Archive for the 'Flash' Category


Games for Kids: Flash vs HTML5 – Presentation Content

Here are the notes for the content of my FITC Amsterdam 2012 presentation Games for Kids: Flash vs HTML5. There are links here to some of the demos, notes and references.

I set myself the objective of learning best practice in game design using HTML5. To best discover all of the foibles and dark corners of this new technology I set myself the constraint of using NO libraries. I wanted to build a game that would work across many devices, and exhibit some sophistication. The presentation details the discoveries made on this journey, showing how I’ve optimised the game engines – and some of the hacks that I’ve felt necessary to apply.

Demo Panel for Session - Click through

While experimenting with HTML5 touch I found some Android devices had a terrible response. It took me a while to realise that it was my display method, Canvas, that caused the poor performance. Moving to displaying with DOM gave me a workable response on most devices.

Multi-touch Ball Physics

A first quick attempt at gameplay interaction was to build a simple ball physics engine. This gives many options in game design and allows for good utilisation of the major strength of mobile devices: touch input. Getting this to work across multiple devices and operating systems gave me confidence that I could achieve a consistency of performance.

Eggy Eggy Pig - visual design by Eloisa(9) & Lola(7)

With the help of my daughters, I set about designing and building a platform game. Eggy Eggy Pig. The requirement was for platforms and surfaces that could run at any angle, as well as spritesheet animations, triggered interactions, collectables and parallax scrolling. Of course control method was key too.

Optical Flow with Lucas Kanade (Flash)

After looking what can be done with HTML5, it is important to understand what can’t be done. Any game project should start with the question ‘what is the appropriate technology to achieve our objectives?’. In many cases the answer will not be HTML5. I show a couple of cases where Flash could be the only solution, including a look at Maestro Flash – a production implementation of the Lucas Kanade optical flow method.



Games for Kids. Flash vs HTML5

For my session at FITC Amsterdam 2012 I’ll be talking about making games for kids.

More and more, mobile devices are allowing people to visit our websites away from the desktop. The sites that I work on chiefly consist of games (Flash) and video content (delivered via Flash). This means that mobile devices without Flash will only be able to gain access to a very small amount of content. To improve this situation we are looking at broadening our game content to include HTML5 builds.

HTML5 has a great deal of promise, and in the future we will be able to achieve amazing things within the browser. But what about now? What can be achieved on the current crop of those mobiles and tablets that are available to children?

To explore the development of HTML5 games, I set myself the task of building whole game prototypes with NO libraries. Here, I felt the best way for me to discover and analyse the issues was to code raw.

With a target of mobile and tablet devices I figured that I’d need to hand-roll my own highly performant physics systems, and I wanted this to be fairly sophisticated. I will describe my methods with code and visual examples.

Throughout the session I’ll detail my discoveries. What are the most optimal ways to achieve cross (mobile) browser game builds? How do you achieve high performance on low spec devices? How do you optimise assets? What tools are good to use?

I’ll look at what we can and can’t do with HTML5 – some of the exciting possibilities and some of the game related (currently)missing features.

Also, what next for the mobile technology and gaming? HTML%, Apps or the cloud?

I’ll be posting the session content – game prototypes and performance tests – here on the GameLab before my FITC Amsterdam session.


Keyboard Woes

I came across a problem today. Surely I should should have spotted this sooner – but maybe I just never used these key combinations.

It seems that there are issues with using ARROW KEYS and SPACE. Specifically on my keyboard the combination LEFT, DOWN and SPACE doesn’t work. I’ve spotted that other key combinations fail on different keyboards. Another laptop I have fails with LEFT, UP and SPACE as does my desktop at work.

Here is a quick app that will tell you what keys are being accepted. Try different combinations of arrow keys and space to see if you have any fails.

Seemingly this is nothing to do with Flash and everything to do with keyboard design. The problem varies from model to model, but is VERY common.

Test your keyboard.

Keyboards use a matrix to wire up the keys and register presses. The matrix is made up of columns and rows. When a key is pressed the column and row contact each other completing a circuit. The controller for the keyboard detects this and registers the key press. ‘Ghosting’ and ‘Masking’ of key presses can occur with a matrix keyboard. Here is a technical explanation of the issue. This article is from a decade ago, seemingly the drive to fix these keyboard problems hasn’t been strong enough.

Let’s gauge how bad it is. Try the Keyboard Woes app out and then let me know if there are any issues with your set-up.

How to fix this? The ONLY solution is not to use the SPACEBAR in combination with the ARROW keys.


Flash on the Beach 2010 Review

Wow. Another great year for Flash on the Beach. The doom merchants may well have predicted (or desired) it’s death but the evidence in Brighton this week demonstrated what a great future Flash has. Packed out presentations across the whole event with attendees from all over Europe (shown by the lack of people who had heard of Family Fortunes (Feud) – an amusing circumstance in Seb Lee Delisle’s session).

I kicked off day 1 at FOTB2010 by attending a talk by Conrad Winchester on Robot Legs and Signals. Very interesting and well thought out presentation with a good smattering of code examples. Andre Michelle‘s Pulsatile Crackle session was very well received. More excellent demonstrations of Andre’s apps with some very nice playful audio interfaces. His hilarious ball falling out of tube demo was a treat. Would love to see Andre give an audio coding 101 session… Mario Klingemann next: It was Mario’s session a few years ago – when he broke down the seemingly lesser bitmapData functions – demonstrating how to use floodfill, etc for optimal image analysis that really inspired me to concentrate fully on Flash. All of his sessions have been excellent since including this his last one for at east a year – slightly chaotic but full of great takeaway ideas. His attempt at a jigsaw puzzle analyser and solver was inspired. Such a shame he couldn’t coax it closer to a solution. I’ve been wanting to get to a Stacey Mulcahy session for a couple of years and finally succeeded here – I wasn’t going to miss a presentation with ‘douchebag’ in the title. Stacey is a fine purveyor of fun from the darkest corners of the interweb, I found the session to be hilarious but I still came away with some salient points about social media and the increasing usage of oauth.

The inspiration sessions were excellent. I love Robert Hodgin‘s work and especially love his love for maths. Stefan Sagmeister in the evening looked like a slightly smarter Nick Cave – he kicked off talking about ‘chelly fish’ which I thought was a wonderful pronunciation – his body of work is amazing and he has some great philosophies about working and taking time off to refresh.

Day 2 started off with the Elevator Pitches (I presented 3 Games in 3 Minutes here last year). The standard this year was amazing. I only saw the first 10 or so (I had to go and prepare for my session) but the stand outs for me were Sarah Bird/@AnimNation – 3D in 3 minutes, wow!, Tomek Augustyn/@blog2t – a real web cam eye opener, Tom Vian/@SFBTom – 8 bit sound engine SFXR and Trine Falbe/@TrineFalbe – Do not use bullet points – Trine has l33t preso skills!

Hand sketch of the 'Where in the World?' sketch

Jon Howard's FOTB2010 session as sketched by @UBelly

I was next up with my “Where in the World? InContinent Ballistic Flash”. The session went really well. A poor data feed prevented me showing off the really cool bits of the deep zooming but I skirted around that issue. As I started I was told to try and cut 5 mins to help the schedule catch up so I dropped a little bit of code explanation around the explosions. I’ll do a post soon to cover that soon. It is amazing how simple clean understandable solutions to big problems can be the killer point – I certainly didn’t expect my little polynomial equations from Excel graphs method to be lauded so much in the Twittersphere. Lesson learnt though – I’ll try to come up with some more of those nuggets. The audience was great (thanks guys) and laughed at all my jokes =-)

Swingpants distributes his balls

Swingpants and his balls (photo Marc Thiele)

I love Joa Ebert‘s work but I have to confess I was vainly catching up on the twitter feed about my session rather than concentrating on Joa’s pres (sorry) but the improvement stats sound amazing. Seb Lee Delisle‘s presentation this year was immense. Great interviews with people across the web development world about the state of Flash, why people hate it and what kind of future Flash has. Seb has a lovely relaxed style and a great understanding of how to deliver in an entertaining way. He also has a conveyor belt of some sort if you hadn’t heard. Mind Candy finished the afternoon for me. I met up with the Moshi Monster’s gang a couple of years ago and since then they have become hugely successful. They explained about their Agile methods which seemed to go down really well. To finish the day off I managed to get along to Brendan Dawes session which was entertaining and very funny.

FOTB Audience in the Corn Exchange

Attentive faces of an FOTB audience (photo by Marc Thiele)

I got asked to do the Jam Throwdown this year – a great honour. I was up on stage with Seb Lee Delisle, Iain Lobb, Andre Michelle, Robert Hogin and Julian Dolce. 10 mins each. John Davey had asked me to ‘blow the others off the stage’ – so I did literally or at least digitally. I put in a few hours the night before to pull it off – it seemed to work well. Seb’s crowd ‘beat capturing’ worked excellently and really got the guys going.
By all accounts Iain Lobb’s Zero to Game Designer in 60 Minutes was an amazing session – but I couldn’t get in. Ralph Hauwert‘s session introduced me to 2D and 3D depth fields – something I really need to look into. Ralph is inspired by reading a lot of Maths papers – makes me feel I should read a few more. (and learn to understand the syntax better). I went along to Frank Reitberger‘s presentation (another Elevator Pitcher from last year). Really nice graphical effects and explanation of his processes. Joshua Hirsch and Jared Tarbell wrapped up proceedings.

Another amazing few days. My inspiration batteries have been recharged and I’ll be looking to try and get back as a speaker again next year.

If you’re a Rich Media developer/Designer and haven’t been to Flash on the Beach then why not? It is the number #1 conference in Europe and you are pretty much guaranteed to make a whole host of new contacts.

[ Huge thanks to Brett Jephson @brejep for building a 3D tree model for me to blow up, and to Aidan O’Brien @scaryclown for designing some scenery to adorn my character explosion tests. Last but not least big big thanks to John Davey @FOTB for organising such an immensely successful conference(festival) ]


Where in the World? Intercontinental Ballistic Flash

I shall be presenting “Where in the World? Intercontinental Ballistic Flash” at Europe’s premier rich media conference Flash on the Beach. I’m scheduled to present in the Pavillion Theatre at 10.15am on Tuesday 28th September.

In the first half of the session I’m going to look at techniques for how to build a world in 3D. Take a 2D map, convert it to 3D. Add some models, information pins, zoomability. I’ll describe some optimisation tricks and tips, and some easy methods to build maths formulae.

In the second half I shall be demonstrating a number of ways to create usable, configurable and fun game components. These include bitmapData constructions and manipulations, delta tweening, model parsing and combinations of all three.

If you are at FOTB 2010 if will be great to see you at my session, if not I shall be posting some of the demos and source here very soon.

Flash on the Beach, Brighton 26th to 29th Septhember 2010

Flash on the Beach


My Flash on the Beach 2010 Schedule

The awesome Flash on the Beach conference takes place in Brighton on 26th to the 29th September.
I shall be presenting “Where in the World? Intercontinental Ballistic Flash” on Tuesday morning (10am) – I’ll list more details about it here very soon.

Here is a Twitter list of all the FOTB presenters

These are the sessions I’ll be attending:


Joa Ebert: 1 1 7 11 21
Seb Lee-Delisle: WHAT THE FLUX!?

Frank Reitberger: TRIANGLE AFFAIRS


AS3 Magnifying Glass Class :: Pixelbender Lense Refraction

The AS3 Magnifying Glass is a lense refraction class employing PixelBender. The class is an encapsulated method that takes a source image, a position and radius and returns a refracted result in sprite form.

I needed to represent a spy glass in my current project, and was looking for a very efficient method to achieve this. PixelBender seemed the obvious route and I’m pretty impressed by the speeds I am getting. I have max-ed out the frame rate and am still getting full (120) fps.

The MagnifyingGlass effect is the resultant class. The class embeds a pixelbender filter that spherizes it’s input and returns this as a sprite.

When using the class, the source image should be sent to the MagnifyingGlass full size, and be displayed to the user at a reduced size. This helps to preserve the integrity of the refracted image.


//refraction: 0=Lots, 1 =None
//radius: The radius of the magnifying glass
//position_point: The position of the magnifying glass on the source image
//source_pic: BitmapData of the source picture
magnifying_glass = new MagnifyingGlass(refraction,radius, posn_point, source_pic)


AS3 Magnifying Glass Class

The AS3 MagnifyingGlass Class

I have set up a quick demo that shows the class at work on 3 different images. Press any key to change the image.

Image#1: Have a look around a bit of England & Wales. Enjoy.
Image#2: Hundreds of cartoon characters. See if you can find Quagmire! – Gigity.
Image#3: There is a sheep in there somewhere.

NOTE: The PixelBender filter used here is based on Joa Ebert’s Spherize Filter originally built in Hydra – the forerunner of PixelBender.

NOTE: This requires Flash Player 10 and above.

Demo: Magnifying Glass Class Demo


AS3 Flamer Class :: Setting things on fire

The Flamer Class is a quick and easy method to set things on fire. Throw some fuel (any display object) at the class and make it burn.

While working on another project I needed to make some lightweight flames. I looked around, tried a bit of perlin noise, some convolution filters – then some PixelBender filtering – I wasn’t really happy with the results.

I found the excellent Saqoosha’s Fire on Wonderfl.
This demo had nearly the flicker and colour mapping that I was looking for. Rendering the perlin noise on each frame was causing a bit too much processor overhead for my purposes.
Instead of rendering two perlin octaves and moving the layers against each other, I took two separate single octave perlin noise bitmaps and rotated one against the other while blending.
This gives a nice effect and is very lightweight. With the Saqoosha method I was clocking at a steady 26fps, with my lightweight method I could get 90fps.

To get the flame hues I set up a gradient box, threw some colours at it, loaded those colours into an array which I then pushed to a palette map.

So how to use the Flamer class:

import swingpants.effect.Flamer

var flamer:Flamer=new Flamer(display_object)

addEventListener(Event.ENTER_FRAME, enterFrameHandler)
function enterFrameHandler(event:Event):void

Your object will now be on fire. Feel naughty?

You can set the render width and height and also set the direction of the flames by setting a point vector.

var flamer:Flamer=new Flamer(display_object,render_width, render_height, flame_direction_point)

//The colour of the flames can be set with one of the presets (There are 4 at the moment – ORANGE_FLAME, BLUE_FLAME, YELLOW_FLAME, GREEN_FLAME – but I will be adding more)

//Direction can be set on the fly:

Here is a demo of a pure code use of the Flamer: The Flaming Vortex. You can click on the flash to initiate an explosion, and pressing space will change the colour. Have a play:

Flaming Sun

Flamer Class. The flaming vortex demo

This next demo is an example of throwing a movieclip/sprite at the Flamer class. Don’t laugh, I quite literally spent 10 minutes putting the anims together then threw them at the Flamer. Click on Flash to change colour and object.

Flaming Car

Flamer Class Demo. Help, my car is on fire

Lots of fun can be had by throwing different animations at the Flamer. Control some with your mouse/keys. Become a twisted fire starter.

The Flamer class could do with a few more features, but is a pretty good start. The speed is pretty good, I’m happy to receive any improvement recommendations.

I have packed the Flamer class and demos up in a zip if you want to have a play:
DOWNLOAD: Flamer Class and Demos

DEMO #1: Flaming Vortex
DEMO #2: Burning Movieclips


Reasons to be Creative 2012

FITC Amsterdam 2012

Flash on the Beach 2011

Flash on the Beach 2010

Swingpants at Flash on the Beach

Flash on the Beach 2009

Swingpants at FOTB2009

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