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Saturday, October 06, 2007

More On Adobe AIR and AIR Games

I don't really get the opportunity to get wrapped up into a single technology. I don't get the luxury. Closest I got was the fact that Crate & Barrel (my previous employer) was a .Net shop. So I got to consistently dabble in C#. In general, though, a lot of web development is a using whatever pieces you have available. When I got to Model Metrics, though, their focus is to establish themselves as Flex and AIR enablers for and hence I was very much encouraged to dive into that technology.

That said, I'll probably also be coding with C#, Saleforce's Apex, AJAX and PHP by the end of this month.

But Flex, and especially AIR, is really sticking with me. Many might try to dismiss AIR as simply "Flash on the desktop". There's a couple problems with this concept. First of all, AIR isn't Flash on the desktop, it's Flex on the desktop. And while Flex results in Flash - it isn't really Flash like at all. Flex closely resembles AJAX style development by dividing the interface into SGML documents (in this case, Adobe's MXML whereas AJAX relies on HTML), with the glue language being ActionScript 3.0 - which is essentially an extremely mature version of JavaScript (they are both based on the ECMAScript standard, but AS3 has stronger typing and object support).

So kinda like how Silverlight doesn't compete with AIR ... well neither does Flash.

AIR provides a cross-platform runtime for developers with largely a web-based background. However, I think that tricks people into thinking it is mostly good for grabbing databases and shoving forms around them. It is good for that, but it's essentially applicable for any desktop application.

So why aren't there any games>? I think there are, actually, a handful, but not much. Now part of this is because the existing libraries and sample code aren't well suited for game development. There's not exactly a lot of demos on proper collision detection or determining client-side frames per second. But the potential is there - and having beaten my head against the DHTML/AJAX side of things for a while, AIR is mighty attractive.

And I gotta say - Adobe is bringing on a might big game here. The next generation of design tools, like Thermo, and the new design for MXML components that should make Flex far more versatile - is exciting.

Right now I'm working on an app called Freeway which uses a lightweight version of the iTunes/podcast model to share AIR applications. Essentially it's a handler to create RSS feeds for your apps, a PHP script to aggregate those feeds, and a reader to track them as well as the ones you've downloaded. I'm playing with Freeway first as a kind of AIR primer, but also because if it got used then it be easier to communicate publishing with other AIR users and developers.

So, for the indie gaming set - you might check it out.


Unknown said...

I have developed an AIR powered game called Tongits. This is also an experiment on AIR's commercial viability as a game development platform.

Josh said...

That's easily one of the most complete and polished AIR games I've seen to date, rico.

Unknown said...

Thanks Josh! So far I can only count 2 games built on AIR, ChipWits and Tongits. And these two are the only ones listed in the Adobe AIR Marketplace.

Philup said...

I have to agree josh, Tongits is a very well executed game, especially for how early it was released. Go Rico!

Unknown said...

Thanks philup for the compliments! I'll be constantly updating and improving the game so we'll see a much better version in the coming months.

Unknown said...

Neopets has an air game that is really polished and fun looking. here's a link:

Fefe! said...

what about dofus ?