Monday, January 24, 2011

Flash in the Pan

I've been in the closet about this for a long time, but I cannot be silent any longer.

*I love indie Flash games*

Love them. LOVE them. I used to think it was really nerdy and embarrassing, but developing an affinity for any new medium or genre inherently carries some shame- simply because it is unfamiliar.

What are Flash games? "Flash" is an Adobe software application used for animation and interactive elements on websites. I will admit, my understanding of the program is very limited, but that's the gist of it. Flash games are video games that are built with Flash (usually), generally are played right in your web browser, and are much simpler in design than the big name 3D games that you buy at the store and play off of a CD.

Why do I love these games so much? Potential. The elements of these games are so straight forward that just a small group of people (2-5) or even a single person can develop one. For this reason, new games are constantly being created and they are emerging with a wide range of 'personalities'. Different types of games (puzzle, platform, point and click, etc), different kinds of artwork, different kinds of controls, unique music, and clever narratives. There is so much potential for new art to thrive. This is why it's exciting to me.

There is a lot of crap out there, but for every 10 cookie-cutter games, there is one game that is truly compelling. Yes, it is because games are fun, but it is so much more than that. Communities have started forming to support and encourage independent game developers. Kongregate and Adult Swim are two of the more successful of these communities. They draw fans to one place and offer monetary rewards and free exposure for talented developers. Some companies employ there own developers and periodically release games under their own brand, such as Nitrome.

The one game that started my obsession was the BRILLIANT game "Machinarium". I should have put the title in italics instead of quotes because it is a MAJOR work. The artwork is breathtaking, the puzzles are clever and challenging, the game play and animations are smooth, the narrative is unique and consuming, and the soundtrack is a sophisticated composition that adds miles of depth to the experience.

However, this game is an exception to many of the Flash game stigmas I mentioned earlier. It was developed by a slightly larger than normal team (7 developers), took a few years, and although the demo can be played free in your browser, the full game must be purchased and downloaded. I'll tell you though, it was quite possibly the best $10 I've ever spent on entertainment.

If I have a point, I guess it's that this game has inspired me and shown me the possibilities in developing Flash games. I've gotten into a little bit of Action Scripting (the Flash language) but my skills are very very limited. If anyone out there is or knows anyone interested in exploring this medium and has a knack for programming, lets put or brains together sometime.

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