When I started using Flash at version 3, I was inspired by GaboCorp and Eye4U, as I am sure many of you were. The tool at that time was relatively simplistic, pretty much all nested timelines and other symbols (remember using buttons and graphic symbols?) with only a smattering of actions available compared to it’s big brother, Director. The actual sites/designs coming out were able to be counted as they occurred, with server side interaction only a gleam in some engineer’s eye. You could see the site, emulate the visual effect with the drawing tools in the IDE and put out a nice SWF that put you in the game after going through the tutorials (Remember the skywriting airplane? if you do, comment on this story, please!) and a having a bit of design talent.
Flash 4 came out and the tool matured, though really only marginally. The barrier to entry for new designers was a few weekends behind a closed door and some determination.
When Flash 5 hit the streets, the dot syntax was liberating (no more “/:” woohoo!) and the buzz could easily be seen in the amazing new work being put out by Yugo P, Hillman Curtis and Joshua Davis to name just a few. The createEmptyMovieClip/attachMovieClip, rudimentary drawing API and and a few other niceties like primitive html support allowed PHP/MySQL Flash sites to spring up like daisies and we were off.
Flash forward to today and man, things are nuts… AS3.0 is rapidly becoming the norm for high-end effects and application development, and me, being a bit old school (I really only recently started using the Flash 8 filters in billable work), I just can’t imagine what it must feel like for new designers entering this arena. Hardly an experience site or app out there today doesn’t have programmatic animation, XML to the gills and a hearty amount of server side interaction along with some hot shot 3rd party API.
I teach university students (currently HTML/CSS but sometimes Flash), and it’s tough to even know where to start out… a semester or so with the timeline, another with some simple AS1.0/2.0 stuff and then it’s off to the races. What was their normal way to set up a movie, (nested timelines and tons of stop(), gotoAndPlay() commands everywhere) is soon taught to them that it isn’t really the best way to apporach things. Externalized libraries, animating with MCTween, LacoTween or Fuse, XML, etc. are the way to go if you want to produce pro level work. When you then point them to OSFlash and the stuff that people are doing with MTASC and FlashDevelop, Se|Py and all the rest, their minds just get blown.
The students seemingly get things quickly, but the time that I have behind the wheel has been invaluable to me… I just don’t know if I would be so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed if I knew, that in order to be a Flash ninja today, you basically have to live eat and breathe OOP and MVC, use third party compilers and get ready to code like Neo or whip crazy timelines like nobody’s business.
Of course, yes, there is young talent out there, but that bar is excruciatingly high… Anyone else out there feeling this same way?
Posted on March 25, 2007