Many developers are ready to dump Flash in favor of Web standards -- and for those who aren't ready, Adobe Systems is throwing its weight behind a new project called CreateJS to ease the transition.
Adobe teamed up with CreateJS programmer Grant Skinner for the toolkit and has added some support for it to its forthcoming Flash Pro CS6 developer software, due to ship later this quarter. And the company has begun showing off the CreateJS approach.
"It allows Flash Professional users to be able to design their assets and create their animations in Flash Professional but to be able to export those to HTML5, enabling them to translate and transition their skills over to HTML5," said Tom Barclay, senior product manager for Flash Professional, in an Adobe video.
One example of the CreateJS tools in use is Luxurious Animals' Luxahoy game, which was converted from Flash.
"The main challenge in developing an HTML5 game is optimization and browser compatibility," Luxurious Animals said, but its programmers were able to work around the difficulties. "As a result, the game should perform well on most browsers (even iPhone 4S and iPad!). Who needs Flash?"
The CreateJS work has the attention of Adobe's highest executives. In Adobe's most recent earnings conference call, Chief Executive Shantanu Narayen said, "We have millions of Flash developers who will be able to continue to innovate using Flash and easily convert to HTML using CreateJS capabilities."
The CreateJS work is one of many steps Adobe is taking to try to recover from the sudden descent of Flash from ubiquitous browser plug-in to relic of a bygone age -- at least as powerful players such as Apple and Microsoft describe it. Flash never made it to mobile, except through the AIR software foundation that can be embedded into iOS and Android games, and increasingly it's spurned on personal computers, too, as Web browsers get more adept.
Adobe now positions Flash Player as geared chiefly for higher-end videogames and premium video. Those are important areas, but only pockets of the full market for advanced Web design.
Other steps in Adobe's Web-standards push include work to advance the CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) standard for Web page formatting and effects; the creation of the forthcoming Edge and Muse tools for Web site and Web page design; and the acquisitions of TypeKit for online typography services and PhoneGap for Web-based mobile app creation.
Skinner announced CreateJS last month as an umbrella term for a collection of existing projects. Among them are EaselJS for working with rich graphics using HTML5's canvas technology; TweenJS for animation controls; SoundJS for making it easier to handle sound in Web games or other applications; PreloadJS to fetch elements in advance; and Zoe, which converts Flash animations into graphics files called sprite sheets that Web animations can use.
Adobe has its own plans for the technology. In one demonstration, Adobe's Christian Cantrell shows the HTML5 animation approach using the yet-to-be-released Flash Professional CS6 (see screenshot below). Specifically, the new version of the software also can create sprite sheets. Cantrell's demonstration focuses on using the animation so it doesn't tax a computer's CPU when it's not actually visible.
Adobe isn't the only one pushing in the new direction. Google's Swiffy service also converts Flash files (SWF, short for Shockwave Flash) into HTMl files.
Indeed, one major challenge for Adobe during its own Flash-to-HTML conversion is whether it will be as influential in the new era as it was in the old.
But Adobe isn't standing still, as its partnership with Skinner shows. And it's got a large population of developers on its customer list. Thus, despite all the company's difficulties, the HTML game is Adobe's to lose.