Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Last month, someone posted a request on the Kongregate forums for an artist to collaborate with him on a Flash game he is developing. Despite already having my own project in the works, I liked his demo so much that I volunteered to work as the artist on his game.

At around the same time, another person posted on the Kongregate forums a request for a programmer to help her develop a tower defense game she designed. No one volunteered to help her then, although someone else gave her a link to a tutorial on how to make tower defense games in Stencyl. As she went through the tutorial, she would post a question on the forums about problems she sometimes encountered, and I would post my solutions for her.

After two weeks, one of the forum moderators announced an upcoming contest called GiTD # 27. “GiTD” stands for Game in Ten Days. It’s a game jam where interested parties may create Flash games within the prescribed period as soon as the contest theme is announced. After the deadline, forum members may vote for the two games that they liked the most, with the first choice getting two points and the second placer getting one point. After a short period, the votes are tallied, and the winner gets a prize as well as bragging rights. Participants who post their work-in-progress on day 7 for others to critique would automatically get two free music tracks that they may use in their entries and any other game they make from then on. Although I have never completed a Flash game of my very own before, I messaged the moderator, telling him that I was interested in joining this contest.

One hour after having sent the moderator my message, I received another private message from the tower defense designer, who asked to chat with me over Skype. When I logged on, we discussed her game for a while, and I briefly looked over her game design document and artwork. Now I don’t know what possessed me at that point, but I told her that programming a tower defense game was so easy that I was tempted to do it for her. Perhaps it was my natural tendency to want to help people in any aspect of game development. Or maybe it was a moment of insanity. Whichever the case, I actually wound up volunteering for the job. I warned her, though, that I already had two other projects ongoing, so her project would be third on my list. She said that as long as her game was completed by December, she would be okay with that. GiTD # 27 had not yet officially started then, but when it eventually did, I wound up with four ongoing projects. Count them, four. I really am a mad game developer.

Well, the GiTD was over in ten days, so now I’m down to three projects. The sad part was that my entry did not get a single vote. I have no regrets about joining the GiTD though. Trying to cobble a working game together in such a short time frame was an amazing experience. Being accustomed to thinking things through before acting on my plans, I was completely yanked out of my comfort zone and forced to adopt a fast and disciplined way of working. At the end of it all, I can now honestly say that I’ve actually completed a Flash game. I would love to join another game jam, although I really ought to finish the projects that I’m helping others with before I do.


  1. I am getting into this type of programming. I had given up on it because the scale of games I would make would no longer be played by anyone around 20002 when 3d became mandatory. But now with the advancement of low powered mobile devices, I think a 2d rpg or just 2d action game is viable again.

    I really dont think flash is all that great though. Too many people use it and its absolutely horrendous how choppy games are when they would have ran on a 25 mhz computer in 1993 if programmed in a better language.

    However, I don't believe in hard coding everything. There is a point where time wasted doing that is not worth the performance trade off.

    Bottom l ine I think I need to use Java for my resume anyway. Is Java not a little closer to C++ in terms of performance or is it just as bad as flash? I believe it is but if you know please let me in on it...

  2. when I say getting into, I mean re-getting into, as my game modding interest wanes, and my need for employable skill and potential indy income increases.

  3. Eguintir, I don't really know how well Java compares to Flash in terms of performance. For me, however, performance is less of an issue as is being able to market the games I develop while learning game design on the job. I'm sure I can make a better performing game in C++, but I wouldn't know how to sell it. At least with Flash, I can potentially earn a little income without getting into marketing the game myself. If the game does not receive many plays, at least I will be able to learn from my experiences without having to invest money in the process.

    By the way, if you're concerned about 3D, Flash can handle 3D. Before I get into 3D programming though, I want to have a solid foundation in game design.

  4. Did you know flash is being discontinued though?

  5. No, for several months now, I've heard unsubstantiated rumors that Flash will no longer be supported and that HTML5 will effectively kill it. These rumors were probably born from Adobe's announcement that it will not provide Flash for Apple devices because Apple doesn't want to support Flash. Nevertheless, Adobe continues to develop Flash technologies for PCs and mobile devices that are not manufactured by Apple.

    In addition, the view that HTML5 will kill Flash looks to be erroneous by a wide margin. Flash is still the de facto standard for browser-based animations. With so many legacy Flash applications on the Internet, I'm sure that Flash won't be suddenly dropped in favor of HTML5. The major desktop browsers aren't even fully compliant with the HTML5 standard, which means that HTML5 games are not guaranteed to work the same way across all browsers. That's not a good sign for a purported Flash killer. And to the best of my knowledge, HTML5 cannot be used to make 3D games, unlike Flash.

    I'd say that the rumors of Flash's death are greatly exaggerated.

  6. I don't understand the part where you said flash lets you monetize games. How does java not do the same, or do you mean from a distribution point of view? I know i can sell Java games but I would need some kind of publisher I guess?

  7. You can earn money from your Flash games by uploading them to gaming portals such as Kongregate or Newgrounds. These portals will generally give you a small percentage of ad revenues earned, so if your game receives a lot of plays, you stand to earn more revenue. You can earn even more if you can get a website to sponsor your game. Many Flash game developers upload their games at to try to get their games sponsored.

    I don't know of any Java gaming portals that offer a similar deal. As far as I can tell, there don't seem to be any, so it seems that the only way to earn money from them is to sell them to end users, usually for mobile platforms. Competition in the mobile market is really tough though, and it's hard to be noticed in the crowd. I'd rather hone my craft on a platform where my games are more likely to get noticed.