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Adobe Flash Player

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Unity 3.5 was released and is a game changer even for Unity, download it now!.  There are so many great new features that have already made development faster and cool features to help bring your games to Flash from Unity !

Workflow Improvements

Since I have been using Unity fulltime pretty much on games like SupaSupaCross for SupaSupa Games (pick up a copy at Apple, Amazon or Google for your devices!) and Kimi Raikkonnen IceOne Racing for 24mas while at Impossible Interactive from my *drawlabs game studio, Unity has addressed some major trouble points when doing a full scale multiplatform rollout to mobile (iOS + Android), web and desktop.

Switching Platforms

One major problem was switching platforms and rebuilding the asset cache. Unity now has an Asset Cache server that will minimize library reimports so that it will be easy to switch platforms in minutes.  I can attest that our projects towards the end were really painful switching platforms, no kidding 45+ minutes.  Having that removed is oh so nice when you have 5+ projects that run on all platforms. The horror of accidentally selecting the wrong platform while you have to wait 45 minutes for it to convert one direction and then back is over.  We actually ended having to have the projects on different machines and making two projects hooked to source control that were set to iOS and one to Android to help minimize this.

Occlusion Culling + Lightmapping

Unity updated and replaced the occlusion culling system for speed and better occlusion generation, taking the time down orders of magnitude.  This version also is more precise and you can take the time to do detailed occlusion during development more often.

Lightmapping probes is also a very nice technique to integrate to get what looks like dynamic lights without having dynamic lights and the cost associated.

Source Control for Everyone

A big problem with the pipeline before was having artists work for a day or two and need Unity but they only had the indie version and thus could not participate in our Mercurial and git repositories.  Now even the indie version has source control support (still with .meta files though which is a necessary evil for now — still going to have straggling metas when developers/artists remove/add one they didn’t edit).

Text Based Serialization of Scenes and Prefabs!

This one is epic, I loathe binary formats of old which turn files into blackboxes of repository filling chunks, now you can choose to serialize your scenes and prefabs in text which they have chosen very wisely as YAML.  Perfect use case for YAML and now we can have 2+ people work on the same scene and not end up hating one another when the other has to overwrite all changes since they used to be all binary.

The removal of binary files in game development is very needed and one of the most difficult things to shake with all game engines I deal with.  Binary files for development are bad…  YAML, JSON, even XML is a better way so you can see what changed on each update not just replace the file.

At this point I love Unity for making my day faster…

That isn’t even the really cool stuff like Native Client Support and Flash Player Exporting!

Native Client Support

I feel this could be big if NaCL is adopted widely, this also helps with the Chrome Web store and again taking your game to places that individual development of the engine to do so would be non economical.  Unity knows when to even overlook their own WebPlayer in favor of other players such as Flash and NaCL from Google.

Flash Player Export

note: (Still preview and will require extra license when final)

The big daddy setup to scrape up all the Flash developers.  You can now develop Flash games inUnity using a better programming platform that Adobe was just too protective of Flash old guard to pursue 4 years ago, at least they are now. Flash 11 to Stage3D exporting to lower level Flash was a very smart move for Adobe at this point to keep evolving Flash.  However with them dropping mobile player Flash’s future is still a little shaky as it loses developer mind share, typically that is fatal.  One way to keep great game and interactive developers is what they are doing with Stage3D and Flash 11. Unity is very smart to jump in here and it is a great opportunity for both Adobe and Unity.

2 big pieces missing from the Flash version are terrain export and use of non Flash classes like WWW class.  Unfortunately since this is the only supported Unity WWW class that works across all platforms well this may require some #if defs to route around web/service calls and rewriting web and or networking classes in AS3.

Since this is the first version and has such great potential for overtaking Flash gaming on the web with more native and lower level hardware access, watch this space to grow and be a game changer.

Flash features that are in and out of the current iteration

Supported

  • Lightmapping
  • Occlusion culling
  • Basic scripting
  • Editor scripting (JavaScript / C# / Boo). Note: for JavaScript, use #pragma strict.
  • Custom shaders
  • Animation / skinning
  • Basic audio features, such as AudioSource / AudioListener
  • Physics
  • Navigation meshes
  • Baked substance textures
  • PlayerPrefs
  • UnityGUI, except for text input
  • Realtime shadows

Limited support – features with potential issues

  • Image Effects. Some work, some don’t.
  • Not all parts of .NET scripting work (lambda expressions and LINQ aren’t supported, for example)
  • GUIText will have a dramatic impact on performance
  • The new Particle System (Shuriken) works, but scripts that use the Shuriken API will fail to convert to flash

Not supported

  • Unity profiler
  • Asset bundles
  • Text input in UnityGUI
  • WWW classes. Note that you can write your own ActionScript that uses Adobe networking APIs.
  • Raknet networking (if you need networking, you can write it in Action Script 3 directly, using flash API)
  • Terrain
  • Cloth
  • Using VertexLit shaders in combination with:
    - Specular highlights
    - Spot lights
    - Emissive material color
  • Advanced audio features, such as audio effects. Also pitch manipulation is not supported.
  • Deferred rendering
  • AnimationEvents that carry arguments

More on Unity 3.5

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Adobe has published its roadmap for its Flash browser plugin and its AIR desktop application counterpart. More releases, more features, and more performance, are all planned, but on fewer platforms: Adobe is giving up entirely on supporting smartphone browsers, sticking to the core desktop platforms for its plugin—and with a big question mark when it comes to Windows 8.

The company sees Flash as having two main markets that will resist the onslaught of HTML5: game development, and premium (read: encrypted) video. To that end, the features it has planned for future updates focus on making Flash faster, with greater hardware acceleration and improved script performance, and more application-like, with keyboard input in full-screen applications, and support for middle- and right-mouse buttons.

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This is a funny thing, nowadays, even in this first quarter of 2012 when I speak with developers sometimes they get surprised when I say that I am working in an iOS project using Adobe Flash, people say, ehh? Hmmm? How come? it is not supported on iOS...

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New to Flash Player 10 method graphics.drawPath() speeds up runtime drawing
when multiple calls to lineTo() and moveTo() are required. Its behavior
when drawing semi-transparent lines is not ideal, though. Intersections
of transparent lines appear flattened, without the effect of transparent objects
overlapping. With moveTo and lineTo there is a way of preventing such behavior and
obtaining correct intersections.

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Flash videos, like those on Hulu or YouTube, don't stay full screen if you click outside the video—say, if you're doing work on a second monitor. Kind of annoying, right? A quick system file swap, however, fixes this problem easily.

Photo by Steve Lacey.

Many dual monitor enthusiasts love to watch movies or television shows on their second monitor, but if those are web-based videos, Flash has to rain on our parade. Sure you can make the Hulu video go full screen on your second monitor, but as soon as you try to work on your other monitor, Flash will lose its full-screen view. Thankfully, blogger/browser patcher d.i.z. has made a one byte change to the Flash plug-in that will keep videos running full screen, even if you click outside them—and he's made it available for download (sadly, this tweak only works on Windows machines).

All you need to do is grab d.i.z.'s modified npswf32.dll file and replace the one located in C:\Windows\system32\Macromed\Flash\ or C:\Windows\SysWOW64\Macromed\Flash\ folder on Windows 7 64-bit (though we recommend you backup the original file just in case). After a restart of your browser, all your Flash videos should exhibit the new behavior (i.e., you should be able to multi-task without losing full-screen playback). You can still exit full screen mode by hitting the escape key or using the Flash player's full screen button, of course.

Watch fullscreen flash while working on another screen [via MakeUseOf]

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Following the bombshell of Adobe announcing that Flash 10 will not support unsolicited clipboard access from Flash and JavaScript as malicious flash ads flooded clipboards a lot of developers were wondering how to make the "copy to clipboard" still work without having to do it in Flash itself.

An interesting and also slightly creepy approach to the problem is the JavaScript library Zero Clipboard:

The Zero Clipboard library provides an easy way to copy text to the clipboard using an invisible Adobe Flash movie, and a JavaScript interface. The "Zero" signifies that the library is invisible and the user interface is left entirely up to you.

This library is fully compatible with Flash Player 10, which requires that the clipboard copy operation be initiated by a user click event inside the Flash movie. This is achieved by automatically floating the invisible movie on top of a DOM element of your choice. Standard mouse events are even propagated out to your DOM element, so you can still have rollover and mouse down effects.

So in other words, zero clipboard is a legitimate use of the clickjacking trick to cover an element with a transparent element that provides another functionality.

There are detailed instructions how to use the library on the homepage.

I don't know about you, but somehow "copy to clipboard" buttons seem a bit redundant to me and by keeping this functionality working cause more security holes than usability benefits.

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Mike Chambers posted that Flash Player 10 is officially live. This completes your 1-2 punch of RIA/game platform releases of Silverlight and Flash this week.

We have just released the shipping version of Flash Player 10 (Mac, Windows and Linux). You can find more information on all of the new features on the Flash Player product page.

You can download the player for Mac, Windows and Linux players from here.

You can grab debug and standalone players from here.

You can grab the release notes from here.

Flash Player 10 is great news. There are so many things in it from a new data structure (Vector), to local FileReference, to Matrix and 3D helpers, to speed improvements and video enhancements being able to play other video types and more (this was actually in a late version of flash player 9 as well but will be used more here). It does take time for flash versions to get out in the wild, about 9 months to where they are in the 90%-95% range where you can convince people to use it in production, but getting those skills now is good.  The scripting platform is still Actionscript 3 so anyone still making Flash Player 8 and AS2 stuff is now two revolutions behind.

Another thing I am looking forward to soon (next week) that is missing from both Flash and Silverlight, is the ability to develop for the iPhone, which Unity3D is dropping the iPhone kit on Oct 22nd. Unity3D has effectively taken Director’s 3d game development (hardware accelerated) market lead away this year and late last year and is a great platform. Director who?

Lots of great tools and platforms to create the innovative new applications, games and markets that are so needed right now. Go create!

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