People everywhere love Flash. It has become the Web’s de facto standard for all manner of interfaces. From simple menus to full-blown games, you can bet that Flash is there. It has been called one of the best prototyping tools available, and game designers love it because they don’t need to be computer science graduates to use it. Most people browsing the web today have a Flash plugin installed, making it a fairly ubiquitous platform.
With all of these things going for it, why won’t I use it?
Because if I can’t even watch YouTube videos without it crashing Firefox on my Ubuntu system, then it can’t be that ubiquitous.
I thought the problem was that I was using an older version of Flash. I checked, and sure enough, there was a newer version available. I downloaded it, installed it, and put it through its paces. That is, went to YouTube and watched a few videos. Sometimes all I do is click a link to load a new page while a video is playing on the old page, and the next thing I know, I need to manually kill Firefox because it stops responding.
It doesn’t happen each time I watch a video, but it does happen often enough to be a source of frustration. Everything else on my system seems to be pretty stable. It’s just Flash support that isn’t.
It isn’t a consistent problem for everyone. It seems that when someone else updated to the latest version, it worked fine, although it did have the side-effect of hogging a lot of system resources. I’d argue that this is a problem, too, but at least it isn’t freezing Firefox for this person anymore.
Recently, Adobe announced it had joined the Linux Foundation “to collaborate on the advancement of Linux as a leading platform for rich Internet applications (RIA) and Web 2.0 technologies.” With people complaining that 64-bit Flash isn’t available and with the existing 32-bit version being too buggy for doing things as simple and as common as watching videos on YouTube, I’m curious how much progress will get made. It seems that almost everything available for Linux on Adobe’s site is “alpha-quality”, with a link to get the already-stable Windows or Mac version.
In any case, until Flash becomes more stable for Linux users, I have to look to other technologies to provide a more consistent experience across platforms. Java applets should be a better proposition, and languages such as Processing make it friendlier for prototyping. And since OpenJDK is Sun-supported, I can’t see it crashing as randomly as Flash does. Unfortunately, it seems that Java isn’t on as many systems as Flash is, and asking someone to download a plugin if it isn’t already installed is just asking too much if you are trying to attract the casual player.
I’d love to use Flash. It’s not a bad technology. It’s just disappointing that Linux support is so inconsistent. If I am going to make web games, I am definitely not going to use something that results in games that I can’t even play.
[tags] video games, game development, linux, flash, java, business [/tags]