Flash Player 10 Officially Released

Mike Chambers posted that Flash Player 10 is officially live. This completes your 1-2 punch of RIA/game platform releases of Silverlight and Flash this week.

We have just released the shipping version of Flash Player 10 (Mac, Windows and Linux). You can find more information on all of the new features on the Flash Player product page.

You can download the player for Mac, Windows and Linux players from here.

You can grab debug and standalone players from here.

You can grab the release notes from here.

Flash Player 10 is great news. There are so many things in it from a new data structure (Vector), to local FileReference, to Matrix and 3D helpers, to speed improvements and video enhancements being able to play other video types and more (this was actually in a late version of flash player 9 as well but will be used more here). It does take time for flash versions to get out in the wild, about 9 months to where they are in the 90%-95% range where you can convince people to use it in production, but getting those skills now is good.  The scripting platform is still Actionscript 3 so anyone still making Flash Player 8 and AS2 stuff is now two revolutions behind.

Another thing I am looking forward to soon (next week) that is missing from both Flash and Silverlight, is the ability to develop for the iPhone, which Unity3D is dropping the iPhone kit on Oct 22nd. Unity3D has effectively taken Director’s 3d game development (hardware accelerated) market lead away this year and late last year and is a great platform. Director who?

Lots of great tools and platforms to create the innovative new applications, games and markets that are so needed right now. Go create!

Silverlight 2 Released

Silverlight 2 has been released. This is the real silverlight release.  The release last year 1.0 was just a javascript release and only had one object, the downloader, not even a text input.  But now there are real tools like rich ui controls, services support (REST), DLR (C#, Linq, ironpython/ruby) and Sockets which are much needed for games and game platform development.

There are also much better tools at this stage:

Bam. Silverlight 2 is out. There’s the expected stuff, like the final SDK, Expression, and Silverlight tools:

And from Tim’s blog:

But there’s also http://www.eclipse4sl.org/. Yes, that means you can code Silverlight in Eclipse. Details and progress at the Eclipse Tools for Silverlight Blog. It’ll be licensed under the EPL 1.0 License.

I have done lots of Silverlight initially when 1.0 came out as well as the agency I was working at.  We did video players, mini-games, demo apps and even the Halo 3 online manual at silverlight.net.  But it wasn’t really ready until now.  It still has a long way to go to really be an alternative to Flash but it is capable platform at version 2 for applications, mini-games and video apps for sure. But in the end it just provides competition to make both the Flash/Flex platforms and Silveright compete for developer support.

Google Now in the Casual Game Ads Market

Google has entered the flash gaming ads market.  Right now that is pretty much owned by MochiAds for flash game devleopers at least pre-game ads anyways.  Advertising can be annoying but MochiAds has pulled it off where the ads are usually advertising other games or interesting things and it monetizes game development for Flash, Unity3D, Director and others, which is a win.  There are many flash gaming sites that are great fun that use ads almost stylistically like Nitrome and typically the ads are pretty fast when they are during the game loading.

Although advertisements in games have long been a scurge on gamers fun when they are trying to insert them into fat client, immersive MMOGs where it totally takes away from the experience, that doesn’t work.

What does work is stuff like MochiAds and possibly Second Life type sponsorships, where advertisements are almost nostalgic or fun and integrated. Developers and publishers have to make money somehow, the better the experience the more impactful and the more games for all. The key is making the integration a good user experience.

We shall see how Google plans to do this.  This might go along with their Lively strategy. The ad market entrance in games is possibly what started the rumors that Google was going to buy Valve for Steam, rumors which quickly died down.

Anyways, the one good thing about this announcement is advertisments go to where the eyes and crowds are going or already at, they are apparantly going massively to online web games and causal experiences make for easy advertisment integration. TV, Radio and many other industries have been supported by advertisement interest due to consumers using and buying the content.  So online gaming is just another one of those entertainment industries and it will grow further with this news.

haXe 2.01 Now with Flash 10 Support

Photobucket

Nicolas Cannasse has released haXe 2.01 that now has flash 10 support with a simple switch including the new Vector class.

Another very good news is that haXe has now complete support for Flash 10.
You only have to use -swf-version 10 as commandline parameter to be able to access the new Flash10 APIs (don’t forget to install first the FP10 from labs.adobe.com).

I think it is very possible for haXe to catch on big time, but it takes time as stated. Just remember that Python was worked on almost solely by Guido van Rossum for about 5-years, and then 10-years later it was picked up by Google heavily and the rest is history.  I think it takes 10 years for anything to really catch on from standards to languages.

code_swarm – Python from Michael Ogawa on Vimeo.

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 Revisited from Unity3d Creators

A few weeks ago the makers of Unity3d released some really valuable information about casual gaming and general hardware of users that play online games.  It was an interesting report and very beneficial to developers on the Unity platform and others.  We wish other plugin makers would do the same in such a thorough method.

Unity 3d creators listened to the market and have now posted updated numbers and information as well as a page that quarterly stats will be updated. Check the new, quarterly, hardware of the casual gamer stats.

I would have seen this earlier but I have been deep in a Unity 3d project myself :).  I am a big fan of all web based gaming platforms and Unity is almost a dream come true for 3d web gaming.  For the company to be this open that is a very good sign.

What can you do with Unity3D?  Here is a list of games made with Unity3D on the web.  The one great thing about this platform is that is was made for gaming specifically from the start.  Simulations and game development with Unity3D is very fun and productive. I still love Flash, Director etc but Unity3D development is now very much in my rotation.

Games made with Unity3D:

Hancock Movie Games

Tennis Stars Cup

Duckateers

Temploe (ninjas attack you)

RC Laser Warrior

Urban Race Star

FlashBang studios

TraceON

EPIC Tower Defense

InvinciCar

Besmashed (multi)

Global Conflicts

Phoenix Final

Doom Siege

Mario Galaxy like run (third one down)

Zombie Drive

Pocket Piglets

ChickenDemo

Castle Conquest

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.

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")]);
		}

	}
}

AS3 Creative Papervision 3D Flash Games

Recently on the papervision lists there have been some really creative uses of pv3d in games. I will highlight two here:

The Bowling Buddies game is made by the very creative Playfish.com company (more on the release at their blog). They have some great facebook/social network games combined with flash. With bowling buddies they created a game similar to Wii bowling (even with customize characters) and the best part is how they have scaled down versions. You can play in 2D, 3D and at different levels of quality to make it accessible to everyone. I think that will probably be needed with 3d flash games (Shockwave Director has LOD (Level of Detail) that helps with scaling down to slower machines but you have to do that yourself with the state of 3d engines in flash so far).

Bowling buddies and most playfish games are Facebook/Social Network based. You might say, why? (especially if you aren’t in the US where facebook is the biggest social network). But even Activision’s CEO calls facebook a threat to online gaming as we know it, this is because of the community aspect and the ability to play with friends and multiplayer games easily. Rather than setting up your own player find mechanism, facebook has it built in and all the viral aspects you need to garner more fans. So those into facebook and gaming are possibly ahead, but also it will be extremely competitive.

[ try bowling buddies ]

Airship is a really creative game that has been impressive to watch grow over the last weeks. It is now textured and performs pretty well. The best part is the Airship model and the fans. Very neat and I hope this one is seen through to a launched game. It is a bit like a RTS/Strategy overhead game that would be very cool to play multiplayer with Red5 server as well (just need the TIME!).

[ try airship demo ]

The best part is you can see after a year+ of release papervision and the other 3d engines are really changing the way gaming is done online. What was once a Java or Shockwave only capability, flash now has with evolving 3d engines, and there are playable fun games to prove it that are commercial ready.

Get your game on!

Adobe Opens Flash Format Specifications for SWF, AMF and Flash Video FLV (Open Screen Project)

Adobe is taking the inside lane in the industry it seems with the Open Screen Project. What does this mean? It seems like SWF and FLV formats are now largely open and licenses removed. With the XFL format possibly on its way (probably based on mxml) to replace closed .FLA files it is pretty clear that Adobe and Flash will see a large uptick in the mindshare. As well as looking to create a broader mobile platform for the flash player.

The Open Screen Project will address potential technology fragmentation by enabling the runtime technology to be updated seamlessly over the air on mobile devices. The consistent runtime environment is intended to provide optimal performance across a variety of operating systems and devices, and ultimately provide the best experience to consumers.

To support this mission, and as part of Adobe’s ongoing commitment to enable Web innovation, Adobe will continue to open access to Adobe Flash technology, accelerating the deployment of content and rich Internet applications (RIAs). This work will include:

  • Removing restrictions on use of the SWF and FLV/F4V specifications
  • Publishing the device porting layer APIs for Adobe Flash Player
  • Publishing the Adobe Flash® Cast™ protocol and the AMF protocol for robust data services
  • Removing licensing fees – making next major releases of Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free

This is big. It has mutiple prongs. Adobe would like to make Flash a common mobile standard, hrm no Apple on this list (it is probably a slight move there against that).

Adobe would also like to continue their lead of web video. And they finally are recognizing the closed format of SWF is not as desirable as an open one, there is still considerable control for Adobe over the player. But they get insights and contributions from many large companies to help make it work on their platform, engraining the format further. The providers, especially mobile and internet tv, will want to provide good user experiences to compete with the iPhone and regular T.V. respectively. Flash being open helps both of those markets.

Adobe is also moving further to open source key formats and technologies like the recent Flex 3 SDK and now the AMF format which was a roadblock. This is probably good news for servers like Red5 and also many other media servers and remoting services in many more place. AMF is particularly nice because it is a binary, extremely compact and limited bloat format. Without it being open it loses much of its benefit as a standard. Being open and a further crunching from the XML bloat services, this can be very good for many reasons such as throughput and faster services, apps and games with remote data.

Another reason is the desktop market. They want Flash to work flawlessly on Linux but they don’t’ have the manpower for a 2% market share. So this is a very smart move for the desktop players (AIR, and Linux Flash).

The only thing that partially makes it scary is the line up, Sony, Verizon, etc. As long as these are contributors and not partners in DRM crime then we have something. Hopefully they are in it to make better entertainment and mobile platforms cheaper.

Being able to peer into the code and a move to allow better open integration makes it a better platform, where better stuff can be built on top of that. Let’s hope it is done right. Everyone is making Apple look really closed and locked down lately.

AS3 Flash 3D Engine Alternativa Platform Drops A Nuke – Isometric and FPS

This will blow you away. Found first via mrdoob (with quantum rss reading capability, before the message is concieved mrdoob is there).

Alternativa Platform, previously Alternativa Game, launched their Alternativa Platform milestone 1 and really one demo would have been enough but there are some great demos there that literally put them what appears a couple laps up on the 3d FPS style engine in Flash.

The engine is highly optimized and smooth, heavy on the processor, but using the ‘t’ key you can see some nice revealing triangle rendering. Also, playing with the field of view adds for some nice game effects. (try jumping on the fans in the half-life like room in the first demo)

Check the textures

See the Matrix

Get superpowers

From Above, Isometric

Here is what is to come from the platform:

Congrats to the Russian based Alternativa Platform, the world is watching.

PyAMF 0.3 Released and Sample on Google App Engine

A great Action Message Format (AMF) remoting kit for server side for the pythonistas is pyAMF, they recently released PyAMF 0.3 and have a sample running up on Google App Engine. There is also a tutorial for getting PyAMF running on Google App Engine. Aral Balkan got this running as well.

Features of pyAMF currently:

More on the PyAMF library:

TweenMax Bezier Tweening Released for AS2 and AS3 by Jack at GreenSock – And List of Animation Kits

TweenMax (Speed Test) has been released that adds a main feature missing from GreenSock’s offerings in tween animation libraries and kits over Tweener. That is the bezier curve tween. Tweener is very popular for use in PV3d and AS3 due to the bezier curve and Zeh’s great example that is really the base of a possible 3d editor. TweenMax now adds this and bezier tween capability for the GreenSock animation libraries.

Tweener and TweenLite have become the micro animation kits as well as micro kits you can make with Go base kits. TweenLite, TweenFilterLite and TweenMax divided up into different kits allows it to be embedded for banners or small assets easier if you don’t need the filters or other advanced tweens (this comes into play heavily with large games and asset collections when the compiled SWF each need the library). Tweener packs all features into one kit for simplicity. GreenSock kits are divided up for need. The comparison together is about the same but for basic tweens TweenLite is only 2k.

Performance is one area that the kits from GreenSock have really shined and since the addition of the speed tests and benchmarks it has become a great focus on showing how the open source kits are much better than bloated included animation calls in Flash and Flex defaults. I think all the kits have niches that they fit and Tweener and TweenLite are just very simple to use which adds alot to an animation kit success.

List of Animation Kits for AS3 (some for AS2 as well)

If you are using the Flex of Flash default animation classes, I am sorry…

AS3 Nascar Game By mr. doob – AS3 Flash Library Mashup

I have been one upped by mr. doob! I did a little nascar like RC pro am like prototype in march ’07 when the pv3d kit showed up on my screen and I was hooked like most suceptible flashers who have longed for 3d in flash! Only my version is like Nintendo64 and his is like xbox360 with updated effects and physics kits and some doob magic. All these are based off of, of course the original race car driver in Papervision and its creator Carlos Ulloa (Adobe should be paying this man).

To the feature! This is a sweet game by mr. doob, called burn and brag for Nascar.

Now I don’t’ particularly like Nascar all that much but who doesn’t like to peel out to some fiddlin’? I mainly do Nascar stuff because it is highly marketable and like the only answer most ad agencies have for getting the southern us markets it seems, that and c-o-u-n-t-r-y mu-si-c (must be said at a slower rate).

But I digress, this is a perfect mix of advertisment, game play, fun and experience. It is fast, simple, and playable. Exactly the simplicity and smoothness needed of gameplay and playback.  Great ad work but it also gives something fun to do and best of all it is built in AS3 flash with a plethora of libraries from the flash as3 community.

The game platform is emerging fantastically in the AS3 market. mrdoob used these kits to build this:

It would be cool to see a post on how he did the replays with tweener – I imagine just a series of points collected with car state (current position state) and then just play them back with a call back or time delay. You’d have to capture alot for smooth playback without laggy movements.  I am working on multiplayer games with this same issue for a current project.

Game on! The question is when will this be SOTD or SOTM at thefwa.com?