MAX 2005: Web and Downloadable Game Development Using Macromedia Tools (1:30pm, 17 October)

I’ve always admired Steve Zehngut’s business sense (and Gary Rosenzweig’s, for that matter) because they figured out how to make a living developing games, which is something I’ve never managed to do. So, of course, I went to Steve’s session on game development.

Steve’s program started off with a little glitch, as he tried to show the remixed trailer for The Shining as an example of a viral marketing tool. The vagaries of wireless connections at a conference….

Steve went through some of his history and that of Zeek Interactive (curiously, I used to work at a company called He talked about the major players in the online and shareware game distribution development industry, including Pop Cap, Skunk Studios, Mumbojumbo, Reflexive, and Freeverse. Estimates are that a company like Pop Cap spends well over $75,000 developing a showcase game.

A number of questions and comments centered around one of Steve’s statistics, that a prime purchasing market for shareware games is women 35+ in age. Speculation ensued over whether they were buying the games for themselves or whether they were buying them for their kids, whether you were writing games specifically for that audience, etc. Points were made that the most successful games in the category didn’t require you to spend a lot of time reading rules, that they had lots of unexpected goodies that popped up during the course of gameplay, and that they could be walked away from to attend to something else (a la solitaire) without affecting game play. Steve recommended Chuzzle and Zume from Pop Cap, both of which I downloaded before heading to the hotel where I’d have had to pay for wi-fi. There was a brief but firm lecture that Director was still a better environment for shareware games than Flash.

Steve encouraged everyone to go to to play his years-old title Taco Joe, because he’s still getting checks through their advertising-supported model. At other venues, he said that a top game at a place like RealArcade might bring in $100,000 to $250,000 per month at its peak, of which the developer gets 25%. All hail capitalism!

MAX 2005: General Session (10:30am, 17 October) [UPDATE]


Frank, the author of “How to Dance Properly” opened with a

riff on how a party invitation made him Inter-famous. He’s

funny, and moving quickly, so I’m just going to type notes

from here on out.

“Shut it down? People were finally paying attention to


“The Scribbler”: a drawing toy that

rewards crappy drawing. Mentioned Director!

“Atheist” and
“Buddhist” and
“Christian” games.

“Punctuation Substitution”

Stephen Elop, CEO had to follow. said that there were over

3,000 people in the Ballroom. Mentioned those in the

community who have maintained support for New Orleans, site

of last year’s conference.

Showed comments from people on Studio 8 and Cold Fusion


Flash Player 8 gone from 0 to 100 million downloads in less

than a month, still around 5 million per day.

Mentioned partnerships with SAP, foreign mobile phone

vendors, Flashcast in Japan. 1,600 Breeze customers.

Snarked at Microsoft and their efforts to move into the

multimedia development market by displaying a blue screen of


Got around to the Adobe merger about 35 minutes into

presentation and asked people to maintain trust and keep the


Kevin Lynch, Chef Software Architect, came on to talk about

the future of the web and plugged a Kevin Morale (sp?) essay

called “What is Web 2.0?” It encourages separation of UI and


NOW: Studio 8, Flash Player 8, Flash Lite 1.1, Flex 1.5.

Feedback on Studio 8 has been good. 1.5 million trial

downloads of the studio so far. Kodak EasyShare camera has a

Flash Lite-based touchscreen interface.

Flex adopted by 400 customers so far. Guido Schroeder of SAP

brought onstage for some demonstrations.

Back to Kevin, he says that Player 8.5 has an entirely new

Virtual Machine, ActionScript 3 (with runtime error

checking, standard event model, inline XML, regular


Flex Builder designed for developers to create rich internet

applications without a the Flex server. Sho Kuwamoto, one of

the leads on the Flex Builder team comes on stage to build

an app that queries Flikr for some photos and displays the

results. (An error crops up as he builds it. Dead air.

Second time it compiled but he doesn’t notice the app’s

loaded in the browser behind Flax Builder until someone from

the audience mentions it.) 9 minutes from start to finish,

even with the delay.

William Wechtenhiser of the Flex Enterprise team came to do

his own demo, extending the photo search to include chat.

Lynch announces partnership with Mercury Interactive for automated testing with Flex applications. Canned video from Chris Lockhead.

Battery getting low! Gotta go. Only a few minutes left.

[UPDATE]: The future got its licks in via an application mock-up presented by Macromedian Mike Sundermeyer, who was with a group I believe was called “Experience Potential.” His media center app was meant to simulate the nexus of an interconnected electronic homeverse, where all of your videos, games, and music are tied together, with reviews, recommendations, and purchasing capabilities in one groovy application (although I did notice that Spice World was in his collection, so I’d have to wonder just how groovy it really was). I didn’t see any books, though.

At the end, Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen came on and talked about how he really couldn’t tell us anything since the last few hurdles of the merger haven’t been cleared yet. He definitely implied that there would be some sort of event next year — we’ll see if that’s just wishful thinking on the part of those of us who are used to shelling out our hard-earned coin to meet our ever-shrinking pool of peers. Some quotes I wrote down for no particular reason:

  • The merger should be final “sometime in the next few weeks
  • Regarding the Universal Player discussed earlier in the session — from which Acrobat was noticably absent — “use your imagination.”
  • The combination of Adobe and Macromedia will “revolutionize how people engage with life.”

MAX 2005: What’s New in Flash 8? (9:15am , 17 October)

Grant Skinner
, started off with his overview of IDE, AS, and Player enhancements in Flash 8.

Showed off blur effect and image compositing, IDE enhancements to Library panel (including switching between open libraries with a dropdown menu, much as you’ve been able to do in Director for — oh &mdash 10 years. The new Help panel includes Boolean searches and literal search phrases (set off by quote marks).

The script editor now checks syntax for packages and can show hidden characters, which is useful particularly when you’re copying scripts from other sources.

Gradients have increased in complexity from 8 to 16 control points, which means you can set more positions within the gradient for specific colors. Radial gradiants can also have their centers offset, so the full spectrum of gradient colors is always displayed between betwen the gradient origin and endpoint.

The ‘9slice’ function that allows items like dialog boxes to be easily rescaled looks to be very useful, as are the new btmap blend models.

He expressed some concern about the potential overuse of the new image filters (drop shadow, blur, glow, bevel, gradient glow, gradient bevel, adjust color, convolution, displacement maps). The last two are only available through AS.

He briefly discussed the new runtime bitmap caching. There were a few items where I think he made some slight mis-statements, but most people don’t really know what they’re talking about here, so….

There’s a new font rendering engine in Flash. Kerning on dynamic text, a wider array of controls over anti-aliasing, and more.

New On2 video codec, new encoder with the ability to create cuepoints, alpha challel compositing, easier to get video into Flash, etc….

Timeline tweening now has independent curve editing for position, rotation, filter, and other properties.

If you’re interested in
how search engines deal with your Flash movies
, there’s a new Publishing option for making your Flash content more searchable.

Mobile development, JSFL, blah, blah, blah….

Skinner moved into the ActionScript stuff in the last minute of the scheduled talk. He demonstrated a Goo-type bitmap distortion and animation goodie created in Flash 8.

He quickly demonstrated file upload and download capabilities. I need to look more closely at that.

I’m missing things as I type.

Programmatic skewing.

Load GIF, PNG, PJPG, (no Animated GIF); new garbage collector; auto-update for the Player; show Redraw Regions option to display areas where screen updates are happening.

Signs, Signs

One of the things I like about driving around a city on vacation is the opportunity to see new business names. One particularly catchy sign jumped out at me this evening, driving up the Pacific Coast Highway from Costa Mesa to Westwood, for a Vietnamese soup shop: What the Pho?


The New York Times‘ story
on the Judith Miller/’Scooter’ Libby/Plamegate case, Managing Editor Bill Keller says (emphasis added):

I wish it had been a clear-cut whistle-blower case. I wish it had been a reporter [Miller] who came with less public baggage.

Yeah, like a couple suitcase nukes less public baggage.

Hunt for the Red Caption Contest

Setup: A well-armed hunter sitting in a recliner points his rifle at a moose on the TV in front of him, two women stand behind him in the doorway, one talking to the other.

My caption: “With the price of gas what it is, it’s cheaper than driving out to the woods.”

Now you can go and check out what the editors at The New Yorker chose for
in their caption contest.

It’s Always Good to Know You’re Useful for Something

Alan Levine, the long-time force behind the Director Web site, mentioned the other day that my 1996 book Shockwave! breathe new life into your web pages is still useful to him. He’s using it to prop up one side of the Apple XServe unit on which he runs the CogDogBlog site. He says another Shockwave book holds up the other side of the unit, but that it’s too much trouble to look to see what it is. At least I’m not the other author!

[UPDATE 13 October 2005 21:12] I was rushing out the door to a meeting before I posted this, and I should have mentioned the contributions of several people to the book:
Dave Yang
, who provided a short game discussed in the book and has gone on to great things with Flash;
Eric Coker
, who was but a wee lad when he put together the CD-ROM for the publisher (and who has an
eye for captions of sf/fantasy convention photos
; and most of all
David Duddleston of Violet Arcana
, who provided material for an entire chapter on audio.

Off to MAX

5th Annual Macromedia International User Conference notepad (September 25-27, 1994 San Francisco, California)

I’ve been going to Macromedia conferences now for over 11 years, since the first one I attended in the fall of 1994. I spoke at the 1997 conference. I was a member of the press for several others: as a book author on Flash and Director, and as a technical editor for Macromedia User Journal and Director Online. I missed one: the 2002 conference in Orlando which took place just a couple of weeks after I broke the heck out of my ankle. I was gonna go, but the doctor said no. Considering that I ended up with blood clots in my lungs from that break, maybe it was best that happened close to a hospital rather than at 30,000 feet or at Disney World.

In 2001, the New York conference where Shockwave 3D was released gave me a last chance to see the city before terrorism and war were the watchwords for the day. Last year, the conference in New Orleans got me to that city for the first time, before life there changed irrevocably, as well.

If the merger between Macromedia and Adobe goes through this winter, I have to assume that next week’s MAX is going to be the last get-together of its type under the Macromedia label. I’m not particularly attached to the name, but it is something I’ve been intimately associated with as a customer, commentator (and even contractor) for more than a quarter of my life — which includes a rather long prelude to my entry into multimedia. If it’s subsumed into Adobe it won’t necessarily make a big change in what I do, but there’ll be a putting-the-wrong-date-on-the-checks feeling writ large about it until I subconsciously think “Adobe Flash” and “Adobe Director” (at least, I hope I’ll be thinking that!)

So I’m looking forward to seeing anyone who’s going to be there: the Macromedia folks I’ve corresponded with over the years; the people who’ve left Macromedia; the developers I only see at these conferences (hey, it’s the real reason I go at all); and anyone I might not have met before. I’m off to LA for a couple of days before the conference, see everyone in Anaheim!

If you haven’t already seen it, DOUG, INM, and Macromedia are putting together a Director Get-Together for anyone (not just MAX attendees) on Monday, October 17.

The Wernher von Braun School of Journalism Ethics

On NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, Scott Simon interviewed Gilbert Cranberg, author of an short opinion piece in the Columbia Journalism Review on the need for the press to stop simply telling people what politicians or political organizations are saying and to actually verify their facts. Cranberg’s view of the current situation was that (apropos of a verifiably-correct John Kerry campaign claim that falsely called untrue):

If you have a political candidate making factually wrong statements, I call that the…the Wernher von Braun School of Journalism Ethics: “You know, we send up the lies and wherever they land, that’s somebody else’s problem.” No, it is not somebody else’s problem.

The Moral Equivalence of David Kline

David Kline was lambasted for being unprepared and over-eager to promote his new book on blogs (at best) or a shill for conservative talking points during an appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s show last week during which O’Reilly attacked Media Matters. Kline’s first words during the broadcast set up O’Reilly for his stock claim that Phil Donohue, Jeremy Glick, and Michael Moore believe George Bush caused 9/11:

O’REILLY: Now how do you see it, Mr. Kline? Are we overstating this?

KLINE: No, I think there are a lot of nutcases out there. You have websites and political bloggers that believe that President Bush orchestrated the 9-11 attacks.

O’REILLY: Oh, you mean he didn’t? That’s what I’ve been hearing from Phil Donahue and Jeremy Glick and Michael Moore, that he orchestrated it. You mean he didn’t? That’s not true?

He also played along with O’Reilly’s claim that bloggers were putting his guests in physical danger:

O’REILLY: They — I couldn’t — I had people turn down this segment — a bunch of them — what are you, crazy? I’m going to criticize these assassins? They’ll come after me. And that’s a chilling effect.

KLINE: Well, I’m not naming names here, right? I mean, I don’t want to get stalked.

After Media Matters posted the video segment and transcript, Kline backpeddled furiously, claiming in a lengthy post and comments that he’d been duped by the producer, that he’d never heard of Media Matters before O’Reilly brought it up (although he didn’t question or protest any of this on the air), and that he’d been too busy “writing two books, raising two kids, and trying to make a living” to apparently do any research on the guy running the worldwide broadcast he was about to plug his book on. His ploy worked. Media Matters, Daily Kos, Atrios, and Crooks and Liars all prominently linked to his mea culpa.

Then, down at the bottom of the comments on his post this weekend, after the buzz had tapered off:

The whining on this Blog is quite expected.

Everyone knows that Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller, Al Franken, are much kindler, gentler people who have no interest other that the interst of others. #%&*cough/barf8736!

These folks would never have changed topic midstream, or allowed a guest such as yourself to be used for their purpose. Why?? Because their purpose is the purpose of GOOD people, not the evil right wing!

Posted by: M.E. W ylam | October 8, 2005 06:41 AM

Right. I hope we’re all beyond thinking that only “our” guys are the good guys and our opponents are bad guys.

That’s just dumb. O’Reilly lies, but so did NARAL when it accused Judge Roberts of “condoning abortion clinic violence.”

Posted by: David Kline | October 9, 2005 08:36 AM

Unlike The Shadow, I don’t know what evil lurks in the hearts of men, or why Kline believes that a 30-second NARAL ad that was almost immediately withdrawn is somehow the moral equivalent of Bill O’Reilly’s daily lies, but I can always speculate. I challenge him to find any major figure on the left (well, that’s the first challenge) who makes blatantly false statements, who bullies his guests with finger-wagging bravado, and threatens those he disagrees with on the basis that Bill O’Reilly does. Then, he can find the best-selling leftist author with the equivalent eliminationist record of Michael Savage. After that, I’ve got a few more.

[UPDATE 11 October 2005]: Mike from Crooks and Liars linked here, so I guess I’d better hurry up and make my donation to their fundraiser.

A couple of items. I don’t have comments here because usually, only about 90 people a day come here, and a lot of them are Google searches for the multimedia programming posts I sometimes get around to doing. I never added comment code into the blog engine I wrote. Most of my political posts (including this one) are also cross-posted on Daily Kos and available through the blogroll link to the left: My Daily Kos.

While Kline and a commenter at C&L have interpreted this as a political argument, I beg to differ. I really don’t care if Kline has “40 years on the left”. It’s irrelevant to the discussion. The comment above from “M.E. W ylam” doesn’t discuss the left in general. It mentions three specific talk-show hosts. It says (sarcastically) “These folks would never have changed topic midstream, or allowed a guest such as yourself to be used for their purpose.” That is what Kline agreed to with his “Right.” It doesn’t make any difference whether he believed the statement, didn’t understand the statement, or whatever, that’s what he agreed with. It’s a pretty simple matter of English comprehension to understand the commenter was saying Franken, Miller, and Schultz would have treated him the same way. That’s what Kline agreed with, whether he understood the point at the time or not.

I’m not familiar with Miller, but I’m a some-time listener to both Franken and Schultz. I’m not crazy about either one. But neither insults his guests or threatens them in the same way that O’Reilly does.

I don’t know if Kline knows this or not. He may be as unfamiliar with them as he was with Media Matters for America when he went on O’Reilly. But as he did when O’Reilly attacked Media Matters, Kline didn’t claim that he couldn’t agree to what the comment said because he was unfamiliar with the people the commenter was referring to. Nor did he claim that the commenter was incorrect, and that one or more of the trio didn’t fit the characterization. He simply agreed. Nor did he make a clarification when I pointed out that the comment was not addressing the left in general and mentioned some differences in tone between Franken and Schultz and O’Reilly.

[UPDATE 11 October 2005]: As I say above, I don’t claim to know Mr. Kline’s motivations. He’s been very responsive on his blog’s comments (see the follow-up to the above quotes), but seems either incredibly misinformed, intellectually lazy, ready to pretend that two entirely dissimilar things are in fact equivalent, or simply dishonest. His remark to me when I suggested that he was agreeing with someone who was calling three specific talk-show hosts as dishonest as Bill O’Reilly was:

I was saying “right” to his overall point — which was a rhetorical jab at the notion that only the left plays fair, speaks truth, and cares about the public.

But you are certainly free to continue believing whatever you want about what I really meant.