Dec 19, 2018 IN Game Dev Talks

CTO: Is This the End of Flash Player for Games?

Eva Pavlovičová
Social Media Manager

TALKS WITH EXPERTS

In the 10th episode of the Talks with Experts series, we discuss Flash and its inevitable end in 2020. Most of our games here at Pixel were built on Flash so when Adobe announced its end, we had to sit down and somehow tackle the challenge. Together with our CTO Peter, we identify the business implications of the ending technology for a gaming studio. If you are more into watching than reading, check out the video on our Youtube channel. And let us know your insights in our knowledge sharing group Free to play game developers.


Most of the Pixel games run on Flash Player and since it’s ending soon when exactly did you start worrying and looking for alternatives?

Flash Player has been ending for quite a while now and I had actually started worrying about Flash even before I started working at Pixel Federation back in 2010 when Steve Jobs published his famous essay Thoughts on Flash. This was the first question mark to the Flash future and it was clear that unless Apple changed their stance towards Flash, it would no longer be a multi platform solution which was what Adobe planned with it. So, from 2010 until now the adoption rate is going down and we see the same in recent years even on the PC and some of the platforms that were a strong point for Flash, even browser vendors are dropping it. There are still more and more exploits for Flash and Adobe itself announced that they would discontinue Flash from 2020 onwards. That would be the end of Flash even though it took almost 10 years.


So, what business consequences have you identified regarding the end of Adobe Flash? What steps did we do at Pixel to minimize the damage?

Since Pixel Federation started as a web company, we identified Flash as the best technology to do our games with but now we do not really want to focus on web anymore because the market is shifting towards mobile. However, we do not want to lose players that prefer web so we tried to fix the Flash issue by porting all our Flash-based games to WebGL which is an open standard supported by all browsers. Since most of our games use custom engine that can be compiled to multiple languages, it wasn’t that hard to port it. So, basically we now have single code base for both Flash-based and WebGl-based games. Moving forward we will focus on mobiles only and we decided to move to Unity to accomplish the task even though Unity is not that strong in web export. But then again, we want to focus on mobile. It will also be probably better for us as we do not really need to support our custom engines and do all the work that comes with it. Regarding the damage, the biggest cost of ending Flash is definitely the fact that players will no longer be able to play our games past 2020 when Adobe drops the support. However, as I said we have all our ports ready in WebGl, we will even run dual versions for a few of our games which means that as long as Flash is still viable, players will have the chance to switch between versions. But of course, we will drop the support of Flash eventually and switch fully yo WebGl version.


Besides Flash Player what technologies have we tried out in Pixel Federation so far?

We have tried quite a few actually. 2 years ago, we started with these games that were meant for different platforms and so we chose various technologies to build them with. We tried Morning Men with Unity for Steam, Galactic Junk League again with Unity for Steam, VR-based game which used Unreal for Oculus, we also tried messenger games running entirely on Javascript. As was already mentioned, we as a company decided to focus on mobile only and we are switching to Unity fully for Android and iOS games but since we still have ongoing live projects, we are obviously not going to switch those so it will take us quite a while to switch the whole company to Unity but that’s the plan basically.


When we were thinking about what’s going to happen next after the Flash Player, were there some other alternatives besides WebGL?

Basically, there weren’t any alternatives to WebGl, maybe Java but Java died even before Flash. So, the plan was not to look for something different than WebGl, it was what to use to port the games to the WebGl. As I mentioned, our custom inhouse engine supports export to WebGl, so it was not a real problem for us. We could use for example Unity to compile it to WebGl but it would be a lot of additional work for us since we already had it in our custom engine. Also, WebGl export in Unity was using another technology stack and it wasn’t just pure WebGl so it was problematic.


This is how we coped with ending Flash. Have you faced similar challenges? Tell us about the process and let’s talk about the topic in the Facebook group called Free to Play Game Developers. Please, feel free to invite your fellow game developers as well. :)