Friday, December 22, 2006

Interview with Jim Bumgardner Re Flash Games

Students Pamela Fox/Ben Lisbakken conducted this email interview with Jim Bumgardner of for Ben's flash games presentation in USC Gamepipe's CSCI 180, Survey of Digital Games & Technologies.

1) How has flash technology changed to better enable games?

It was always possible to do rudimentary games in Flash, but since Flash 4, each new version of Flash has significantly improved Actionscript, which has made things easier. Flash 5 was the
first version that I would even consider using - it introduced a basic C-like syntax to actionscript, which made it more attractive to experienced developers.

Flash 6 introduced a lot more functionality, particularly for the "MovieClip" object, and at this point, Actionscript started to look a lot more like Javascript/ECMAScript.

Flash 7 introduced Actionscript 2.0 and a more elegant system for doing object oriented programming.

Flash 8 introduced some significant performance enhancements, improved font handling, and most importantly for games, support for bitmaps.

2) What genres/types of games are best made with Flash?

I generally encourage my students to make "classic" games in Flash. Although it's possible to make 3D games in Flash, it lends itself much more to 2D (or "2 1/2 D") style games. It is an excellent platform for doing classic arcade games. There is also a genre of game which doesn't really have a name, but I'll call "Post Classical" which is basically a classic 2D game which has been gussied up to look good at high resolutions. This style of game is something that was pioneered by Flash developers, because Flash lends itself to making higher quality graphics. Another related genre is the inverse of this (Pseudo Classic), which are new games that are made to intentionally look like old fashioned games, such as many of the games on the
Homestarrunner website.

3) What were important games in flash game history?

I'm not much of a gamer, so I'm probably not the best source for this.
I don't really think of any specific Flash games as "ground breaking" - however I do think that the trend towards including smaller "gamelets" on websites is interesting. Flash enables this because the games can load quickly and can be created relatively cheaply...

Oh yeah, one other thing worth mentioning about Flash games. At one time, computer game development was commonly done by a single person or very small teams - for example, the first games from Sierra Games were done by husband and wife Roberta and Ken Williams.

In recent years commercial game development is a much bigger affair, resembling movie production, with huge teams and huge budgets. Flash game development, however, often more closely resembles game development from the Apple II period - and this reason, perhaps more
than the performance characteristics of Flash, has a lot to do with the character of the games themselves.

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