Thursday, May 1, 2008

Open Screen Project

I am writing and posting this early so Blazing Games has not been updated yet though I will be doing that this evening. I am going to be delaying my Light Box strategy guide again as there has been a rather interesting announcement today from Adobe. The Open Screen Project ( ) is the continuation of Adobe's open sourcing of Flash. The biggest part of the announcement, at least to me, is the removal of restrictions on the use of the SWF specification. SWF is the binary format that Flash and Flex compile into. The specifications for this format have been available for a long time (since Flash 3 if my memory serves me correctly) but the licensing agreement in order to use this specification did not allow the licensor to create their own player. This meant that an open source player, such as Gnash, were not able to use the official specifications but instead had to create their players using reverse engineering techniques making the work take significantly longer and reducing compatibility.

The reason that I am using flash for a good number of my games, and once the Ultimate Retro project is finished will probably develop all of my client side games in Flash/Flex, is because it is currently the best solution for rich internet applications. My biggest concern with Flash has always been the fact that it was controlled by a single company. Now that the specifications no longer have restrictions, this is no longer a fear. I know that some people will argue that Microsoft Silverlight is technically superior, I really do not trust Microsoft with a cross-platform standard as they tend to want to force people to use their Windows operating system. Sure they are supporting Macs right now and not threatening the Moonlight project, but that could change if Silverlight no longer had viable competition.

By having the open specification for SWF, I no longer have to worry about Adobe abandoning Flash/Flex (not that it was that likely at this point) so can develop my games without having to worry too much about them suddenly not working in the future. My only complaint at this time is the lack of proper 3D hardware support in Flash. While projects like Papervision 3D are quite impressive with what they can do using software 3D, support for an open 3D standard like OpenGL ES would greatly increase the power of Flash. That, of course, is a different rant which I have made before.

I should also probably point out that in addition to removing the restrictions from the SWF format, the FLV format was also released as was the Flash Cast protocol and the AMF protocol. Finally, Adobe is going to be removing licensing fees in the next major release of Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices meaning that Flash should be appearing on a lot more mobile platforms. From a Flash/Flex game developer's perspective, this is indeed great news today.

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