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The Essential Guide to Flash Games: Building Interactive Entertainment with ActionScript ****-

The Essential Guide to Flash Games: Building Interactive Entertainment with ActionScript Featured By Jeff Fulton, Steve Fulton
Published March 2010
List Price: $49.99, Your Amazon.com Price: $27.47

Amazon.com Sales Rank: 2,107,103
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The Essential Guide to Flash Games is a unique tool for Flash game developers. Rather than focusing on a bunch of low-level how-to material, this book dives straight into building games. The book is divided into specific game genre projects, covering everything from old classics such as a Missile Command-style game, to hot new genres such as tower defense. The chapters build in complexity through the book, and new tools are introduced along the way that can be reused for other games.

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May 15 2010 05:32 AM
Way back around 2002 I was found myself suddenly hired to make a web-playable version of one of my old game-pack games. Having virtually no knowledge of the workings of Flash, I got one of the two books on writing Flash games at the time, Macromedia Flash 5 ActionScript For Fun and Games by Gary Rosenzweig. Not only did it get me enough knowledge of Flash programming that I was able to finish my project, but one of the dozen-odd game projects in the book was similar enough to the project I was charged with writing that I was able to shave off significant time from my project.

Fast forward almost ten years (yikes I'm old), and books on Flash game programming are fairly plentiful. The publisher Friends of Ed (an imprint of Apress) has devoted much of their company to documenting Flash and Flex, and the horrendously long-winded title The Essential Guide to Flash Games : Building Interactive Entertainment with ActionScript 3 is their latest "How to write Flash games for beginners" book. It is a bit like the old Flash 5 ActionScript For Fun and Games book in that it covers several game projects, ranging from simple to somewhat complicated. The old Flash 5 book had about 15 game projects in it. One per chapter. The Essential Guide to Flash Games covers about six projects, but the later projects are much deeper than the old stuff covered in the Rosenzweig book.

One thing I really like about The Essential Guide to Flash Games is that the book projects are built not only with the non-free Flash IDE, but you also learn how to build the book's projects using free tools, specifically Adobe's Flex SDK (the free command-line compiler) and FlashDevelop (which is a free IDE that can use the Flex SDK as a back-end). For a beginning game developer just getting his feet wet with programming, this is a pretty significant advantage. Rather than being expected to shell out $600+ for a copy of Flash, you can get this book and some free tools and build your first projects with minimal investment. Later on, you can decide if the full Flash IDE is worth the investment.

The level of the book starts off quite simply. While it might help to know a bit of computer programming, knowledge of ActionScript or the "Flash way of doing things" isn't important. If you have a little bit of programming, the book will move at a reasonable pace to teach you the rest.

Another thing I like about The Essential Guide to Flash Games is that it's available as a DRM-free ebook (specifically, a password-protected PDF) on the friendsofed.com website. The only problem with the PDF version is the "you're competing with Amazon" problem, which means that the price of the PDF download at friendsofed.com ($36) is higher than the discount price of the paper book at Amazon ($31.50). Of course, when you account for delivery time (instant versus not-instant), shipping cost for this 650-page monstrosity, the ability to search for text, and the peace of mind of saving a tree, it looks like a better deal.

The Essential Guide to Flash Games has an official website here and a Facebook fan-page here. Both of these are helpful, as you'll certainly have questions you'll want answered. Also, just for fun, the authors made an "infomercial" for the book here. The infomercial is actually rather handy, as it shows some good footage of the book's projects.

If I had a wish-list for The Essential Guide to Flash Games, it would be that it go a bit further. While the book covers the essentials of making an app framework for your game and shows off how to build several quality games, they don't feel finished. This and many other books of their type always seem to build 95% of a game, not building the title screen and high score table and other bits that, while not part of the game loop, are certainly part of the game and will get you the eyeballs.

Abridged Table of Contents

(necessary, as the authors have an exhaustive Table of Contents that's about twenty pages long)

About the Authors
About the Technical Reviewer
Layout Conventions

Part 1: The Basic Game Framework
Chapter 1: The Second Game Theory
Chapter 2: Creating an AS3 Game Framework
Chapter 3: Creating Super Click

Part 2: Building Games
Chapter 4: Laying the Groundwork for Flak Cannon
Chapter 5: Building the Flak Cannon Game Loop
Chapter 6: Laying the Groundwork for No Tanks!
Chapter 7: Creating the Full No Tanks! Game
Chapter 8: Creating the Color Drop Casual Puzzle Game
Chapter 9: Creating the Dice Battle Puzzle Game
Chapter 10: Blit Scrolling in a Tile-Based World
Chapter 11: Creating an Optimized Post-Retro Game
Chapter 12: Creating a Viral Game: Tunnel Panic