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Traditionally, Flash and web games have gone hand in hand, but with Adobe's recent decision to cease development of Flash for mobile browsers, developers will have to look at alternatives for the smartphone market. But how does HTML5 compare?
According to Zynga's Paul Bakaus, there's still a place for both, as they each offer their own unique specialties.
"Well, Flash has this new Stage 3D API, while the web has WebGL. Both of them are using native OpenGL calls on the bottom layer, so they're comparable in speed," he explained. "Now, regarding software drawing, I think HTML5 has actually surpassed Flash because it's so close to the actual browser, so they can drive various optimizations on a hardware accelerated layer. But Flash has some very significant advantages too."
"I'm seeing great 3D applications come from Flash and Stage 3D, and seeing HTML5 really being the way to go cross-platform. And then there are native apps too, which are a great way to integrate with the OS on mobile phones. I'm not sure if there's ever going to be a winner -- I wouldn't separate them so. I think it'll be more like specializations."
Google's Seth Ladd added that he expects HTML5 to eventually coexist with Flash, with each platform offering its own unique benefits.
"I think that what you'll see is that all of the different platforms that make up the greater web as we know it will be able to get pushed forward because there is now some competition," he said. "I expect that Flash will find another angle for which they can optimize their experience, and the open web platform will find another way in which they can optimize their experience, and then you can see those play out. And that's really great for end users."
"Flash was always great for creative people. Creating animations or very simple games is pretty easy with the Flash IDE and a few mouse clicks. Such a tool is still largely absent for HTML5; you really have to write code to do something."
"However, HTML5 is completely free -- to get started, you just need a browser and text editor, no need to purchase an expensive application."
Szablewski added that with Flash no longer an option for mobile, he views HTML5 as the future of web development. As he puts it, "If you want to build stuff that works in mobile browsers, if you don't care about IE6/7/8 users, and if you don't want to use a dying technology, use HTML5."
Regardless of how it compares to Flash, mobile companies looking to go cross-platform might have little choice but to turn to HTML5. At least, so says Moblyng veteran Stewart Putney.
"Since there is no Flash support on Mobile, I'm betting that HTML5 will become the cross-platform standard in mobile. And so far, it looks like that is becoming true."
Sound undeniably plays a crucial role in game development, yet unfortunately this is one area where HTML5 really falls short. The APIs available for the platform just pale in comparison to those available for native app development.
Zynga Germany's Paul Bakaus particularly laments this shortcoming. "The number one challenge with HTML5 is audio, and this needs to be fixed. It's as simple as that. There's no way we can work around audio, right? Audio is needed for great games. This is the biggest challenge, but I wouldn't say stop building games because of that."
He explained that he thinks web developers will be able to fix these audio issues, but a few things need to happen before that becomes a possibility.
"There are two things that I think need to drive audio," he said. "One of them is actually us, as I mentioned before. We need to make vendors aware of the problem, so we need to create games, and we need to tell them about the shortcomings our games have."
"On the other hand, we really need vendors to accept that this is a problem, and work against it. I see it less prioritized than fixing graphics right now, and that's a huge concern I'm having. As a vendor, you're not really thinking in the game world, right? You're not realizing that in order to make good games, audio is needed. We really just need to make them aware of the problem," he said.
Electronic Arts creative director Richard Hilleman agrees with Bakaus, as he explained during his keynote at the 2011 New Game Conference. "One thing that didn't go well for us was sound," he said. "We still tend to falter with sound on HTML5, and we have to resolve that... I have some hopes the next iterations of the browser will address that, but it's another big problem."