A huge game heritage of Adobe Flash and my attempts to save it

Original author: Ben Latimore
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The oldest game on the Newgrounds site was downloaded in 2000.

Adobe Flash (formerly Macromedia Flash) is perhaps the biggest treasure trove in the history of games. For twenty years, literally tens of thousands of games have been released for it: the library is more extensive than any game console. And in two years all this can disappear.

But back to the time when the alarm has not yet sounded.

The history of Flash (at least games) is a long and complex topic, which is much better described in the film (see above). They even talked about the many "eras" of flash games, and I can share my own experience.

About ten years ago I was in school. My parents were not too rich; basically I had to sit on a dial-up, like many Australians. The game for the console could only be counted on a birthday or other holiday, so we didn’t play new games very often. In addition, we had to go to school almost every day, so most of us were looking for some form of light entertainment to kill time in the rare hours of rest.

Welcome to the great flash portal.

NotDoppler in May 2018. Not the site I visited in my youth, but often imagined such

Flash portals were the main enemy of system administrators at work, in schools and anywhere, where people were required to work at a computer. There were hundreds of them, each with a huge selection of games, absolutely TANKS everywhere, but many sites also had their own unique games. On each site blocked by the sysadmin, two new ones instantly appeared.

Flash had many advantages at that time: it worked without problems on all types of PCs through the browser, most games were small, did not generate much traffic - they just worked most of the time. Everyone could go to the site to blow up each other in multiplayer TANK or fall into endless depression in The World's Hardest Game, the most challenging game in the world, or try to understand the insane logic of the Impossible Quiz troll authors. . And these are just three examples. As I have already said, there were thousands of such games on many sites, literally thousands - each was launched with one click of the browser.

Like everyone else, I grew up, and with it came the general decline of the Flash era. Of course, thousands of people still play flash games every day (for example, the latest ArmorGames for Flash has 13,000 downloads in the first week after the release), but the mainstream user is gone.

However, we will try not to forget those who started with the Flash platform. Among the most famous is Edmund Macmillen (the author of The Binding of Isaac and Super Meat Boy), he started with a flash. Studio Cellar Door Games, known for the title Rogue Legacy, began with the game Don't Sh * t Your Pants in flash. And flash technology has actually been used in many high-budget games.

Thank Flash for this terrifying image.

And we do not even consider the wonderful games that have become part of the public consciousness. The list is so large that it will take hours to list them. Why do this if you just have to go to Newgrounds, sort the games by rating - and play everything, while you still have the opportunity.

And I want to draw your attention to these last few words.

In short, Flash support ends in 2020 .

The main problem of Flash is that it is known as a huge security hole. Most people are not particularly fond of Flash, and they have reasons: Flash loads the CPU, in the mid-2000s, advertising banners were made on it everywhere, which slowed down the PC. The number of Flash holes that need to be patched is tantamount to trying to seal the Titanic after being split in half.

And with the invention of mobile devices (and the infamous statement by Steve Jobs that the Flash platform is not suitable for the Apple ecosystem), many developers have moved away from Flash, and with them most of the casual games market, and years later the market has been blown away. Modern catalogs of mobile games resemble flash portals of previous years.

See the similarities?

With the invention of the more universal HTML5 technology, Flash days were numbered. Beginning in 2020, Flash will no longer be supported by Adobe, no updates and patches. Eventually, even more security vulnerabilities will be revealed, which will push browser developers to completely remove Flash. So, Firefox promised to disable Flash by default for all users by next year, and Chrome promised to completely remove the plugin before the end of 2020.

Look at the screenshot a little higher, namely the right side - Newgrounds at the time of this writing. All these twenty games run on Adobe Flash. If your browser no longer has a plugin for running these games, what will become of them? Will the 3,500 pages of games from Newgrounds just disappear?

It is too early to put the final point, though ...

No one knows what will happen. These companies — Armor Games, Kongregate, Newgrounds, NotDoppler, and all other flash portals — have not announced their plans. Some of them can survive (since each of the listed sites does not contain flash games, such as Unity or HTML5), but 90% of their gaming libraries will disappear simply because no one can run them.

When no one else can run these games, why keep copies of them on servers? It is easy to imagine that the owners of portals will find these games not worth the effort to attract a small audience of users with specially modified browsers (or simply old versions of browsers). When this happens, we say goodbye to flash games forever.

Of course, some of them can be saved locally to the hard disk. In most cases (more than 90% of games, according to my personal and completely unreliable reasonable assumption), games can still run in a kind of standalone Adobe Flash Player with the click of a button. But what about games that won't start?

Now this option will work for most games.

There are some exceptions that most people will not be able to get around on their own or at least without technical efforts. The main problem is serverlocking (sitelocking): a large number of games are developed with DRM, which simply will not allow you to play outside the corresponding servers.

In the game Cube Escape: The Cave, you will never go through this screen without additional efforts.

And of course, you should not forget about completely online games, whether it is multiplayer or just saving in the cloud. You will not be able to play Pokemon Tower Defense for a long time if you do not save in the cloud.

Add games that require a lot of external resources - and you have problems. Many flash games often download parts separately (again, this was important in the era of dialup, where one megabyte was pumped out an hour, if lucky). If you do not have a local copy of these files, you are trapped.

Compare, on the left: a copy of Gateway II without downloading external files, on the right: with one external file

Summarize. Less than two years after the publication of this article, hundreds of thousands of games are likely to disappear from the Internet forever. They just can not run. Hundreds of millions of views, likes, 5 star reviews, 1 star reviews ... everything will disappear. Publishers of these games, it seems, to the bulb. As far as I know, the creators of these games do not discuss the problem.

“But someone will surely want to keep these games! We have not lost one forever! There's still time! ”

Treat yourself to a dead game.

La Insula de Sancho is an adventure trilogy released around 2005. At one time, it was very popular among Hispanic: hundreds of articles, screenshots, and even step-by-step guides for the entire series are available on the Internet. But their domain has expired, and since the game is programmed to receive external resources from the specified server, it is now not reproduced in almost any form. Even after a thorough search, I could not find a complete copy that can be played.

In the next year and a half, this can happen literally with any flash game.

The problem is clear, but personally I can do little about it. This is the first reason why I started writing this article - to attract as much attention to the problem as possible. Considering that my attempts to solve it are currently the only ones I know about ... well, you understand.

The question is: what is being done to preserve this almost unique legacy of video games ? What is known about this from almost any source? Nothing. The article is here and there, but the clock is ticking, the games are gradually starting to become non-playable, and it seems that no one is doing this.

Introducing BlueMaxima Flashpoint.

Starting with version 1.3.1

Combining the LaunchBox interface and Apache web server capabilities, Flashpoint is a flash game preservation project, museum, and one-click-to-play collection in one window. You just need to double click on any game in the list - and it will open with a local copy on the hard disk, ready for the game.

Games with domain binding? Games requiring server availability? Games with external files? All options were taken care of either by hacking the game (health and long life to the creator of the JPEXS Free Flash Decompiler decompiler), or by using the Apache web server, which makes games think that they are where they should be.

Elephant Quest is one of the games that even requires a web server to launch the main screen.

In the end, there is only one question: is this legal? And the only real answer isno one knows and no one should think about it . Games are on the verge of extinction, and while they have not yet died, they must be saved as quickly as possible. And as far as I know, I'm really the only one trying to do this.

At the time of Flashpoint 1.3.1, 850 games are now fully stored and played in one or two clicks. About 20% of them had to either hack, or run through a web server, or download external resources so that the game worked properly. This is not even close to all flash games on the Internet: you need a lot more effort and a little luck to get closer to this goal.

What about the rest? What about thousands and thousands of games that I haven’t yet reached and cured in Flashpoint? Dozens and dozens of portals that may not have been properly copied through sites such as Archive.org?

Oh god, I'm glad you asked about this.

Portals, portals, disassemble portals! Big, small, we have for every taste!

It all started with the fact that we, with another assistant, whose name for security I will not name, tried to create backup copies of as many portals as possible. The result of this effort was a project called Flashfreeze. SWF files of more than two dozen portals copied and saved in the Google Drive directory.

These copies do not include external files necessary for the normal operation of games. So the second half of the battle is to find these files, make sure they are saved until the end is over. And of course, the game will still need to be hacked so that they work without servers, offline and without reference to certain sites. But this later. First of all, you should at least save the SWF files.

Update 07/30/2018. Considering that this article was again sold online (and since I was 25 years old yesterday, this is a great birthday gift, the Internet), I think it is better to update it rather than write a new one. Here is a list of several items:

  • Since writing this article, we have significantly updated Flashpoint. Now there are more than 4,000 games, a new redirect system that helps to get around to certain sites and launch server games. A lot of people helped test and maintain it.
  • Now we support Shockwave, HTML5 and Unity games. This server technology is too good to limit it to only flash. Flash games still make up 90% of the directory, but people will have a copy of Cartoon Cartoon Summer Resort, damn it!
  • We have released a bunch of additional files for downloading based on server technology, a collection of all the SWF animations of Newgrounds with a front-end for their launch , a bunch of “quick and dirty” backup portals and we are preparing even more cool additional features.
  • We became popular. Very popular. 1500 users registered on our Discord server, and many flash developers contacted us to express their gratitude. When the VVVVVV developer expresses his gratitude to you for the work, you realize that you are doing the right thing.
  • The archiving is in full swing. We have a lot of people who know their business - now it is only a matter of time when we make backup copies of everything that remains.
  • Virtually no serious problems. I was half sure that there would be obstacles for our project, but it looks like everything is clean at the moment.

The only question is where to download the program and how to join the project? Discord server

works for me : requests are accepted here and games are cracked since the project started several months ago. You can join and help. New versions of Flashpoint are distributed as they are released. If you just want to access the source files (to make sure they work to support the archive or just play for 5 minutes and forget how I do with an infinite number of things), here are some links:

Be sure to read the help file for Flashpoint before playing with it.

At the end of the article I just want to clarify one thing: it does not matter if you support my efforts to save as many of these games as possible. What matters is that we, as a community, attempt to save them . If no one does anything, then a very serious piece of history may be lost forever. Too significant to allow it to disappear. Games deserve more. Much more.

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