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Adobe Flash EOL in 2020 – how will we preserve games?

Adobe announced today that it would cease development and support of Flash in 2020.

Of course, there were (and are) a lot of issues with Flash:

  • the proprietary nature of the Flash Player plugin;
  • memory and CPU usage;
  • stability problems;
  • security problems;
  • privacy concerns over Flash cookies;
  • Flash advertising/malware;
  • lack of accessibility in many Flash objects, resulting in issues for people with disabilities, screen readers, search engine indexing spiders, or for anyone who simply didn’t have the Flash Player installed, etc.;
  • and poorly programmed Flash objects.

So it’s not entirely a bad thing that Flash’s time is nearly at an end.

While this news doesn’t exactly come as a surprise to those who have been following the life of Flash since the iPhone launched, it does raise a serious question:

What will happen to all the games created in Flash when Flash is dropped from mainstream web browser support?

How will the history of games developed in Flash be preserved?

This is no small question. Over the 20+ years that Flash has been around, thousands of games have been built with it. Many of them are good games that still hold replay value. But without a viable platform with which to play them, will they wink out of existence and be forgotten?

I think the best approach to preserving Flash’s historical legacy would be to create a version of the Flash Player in Javascript or Web Assembly, and then any web site can use that to backfill support for any Flash objects that they wish to serve.

What are your favorite Flash games?

6 Comments

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  1. “Alternatives, I implore from Thee Lord FLOSS: Answer mine in this hour of need”

    And the Lord delivered’st :

    https://www.gnu.org/software/gnash/

    Now maybe help maintain instead of going chase some closed source proprietary holy cow that may abandon you just the same as flash and have a fully future proof implementation…

      

  2. Thanks for the suggestion, DTH.

    This article got a lot of traffic yesterday, after being picked up by some pro-FLOSS websites, and reddit.

    Unfortunately, I’ve read a few comments that Gnash has been effectively dead since 2012.

    That said, I agree that FLOSS projects have the best chance at long term survival. For historical preservation, I would like to see a faithful, opensource implementation of the Flash player in a language such as Javascript, or Web Assembly, that would make it easy for websites to provide a polyfill feature so that features built from Flash can run without a need to re-build them or port them to something else.

    A number of people commented to the effect that “this is what you deserve when you develop in a closed source platform.” Fair enough. When a closed source platform dies, there’s not much you can do about it without the support of the vendor.

    But in asking “how do we preserve Flash games”, I’m not approaching this from the developer’s vantage in asking how we may preserve historic Flash objects — I’m approaching it from the historian’s.

    Whether you agree with proprietary software or not, games have been developed in Flash. Whether it was morally wrong to used closed-source Flash (or merely a poor choice of tools) isn’t really a relevant question when considering how to preserve.

    These things exist, therefore the question of how to preserve them exists. If you aren’t interested in preservation, or don’t feel that preservation is a worthwhile pursuit, that’s fine for you, but it still doesn’t answer the question of how to preserve.

      

  3. Hi again,

    ““this is what you deserve when you develop in a closed source platform.””
    It’s not really about deserving it, it’s more about the risks of being completely reliant on closed source proprietary solutions.

    I don’t blame Flash games and their makers. I don’t view myself as morally superior for advocating FLOSS.
    Here, I’m only interested in long term preservation of all this content that has been made in Flash and that has little chance of being ever touched again to be ported to HTML5.

    I concur that in spite of its many misuses and the fact that it should never have been mixed with web content, Flash is a great technology for animation and vector graphics.

    We should absolutely seek to ensure that there a way, possibly free of charge for everyone to enjoy the legacy of many times unique Flash content we have.

    To which effect I believe FLOSS is the most effective way to achieve that: For me, preserving means that there a solution to play every single generation of Flash content up until its last iterations.

    For me, this a school case of why endeavour should be put in FLOSS: in you want to ensure long term ability – which in this stead pertains to freedom – of the public to be able perform some sort of computational operation for basically the end of times, you turn to free software. It is a victim of different problems, like interest in a project for example as Gnash shows, but these are more easily circumvented than forcing some vendor end into supporting a product it has no interest in maintaining any more. (Not that I complain, as great as Flash was for content creators, it really had to die, for a whole lot of reason we both know and have extensively explored).

      

    1. I’m in complete agreement with you here, DTH. Well said!

      I didn’t mean to lump you in with my earlier response with the entire FLOSS community, a decent-sized contingent of whom have been expressing a good deal of sanctimony over the death of Flash.

      I think it’s fine to have gripes about Flash — there are many, and I enumerated as many of them as I could think of in my original post, after all. But it’s something else to hate EVERYTHING ever made in Flash, simply because it was made with Flash, especially if they might have liked it otherwise. There were a lot of games (my particular interest) done in Flash, and they were done at a time when there wasn’t really any other technology that could have delivered the experience in the web browser.

      I’m glad that the web has been shifting to HTML5 and open standards, but I can still recognize that there are many valuable cultural artifacts built in Flash, and I feel that they deserve to be preserved. I think an open source Flash player would achieve this end, even though most Flash objects are themselves not open source.

      Of course, building FLOSS software using FLOSS to begin with is even better, if you are forward thinking enough to want your software to live on long after you stop maintaining it yourself.

        

  4. Here’s an interesting talk on Flash games that was recently posted by GDC.

      

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