Where is Adobe going with flash – “After-Max” conclusions

Great Products

First of all I need to say Adobe is producing excellent products and they are doing some amazing progress on creative products, collaboration and tools to get the open web in a creative direction. I love what you do for photo/image, video editing, responsive web, html5 animation tools and 3D tools – its all great I really love it – that being said…

But what about game developers…

I had a chance to talk to Renaun Erickson (Flash Evangelist at Adobe) at Adobe MAX and the general feeling is that JS is the way ahead for Flash – Starling, Feathers, Away3D and Scout is doing the JS … and Adobe’s foresight is that games on mobile/tablets will eventually move away from the appstore and into the mobile browser…

As I see it, and many other game developers I talked to at MAX see it, this is BS… for one good reason – kids don’t know what Safari/ the browser is on tablets or mobile – the browser on tablets is for pure information such as food recipes, weather reports and to some extend shopping – in other words: adult stuff, you need to read and write to be able to use.

also read my blog post: The real usecase of mobile browser games 

Kids at the age of 3, know how to work the app store – and yes we need that password – if the games move to the browser, it’s going to be the wild west regarding in-app purchases and security –

And it’s good to have all the games at one reliable place…

Starling feathers and Away3D is working on a js version – but they agree that WebGL is needed for this to work in practice – my feeling is that Adobe disagrees on that…
Daniel Sperl from Starling said – “WebGL coming to mobile Safari – is the critical turning point” – by this he is suggesting that js for now is not optimal for games in the mobile browser – this is a feeling that Rob from Away3D shares … so as I see it, Adobe haven’t even got the right support from their own supported frameworks…

and besides that, webGL is not coming to mobile Safari – it is against Apples business strategy, like the way it was for Flash…

lets look at where we can expect WebGL working today:  http://caniuse.com/webgl

The fact is, JS language was not meant for 100.000 lines projects..

Some of the most skilled game developers who embrace html5 agrees that html5 is not ready for games (bigger than a lab demo) or will be within the next 3 years – and this is only the tech – after that comes the adoption rate of the general users and devices.

“The Flash-player is the single most used piece of software in the world” – even Microsoft wanted a plugin-free browser on Windows 8 – but had to change directions because of massive crowd wanting flash. And now that the Flash plugin is silent updating – makes the software broader and even more invisible than html5 sites that suggest the user to download a new browser… – where are we at? who is right and who is wrong? – the end user doesn’t care… pixels are pixels… it just have to work – who gets the job done best? – “yes probably Unity3D – but not by far” – but who reaches the widest audience ? – Flash does…

At the end of the day, the gaming community moves in a Flash direction, Adobe moves in a JS direction – so to sum up : Flash on desktop is the most consistent and reliable platform, and yes it still reaches a way bigger audience than html5 (even without WebGL) – Flash games on mobile is deployed as the most popular formfactor for games: an app in the appstore – then why is Adobe strolling away from what makes Flash a successful gaming platform ?

Who is screaming for a plugin-free browser or html5 ? executives, salespeople, decision makers and frontend developers. Who is using Adobes products ? The creatives and game developers – if you ask any skilled frontend developer, they say that they use all kinds of non Adobe products for their working environment – so who are Adobe really trying to please here ? People who want Adobe to move in a html5 direction, but don’t use their products and won’t use their products.

If you ask the general user today why they would want a plugin free browser, most of them would say – “whoa?” – if you ask the creatives that use Adobes products, they would say “what ever gets the job done, and looks the best” – many decision-makers even turn to Flash because of “time to market” issues – most project managers who have worked on both Flash and html5 projects, will most likely turn to Flash because of crossbrowser pains – “what ever gets the job done in time…” – and yes we need to reach mobile – but there are no laws against having a html mobile site – that even drives SEO underneath Flash – this will most likely have the same “time to market” or even better as to dealing with cross-browser issues on responsive site – and nobody questions the creative gap the html5 hype has created… the creatives remember when the limits were fewer – but nobody dares to talk about it – because “we have so many possibilities with html5 now -its great…” right? – I tend to think of it, as a browser plugin witchhunt.

If you ask any flasher or animator what they think of Adobe edge, it is definitely a vague answer they will come up with… the tool is great at what it can do but it’s just so far from what we want in terms of features and final reach (no IE and in many cases not good with mobile either) – and the frontend developers I talk to don’t trust the code output – most of them want to do the animation themselves with jquery – so the animation skillset is somewhat moving from the animators to the developers them self – unless tools like Egde Animate will be embraced by both parties… like a hi-five that ends up as a fake scratchon the back…

I personally think Adobe egde and reflow looks very promising – get some creative hands on those html5 projects, is the right direction – but if the developers won’t embrace the tools in a professional working environment. then we are back to “project flash catalyst” which was a huge failure because of the same reasons, devs wanted to write their own code

Regarding Unity and flash

Isn’t it clear Unity has their own upcoming web-plugin to maintain and they are moving into 2D games, so at the end of the day – Flash has become a more direct competitor… as of Job’s “Thoughts on Flash” – it’s all business – and if they can start some hype about Flash is dead – it will most definitely gain their cause …

“Flash Player Next”

The Unity guys most likely had some hopes for Flash player NEXT – I think all game developers did… but Adobes focus went in the JS direction – so first Adobe wanted Flash to become a robust game engine – and then they shifted their focus to JS – so they pissed of the game development community to please whom ?
– Adobe has a huge community of game-developers whom they are trying hard to dump on the Unity platform… do they even see the facts?

So who IS actually killing Flash ?

Here is a possible and realistic roadmap on where Adobe is taking the platform in comparison to it’s two greatest rivals Unity3D and HTML5

Possible Roadmap for Adobe Flash

But if Flash were to survive AND thrive – Adobe needs to show commitment and implement Flash Player NEXT and ActionScript4 as a fullblown, zero bottlenecked, gaming engine – disregarding any internal backwards compatibility, coorporate decisions that are holding Flash Player NEXT down. And besides that start working on some serious Unity3D compatible Stage3D tooling in Flash Professional – and we are talking 3D scene workflow + Animation timeline (like the authoring tool away3D is working on). And spritesheet animation tooling (like DragonBones) – all inside Flash Pro. And as a nice to have: A mid/hi-level shader language – so we can start doing some crazy BitmapData manipulations on the GPU without having to write raw GLSL. Already missing the displacementMap filter – I wish I could pull that onto the Stage3D context with very low performance impact – all this would change the roadmap like this:

Theoretic Roadmap for Adobe Flash if they want to survive and thrive

As I have talked to Adobe on MAX, in my opinion you will get two different “Thoughts on flash”. If you listen to Tom Krcha vs Renaun Erickson, it says a great deal about the confusing message Adobe is sending unintended.

– sorry Adobe … sweet love – try not to stumble on you own visions…

Here are 2 – great sessions that I can recommend watching

Andrew Phelps: Case Study: Creating Game Engines in WebGL and Stage3D:

http://tv.adobe.com/watch/max-2013/case-study-creating-game-engines-in-webgl-and-stage3d/

Mastering Multiplayer Stage3D and AIR Game Development for Mobile Devices – Frima Games

http://tv.adobe.com/watch/max-2013/mastering-multiplayer-stage3d-and-air-game-development-for-mobile-devices/

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34 thoughts on “Where is Adobe going with flash – “After-Max” conclusions

  1. Well said. It was pretty sad going to MAX hoping to learn about upcoming features for us Flash game developers to use and end up feeling like Adobe is abandoning us. Professor Phelps said it best when he said “The HTML5 hype has exceeded reality.” I think HTML5 will be great for game developing in 3-5 years. Right now, however, it sucks.

    I have developed in Flash for around 5 years and Unity for only 6 months. It’s sad that going to Adobe’s own conference makde me want to abandon Flash and spend my time getting better with Unity.

    1. thanks Joseph, just read your blog post – and I totally agree on this quote from your post:

      “I want to be very clear about this: I am all for Adobe working to improve web standards through tooling, VM, and W3C contributions. ABSOLUTELY! But it is a DAMN shame that they feel the need to sacrifice their own platform in order to do this. I share in the general sense of frustration and anger around this – there is just no way around it.”

      1. Yeah… I just don’t understand why things are as they are. If you look at the messaging from Adobe even 2 years ago around Flash it is so drastically different from what it is today in comparison to messaging around web standards. Doesn’t have to be like that – one or the other. Frustrating.

  2. I wouldn’t even go so far as to request stage3D authoring tools, but actually for future Air runtimes to be more ‘specialized’ : leaving low end devices to older version of Air… and the new versions to give us access to more advanced gpu features (more complex vertex/pixel shaders) and cpu/os features (workers) for even faster apps and less restricted visual effects in games (and that would be so much better for the desktop as well)

    1. Yes – you are right – and having the option to only use the parts of the air runtime we need. So we don’t have to compile the whole thing every time – and being able to use the GPU for calculations such as path-finding algorithms – Tom Krcha promised all this last summer at BeyoundTellerand

  3. Amazingly well put, I was at MAX and in a lot of the same sessions with you and I talked to all of the same people you talked to. This was very accurate and summarized my experience at MAX. The sad part is when I have left MAX in the past I was energized to conquer the world and this year I left feeling a bit deflated. I most likely will not be attending future MAX events, I am not sure why I would want to trust in Adobes new future of TypeScript to conquer the world when they are so flaky and bi polar. I love Photoshop / Dreamweaver but as a real dev I was abandoned with Flex after being promised it’s future and now with gaming…. I don’t trust Adobe for the future and will not be using their tools for js game dev just to be tossed to the way side again.

    1. Thanks Dave – we think alike… In my past 5 years i have been moving slowly away from microsites and more into games even though No Zebra is a “website” company – it has just been a natural movement caused by an increasing demand for games… and it is strange that i find my self feeling – I don’t want to go back to building fancy websites… I want to stick with games – and Unity3D is definitely a future place for me… but for now I want stick with flash as long as i can – we have reached a point for flash where the success has stagnated – but I don’t see it as falling apart… unless Adobe gives me and everyone else another good reason to believe so… I honestly believe the fear for JS is not in the language or the tech its in the inconsistent browser render engines – I’m simply afraid that crossbrowser issues will eat up my “creative” time – I need to be able to do cool stuff and just know it will work… – as Professor Phelps said “The HTML5 hype has exceeded reality.” – I somehow find my self in an honest belief that If no client have heard about html5 – I would still to this day suggest Flash for fancy microsites, with a simple mobile html backup – this would bring so much more juice to the web, than what we see around today with dried out html5 campaign site with no wow factor – and the turning point for me is less and less about how fancy you can go with flash vs html5 (even though this keeps me up at nights) – but just about “the consistency” it just needs to work… and if I look back on our latest html5 projects at work its not the mobile section thats the pain … its always the fancy stuff… and we very often see html5 sites that doesn’t work on mobile or is reduced to almost nothing on tablets … with countless hours behind fighting for details to work – some people just want html5 a little too hard, ignoring the options… so at the end of the day – this is what makes me not wanting websites, because “The HTML5 hype has exceeded reality.” – and games or motiongraphics is the direction im looking at – and because of this excitement I have gotten for games, it is even more important for me that Adobe keeps a gaming focus and tries to go deep with it – instead of going broad as they do with js… dont get me wrong I love html5 – and all the features you can do with it – and the Edge products are cool at what they do… for me its just not enough. And its a pain in the ass to get the html5 website where I really want them in terms of flow and detail. And when I see FWA sites from Hello Monday done in html5, and get the feeling that its just not there yet. I can’t help thinking why most frontend developers see this as the best thing that has happend to the web… anyways, flash has grown in to something bigger and lets keep it that way…

  4. excellent post, you give me the big picture I wasn’t seeing.
    I’m so sad, I lost all my energy to code in as3.
    I’m evaluating other ways like C++, C# now, lots to learn to get to my former as3 level…

    1. ye the bad part about all this commotion is that nobody is an expert anymore – no one can say they have 5+ years html5 or iOS dev – but many can say they have +12 years flash experience – mad times…

  5. Excellent and very astute post. I especially like the Flash road map graph, and the hyper-jump should WebGL become broadly available on mobile. That would certainly make the pain of programming JS more rewarding 🙂 I’ve been mainly involved in making 3D product and building configurators and that’s tough going in anything other than Flash.

    We are unfortunately living in a time where the perception of HTML5 (amongst customers) is far removed from the reality (for developers), mainly because of a little detail Adobe used to brag about called ubiquity. Speed of development and ubiquity SHOULD in principle still give AS3 based technologies the edge for applications/games in the present landscape. Trying to build more than the simplest HTML5 web applications, clients are paying more and getting less and with higher maintenance bills to follow (if you ask me!). But if they insist on it, what can you do?

    HTML5 may be being miss-sold to clients, as it’s very difficult to sum up it’s richness/reach profile.
    it’s too easy to show all the wildest demos, and mention that it runs on “modern browsers on PC’s and devices” but much, much more difficult to summarize which actual features can be used where.

  6. I feel Adobe is at a serious crossroad here… They risk losing their most valuable interactive asset and alienating a huge community of interactive devs… all so they can get into the Web standards game, which is already saturated with other tools and technologies and highly competitive. Even if they produce great “Edge” tools, if their core community feels betrayed by them, even they won’t adopt their tools.

    Adobe. Re-think your plans for Flash Next!

    1. I agree that Adobe is at a huge crossroad and that they are going to lose a lot of their Flash devs. I don’t agree, however, that a lot of their developers will stay away from their new Edge tools. In my eyes, there are two types of developers and some crossover. Flash devs (mainly game programmers) and website programmers. I’m guessing the web guys will feel betrayed much by Adobe.

      It would be interesting to know some statistics on how many people purchase FlashBuilder and FlashPro compared to the rest of their programs. If Flash programmers are a significant portion of Adobe’s business than I think they’re making a terrible decision. I think they’re smarter than that though… we must be a big minority so they’d rather focus on their “creative” people that make art and websites rather than games. If that’s true, these decisions make pretty good sense from a business side of things.

      Heavily updating and maintaining the gaming SDK and FlashPlayer can’t be cheap. If they weren’t seeing a big enough return on their investment than it only makes sense they would drop it and focus somewhere else. I’m guessing they thought they’d be able to cover their costs and start gaining money by getting the 9% from using the advanced features but I bet hardly anyone signed up for that.

      What do you guys think?

      1. I think that with current business model for flash, the sales generated by the platform are on the minority side. However, that’s about the time Adobe would rethink the whole business model for the platform. Unity charges 6k eur per year for pro version of their tools to publish on 3 platforms. Playscript (via xarmin) will be ~1000eur/year. Current flash platform (via flash develop) is 0. Flash pro is nice to have but not a necessity any more, especially if you are working on games and use sprite sheets for all of your assets anyway. I do have CC subscription to have PS and FlashPro to speed up some of my tasks, but I (and I suppose many of flash devs who see this technology go down) wouldn’t mind if CC subscription would be mandatory to publish to AIR (display list could be free, because that’s mostly a banner business and they have flash pro anyway).

        I am pretty sure that if adobe released ASNext with this business model it would get them some serious funds. Guys in far east would still use AS1/AS2 like they do until this day (there are exceptions though) and modern world would migrate to ASNext.

      2. I still believe Flash Pro is an important asset in 2D game development… especially if you are use to bundling you graphic assets with AS functionality in swc’s – but also simply as an animation / design tool

  7. Could you please explain what do you mean in sentence: “If you listen to Tom Krcha vs Renaun Erickson, it says a great deal about the confusing message Adobe is sending unintended.”?

    1. in my opinion Tom wants the platform to go deep (usable game features) – Renaun wants its go broad (JS) – most likely all of the things they talk about comes from corporate decisions – but it feels like they have different vision for the platform… if you ask the entire flash platform team individually – some of them might say flash player NEXT is the way to go, some might say JS is the way to go – when they start out by introducing an upcoming feature, then after a while cancelling it, might be caused by some internal disagreements… but one thing is for shure Adobe has the final word – this fact might silence some of the flash engineers. And I can only guess that the reason they dumped “NEXT” is because of backwards compatibility decisions from the corporate side…
      [all speculations]

      – buttom line is they need SHOW us they care – and im pretty shure most of the flash developers that still use the platform is going for one thing… they just need to find that thing and work on it – instead of working on things they think or hope is right for the platform – JS is all cool – but when i talk to developers this is not the RIGHT focus for FLASH… because EGDE is all cool…

      who told them js is great for games ? – I can confirm non of their “external” speaker from Zynga, Frima or Professor Andrew Phelps from School of Interactive Games & Media did …

      http://tv.adobe.com/watch/max-2013/case-study-creating-game-engines-in-webgl-and-stage3d/?t=820 (Hear what Andrew Phelps has to say about it at time: 13:37 🙂 )

      im shure you can do good games with html5 even without webgl – but this is not the level flash game developers are at – we did games like html5(canvas) 5 years ago in flash – we want bigger and better…

  8. Pretty sure I read similar blog posts to this regarding flash in the desktop browser, 3 – 4 years ago.

    “Kids at the age of 3, know how to work the app store – and yes we need that password – if the games move to the browser, it’s going to be the wild west regarding in-app purchases and security –”

    In app purchases don’t work within the browser.

    “The fact is, JS language was not meant for 100.000 lines projects..”

    True, but people are using it successfully on large scale projects, see node js.

    “and this is only the tech – after that comes the adoption rate of the general users and devices.”

    Update rate on iOS is pretty high.

    My take:

    If you want to make great mobile games, move away from Flash to, c++.

    1. the flash platform is working great in general – and Flash is very appealing to visual minded producers such as animators and creative coders… c++ is a big jump – I have no experience with c++ but i could imagine that you can get a flash game going faster than you can get a c++ game going – if we talk about asset generation, animation and everything in and out of the coding process – I might expect c++ to be more low level in terms of general development – which gives you a performance boost – but if you are an Indie developer . you might want a mid level environment where you can do design animations and code without being a hardcore programmer… – and then there is browsers – the widest game platform out there – can you reach 98% of all connected desktop computers with c++ ? – oh well ya now you can flashcc – AMAZING! – only 99.95 – call in now and you get two for the price of one… [the last sentence has to be read really fast]

    1. my kids are starting to stumble upon some unity games here and there and i must say that they are of great quality – the problem as of now, is that most of them are 3D games and those kinds of games run on bigger budgets than most can handle –
      and for html5 games – one of our clients had one made for facebook at some other agency – it looked awful and they pulled it down after a short while…

  9. What Adobe is misunderstanding is that Flash Next is not necessary a really “next”, it shows its commitment to Flash Platform, just add generic typing, thread crossing reference, and upgrade Stage3D and c/c++ integration part and call it NEXT, and everything will turn to you.

  10. Note that Google has WebGL enabled in the beta of Chrome Mobile. It looks like it will be added into regular version of Chrome mobile in the next update, version 27, as long as there hasn’t been any show stopping bugs. It was originally supposed to have been included version 26, but seems to have already held back because of bugs.

    Of course, only a small fraction of Android users seem to use Chrome, but it looks like in an upcoming version of Android, Google will be removing the older Android browser and finally replacing it with Chrome. Of course, Android has a much slower upgrade path than iOS, so it’s still a few years away until mainstream adaption, but just wanted to point out that on Android steps for WebGL is happening. Also Google demoed a HTML game using WebGL on mobile during their Google I/O keynote.

    Also at Google I/O, they are trying to make it easier and more seamless for people to make purchases on the web. Something a bit like PayPal but more seamless where you don’t leave the page, just get an modal popup inside the website. Of course, it remains to be seen if it will catch on, but it looks like Google will be pushing it.

    1. Great point Mathew – thank you for reading my blog – and yes Google is doing some crazy innovation for games and the web – in my opinion they got some of it mixed up 🙂

      I saw the keynote and i want to point out that the game they tested while they said he played on the tablet, he was actually playing on the laptop…

      http://bit.ly/12ewm9l

      the webgl rivendell sound demo afterwards that they showed (with no ineractivity) – ran like a joke – it was super low poly, lagging and they never showed him actually playing with it

      if it works like webl in firefox mobile then there is a loooong way to go – firefox can only render 1 frame all in all, on my asus transformer

      – and when they showed that desktop chrome javascript, benchmarked about 17000 compared to mobile which is at about 1800 – note that mobile chrome can only run about 10% of desktop – that says alot – crazy bottle neck – they talk about it like they are even – its a joke… –

      http://bit.ly/110pZnA

      let me put it this way when the 3D performance is the same from apps to the browser we can talk about it…

      and about that quick payment stuff ? – i really hope there will be a password – and not quite as simple as they demoed – because then i bet kids are gonna rape my credit card when they are playing browsergames with ingame purchase… –

      but still we have the fact that javascript is not ment for 100.000 lines of code – buuut i know the fact that asm and typescript might zero out this argument in a hardcore tech debate even though javascript IS a script language and not a real OOP language – so lets turn to the real usecase of browsergames:

      People’s general expectations for mobile safari and mobile browsers in general is nowhere about games – we have so many tools for mobile at the moment, that people actually rarely use the browser… – And if they do, its only to find information they only need now, not again and again, that is what apps are for – the mobile browser is not something you open up to dwell about for hours… its common use and expectation of, is to quick access info

      its known to man that games come from the appstore – why ? – because they fit the concept of what makes apps great, and why you want it as an app – you use it regularly and you want it to be opening up in fullscreen by it self not having a browser ui around it or having to press fullscreen and accept yes i allow fullscreen mode every time, loading the whole game everytime – and let me mention, great games fill 30-50 mb – you dont want to download that everytime… you want it to open and be able to play instantly – thats what makes games great for apps – simply because its an experience you want to come back to regularly – i dont want to play level 1 and 2 at home and then have to download level 3 in the train on my dataplan

      even if we could cache the game content or preload the whole game – so we didnt have to re-download it or download the rest in time – then it would be the same as we have for apps – except! – you dont have control over thoese piled up megabytes – they are somewhere in the pile of browser cache data – that might be clean up now and then… – you cant keep it for as long as you like, and uninstall it individually when YOU want… and this would keep you from cleaning unwanted cookie data now and then because you dont want to redownload all your games in the browser afterwards…

      i bet adobe didnt think of that – infact how is html5 games “streaming” compared to flash ? last i heard html5 is pretty much progressiv download right ? you need to download every thing before you can start ? – *cough* streaming texture format for flash *cough*

  11. finally i found someone who knows how to provide relevant information on the subject i have been searching for? thanks, at last i can study with pleasure..

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  13. Good article. We are developing HTML5 game engine and games. Our game Polycraft (www.polycraftgame.com) is in 3D and it is only released for the desktop browsers but we have recently done a test on mobile Chrome browser. It is not perfect yet but it is running with all the sounds, proper textures and control. One problem is its performance. However, more sophisticated HTML5 will be coming to mobile phones very soon.

    1. Definently the most complete html5 game ive seen – very nice! I can see you might have had some problems with 3D model animations ? (caracter animations) but I believe you found a nice way to come around it… I have had no luck with webgl on mobile so far… even the smallest test runs really poor with bad antialiasing… you might want to read my other article “So what if HTML5 and WebGL games makes it to the mobile browser?” https://thonbo.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/so-what-if-html5-and-webgl-games-makes-it-to-the-mobile-browser-2/ it might shed some light on some issues very few have foreseen

      1. Thanks for the link to the article.

        Well, as with animation, we purposely did not include it. 😦 We decided that it was not yet important to this game. Unfortunately, we are a small team with small budget (compared to traditional console development). Oh, I forgot to mention what we did last year. Quake 4 running inside a browser. This is using our HTML5 engine. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJg_BmY9-8o

        We do have this game, Denki Word Quest, running smoothly in Android phones and tablets but using a wrapper for now so that we can distribute it via Google Play. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_oCfbOwKds
        It is not yet released though.

        I am hoping that big companies like Apple will embrace HTML5 / WebGL technology soon. Safari has had WebGL capability for a long time but disabled as default. I guess they want to protect their app store. The floodgate has opened 😉 HTML5 is coming!

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