August 31, 2007

Flash! Aaa-aah

This week, apart from being unable to a particular Queen song out of my head (He’ll save ev’ry one of us!), I’ve been slowly acquainting myself to the basic tools of Illustrator and Flash. I’m still at the absolute basics, working through a few online tutorials.

After some consideration I’ve decided to dub September “Learning Adobe Month” and put my game engine on the slow burner for a while in order to be able to devote more time to getting to speed with Illustrator and Flash. This is partly because I’m just keen to dive in and learn these tools, however it’s also because I’m going to spend a lot of my time this month programming prototypes in C++ for research purposed and I’d like to spend my spare time doing something a bit more visual to give my mind a break. Plus if Flash turns out to be great as a prototyping tool it makes sense to structure my own engine in a similar fashion to make porting easier.

To help me get to speed faster I’ve ordered a bunch of recommended books from Amazon, which should get here in a fortnight or so. In the meantime I’ve tried learning some Flash basics off some on-line tutorials and books, but I’m finding it slow going - I haven’t hit a tutorial that really grips me yet. Since I prefer to learn from books I picked up a reasonably priced Visual Quickstart Guide for Flash CS3 from the bookstore, and borrowed (another Visual Quickstart Guide) Illustrator CS2 book from my university art library. I’m hoping after a week of working through these I’ll at the least have an understanding of the basic range of tools and work flow required for these products. I suspect my comfort with vector art from Inkscape use will speed things up (I vastly prefer vector over raster).

However soon I’ll need to move away from just futzing around with the tools and actually make something, as that’s the only way to really start learning. This requires choosing some sample projects. Illustrator isn’t that hard to pick ideas for, as I’ll just continue the sorts of things I use Inkscape for, such as a few more character drawings. However I’m not sure what I’ll do in Flash yet. I’ll probably start off with some animation, as I don’t yet have any understanding of ActionScript (I’ll need a more dedicated book to start learning that). I might aim for an animated banner for my GameDev journal.

I’m also a little bit unclear on the differences between ActionScript 3.0 (new with Flash CS3) and the older ActionScript 2.0. My understanding is there’s significant differences, such that you can’t mix the two in your projects. My gut feeling is that I should put my effort into learning ActionScript 3.0 first, since it’s the new thing, but that will limit anything I make to Flash Player 9, which unfortunately hasn’t been ported to all systems yet (such as the Wii, for example). Hopefully I could pick up the earlier versions once I’ve got some ActionScript 3 under my belt.

Still, I’m eager to learn how all this Adobe stuff can be put to good use. I’m hoping I can learn the basics pretty quickly, as given the delays in the Four Elements contest (when is 4E6 going to start?) I reckon the only chance I’d have to complete something submittable in the time I’ll have available will be in something like Flash.

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2 Comments on Flash! Aaa-aah

September 4, 2007

John Hattan @ 11:48 am:

AS3 is strongly typed, has complete classes, and on the whole feels much more like C++. AS2 and AS1 are weakly typed and feel more like Lisp with C-ish flow control (which is exactly what they are).

The reason they’re incompatible was because AS3 includes a ground-up rewrite of the class library. Once you learn one, it’ll be hard to go to another.

So they’re effectively two completely different languages? That might make things a bit more irritating. I’m still in favour of learning AS3 first - among other things I’ve got a couple of ActionScript 3 books on order. I guess if I ever decide to learn AS2 I’ll need to treat it as a different language and maybe get a whole new book - although hopefully by then Flash Player 9 will be practically universal.

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