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Extending the Life of Your Flash-Based Video Game

While there have been several waves of education video game development throughout the past 40 years, most of the games that have been developed in the first half of the last decade were built in Adobe Flash (now Adobe Animate). In fact, some say that the accessibility and capabilities of Flash made this most recent wave of educational game innovation possible.

At Filament Games, some of our best-known and most popular games leverage Flash technology. Lightweight and elegant, Flash allowed developers to make video games that could load quickly in virtually any web browser, which was an important feature for making games targeted to be played in classrooms. While Flash came with its own impressive set of tools, Filament further extended Flash’s capabilities by developing a suite of software enablement tools called Flare that increased our productivity and output.

As it became clear that Flash was quickly facing its demise, video game developers flocked to new technologies such as HTML5 and Unity. While these new technologies provide an elegant solution for new game development, it doesn’t address the sizeable inventory of existing educational video games that are loved by players and educators around the world.

At first blush, Flash to HTML5 conversion software tools seemed like a plausible solution. However, upon further investigation these tools were not sophisticated enough to handle the complexities and intricacies of Flash-based video games. Similarly, browser plug-ins that promise to convert Flash to HTML5 in real time cannot handle games. Given the lack of turnkey conversion solutions, we currently see two main strategies for extending the life of your Flash-based video game:

HTML5 or Unity Game Remake.

While automated conversion tools are not an option, remaking your game in a modern technology is. With the game design, story, and look and feel already established, most of the effort involved in a remake is in refreshing the art, programming, user experience design, and quality assurance. For example, when we worked with iCivics to remake Win the White House, we learned that the user interface had to be significantly overhauled in order to make it usable on mobile devices.

Generally, the effort to complete a game remake is proportionally less than making a new learning game with us. However, as mentioned above, there is still a significant amount of user experience, engineering, and quality assurance updates necessary to refresh the game. You can learn more about the cost to make an educational video game with us here.

Adobe AIR Port.

If you are open to transforming your Flash-based game into a native app, porting your Flash-based game to Adobe AIR is significantly less effort than remaking your entire game and may be a good option for you. The native apps are downloadable to Windows and Mac OS desktops as well as iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, and other Android devices significantly expanding the game’s reach.

Adobe AIR wraps Flash games in a native app runtime so that the games look and feel like native games on the target platform. This includes things like support for multitouch, accelerometer, camera, Game Center, and Google Play.

Because Adobe AIR is still using the Flash runtime for displaying art and animation, performance is a significant concern. Nobody wants to play a laggy game. To compensate for this, we spend a lot of time optimizing the Flash art to run well on mobile devices. Even still, certain games that have large open environments, 2.5D or 3D elements, or very complex interfaces may not perform well when ported to Adobe AIR.

The cost to port a game depends on several key factors including the number and complexity of user interfaces, game mechanics, and target platforms. As a general range, we’ve found that we can complete an Adobe AIR port within 2-3 months of effort and is 4-6 times less expensive that completing a game rewrite.

With these two strategies, we hope that the educational video games that have shaped a generation and have driven measurable outcomes for players around the world will continue to live on for generations to come.

If you need help with either a Flash-based educational video game rewrite or porting your game to Adobe AIR, we’d love to hear from you.


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