Despite that Flash and AIR have many haters on Internet a last few years, these technologies aren’t so evil as very often is claimed. They are still used by many big companies, AAA games studios (especially for UI) and many indie game developers. If you’re planning to start with game/app development, flash/AIR is still good choice. No matter if you are hobby developer or professional these tools provide quite good comfort to both of these groups.
Why to use flash/AIR? There are still many reasons but I picked some the most important by my opinion:
- longtime history of technology – filled of many successful games/apps and with big influence on future of indie gaming
- still strong community around flash frameworks and Adobe AIR
- support of cross platform development
- accessibility of many useful free ( open-source) tools and utils
- flash is great for 2d animations
- still huge penetration and good browser compatibility
- still great work and support of Adobe’s AIR and Flash dev teams (recently fast integration of 64bit support for iOS)
But these stats will say everything (Source: [Online Webinar] Flash Professional CC: The future of the animation was held on 13th January 2015)
Updated stats from October 2015:
So I decided to put together list of quality FREE development tools which can be very useful when you will decide to start with Flash/AIR app or game development. All what you need it’s time and taste but no money. Of course my list isn’t complete, there are much more great tools but I don’t know about everything. So if you have some good tips, feel free to share your experience in discussion below the article and I will add it to my list.
IDE (Integrated Development Enviroment)
Quality IDE is very important for fast and comfort development and debugging. As Flash/AIR developer you have more choices. You can pick some from commercials IDE’s like Flash Builder, IntelliJ IDEA … or look at free alternatives like Flash Develop or FDT.
FlashDevelop is a free and open source code editor which offers first class support for ActionScript (2 & 3) and Haxe development.
FDT is a flexible development toolkit in Eclipse for interactive Flash & Flex developers. FDT has also commercial license.
Especially when you targeting on mobile platforms profiling tools like commercial Adobe Scout is must to have. It’s saves you lot of time and stress. But thanks to Jeff Ward exists also free alternative called hxScout.
2D game frameworks
On the Flash scene were and still are good and great 2d frameworks. So you can pick based on your needs and preferences.
Starling Framework + Filters
Starling is GPU accelerated 2d framework with classic flash display list architecture. These days Starling is the most popular flash based 2d framework with the most active community. On App Store and Google play you can find many successful apps and games written in Starling. His author Daniel Sperl from Gamua is still trying to move it to forward.
Citrus Engine is another very popular GPU accelerated framework with lightweight core. There you can choose if you use it for 2d ord 3d development because is using Starling (for 2D) or Away3d (for 3D). Autor of Citrus Engine is Aymeric Lamboley a french interactive and game developer.
Genome2D is very optimized GPU accelerated 2d game framework with best performance, it’s a singelton with component architecture instead of classic flash display list architecture. Is written in Haxe but now you can targeting to many platforms included flash/AIR. His author is slovak game developer Peter sHTiF Stefcek. In new version 1.1 coming also with own UI system.
OpenFL is a library that adds asset management and additional tools to Flash development, as well as compatible HTML5 and native C++ (mobile, desktop) targets.
ND2Dx is 2D GPU accelerated game engine for Flash Stage3D.
Flixel is an open source game-making library written in ActionScript by Adam “Atomic” Saltsman.
HaxeFlixel is Haxe port of popular Flash library Flixel with many advancements.
FlashPunk is free Flash library designed for 2D game development. It provides a fast, clean framework to prototype and develop games.
HaxePunk is Haxe port of Flash library FlashPunk for 2D game development.
Flambe is 2D game engine for cross platform development written in Haxe. You can targeting to Desktop, HTML5, Flash, Stage3D, iOS, and Android.
CadetEngine + CadetEditor
CadetEngine is open source, component-based AS3 Scene Engine supporting 2D and 3D GPU accelerated rendering, physics, custom behaviours and 3rd party library integration. CadetEditor is an extensible AS3 editor system, designed to allow users to easily build editors for any custom games built on the CadetEngine.
GameBuilder Engine + GameBuilder Studio
GameBuilder Studio is a visual development tool built on top of the PushButton Engine framework. GameBuilder Studio has 3 types of licensing, one of them is FREE license. The original PushButton Engine was used by PushButton Labs, Playdom, Zynga, Hive7 and other developers in commercial games.
Pixelizer is a component based framework for writing games in AS3 developed by Johan Peitz.
Axel is open source, hardware accelerated 2D Flash game library developed by Lee Miller.
3D game frameworks
Away3D is longtime very popular open source 3D engine and also community around it is quite strong, but no so much like a few years ago. Now Away3D Foundation is more focusing on development of Away3DJS and version of Away3d engine for OpenFL.
Flare3D is now probably the most popular Flash/AIR based 3D solution with powerful Stage3D rendering but it’s free only for non-commercial use. Contains also very user friendly IDE and has quite active community of developers.
Zest3D is new open source stage3D engine which allows high performance GPU graphics. Author of this engine is Gary Paluk.
If you’re using Starling based frameworks for development of apps or games, Feathers is right choice for UI development. Josh Tynjala who is author of Feathers put in it much effort to make your life easier.
MadComponents is another popular UI framework for desktop nad mobile. Author of this UI framework is Daniel Freeman.
Robotlegs is an ActionScript application framework for Flash and Flex. It offers dependency, module, command and view management.
2D Physics engines
Adding real word physics to your games brings more possibilities to use another game mechanics and make your games more fun.
Box2D is classic, there are bilions of games using this physics engine, but on mobile isn’t work so well.
Nape physics is alternative to Box2D physics engine and is very good optimized for use on mobile. Author of this physics engine is Luca Deltodesco.
Online Box2D Convex Separator Editor
This simple online tool is free alternative to premium tools like PhysicsEditor. It offers you to create collision bodies online and export them in code which you can use in your physics games with Box2D.
Tween libraries are another savers of time and make your apps & games more visually interesting.
Actuate tween library is faster than TweenLite or TweenMax and is fully free to use also for commercial projects.
AI (Artificial intelligence)
Daedalus Lib manages 2D environment modelling and pathfinding. This library is still in development.
Great animations are what must to have all games these days. There are many great premium tools for work with 2D animations like Flash Professional CC, TexturePacker, Spine, Spriter, GAF etc. But still exists many free high quality alternatives.
Flump converts Flash keyframe animations into texture atlases and XML or JSON that can be easily integrated into any scene graph-based 2D game engine
Dragon Bones is open source 2D skeleton animation solution for Flash.
CrossBridge is the open-source version of Adobe FlasCC (formerly the Alchemy project). It provides a complete C/C++ development environment for targeting the Adobe Flash Runtime.
HxSL is a higher shader language, compatible with AGAL.
AS3Hx converts ActionScript3.0 source code to Haxe equivalent.
DMT (Dynamically Mapping Textures)
The DMT library providing run-time dynamic (and fast) rasterize vector images to bitmaps and generate the atlases. Author of this library is Gil Amran.
Shoebox – set of free tools
Shoebox is set of fully free useful tools as alternative for TexturePacker etc. Developed by Hendrik-Jan Shoenmaker.
- Pack Sprites
- Texture Ripper
- Read Sprites
- Ani Frames
- Bitmap Font
- Frame Sheet
- Extract Sprites
- Sprite Pivots
- Split PSD
- Slice 9
- Extract Tiles
- Mask Image
- Flick Upload
Bitmap Font Generator
Bitmap Font generator is another very useful free online tool for generation Bitmap Fonts for GPU accelerated games and apps.
To make your games more visually interesting, definitely use some particles effects. This online particle editor was developed by Devon O. Wolfgang
Flint Particle System
Free database of particle effects with source code and exampes.
Stardust Particle Engine
Stardust is particle engine and a GUI for making particle effects. Engine was originally developed by Allen Chou.
If you need some sound effects for you game this online tool is right choice.
Example by Jeff Ward how to build a SWC from Haxe 3 source code and use it in an AS3 project. Haxe compiler and syntax results in optimizations that make code (especially algorithms) run much faster in the Flash VM.
YCanvas is open source 2D tile renderer library written in ActionScript 3 by Jozef Chutka. It provides high performance solution for rendering world maps. The library also contains Stage3D (GPU) accelerated implementation based on Starling.
If you want to share your experience with other free tools for Flash/AIR game development which weren’t mentioned in my list, feel free to do it in discussion below. I hope this list helps a bit to new developers to get basic overview about possibilities of Flash/AIR development and pick the right framework and tools for your needs.
Another Flash/AIR lists of libs: