Flash games have become more and more popular in recent years. While the demand for new games continues to increase, the number of developers seems to remain comparatively static. The reason for that might be that developing Flash games requires such a diverse range of skills.
Of course, to make Flash games a competence in Flash is required, but that alone is not enough. A good Flash games developer needs programming skills, graphical skills, audio skills, not to mention a good analytical mind, a methodical way of working through problems, and the patience to see a project through to completion. Here is a rough outline of how a single developer might tackle the problem of writing a Flash game from scratch.
Planning and design
Games are complex pieces of software. Even a small puzzle game written in Flash is likely to include several main screens or game states, multiple movieclips which may be nested (giving multiple timelines), one or more actionscipt files and possibly actionscript on the timeline, graphical elements either drawn in Flash or embedded in either bitmap or vector formats, and audio files.
With so many elements, sitting down at a computer with Flash open and starting to code is very unlikely to produce a satisfactory result. Whenever I start to write a new game I first start with a pen and paper, initially with a description of how I’ll go about writing the game, then with lists of game starts and main functionality, then with list of assets required. Only then, once I have a good idea of how the game will be written can I start to collate assets, and begin to write the game.
Once a design has been drafted, the next step is to write a mock-up game in Flash. The idea of this stage is to write the code in Flash for the game to be functional, without worrying too much about how the game looks. I often use place holder graphics at this stage, which will later be swapped with graphics produced by an artist, and unless it is integral to the game I leave the audio out entirely.
Graphics and audio
Once the mock-up has been written, and tested, the next stage is to integrate the graphics and audio. If the design phase was completed carefully with consideration to the graphics and audio, the artists (if the developer is not creating the graphics themselves) can be producing the graphical assets while the mock-up is being created. This allows the graphics and audio to be integrated relatively quickly and easily, and the game is now fully tested again.
Only after the game is virtually complete do final touches such as introduction and end of level screens, or preloaders get added. This allows testing to be much quicker and easier as the tester doesn’t have to repeatedly click through spurious intro screens.
As we have seen, even a simple Flash game is a complicated project to take on. However, with careful planning and by breaking the project down into sensibly sized modules a competent Flash developer can easily tackle small games projects alone, especially if they have the help of an artist for the graphics and audio.
If you’ve not written a game from scratch before then consider making modifications to an existing game first. That will give you experience working on games, and the confidence to take on larger projects from scratch in the future.
Writing Flash games can be a highly rewarding skill, both intellectually and financially, but tackling a project too large too early is a common mistake. If you’re new to writing Flash games start small, and learn how to write a Flash game the right way before moving on to bigger projects!