My agrument for flash in PBBGs

I’ve been reading a lot lately about how flash is a dying language and how it’s not going any where, etc etc. But this has nothing to do with that. This, instead, is a rant about why I think it makes sense to use Flash for PBBGs despite all the feedback I’ve received in the past saying I’m flat out wrong. So let’s hope that I get just as much heat this time ^^

To start lets define PBBG. I believe I have done this is the past but I am far to lazy to look for it and I’m sure I have come a bit further since then anyways in my wondering of programming, web and PBBGs.

PBBG stands for Persistent Browser Based Game. By this definition, a PBBG requires a database  for it’s persistence and needs to be played using the browser. How does flash not fit within that definition? Flash is a browser plugin. This means it runs within the browser.  A flash game differs from a PBBG that uses flash in the sense that a flash game is nothing more (usually) than a stateless game. You play, you quit, you come back and start at the beginning.  A PBBG that uses flash is the same as any other PBBG. You join, play and when you come back, the rest of the world has been playing and you start where to left.

So, Flash can be squeezed into the definition. It runs in the browser.

The next thing I got a lot of heat over is that flash is just a bad way to do this type of thing because of reason ‘a’ or argument ‘b’.  Sure, it may be a bad way for some since they don’t understand as3, but I don’t see how JS is any better. Flash will behave the same across all browsers. I don’t need to worry about writing my JS or CSS twice to make sure it works.  The only thing I need to worry about is if you’re on an iPhone or don’t have flash installed. But most people have flash installed.

I’m not saying JS is a bad way either. Each have their advantages but flash is what I know best and there are things I can do in flash that I can’t do in JS. Also, if you are looking for animation (which I’m not) flash is your ticket, but animation is a lame excuse since we are where talking mostly about next games.

I could defend flash all day, but in the end, I still view flash as a good thing for PBBGs. Please, please, don’t take this to mean make you whole damn site in flash. That’s not at all what I’m getting at. What I mean is you use flash sparingly and in the appropriate context. If you have a battlefield map, that’s a good choice. You have a crazy interactive inventory or crafting section, there’s a good spot.  I would never suggest you use flash for the whole site.

As I’ve said in also every post this year (which hasn’t been many. I’m sorry for slacking so much. I will try to be better but this is a claim I’ve made before), I’m gonna start posting again. I’m in the building stages of a game using Zend Framework and Flash.  I also will be working hopefully on a few games that fall out of the realm of PBBG, but I will also be talking about those here. One of these games is actually for my day job to boot, so I’m hoping they will let me blog about it ^^


  1. I agree with you about Flash. The plugin is installed in 99% of browsers (according to Adobe's numbers, so admittedly that's biased), so it counts for me. And I also agree that entire Flash sites are annoying! I like finding information quickly on the web, and Flash sites usually just slow that down. And make copy/paste more difficult. And suck bandwidth.

    I take issue that a PBBG requires a database. I'm assuming you mean a relational database, of which MySQL is an example. Persistence can be achieved in another means. Databases are used, dare I say, fairly frequently and seem to be pretty good at what they do. Flat text files could also be used, or even a memory store like memcached. Or some combination.

    That said, I do use a database in the game I'm developing. But strictly speaking, the "persistence" in PBBG can be achieved by many methods.

  2. You are completely right about persistence. I used database as my example for persistence since that in my opinion the best way. Storing in a flat file I think is a horrible idea for large amounts of data.

    And I agree, 100% flash for sites that have data on them are incredibly annoying.

  3. Oh Man, I can't disagree with you more…so much so that I'm going to make my own blog entry on this one.

    The core reason why flash games are not pbbg is that flash games require a download.

    A persistent browser based game should not require any add-on to play. Now flash can be an added feature but if a player comes to the game without flash they should still be able to play.

    There is allready a category for flash games…its called flash games.

    My 2 cents…touchy subject for me though. LOL.

  4. @mobeamer – according to a one of the sites that started spreading the acronym/definition of our gaming niche is quoted saying :

    "PBBGs may be text-based, or they may take advantage of browser plug-ins such as Flash or Java to create a more dynamic game play environment."

    The difference between a flash game and a flash based PBBG is that a flash game contains no persistent data.

    So all in all, I disagree completely with you ^^

  5. Personally, I think you should avoid Flash just because it is a browser add-on. Instead push new web tech. Use the HTML5 canvas and video tags for whatever you want to use Flash for. I know. That doesn't work in IE6/7. Screw IE. You don't need "Flash or Java to create a more dynamic game play environment". Javascript and CSS3 are the answer. Learn jQuery or Mootools (my fav) and really make your game look good.

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