Online Development Platforms

A few months back, I wrote about how I couldn’t use Flash for game development, mostly because of the poor Gnu/Linux support. The comments to that post have since made me rethink this position, but I’m still researching my options.

Unfortunately, my only real options are Flash and Java. I went to the Linux Game Tome forums and asked for advice on web-based game development. The opinions were mixed, as expected. Some people love Java, some people hate it. Some people didn’t like the proprietary nature of Flash, and some people said that it’s the nature of the web to support Flash.

The Indie Gamer forums had a separate thread going about online 3D game development, and it seems that there is an overwhelming vote in favor of Flash. I questioned how people could dismiss Java so quickly considering Jagex created Runescape, which was the top MMORPG until this past year. People seem to think of it as an exception, but I think it shows that Flash doesn’t have a monopoly on browser penetration. Adobe will tell you that 99% of browsers have Flash while less than 90% have Java, but when it comes to people who will play games in a web browser, do those numbers still hold? Jagex doesn’t seem to be hurting from not using Flash.

In general, Flash is the most ubiquitous platform, and I’m sure its Gnu/Linux support will get better over time. Java’s browser penetration isn’t that far behind, though, and it isn’t clear if it is at a significant disadvantage. Both have open source development tools available for them, but Flash is still a proprietary platform.

I still haven’t made my decision, and I could avoid this decision by choosing to make a persistent browser-based game (PBBG) instead. Still, I’d like to make games that are easy for others to play, regardless if they are using Windows, Mac, or Gnu/Linux. For now, I will continue to make desktop clients.

[tags] web game development, indie, flash, java [/tags]

10 comments to Online Development Platforms

  • I don’t use it myself, but I have some colleagues who are really really big into OpenLaszlo. Besides being a Drupal site (awesome!), OpenLaszlo is a Flash-esque setup that compiles down to a Flash-compatible file. (At least I think that’s what it does.) So it can be used in any browser that supports a reasonably modern Flash, but doesn’t use ActionScript and Adobe’s toolchain. You may want to look into it. (I’ve just exhausted my knowledge of the subject in this paragraph.)

    That said, while Flash is still not fully open it is getting closer. I’m at the point where I’m willing to learn Flash, or at least try to do so, specifically for Flex. (I’ve heard good things about it.) I still have no experience with either system, though, so I can’t say for sure which will offer you the better deal and at what ethical cost.

    If you give them a try, let us know how it goes. 🙂

  • Actually, judging from the website’s description, it is more of a Java-based technology, although it seems to let you deploy apps on the Flash 6 player. “LZX applications are written in XML files with embedded JavaScript, which provide an ideal foundation for serious developers.” Coding in XML? This I gotta see.

  • I have been playing around with the idea of real time games in flash for a while, the main problem always comes back to what backend to use.

    Right now I am working on a php based socket server for flash to power real time games if your interested send me an email.

  • I’m torn on this topic myself, although I’m inclined to learn enough Python to do everything I want as a downloadable and not worry about browser based delivery.

    Of course, AS 3 is an open dev platform now, right? As Larry said, Adobe has been making some good faith effort towards the FOSS community and, from what I hear, AS is pretty easy to pick up.

    Using Whirled as a platform actually seems like a great way to monetize game concepts and they use CC licensing, which pleases me to no end. They’re currently in the midst of a major overhaul that will make it possible to design MMOs in Flash as well.

    So many options. Personally, I just want to take two weeks where I do nothing but immerse myself in a programming language with experts at hand to guide my course. With two solid weeks under my belt, I can probably grope my way towards some proof-of-concepts without too much difficulty.

    I should have listened when people told me I ought to switch my degree to computer science. Ah well. If I’d done that I might not be self employed and being creative for a living already. It’s all in the balance…

  • Flash vs. Java for online game development… I found myself wrestling with this exact question earlier this year. In the end, it came down to the following numbers for me.
    More people use Flash, more lay-people know WTH Flash is, and more portals support Flash.
    In spite of the fact that I was better equipped to produce stuff in Java, that’s all I felt I really needed to know.

  • OK, I made the mistake of looking at OpenLaszlo last night. It actually looks pretty impressive. The Java is just for the server, if you’re using a dedicated server. If you’re not, you just need to use it for the compiler and it produces a standalone SWF file. Most of the setup is done with XML that looks a lot like XUL, with Javascript to fill in the gaps. It looks like it compiles down to Javascript and from there to SWF. Try reading through the developers book they have online.

    It’s supposed to support pulling in remote data, but I’m still having trouble getting that part working. 🙂

    Also, someone posted on my blog about pure-javascript games:

    http://www.garfieldtech.com/blog/colleagues

  • Especially if you like Linux and open source, I would go with Java. I think the Java situation will improve a lot in the next year or two, with more Linux distros starting to bundle open source java sdks in the future, and the new version of Java (update 10) that acts more like Flash, plus JavaFX.

    And just to throw out one other alternative not mentioned, there is Silverlight, and an open source clone moonlight, but I haven’t really looked into it, even though I have used .net/mono extensively before for desktop and web apps.

  • Lol, Flash is technically far behind Java in terms of features. AS3 is not as fast as Java and 3D features are quite limited with Flash whereas it is possible to use OpenGL with Java. Java has some advantages of Flash and some advantages of C++, it can be used for casual games and for more complete games. The only advantage of Flash is that it is used by a lot of people and there is no annoying security popup, Java applets are sometimes not reliable enough but Java webstart works fine.

    If you like cross-platform game development, I advise you to use Java. The OpenJDK will solve a lot of problems, I think Java is a good choice for the future. If you want to see some Java game, watch the Java game tome: http://www.javagametome.com

    Have a look at the FGF players’ portal. It focuses on highlighting games that have been written in the Java programming language, easily installable (only applets and webstart applications), fully cross-platform, free and open source:
    http://tuer.tuxfamily.org/fgf/players_portal/

  • dudan

    All I can say is take a look at: http://www.unity3d.com it will blow you away!

    I discovered it yesterday after seriously looking into papervision 3D.
    It makes papervision look 10 years out of date!

    It works the same way as flash with a player and then separate content, but it’s about 20x more powerful.

    Check out the games the community have made: http://www.unity3d.com/contest/

  • Unity 3D does not work on GNU Linux. Rather use Java.