Flash 10 Security Changes Good and Bad, Mostly Good (Full Screen Input, RTMFP, Clipboard, Local Save and Load)

Flash 10 security changes requiring user interaction are pretty breaking but they are for good reason.  Still though, the user could be inundated with prompts much like UAC on Vista. But, it is necessary otherwise security holes can be troublesome with the flash player and the “sandbox” of the web.  Much like Java signing, Active-X acceptance, and thus local file access, these actions need some user approval, it is that liability thing.

But what is a bit lost in this is some of the new support specifically for game development and app development.

Support for things like RTMFP which is bringing UDP support to flash.  UDP and reliable UDP (ordered) is really needed when it comes to larger scale networking applications and support for p2p apps.  Games for instance, that are large like MMOs and highly interactive real-time engines, need UDP to be able to scale.  So this is pretty useful, yet it currently looks like it is tied to Flash Media Server.  It appears Adobe is staying ahead of SmartFox, Red5 and OpenFMS with stuff like this.

Another great move in the way of security updates for Flash 10 for games is the allowing input from keyboard keys while in full screen mode. All these games and apps look pretty sweet in full screen until you try to use them.  There is only support for “Tab, the Spacebar, and the (up, down, left, right) arrow keys” but that is a start.  Enough keys for a casual game.  But still most keys could safely be used it must be a multi-platform support thing.

Limited full-screen keyboard input

Currently Flash Player does not allow keyboard input when displaying content in full-screen mode. Flash Player 10 beta will change this, allowing for a limited number of keys to be usable in full-screen mode. These include Tab, the Spacebar, and the (up, down, left, right) arrow keys.

Flash 10 is getting local save and load, this is great for any type of online editor, game or application. The ability to work on a file immediately without the server round trip initially is great.  I hope this is extended much further to local save and load with very high limits, there has been some confusion on the file size limitations here. Ideally this would be extended much further if the product direction is right. Typically making apps or games with more than 5-25MB of content quickly become non-economical in bandwidth such as gaming assets due to browser cache size limitations (defaults IE=50MB, Safari 5-25MB, FF3=50MB), I wish there was a better way to allow local saving for long periods of time.  Almost installing apps via flash with extended cache, talk about killer app feature. Downloading 10 MB of gaming assets that you know will be there for the month rather than the day.

Paste events can read the clipboard.  Using the clipboard is another great useful tool in applications and online editors.

Data can be read from the Clipboard inside a paste event handler

In Flash Player 9, the system Clipboard could not be read at any time. With Flash Player 10 beta, the new ActionScript 3.0 method Clipboard.generalClipboard.getData() may be used to read the contents of the system Clipboard, but only when it is called from within an event handler processing a flash.events.Event.PASTE event.

So yes, the security user interaction changes do break current features but it also takes this platform a bit more into secure applications and game features from security changes, hopefully these features are extended much further but they are on the right track.

Hardware of the Casual Gamer

Making great games, applications and tools using flash, silverlight or other tools that are emerging such as Unity3D takes great style, effort and knowing your target. We need to know what the end-user machine has at hand.  The Unity 3d guys put together a great post on the capabilities of casual gaming machines. With all the talk about flash 3d, unity3d and silverlight what level are you targeting and what group of people can actually PLAY your games as you envision.

Pretty much everyone knows Valve’s hardware survey – it’s a very valuable resource that shows what hardware the typical “hardcore PC gamer” has (that is, gamers that play Valve’s games).

However, the “casual gamer”, which is what Unity games are mostly targeted at, probably has slightly different hardware. “Slightly” being a very relative term of course.

Lo and behold – we have a glimpse into that data.

How? First time the Unity Web Player is installed, it submits anonymous hardware details (details in the EULA). This happens only once, and contains no personally identifiable information. It’s much like visitor statistics trackers on the websites that gather your OS, browser information and whatnot.

Remember, all this data is from people who installed Unity Web Player (most likely because they wanted to play some Unity content on the web). Hardware of standalone game players might be different, and hardware of your game’s players might be different as well. The data set is well over a million samples at the moment.

Check out the full stats here.

The most interesting stats to me:

OS Platforms

Windows 96.8%

Mac OS X 3.2%

CPU Core count overall

1 54.7%

2 44.1%

4 1.1%

8 .1%

Wow this one is surprising, but with the type of gamer that will play and download a quality new plugin to get to a game, maybe not.  They need to have the latest and greatest.  Multi-core processors have been selling for about 2-3 years so this is a continuing trend that will make Flash 3d and even plugins like Unity 3d better over the short term.

Also when you check it over at Unity Blog note the top cards, it is a bit painful if you are a casual gamer developer.  Not a decent card in the top 10-15. But that is changing rapidly over the next 1-2 years in this regard. But this also vyes well for flash based games that rely on dual core software rendered results right now as a decent constraint for developers to keep content painfully accessible to all states of machinery out there.

I wonder if this information is available on the flash player and public? This is specific to the Unity 3D plugin that is also a bit of a different market that is willing to install a plugin for better experiences.  With Flash it is usually preinstalled or auto updated for a casual user and might be different as Flash has a 98% penetration rate.  Or for that matter the Director users which would be more gaming focused which amout ot about 40% of internet users.  But as with the case of Unity it is specific to games right now and a small penetration rate, Flash is also apps, ads, tools, demos, interactives in addition to games.  Having this information on Flash or Director would be nice.

Google Tech Talk: Simple interactive 3D modeling for all – VideoTrace

3D models from basic video… This can be huge in all sorts of ways.  For exponential growth you need to go virtual.

  • This is a technology called VideoTrace from Australia
  • The Siggraph paper describing VideoTrace is available here (pdf 6MB)
  • Larger videos available here, with a more compressed version here.

Andre Michelle Brings It with Audiotools and Re-Makes Rebirth Alive and Better with AS3 Flash and Java

If you ever were a fan of Rebirth and Rebirth 2, this was a music kit that had two 303s, a 909 and an 808 kick drum (beastie says mmmmmm-m-m drop!).  Well Andre Michelle has re-ignited that awesomeness and upped it with the Audio Tools from hobnox!.

This not only has the famed 808, 909 and 303 (conveniently covered with stickers of love) but also sorts of channel mixers, pedals and sweet interface that mimics the inputs and outputs as well as customization on nearly every aspect of the audio creation with these tools. Use your mouse to move things around, connect ins and outs and move the whole setup around.

This setup on about 80 bpm and a little tinkering is groovy.

I think I just found my new batcave evil genius code monkey theme music

Apparently Andre and Joa made some noise and now you can too.  Also I noticed that some of it is in java for the sound output.  I wonder if Adobe missed an opportunity here in audio with flash, which will change probably in Flash 10 due to the Make Some Noise Adobe campaign and Tinic Uro for listening.  But for now have some fun. It is hard to find something that doesn’t sound good in the 80-90 bpm range.

AS3 Library and LibraryManager for Assets and Other AS3 Utilities

Tink posted a great library manager for using external assets in your flash projects. When you start getting deep in projects you end up either having to roll your own that might end up being project specific, or you can just grab this from Tink and it is nice and standardized now for you.

Here’s and example of our Library & LibraryManager classes that we use in some of our Flex and AS 3.0 projects to manage our external assets stored in SWF’s.

The classes enabled you to create multiple libraries of embedded (retaining and giving access to code) or loaded SWF’s.

You can create instance of Library wherever you want, but you can also create them through the LibraryManager giving you a single class to gain access to all your Library instances.

As you develop more and more flash/flex projects with AS3 these types of utilities come in handy. Another that comes to mind is Arthur Debert’s BulkLoader and polygonal labs Data Structures for Game Developers that are all great kits.

Add Tink’s Library and LibraryManager to your arsenal today! Thanks Tink.

Amazing New Feature for Flash 10 – FileReference Runtime Access

I have been consuming all the great additions to Flash 10 this weekend and one that really jumps out after you get past the visual, text and sound features (which are spectacular btw and most of what the community was asking for). But one feature snuck by, this is the one that ByteArray (Thibault Imbert) mentions/pointed out for managing files directly within Flash.

File Reference runtime access — Bring users into the experience by letting them load files into your RIA. You can work with the content at runtime and even save it back when you are done through the browse dialog box. Files can be accessed as a byteArray or text using a convenient API in ActionScript without round-tripping to the server. You no longer have to know a server language or have access to a server to load or save files at runtime.

This greatly lowers the bar to using Flash as a photo editor, document manager, customized application experiences, marking up content and saving locally, all without the need for server side script. I am a big fan of server side technologies and develop with them but even for bettering performance this could be huge.

Scenarios where this might be useful is editing applications, note taking (download a book with your notes), editors for docs/games/3d/textures,,, the possibilities are endless really.

Flash 9 just got mainstream and production ready (flash 9 penetration) at the tail end of last year but there are so many great things in the new version that I hope it comes out very soon. Flash it turning into quite a platform.

Alternativa Platform also has updated their engine for Flash 10 already (they must have had some inside early accessibility to it) and there are great possibilities here.

It is only beta (Flash 10) but there are great market opportunities to prepare for when this launches. Keep your eye on where the puck will be, not where it is currently at. I was concerned when Adobe bought Macromedia and the future of Flash but it appears they are taking this bull by the horns.

If you are ready to play with Flash 10 here is Flex and FlashDevelop updates to help you get started.

Also here is some code posted at ByteArray from Pleh for testing the new FileReference runtime access, usage is extremely simple and rests on this

var data:ByteArray = fileRef['data'];

/*
  FileReference Load Example By Pleh 17/05/08
*/

package {
	import flash.display.Loader;
	import flash.display.Sprite;
	import flash.events.Event;
	import flash.events.MouseEvent;
	import flash.net.FileReference;
	import flash.net.FileFilter;
	import flash.utils.ByteArray;

	public class Flash10Test extends Sprite
	{
		private var fileRef:FileReference;

		public function Flash10Test()
		{
			fileRef = new FileReference();
			fileRef.addEventListener(Event.SELECT, selectFile);
			fileRef.addEventListener(Event.OPEN, openFile);
			stage.addEventListener(MouseEvent.CLICK,stageClick);
		}

		private function selectFile(e:Event):void {
			fileRef['load']();
		}

		private function openFile(e:Event):void {
			var data:ByteArray = fileRef['data'];
			var loader:Loader = new Loader();
			loader.loadBytes(data);
			addChild(loader);
		}

		private function stageClick(e:Event):void{
			fileRef.browse([new FileFilter("All Formats (*.jpg,*.gif,*.png,*.swf)", "*.jpg;*.gif;*.png;*.swf", "JPEG;jp2_;GIFF;SWFL")]);
		}

	}
}

as3Query – Actionscript Port of jQuery

This is older, from january, somehow I missed it but… nitoyon has created an AS3 port of jQuery. jQuery is my favorite javascript tool besides javascript itself. Mootools, prototype, and others like mochikit are all great but jQuery was the first to do lambda chain decorating and others followed suit.

But having this power in as3 is a great thing! $ selectors, common access methods to properties, methods, etc. All good stuff. Again this shows the fun in as3 or ES4 based languages like Actionscript because people are porting all sorts of libraries to it. If this performs I may just start using it daily TODAY!

For instance setting the stage align for use in full screen:

$(stage).attr({scaleMode: "noScale", align: "TL"});

That is too fun… The only thing not cool about this is all the spam at nitoyon‘s blog : )

How about a functional Tweener call:

function animate(f:Boolean):void {
				// Select 'RoundRect' elements using CSS selector
				$("RoundRect:" + (f ? "odd" : "even"))
					.addTween({
						rotation: 90,
						scaleX: 0.5,
						scaleY: 0.5,
						time: 0.6,
						delay: 0.3,
						transition: "easeOutCubic"
					})
					.addTween({
						scaleX: 1,
						scaleY: 1,
						time: 0.5,
						delay: 0.9,
						transition: "easeOutElastic",
						onComplete: function():void {
							// restore the rotation and call again.
							this.rotation = 0;
							animate(!f);
						}
					});
			}
			animate(false);

Stuff to see and try

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