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Technical InformationWhat about the Flash games, the iPad, HTML5 and all that?

We sometimes get asked about our Flash games and the iPad/iPhone/Android. What reads below is a theoretical client Q/A session about what the situation is and what the options are. For the purposes of brevity, "HTML5" is meant to invclude HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, WebGL etc.

Q: So, do your Flash games run on the iPad / Why don't your games work on the iPad? (and iPhone, Android)

The well publicised falling out between Apple's Steve Jobs and Adobe over Flash means Apple do not allow the Flash browser plugin to run on iOS devices. Whilst early Android devices did support Flash, Adobe decided in the aftermath of the Apple problem and for other technical reasons to drop all mobile support for the Flash plugin entirely. So this means that any iPad, iphone or modern Android device almost certainly cannot see Flash. It's worth noting the Apple Mac computers can run Flash - some people believe they cannot.

Q: So what will run games on the iPad (etc) within a browser?

Apple's suggestion here is to use HTML5. Whilst HTML5 is fantastic for building websites, it's less suited to games. However a quick Google of HTML5 games would show that they're certainly possible. It's just not as capable as Flash is for this task. Compared with Flash, development times are lengthy, costs are high.

Q: HTML5 - Great. So why are not all new games made as HTML5 then?

Just like there is a subset of Internet users that cannot see Flash (i.e Mobile users), there is also a subset of users that cannot see HTML5. Internet Explorer 8 users, for example, also IE7/6 , the Playstation 3 browser, and everyone that surfs with Javascript disabled. So if you cater only to the Flash audience, you'll miss some people. If you cater only to the HTML5 audience, you'll also miss some people. It's worth analysing your website stats to see which are the larger group. At the time of writing, there are more people who visit the Galaxy Graphics site that cannot see HTML5 than there are those that cannot see Flash. it's worth noting that the percentage of mobile users that actually do anything web on their mobile other than social media is quite small.

Q: So if we want to cater to everyone, we could do the same job in both Flash and HTML5 and serve the appropriate content to the relevant browser?

Yes. Although the development costs would much higher, as the code that drives Flash games is incompatible with the code that drives HTML5 games, and so they each have to be written from the ground up in their own language. There are a couple of drawbacks of HTML5 games as well aside from being more time consuming to write, covered in another question below. These are especially relevant if you're planning to run a competition on the game.

Q: Do you therefore offer HTML5 versions of your games / Are you developing any HTML5 games?

It's being looked at more for technical curiosity right now than for practical application or product development. Since making a HTML5 version would mean rewriting the game again from the beginning, and with HTML5 being less suitable for games compared with Flash, right now there's no good business case for us to make or keep any HTML5 games in stock yet, especially as we get very little interest in them. As an aside, we do build HTML5 websites. HTML5 is entirely suitable for website development, and offers significant benefits over HTML4. In addition, as mentioned below, the open nature of HTML5 means any games we developed could be easily stolen and redeployed, giving any stock HTML5 games little commercial value.

Q: What were those other HTML5 drawbacks you mentioned earlier, and why is it more expensive than Flash?

Due to the "open" nature of HTML5, anything written in it can be taken, used, and rebranded on another website for free, since it's impossible to protect anything "open". Flash can be made steal-proof by using sitelocking and advanced SWF encryption.

Also due to the "open" nature of HTML5, it's impossible to run any sort of meaningful leaderboard or competition, since the openness makes cheating easy. The user can easily see the source code, and the checksum formulas to protect the integrity of the scores being sent to the server. Wheras with Flash, advanced SWF encryption can help guard against this.

The deployment of a Flash game is typically one easy file, a SWF. The deployment of a HTML5 game involves many more assets, images, Javascript, HTML5, CSS, etc. It's hard to deploy on a clients site if they have IT rules about 3rd party scripts, etc.

Finally, like builiding any website, a HTML5 game has to be tested and tweaked to work on multiple browsers because different browsers support different methods of rendering HTML and different feature sets of HTML5. Development time is longer and more costly than Flash, which has the advantage of working exactly the same in every browser that supports it.

Q: Hang on though, what's that iPad version of the Kawaii Christmas Flash game I saw on your website?

Whilst the iPad (etc) won't run Flash in a browser, what it can do is run Flash-as-compiled to iOS and Android as apps. The Kawaii Christmas game and the Fat Santa game are in this format. They cannot be played over the web, but can be bought from the Apple app store and from the Google Play store. iPad/Android games-as-apps is a service offered by Galaxy Graphics.

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