It’s been a crazy week since GDC. We’re scrambling to get some stuff in place and put together a good combat engine prototype (ETA is two weeks – look forward to some screenshots with crappy placeholder art!). We haven’t managed to send out our follow-ups to all of our GDC contacts yet, but that’s in the works too.
From my end, I’ve started working in earnest on a collaborative project pioneered by one of my engineering buddies. It’s a multiuser Flash game targeted to the facebook platform. It’s called Checkwars, and it’s (predictably) checkers on steroids. Why, you ask? Why not, I say! There’s a great future for multiplayer on facebook, and a simple project like Checkwars is just what the doctor ordered to start us off.
That said, I’m not very happy with the hoops a guy has to go through in order to develop a multiuser Flash game. If you want to develop a single player game, you need just two things:
- Adobe Flash Professional (found in Adobe CS4 Design Premium): ~$1800 USD
- A webserver that supports flash (.swf files): ~$10 a month, or more depending on traffic.
Not too shabby. The tool is a bit of a hit to the pocketbook for a guy with a $0 budget, but it’s understandable. Now, check out what happens when you want to develop a multiplayer game the Adobe way:
- Adobe Flash Builder (IDE for Flex framework): ~$1800
- Adobe Flash Media Server (to allow flash clients to communicate with each other): ~$4500
- A dedicated server that will run Flash Media Server, your webserver, and whatever other databases/account management/checkout stuff you need: ~$10-$1500 PER MONTH depending on numbers of users
Ouch. Note that Adobe Flash Professional is for making animations and flash elements for websites, while Adobe Flash Builder is for making applications that run in Adobe Flash Player. If this sounds funny to you, then I guess the joke is on me – I didn’t realize this until after I bought Adobe Flash Professional. That’s okay, I got a good deal on it and I don’t really want to spend five grand on the Adobe Media Server, anyway.
So how about us indie schmucks? How do we make a multiplayer Flash game? Luckily, the open source community has come to the rescue again. Here’s what you need:
- Flex Framework. Adobe released it open-source and free of charge. How kind!
- A Flex IDE. It looks like you have a couple of free options between FlashDevelop and Eclipse with the Flex plugin.
- A Flash Server. Smartfox is free, but only for fewer than 20 users (€800 otherwise). Red5 is free, open source, and delicious.
- A dedicated server of some kind to host it all. We’re getting by for now with Dreamhost and a server box in my basement, but we’ll definitely have to figure something out before we release the game.
Things are bound to get a bit more complicated as they go on. I know that I can use the above setup to make a decent chat/lobby system, but it would be nice to reconcile the differences between Flex and Flash Professional, at least for graphics and animations. Also, though I managed to get Red5 running on my server, I haven’t been able to get any of the demo applications to work at all. I’ll give myself another couple of days of debugging and walkthroughs before I end up hitting the mailing list with my tail between my legs.