compressed binaries. Flash and in particular AIR provided everything I ever wanted for game development, sans hardware 3D but we got that recently, too.

Now enter HTML5 and Javascript! It’s a bunch of untyped, loose and inconsistent stuff at best. It’s the most farthest away thing from a classic programming paradigm and it’s everything I never wanted to touch since I learned programming. With Javascript you get something that is at the level of ActionScript 1 without strong typing, loads of dynamic object access, no classes or packages and a clutter of files that lie around openly on your server. HTML isn’t even a programming language, it’s a markup that reminds me back in horror on the early days of the internet where there was an era during that I used this stuff. I don’t really care whether the code files are easily accessible and can be stolen, that can be done with Flash too. I just don’t like the awkwardness and fragmentation of HTML5′s and Javascript’s nature.

Instead, the reason why I love working with Flash is because of the clearness of ActionScript 3 and because it’s a brilliant write-once distribute anywhere multi-platform approach with a nicely compiled release format. You don’t get this with HTML5, nor with any other platform.

Another big deal is the Open-Sourcing of the Flex framework. Quite honestly I’m not sure what to make of this one. Flex for the web is clearly unsuitable by now. HTML5 is taking over the RIA world and I have no problem with it. The Flash platform isn’t accessible enough to provide well integrated apps on the web. It’s strength are clearly defined in other areas. But the Flex framework is a very attractive solution for building desktop and mobile apps via AIR and Adobe has added several mobile-optimized UI components to the framework just recently. The open-sourcing of the Flex framework in my opinion is far more concerning than the end of the Mobile Flash Player.

How will all this affect Tetragon? For now this doesn’t affect the development of Tetragon at all. The Desktop Flash Player is still with us and hopefully for quite a while longer. But it’s easy to see where Adobe is heading with this. They are following suit with the popularity of the HTML5 dictate and want to jump on the band-wagon as quick as possible. Collateral damage doesn’t seem to matter for them. Neither does it seem to matter for their CEOs and marketing managers that JS and HTML is one giant jumble of incoherent, unoptimzed mess that lacks any OOP structure and that no decent game developer on earth wants to code with.

After that we still have the AIR platform for desktop and mobile apps and as long as the AIR platform continues to exist there is absolutely nothing in the way of Tetragon’s development. AIR is extremely attractive for game developers who want to deploy to the desktop and mobile platforms with the same code base and that is clearly one of Tetragon’s goals. Time will tell how Adobe progresses with the AIR platform but I hope they don’t spoil that one too.

But what if Adobe messes up completely and kills AIR and with that the whole Flash platform (as stupid as this may seem)? In that case I guess for me it’s either time to step back from this all for a while and concentrate on some other game design- and game development-related things or concentrate wholly onto another technology like C#, C++, haXe or even Objective-C, maybe even Python. The problem however remains: None of these technologies provide an attractive and compact multi-platform solution like the Flash platform does.

There is one thing that I can guarantee you that is never going to happen: me starting to develop with HTML or Javascript.