In the early 2000s there was a massive boom in the gaming world, where anyone could create their own video games with Adobe Flash. The simple, but powerful tool allowed for some creative games and animations. With the changing of times, Flash games have become a thing of the past, but a new and even more powerful engine has taken its place.
THE FLASH GAME BONANZA
The rise of the Flash game era came around the time I gained access to a computer and internet. At the time, the Internet was a bit like the Wild West, and it was still just sort of finding it’s place in society. Mobile phones were only just gaining Internet access and websites with easy-to-use site builders were popping up more and more.
Flash Games were a free way to play games at any time on any computer. I personally lived on Newgrounds. The site had animations and thousands of games to play. There was something for everyone. Most were hand-drawn art or just stick figure men fighting other stick men. The games were always simple, but always fun. There was always an audience for your Flash projects, no matter how silly or in-depth they might be.
THE FLOOD OF BAD FLASH GAMES
There is always a double-edged sword when it comes to giving many such a powerful tool. There will always be people who innovate and create magnificent products and an even larger group who produce terrible products. Bad Flash games were a plenty, either due to lack of skill or because some people prioritized quantity over quality.
The market was flooded with poorly-made or troll games. When trying to find the best Flash games online, it was always a chore to weed through the bad to uncover the good. Luckily most sites that featured user-created content had a voting system that could even get projects deleted from the site.
THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
Flash gave artists the ability to create things, but in a very restricted way — all they had to work with was a simple 2D plane. It’s only natural for creators to seek out a more powerful engine.
Unity came out in 2005, and it was exactly what creators were looking for — it was like upgrading to a diamond pickaxe in Minecraft. Everyone knew that Unity was going to be something big. However, the biggest hurdle for this new and fancy game engine was where its first home was.
Unity was designed to be Mac OS X-exclusive at first. Seeing as the majority of home computing is done on PC, it isn’t hard to see why the engine had a smaller start than you might’ve expected. Unity had the ability to create dynamic shadows, detailed 3D environments, and around 50 other features in 2007, making it easier to use and more accessible than Flash.
The release of Unity started a movement that changed how we see web-based games and ultimately, for better or even for worse, drove nails into Flash‘s coffin. The game engine is used by many companies, including Facebook.
I feel an air of nostalgia for the Flash games of old. It was how I grew up playing games when I didn’t have enough money to buy new video games. Everything was there for the taking when it came to home-grown Flash games. Unity has only made it easier for independent studios to produce wonderful games at a fraction of the cost of a triple-A title.
If you are loving the talk of Flash games, head over and read the article on Mario Flash games by our own Chelsea McPherson. Or, if you’re just interested in indie games in general, David Rafalko’s article on the Evolution of Indie Games makes for a good read.