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Haxe killer app (if one among many): a real end-to-end Flash replacement

Hi everyone!

I have no idea if such a project already exists, but I’d love to know if it does.

I’ve seen more than one mention lately of how the Flash era was a wonderful time for being creative on the Web with, let’s say, flexible requirements when it came to programming skills.

With Haxe, you can target Flash, but Flash runtimes are subject to Adobe, and not supported as well as they used to be. Even with a runtime, the tools for authoring Flash content itself seem to be limited to:

  • Expensive (and now—entirely?—cloud-only) Adobe products
  • A few proprietary solutions with limited support and pretty severe compatibility problems (Vectorian Giotto comes to mind, at least this was my experience about 3 years ago)
  • Hand-coding animations in Haxe (what I resorted to, personally; it’s certainly not pretty)

I know Haxe is already awesome in lots of other areas, but I wonder, wouldn’t creating an actual replacement for Flash, but completely open-source, be a great killer app for the Haxe ecosystem? It could spark a creativity renaissance and really put Haxe on the radar of the wider public.

I guess a web runtime optimized with Wasm and whatever other standards necessary could alleviate the need for an actual browser plugin. Desktop and phone runtimes could leverage native compilation for performance. The runtime itself could be built on OpenFL, and an AS3 (or Haxe? or hscript?) API could mirror OpenFL’s as well, for compatibility with existing projects (current OpenFL-based Haxe projects as well as older projects yet to be ported.)

The other piece would be the actual vector-based content creation tool, which would need to be as easy-to-use as products from a decade ago, but output content that can run on this new set of runtimes. (How is SVG support nowadays? At least being able to import it into such a tool would mean that basic drawings could be done with free tools like Inkscape, and then animation would be left to this new tool.) Godot is making inroads with a similar strategy here, but it’s not at all vector-based.

I suppose at some point I had the (misconceived?) notion that this is what the/a “Flash killer” would entail. No offence intended toward anyone’s efforts here—the Haxe ecosystem is already amazing—I’m just taking a shot in the dark regarding the situation and my perception may be out-of-date (and is surely downright fuzzy) in many places. Corrections appreciated.

Cheers,
Kev

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If one would embark on such a journey, the right approach would be to separate animation from code.
Even if one is to code inside the animation tool (akin to what Adobe Animate offers), it would be too chauvinistic to not support js.

In any case to me Haxe as a language has a different (and probably much broader) target demographic than animation artists.

Hi Kevin and all !

indeed, an alternative for the “Flash” application (Adobe Animate) would be very handy for content creation and animation.

Some interesting projects that come to mind in this area :

Armory Engine by Lubos Lenco, is a advanced realtime 3d render engine which uses Blender as a scene and content creation host. It supports programming through logic nodes or Haxe code, directly in Blender or in an external code editor.
Being a blender plugin, vector and bitmap creation and animation, svg and 3d model import, is already supported by the Blender developers, so no need to recode the wheel. It has/had support for grease pencil animation (check this demo); grease pencil is evolving quickly, so support is maybe no up to date.
It’s sister project, ArmorPaint, is maturing and getting more and more attention.

Kode Studio, by Robert Konrad aka robdangerous, is based on VSCode. It is more code-oriented but provides a nice all-in-one package to quickly get started with visual programming, and could probably be build upon.

NanoFl, by Yaroslav Sivakov, who publishes a lot of great haxe libraries, is/was a promising flash editor clone. The original website/domain, nanofl.com has been hijacked it seems. The repository is on bitbucket but doesn’t seem up to date. You can check this video to get an idea. Maybe it could be modernized with HaxeUI to get it to compile cross-target, you can check latest experiments on Ian’s twitter feed.

IMO Armory is a very clever setup, and might only needs a few tutorials and default files to ease adoption for Adobe Animate users.

Victor

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Hey Kevin,
I would be very interested in well designed application to make vectors along the same lines as Flash and Sketch, but cross platform and multi language, and more plugin focused. I think that could really be something, starting out and than move towards animations taking a similar approach as Lottie in creating an animation data format.

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Does anyone really want “just” an end-to-end Flash replacement? There is a lot of nostalgy about the Flash era (that my kids will never know about unless they become web archeologists), but does that correspond to what people do nowadays?

Both the Flash IDE and the Flash runtime are gigantic multi-purpose projects with too much features and not humanly reproducible.

What subset of features would you want to reproduce?

The reality is that there are/were different categories of users, and many Flash game developers used little of the IDE (or didn’t use it at all) - especially in the Haxe community, as Haxe allows to compile code and package assets on its own.

Now if you liked the timeline, doing simple animations and interactions, I would suggest looking at wickeditor.com: it’s opensource, actively developed, web-based but seem to have an Electron wrapper in work, and it could surely use contributors both for the editor and the engine. A lot could be done: a crossplatform Haxe-based runtime, maybe some Haxe export/integration/alternative scripting…

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The OpenFL team continue to consider SWF assets as an important focus.
According to @singmajesty on October 7 in the Discord channel:

I’m thinking of the following work items as we approach the next new OpenFL release:

  • Polishing the new SWF asset format
  • Additional investment in the renderer (batcher, HW shapes, etc)
    I’m considering runtime SWF support as well even as far as AVM support (at least at a basic level)

With this in mind it seems that people who need to use Adobe Animate for its strengths (animation, vectors, asset / artwork prep) can continue to do so for some time yet. By bringing the SWF assets into OpenFL you will have access to all of its targets.

I appreciated @elsassph for pointing out that many users did not have the full skill set to use Flash/Animate to its full capacity. I eventually did get to that point, and by doing it I realised that I needed even more than what Flash offered, especially for code editing. So it was a good tool, and still is a good tool, and it’s not the only software which can produce SWF assets.

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The SWF format is great for certain types of contents, and Animate is probably still best way to author them. I’m not suggesting otherwise :slight_smile:

However the use cases for SWF are relatively limited, and people who need it for serious matters will pay for Flash Pro/Animate, so my point is that it doesn’t make much sense to try to compete frontally.

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Nice ideas. Here is the related HN article: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21242857

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Some great leads here…much food for thought! Thanks, everyone =)