Collateral Damage

I am no longer committed to supporting any Flash related open-source projects.

Here is why. When I started using the Flash Player it was quite easy to reach its limits. However you were able to get around those limitations with clever hacks and debatable optimization techniques. I was always keen to share my knowledge with the community and to explore all possible options to achieve best performance.

The Flash Player has been hibernating for half a decade now. The only glimpse of performance was finally a set of specialized op-codes which allow you to modify an array of bytes. In layman’s terms this means it was finally possible to do a[b] = c with an acceptable performance. So I wrote a tool which allows you to do just that and many other things. I have spent a good time of my free time trying to improve the performance of the Flash Player and contributing all my code to the community.

As a reminder: I showed some drastic performance improvements at Flash on the Beach in 2009. That was three years ago. It was not necessary to modify the Flash Player and it was not necessary to modify the ActionScript language.

The Adobe roadmap for the Flash runtimes states that Flash Player “Dolores”

  • will support ActionScript Workers
  • comes with improved performance for Apple iOS
  • and ActionScript 3 APIs to access the fast-memory op-codes

This player should be released in the second half of 2012. The “Next” Flash Player will finally include

  • modernizing the core of the Flash runtime
  • work on the VM
  • updates to the ActionScript language

This is planned for 2013 apparently. And what can we expect? Type inference, static typing as a default, and hardware-oriented numeric types. Hooray, so it will be finally possible in 2013 to write a[b] = c without having to use some weird fast-memory op-codes. If we look back to the year 2009 this makes me really sad.

With the introduction of the speed tax you will now have to license your application. No matter if you make money out of it or not. Now I think that 9% is a decent number and I can understand Adobe’s position on this. In fact it is much more friendly than the 30% Google or Apple take. However the AppStore was an invention. What is the invention here? Squeezing money out of an already existing feature, and suddenly making it unavailable after people have been relying on it for years to push the boundaries of the platform and actually innovate?

But for the hell of it, a[b] = c is not a premium feature. Nor are hardware accelerated graphics. That is what I would expect from any decent runtime.

Limiting the capabilities of a runtime — by defaulting back to software rendering for instance — will make it less attractive to use it in the first place. You are probably not interested to go through a signing progress for a small demo. So your performance might be crap, people will complain about the Flash Player taking 100% CPU because its using software rendering (YEY! 2013!), laptop fans will start to dance and you will look like a bad developer because that other guy got the same thing running with hardware acceleration. Or you could use a different technology.

Why is this bad? Because apparently this signing with a $50k threshold targets the enterprise and small developers seem to be acceptable collateral damage. However thinking about the next five to ten years: who is going to write ActionScript code if it is no longer attractive to play around with it in the first place?

We still rely on the Flash Player at I am still developing for it and we will probably have to use it as long as there is no alternative. Me no longer supporting open-source tools is just me no longer spending my personal time for a platform that I would not use for private stuff. Work is of course not always about fun. But fortunately I am able to spend 90% of my time writing Scala code.

I will finish this blog post with some bad karma:

It’s also worth noting that the new Adobe license will prohibit scenarios where you’d have the first level of a game in the Flash Player, and the full experience inside the Unity Web Player. Alas, this is something you’ll need to be aware of if you were considering such a route.

You will not only pay for the features. You are also welcome to cede some of your rights.


  1. Posted Mar 28, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Definitely agree with you : it’s not a premium feature, it’s not an additional service, it’s a tax on speed !

  2. Posted Mar 28, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    I so agree. Until yesterday I was preaching that 2013 will be the year of the Flash player again, gaining now momentum with Stage 3D. Adobe killed within one day the trust we developers put again into their new Flash product after the promising stage3d launch.

    I would have happily paid a runtime export license per major Flash version. A royalty is so 90’s that I can’t express how stupid that is.

  3. Posted Mar 28, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    I agree Joa, its a sad situation and didn’t want it to come to this but have come to the same conclusion for myself. Thanks for your blog post!

  4. Posted Mar 28, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Well, this is… Sad.

  5. Posted Mar 28, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    It’s wrong to say that I don’t understand what Adobe is doing. They make money from selling Flash authoring software. Now if Unity, UDK and others start publishing to Flash, who will need Flash IDE and Flash Builder anymore? Adobe have to protect themselves somehow.

    Flash Player on the web is well-known and is installed on billions of PCs. That’s where they can dictate their rules. But lately Adobe is very active about AIR on mobiles. That’s precisely what you can see from them charging 9% fee for web games only. While AIR is still not popular at least.

  6. Posted Mar 28, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I will always remain blown away by what you did for speed in the player, sorry to see they taken your innovation and locked it up. I too have given up on Flash. Hope this spurs us all into better places.

  7. ralf maser
    Posted Mar 28, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    very very bad … and now i switch to html5. construct 2!
    i will never use an adobe product!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    bye bye

    (and i will delete the flash player and adobe air)

  8. Draco18s
    Posted Mar 29, 2012 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    Keep in mind that it’s 9% on revenue above $50,000 (counted after taxes and other expenses) AND you’re using both premium features.

    It’s unlikely that most indie devs will ever be hit with this “tax.” It’s more aimed at big studios who are doing flash conversions from other languages (eg. Doom).

  9. Evan
    Posted Mar 29, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I understand and respect your decision; it is tragic collateral damage.

    Although I don’t agree with their method, I want to add my support behind Adobe on the point of generation of revenue.

    Like many of you, I am a long time Macromedia/Adobe enthusiast and creative-turned-developer (and yep, an amateur electronic musician).

    I am grateful that in America there are companies which thrive by empowering the realization of innovative and creative ideas worldwide. Early on, Steve Jobs was my hero and Flash gave me the ability to make people say “wow” for the first time.

    Yes, they make money when I buy and/or upgrade my software license – and a ~$600 upgrade to my personal copy of CS is expensive. All to often the secret is revealed that companies and freelancers alike use pirated copies of Adobe software.

    Under that kind of pressure, along with the direct attack from my (late) hero, I would defend this decision as natural and inevitable result of market forces.

  10. Posted Mar 29, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Hi Joa, While I do kinda understand why you are upset, I don’t understand why writing ActionScript code isn’t attractive enough anymore, since a very specific part of it will be paid in order to keep the platform alive? I think the platform is still rocks, since it can produce awesome interactive experiences like the audiotool for example. Just curious, where are you exactly looking for as developer?

  11. Bart
    Posted Mar 29, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    The situation is so depressing. Flash really got rolling with Stage3D and now the platform gets tainted by the stain of corporate money politics. Makes sense for business and shareholders, does not make sense on the Open Web of 2012.

    I’m really thinking of ditching Flash for HTML5. It’s not like Flash is true cross-platform anyway: the obscure Safari/Chrome/IE Flash Player implementation bugs we encounter at our office have destroyed that image already.

    Now they want me to sign scary legal stuff, subscribe to control programs and let them in my books.

  12. Posted Mar 29, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    I’m torn over this. For developers using 3rd party tools such as Unity or UDK, a new deployment platform just opened up and therefore it seems fairly reasonable that there is some kind of charge involved.

    For existing Flash developers, something (arguably basic modern functionality) has clearly been removed, and therefore it’s easy to see why some people fund it unnacceptable.

    I think the fundamental idea that Adobe should be able to make money from developers who are using the flash platform to generate revenue, but are not using Adobe tools, is justifiable. The flash player has to be maintained, updated and I understand Adobe is making partnerships which help to ensure 3rd party content works. I think the problem is the specific revenue model they’ve chosen.

  13. Daniel
    Posted Mar 29, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    I can very much sympathize with Adobe, as much as the prospect of having to pay displeases me.

    Adobe is continuing to develop the platform that is free to develop for. While the Flash IDE and FlashBuilder are helpful, the use of these is optional. Making assets for flash games is now done more through 3d programs or sprite sheets, and exporting from tools such as unity without a need to pay a dime to adobe could have a horrible effect on the evolution of this platform. Adobe could just continue supporting without evolving, but that would make the platform start dwindling pretty soon.

    Still, I fear the worst part of this announcement is that wile most people that will shake their fists and denounce flash or adobe will never be effected, but the storm that this creates will negatively affect the community. It seems like a lot of the names I’ve been following in the flash community years ago now preach javascript or html5 and many others have gone silent altogether. It seems that mobile platform and games development is where the core of the users is at. HTML5 clearly took it’s toll on Flash, and forced Adobe to improve Flash where it is best at. While the Flash license covers the IDE, the cost of maintaining and supporting Flash to run on an increasing number of devices has to come from somewhere, and nobody else is offering to do it.

    anyway, I’m rambling…

  14. Florian Ludwig
    Posted Mar 29, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    I defended Flash as a platform towards my fellow developers because it delivers (what we need) while html is just not there yet. Now this are really sad news. I know Adobe makes their money with publishing tools, like Flex Builder. With commercial alternatives — like Unitiy — popping up they probably fear for their revenue stream. As response they decided to commercialize the platform. Now I have to admit to the critiques they are right – the competition between the variety of browsers avoids that one would commercialize the platform like this. Imagine Mozilla would make you pay a license to use hardware acceleration within firefox. Users would abandon firefox for other faster browers that play their favorite games faster because their programmers didn’t pay mozilla.

    I can’t sympathize with Adobe. They are losing customers and money to other authoring tools – so they try to get another revenue stream. That is not a solution but a workaround for the sad truth that others are better at making tools for their platform. The solution is be better at making tools. They *own* the platform, they should be the best at making tools – if they were they would not need to fear competition.

    Overall I think this is a really bad decision by adobe – not just for me but for the platform itself – it will help to speed up the dying process of flash and the first collateral damage is already done.

    Thanks you, Joa, for your awesome work on tools like apparat in the past years!

  15. Ben C
    Posted Mar 30, 2012 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Not sure what’s wrong with this picture…

    The author of this blog seems like a pretty smart guy, and yet is dense enough to think that Adobe is charging for using hardware acceleration. THEY ARE NOT.

    If you bother to read the Adobe page on the “premium features,” you’ll see that using hardware-accelerated Stage3D is completely free. Only if you use that PLUS the Alchemy compiler is there a charge.

    Why is that so hard for people to understand?

    It’s completely irresponsible to be posting this stuff because it’s simply not true. Now the sheep are going to go re-bleating this everywhere and it’s not even true!

  16. Chris
    Posted Mar 30, 2012 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    When your salary goes from $5,000,000 to 12,000,000 instantly you have to pay for it somehow… tossing a product (Flex) and a tool (Catalyst, FlashBuilder) that they couldn’t monetize to a certain degree makes sense.

    They have been trying to work their way into the subscription services for quite a while and haven’t come up with one that anyone wants to use enough that they can make money on it. They simply decided that the Flash player itself was the vehicle and poof! This is just the beginning. It is true that many people will not be affected… until they are. At that point they have a revenue sharing partner for the life of their product.

    Why is there not an open source equivalent to Flash Player? Why has it gone unchallenged in it’s monopoly of browser plugins for all these years? Silverlight was a flash in the pan (no pun intended) but MS and open source in the same sentence is the ultimate oxymoron.

    Is HaXe the answer?

  17. Florian Ludwig
    Posted Mar 30, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    @Ben C,

    you must pay of you use stage3d plus certain opcodes. This doesn’t mean you use the alchemy compiler. You might use actionscript plus apparat – a collection of tools the author of this blog wrote.

    Still it doesn’t really matter to me. Charging for the *platform* is a bad idea imho. If they charge for usage of the alchemy compiler – I am fine with that. If that would mean they would better maintain it then I might even use it – and pay for it.

  18. Posted Mar 30, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Adobe is killing Flash a second time. After the autumn disaster this will be the final end of Adobes Flash platform. What is going wrong in this company to do such huge mistakes and destroy the currently best UI platform? Anyway… good chances now for haXe to get big! hope so! The learnings of all this: never trust a company, important things need to be based on open source and a community.

  19. Posted Mar 30, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Meh. I swore off of Flash development after realizing that the very expensive CS3 purchase got shoddy tools and exactly nothing in terms of support for the various bugs in the Flash debugger and runtime libraries. I’m sure they’ll now claim that they’re serious this time, just like every previous time they’ve made that claim, but after a decade+ of neglect it’s going to be very hard to convince anyone that they’re really committed to maintaining a competitive platform.

    I wouldn’t rule out non-free platforms – iOS certainly is close to if not over that line – but the expectation of support is much higher, particularly since I can get bug fixes committed in an OSS project in less time than it takes to cajole Adobe’s tier 1 support that they should in fact actually read the bug report rather than immediately confabulating about how it must be my fault.

  20. Glidias
    Posted Mar 31, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    I guess the main issue here might have came up with cross-compiling existing games over to the Flash platform, which is possible with Alchemy, allowing game developers to freely use the Flash runtime to deliver their own commercial games, without a royalty.

    Of course, if I do this for a non-3d hardware accelerated game, there’s no premium. But then again, which commercial AA title game nowadays does not use hardware acceleration? I guess attaching premium to BOTH features is a lazy strategy, like saying since A implements B and C, A needs a premium, even though A isn’t exactly that ABCrossCompiledGame that would be applicable for royalty.

    By attaching a watermark to the debug player, I guess it’s Adobe’s (and possibly some user’s) way of checking if a certain application running online needs to be licensed? What about .exe projector and desktop versions, which can be hacked anyway? Does the watermark only appear if online? It would be annoying to simply development on a project (or mini-demo), that leverages both features and have to see that watermark appear during offline development.

    I hope for online deployment of such projects, that at least the licensing would be an easy process like registering an app id or something. If so, i would say such a strategy would be fine by me as it’s unbobstrusive.

    …even though the very nature of attaching a royalty to simply using BOTH features is principally incorrect and doesn’t make much sense.

    While it’s true these 2 features don’t really warrant a royalty, but with these 2 features, it’s possible to deliver a commerical AA quality game that generates lots of revenue, and uses the FLash player runtime as a platform, completely free, without relying on a single Adobe CS product. But of course, the same thing can be done with either or the 2 features, thus not requiring revenue.

    In short, this appears often like just a reason for making some additional revenue for the Flash player runtime, which will only affect big studios anyway that deliver such game-types. Then again, in most cases, such studios are bound to not bother with Flash but focus their attention on other platforms as well, and if that includes the Flash runtime (which is free to use), some royalty would be applicable of course. Which may discourage such studios from using the Flash runtime, because from a business perspective, one could consider the returns of delivering such a title over Flash/web vs that of the royalty, and this remains to be seen.

    I guess the strategy of using revenue on what any layman would see as purely TECHNICAL FEATURES, is bad. It should be a revenue on COMMERICIAL USAGE and DELIVERY, if that can be measured/tracked unobstrusively without meddling with the Flash player runtime or having implicaions on the running of technical features, that route should have been taken instead.

  21. Posted Apr 3, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Adobe is betting on 3D gaming saving Flash from disappearing altogether. But they seem to be speeding up the anti-Flash movement with every decision they make.

    It just shows that they never really understood their own community. They hired creative evangelists to keep the faith in their platform alive, but when the evangelists are jumping ship, you know it’s all gonna be over very soon.

  22. Posted Apr 3, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Joa- If your looking for a place to break new ground, the community at the NME project ( would your input. The project has come a LONG way recently to allow people to deploy on mobile devices, with the familiar flash API.
    Due to this bombshell by adobe, idea has been posed to run native apps in NaCL using NME – to avoid the need for the flash player. There is also work starting on developing Stage3d capabilities for the project. With near native speed on iphone, andriod, webos, etc. and with the target of flash – the project is rapidly gaining speed.
    If your looking for a place to put your open-source talents, then feel welcome!

  23. Luudzu
    Posted Apr 8, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Im no troll but…
    You guys are stupid or what?!
    Read the effin article before start bitchin!!

    “A premium features license from Adobe is only required to publish a game to Flash Player that uses domain memory and Stage3D GPU in combination
    THEN, if the game makes more than $50,000 in net application revenue, it will be subject to a 9% revenue share above the first $50,000.
    If a publisher does not use domain memory: all existing core capabilities of Flash Player – including Stage3D GPU – are free to use and do not require a premium features license.”

  24. Luudzu
    Posted Apr 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    How many of you individually will make more that 50000$ per project huh?

  25. Ken
    Posted Apr 20, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    This is a bad business model, and you mudheads, (adobe fanboys and girls) that think this wont affect you, think again, HTML5 is slowly taking over the browser game market. Java’s speed far out does Flash, has 3D libraries for free, and includes no tax on your profits. Go ahead, program in Flash. Sell your game on Facebook , make over 50 grand and start paying out to Adobe( home of the mudheads ) for the rest of your games life. see how it sits with you in five years. Not I, This programmer will be heading on over to Html5 and Java. Have fun watching flash slowly die. Steve Jobs built Flash a pine coffin. and Adobe it lining it with silk so they can crawl in it and have a peaceful rest. RIP adobe, RIP.

  26. Posted Apr 22, 2012 at 1:59 am | Permalink

    I’m rolling with similar mindset currently as Joa.

    As strong supporter of Flash Platform since 2002, I’ve been with Flash hacking the best performance out of it year after year, teaching others optimal performance, etc.

    With this premium system there are few things that rubs me wrong way:

    One is limiting the programmer to worse than optimal performance if he wishes not to get license for his program. Runtime and it’s features are there, I want to use them fully any means and programming langauge necessary. And without doing paperwork first.

    Other is the requirement of jumping through license hoops even for non-commercial products that create _no significiant or none_ revenue at all. I still haven’t seen the license terms, but I believe that Adobe could prevent software from gaining license because of it’s content (Is it ok to have 3d boobs in premium content? What about something far worse?). As supporter of free internet, I just cannot support such possibility.

    Those who say it’s just about these two features, I’m certain more features will be bundled together in future, domain memory and stage 3d just happen to be the features Unity and UDK requires to export. Without these crosscompiling tools that skip need for any flash developing tools, I belive this whole premium feature hassle wouldn’t had even happened.

    I will phase out my own support for Flash in during this year, and will release my future demos on another platform.


  27. Jesse Nicholson
    Posted Apr 24, 2012 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Hi Joa,

    I’ve always respected you as a developer and highly valued your opinions over the years in your blog posts. I’d like to thank you for this post specifically because I did not know many of things you’ve touched on in it. This is just horrible.

    Reading this comes in perfect timing however. I too once swore off of flash a year and a bit ago… I was coming back to it because I wanted to try something in AIR but now I can see Adobe is bent on utterly destroying the platform we all love and the community around it. Anyway I mainly posted this to say that, when I quit flash, I wasn’t quite ready to give it up. So I formed a plan where I’m basically doing a complete re-write of all the platform and it’s capabilities but in pure C++, along with a compiler front end to intake normal AS3 and put out C++ so we can re-use all of our existing actionscript. The idea is to replace the flash platform entirely and completely but have it all compile to fully native code from converted and optimized C++.

    The other great part about this is that once my project here is complete, I can then integrate Emscripten into the compiler tools and compile the whole platform and apps/games to CSS3/JS and also, as someone else has mentioned, compile to NaCL as a target as well. If you’re interested in knowing when I’m done let me know. Either way all the best and thanks again for the post.

  28. Posted May 24, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Do not worry! That will generate revenue in excess of $ 50k? and If this is the case, giving 9% is not that bad! is that you win your very life! Moreover, we must still use the memory access Stage3D + .. Otherwise, it’s Free!

    The AudioTool use Stage3D?

    It does not bother me! As long as the FlashPlayer is great and swift that the compiler is completely redone to make the best optimizations natively .. Without need an apparat or other Azoth ..

  29. Karl Brooks
    Posted Jul 1, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink


    I see why you’re unhappy – it’s the principle. But as a practical matter I’d be thrilled to be in a position where I had to start paying 9% of profits are after netting $50,000 for a game. I suspect there aren’t many individual developers who have been there.

    It would be nice if you had a change of heart and decided to stick around for a while. If not, thanks for all the fish :-)

  30. Karl Brooks
    Posted Jul 1, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and one other thing. If you’re giving up on open source Flash, why not sell your work? There’s certainly a demand for it, and it’s not like you’d have a lot of competition. Or *any* competition, really.

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