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Welcome to the third annual Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival. Over the course of the next ten weeks, we’ll be debuting ten remarkable student animated shorts.

We’re launching the festival today with 21 Years in 7 Minutes by Caroline Torres (Rhode Island School of Design). Autobiographical stories are a staple of student filmmakers, but rarely have we seen one as confident and original as this one. Torres’ fast-paced accounting of her life uses superb visual storytelling filled with comedy and heart, and pairs it with a distinctively quirky animation style that complements the simple line artwork. The film is a pleasant reminder that life is most often about friendship in all its many forms, from boy-next door crushes to BFFs who share in everything to animation school friendships in which people often connect through their characters.

Click HERE to meet the filmmaker Caroline Torres and comment on the film.


The Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival is made possible by the generosity of our presenting sponsor JibJab.

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I am no longer committed to supporting any Flash related open-source projects.

Here is why. When I started using the Flash Player it was quite easy to reach its limits. However you were able to get around those limitations with clever hacks and debatable optimization techniques. I was always keen to share my knowledge with the community and to explore all possible options to achieve best performance.

The Flash Player has been hibernating for half a decade now. The only glimpse of performance was finally a set of specialized op-codes which allow you to modify an array of bytes. In layman’s terms this means it was finally possible to do a[b] = c with an acceptable performance. So I wrote a tool which allows you to do just that and many other things. I have spent a good time of my free time trying to improve the performance of the Flash Player and contributing all my code to the community.

As a reminder: I showed some drastic performance improvements at Flash on the Beach in 2009. That was three years ago. It was not necessary to modify the Flash Player and it was not necessary to modify the ActionScript language.

The Adobe roadmap for the Flash runtimes states that Flash Player “Dolores”

  • will support ActionScript Workers
  • comes with improved performance for Apple iOS
  • and ActionScript 3 APIs to access the fast-memory op-codes

This player should be released in the second half of 2012. The “Next” Flash Player will finally include

  • modernizing the core of the Flash runtime
  • work on the VM
  • updates to the ActionScript language

This is planned for 2013 apparently. And what can we expect? Type inference, static typing as a default, and hardware-oriented numeric types. Hooray, so it will be finally possible in 2013 to write a[b] = c without having to use some weird fast-memory op-codes. If we look back to the year 2009 this makes me really sad.

With the introduction of the speed tax you will now have to license your application. No matter if you make money out of it or not. Now I think that 9% is a decent number and I can understand Adobe’s position on this. In fact it is much more friendly than the 30% Google or Apple take. However the AppStore was an invention. What is the invention here? Squeezing money out of an already existing feature, and suddenly making it unavailable after people have been relying on it for years to push the boundaries of the platform and actually innovate?

But for the hell of it, a[b] = c is not a premium feature. Nor are hardware accelerated graphics. That is what I would expect from any decent runtime.

Limiting the capabilities of a runtime — by defaulting back to software rendering for instance — will make it less attractive to use it in the first place. You are probably not interested to go through a signing progress for a small demo. So your performance might be crap, people will complain about the Flash Player taking 100% CPU because its using software rendering (YEY! 2013!), laptop fans will start to dance and you will look like a bad developer because that other guy got the same thing running with hardware acceleration. Or you could use a different technology.

Why is this bad? Because apparently this signing with a $50k threshold targets the enterprise and small developers seem to be acceptable collateral damage. However thinking about the next five to ten years: who is going to write ActionScript code if it is no longer attractive to play around with it in the first place?

We still rely on the Flash Player at audiotool.com. I am still developing for it and we will probably have to use it as long as there is no alternative. Me no longer supporting open-source tools is just me no longer spending my personal time for a platform that I would not use for private stuff. Work is of course not always about fun. But fortunately I am able to spend 90% of my time writing Scala code.

I will finish this blog post with some bad karma:

It’s also worth noting that the new Adobe license will prohibit scenarios where you’d have the first level of a game in the Flash Player, and the full experience inside the Unity Web Player. Alas, this is something you’ll need to be aware of if you were considering such a route.

You will not only pay for the features. You are also welcome to cede some of your rights.

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Announcing CreateJS

We’ve been working really hard on a lot of great stuff over the last couple months, and I’m thrilled finally to be able to share it with the world.

CreateJS

We’re going to be releasing EaselJS and a number of companion libraries under the new umbrella name “CreateJS”. CreateJS will be a suite of modular libraries and tools which work together to enable rich interactive content on open web technologies (aka HTML5). These libraries will be designed so that they can work completely independently, or you can mix and match as suits your needs. The initial offerings will be: EaselJS, TweenJS, SoundJS, and PreloadJS.

Along with the new name, we’ll also be launching a new site at createjs.com which will consolidate demos, docs, tutorials, community, and showcases for all of the libraries and tools. If you have a project or tutorial you’d like to see featured, tweet it to us: @createjs.

EaselJS

EaselJS provides a display list and interactive model for working with rich graphics on top of the HTML5 canvas (and beyond). It provides an API that is familiar to Flash developers, but embraces javascript sensibilities.

We’re planning a minor v0.4.1 release soon, which includes bug fixes and some minor feature additions. Following that, work will commence on v0.5, which will focus on some larger features, API clean up and consistency, and improved documentation. If you have features you’d like to see in v0.5, add them to the issue list, or tweet them to @createjs, and we’ll see what we can do.

Along with the CreateJS site launch, we will be releasing much improved examples, and links to resources and tutorials developed by the community. Again, let us know if you’ve written a tutorial, or have something cool you’ve built with EaselJS you’d like us to showcase.

TweenJS

TweenJS is a tweening and animation library that works with EaselJS or independently. It offers a deceptively simple interface, and a huge amount of power with support for delays, easing, callbacks, non-numeric properties, sequencing, and plugins.

TweenJS v0.2 will be tagged soon. It will incorporate some fixes and tweaks, along with a full plugin model. After v0.2 our next focus will be on performance and providing better demos and documentation in preparation for the CreateJS launch.

SoundJS

Audio is currently a mess in HTML5, but SoundJS works to abstract away the problems and makes adding sound to your games or rich experiences much easier.

We have a huge v0.2 release in testing right now. It is a ground up rewrite that incorporates a target plugin model that allows you to prioritize what APIs you’d like to use to play audio. For example, you could choose to prioritize WebAudio, then audio tags, then Flash audio. You can query for capabilities (depending on the plugin that is used), and it offers seamless progressive enhancement (for example, panning will work in WebAudio, but will be quietly ignored in HTML audio). Following v0.2 our focus will move to fixing bugs, and delivering plugins for mobile and application platforms like PhoneGap and Win8 Metro for a v0.2.1 release.

PreloadJS

The newest addition to the suite, PreloadJS will make it easy to preload your assets: images, sounds, JS, data, or others. It will use XHR2 to provide real progress information when available, or fall back to tag loading and eased progress when it isn’t. It allows multiple queues, multiple connections, pausing queues, and a lot more. We’re hoping to get a v0.1 build out in the next couple weeks for people to start playing with, and then will focus on fixing bugs, improving documentation, and just generally maturing things for v0.1.1.

Zoë

Zoë is an open source AIR application that converts SWF animations to sprite sheets. It supports some advanced features, like configurable frame reuse and multi-image sheets (important for mobile).

For Zoë v0.2 we’re planning to add support for reading the symbols in a SWF, and letting you select multiple symbols to include in your exported sprite sheet. It’s also worth mentioning here that Flash Pro CS6 will include direct support for exporting sprite sheets for EaselJS, offering a more integrated workflow than Zoë can provide.

Toolkit for CreateJS

We’ve partnered with Adobe to build a fantastic tool for leveraging all of the existing Flash Pro skill that’s out there to build amazing HTML5 experiences. The Toolkit for CreateJS is an extension for Flash Pro that allows you to publish content (including symbols, vectors, animations, bitmaps, sound, and text) for CreateJS & HTML5 as a library of scriptable, instantiable objects.

We’ve worked really hard to develop a workflow that makes sense, and to generate code that is completely human readable, and very small (in some cases the output is smaller than SWF when zlib compressed). You can even write JS code on the Flash timeline, and it will be injected into your published tweens.

Exciting times! If you’d like to stay on top of CreateJS updates, please follow @createjs on Twitter.

gskinner.com | gBlog - News and views on Flash, Flex, ActionScript, and web technologies

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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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Welcome to the preview release of codename "Alchemy." Alchemy is a research project that allows users to compile C and C++ code that is targeted to run on the open source ActionScript Virtual Machine (AVM2). The purpose of this preview is to assess the level of community interest in reusing existing C and C++ libraries in Web applications that run on Adobe® Flash® Player and Adobe AIR®.

With Alchemy, Web application developers can now reuse hundreds of millions of lines of existing open source C and C++ client or server-side code on the Flash Platform.  Alchemy brings the power of high performance C and C++ libraries to Web applications with minimal degradation on AVM2.  The C/C++ code is compiled to ActionScript 3.0 as a SWF or SWC that runs on Adobe Flash Player 10 or Adobe AIR 1.5.

Alchemy is primarily intended to be used with C/C++ libraries that have few operating system dependencies. Ideally suited for computation-intensive use cases, such as audio/video transcoding, data manipulation, XML parsing, cryptographic functions or physics simulation, performance can be considerably faster than ActionScript 3.0 and anywhere from 2-10x slower than native C/C++ code. Alchemy is not intended for general development of SWF applications using C/C++.

Download and Discuss


With Alchemy, it is easy bridge between C/C++ and ActionScript 3.0 to expand the capabilities of applications on the Flash Platform, while ensuring that the generated SWCs and SWFs cannot bypass existing Flash Player security protections.

Adobe is providing some example libraries, and developers are encouraged to share their ported libraries.

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Developer xdanond successfully merges two disparate genres in Starwish, a horizontally scrolling "RPG shooter" playable for free at Kongregate.

Starwish's power-up mechanics and level design exude a strong Gradius vibe, while the RPG elements put a fun spin on the formula; each destroyed enemy awards the player with money and experience points, and new weapons and ship parts can be purchased between levels. Interestingly, weapons can be switched on the fly via a mouse-driven menu during gameplay -- an unusual design choice that works better than expected thanks to autofire being an option.

The game also features a strong narrative element (even going so far as to resemble a dating sim at times), and probes the player with a barrage of personal questions before gameplay begins. These sequences can be skipped, however, for those who prefer to jump straight into the action.

The game's catchy soundtrack is available for free streaming via a YouTube playlist.

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Exploding Rabbit's retro-themed Flash platformer Super Mario Bros. Crossover is set to see a major update in the first quarter of 2012, introducing a variety of new features and level skins based on beloved classics from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras.

The update adds a number of new characters, including Mario's brother Luigi, Trevor Belmont from Castlevania III, and Mega Man's Bass and Proto Man. Also included are nods to Retro Game Challenge's Haggle Man, along with character and world skins for Demon Returns -- impressively obscure picks, even if they're just reskins of existing characters.

Despite the seeming incongruity of the included gameplay mechanics, the formula actually works quite well -- witness how naturally Blaster Master's Sophia the 3rd glides through the water levels, for instance, or how destructive Ryu Hayabusa can be when he's let loose in the Mushroom Kingdom. The latest version of Super Mario Bros. Crossover can be played at Exploding Rabbit's website.

[via Tiny Cartridge]

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It's not weird, you're just a philistine.

Last week there were a couple of games that brought up the question of what actually counts as a game. One of them shouldn’t have, because it turned out to be a passing ice-cream truck. The other was Katawa Shoujo, which occasionally teetered on the edge of that which people were willing to tolerate – that a reviewer could be bored by a slightly creepy visual novel about dating definitely-not-underage-at-all disabled girls without being some kind of illiterate, word-hating dunce. Which obviously John is, but that’s not the point. Luckily, you can now enjoy that experience in a brand new form – one in which you occasionally get to press some buttons.

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One day everyone will realise I'm right about these games.

It’s on days like today, when there is NO PC NEWS AT ALL, that I remember to return to Neko Games. The creator of the wonderful Hoshi Saga series has always created a new gem since my last visit, and it’s just as true today. Today there’s Ouka. It’s similar to the star-hunting antics of Hoshi Saga, in that you’re aiming to complete lots of very short Flash-based puzzles, but this time it’s all about clicking on the flower. How you can go about doing that is the unique puzzle for each level, with that unique Neko Games logic. And then, wait, oh my goodness, is that a new Hoshi Saga too?

(more…)

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