Replacing Flash

As you may notice, it’s been a while since my last post on here… as in, a LONG while. Aside from having been busy at work and busy in life, my single biggest motivation killer for writing to a blog called “Flash Makes Games” has been the fact that I don’t really work with Flash anymore.

Two years ago I had a full-time job building Flash media by day, and a side project by night of building a Flash game of epic proportions (see “What Makes You Tick: A Stitch in Time“). Two years later, I’m still at the same job but now working almost exclusively with HTML5 multimedia as a data visualization graphics specialist. And quite frankly, I’m as happy as I ever have been at my job.

I guess I’m one of the long-time Flash supporters who’s okay with it going the way of the dodo as web browsers mature. To be honest, the Adobe AIR platform fell far short of my expectation while releasing Stitch, and since then I’ve been disappointed to see the Flash IDE getting clunkier and Flash Player pushing updates with invasive messaging. All gripes aside though, developing in a web browser also eliminates many of Flash’s traditional inconveniences without introducing a significant quantity of new ones. Gone are the fixed frame size limitations, the tedious pixel-pushing of static layouts, and the inconvenience of UI components. While cross-browser compatibility is arguably trickier without Flash, that’s getting continually easier as we phase out support for older browsers. In the past year, I’ve been finding and using increasingly more HTML5 replacements for traditional Flash features… some noteworthy swaps:

  • Canvas tag: everything you could want out of a dynamic graphics package. It provides awesome capabilities for dynamic drawing and image compositing.
  • SVG/VML: almost a direct replacement for the Flash drawing API when interfaced through a library like Raphael, and works back to IE6!
  • HTML/CSS: these are often overlooked as a graphics platform. You can render surprisingly complex graphics just using lines, boxes, and images.
  • Video tag: REALLY good. Flash video will likely be remembered as an overcomplicated solution to a very simple problem.
  • Audio tag: Good theory, but has a ways to go for rapidly-instanced audio clips in my opinion. I still miss Flash here. Hopefully Google Chrome’s audio API will knock browser audio capabilities up a few more notches.
  • JavaScript/jQuery: aside from jQuery being generally slick and easy to use, it also solves the cross-browser consistency issue that Flash has long been a crutch for.

So that’s my two cents on the migration away from Flash. Overall, this feels like another natural step in the on-going evolution of multimedia: there was Hypercard, then Director, then Flash, and now HTML5. If you look at the timeline, each technology had about a decade before its predecessor matured to the point of being a viable replacement. Why resist the progression? That said, I hope to be posting some JavaScript-focused articles in the coming months relating to some of the work I’ve been doing recently (for a sneak peek, you can find me on GitHub).

And I guess I’ll have to think up a new name for the blog…

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