Flash is one of the most ubiquitous and lucrative game development tools out there today, so what’s stopping you from getting into it too? In a paltry 500 words, we’ll look at Flash from the ground up and have you creating a simple application in no time. For free, too!

Getting the stuff

There’s three things that you’ll need to start developing in Flash. The first component of your project (and the biggest chunk of it) is the Adobe Flex SDK which you can download over here. There are several versions: you should be fine with 3.0 (about 79 megabytes) but version 3.3 comes strongly recommended as the most up-to-date one (it weighs in at about 121 megs).

With just a few minutes and some basic ActionScript literacy, it's easy to create some simple (and horrific-looking) Flash games.

With just a few minutes and some basic ActionScript literacy, it's easy to create some simple (and horrific-looking) Flash games.

Okay, so you’ve swallowed the most bitter pill already. Good job. You should now have a zipped file on your drive: extract it to a location like C:\flex_sdk_3 or something. We’ll get back to it later.

Grab yourself FlashDevelop and install it – this is going to be the place where you create everything (the SDK is just for compiling and stuff, and works behind the scenes). Once that’s on your system, get yourself the Flash Player ActiveX control content debugger and the Flash Player Projector content debugger from this download page. Install them,please: they’re important support tools which will make your development life a whole lot easier!

Setting up FlashDevelop

Before compiling a single line of Flash, you’ll need to set up the IDE/SDK link (if you don’t understand what this means, just hang tight and follow these instructions). Open FlashDevelop, dismiss any dialog boxes that pop up, and go to Tools > Program Settings. Select the AS3Context plugin from the menu that pops up and look for a field labelled “Flex SDK location” on the right panel where you’ll enter the path that you extracted your SDK zip to earlier (for example, C:\flex_sdk_3). Well done, apprentice: you’ve just passed the next step in your Flash trials and are ready to code a simple application.

Hello World” and an example

Go to Project > New Project , select the standard AS3 project from the options that pop up, and enter the new project’s name and directory. Once you’ve got your new workspace open, find a file called “Main.as” in the Project window on the right (it’ll be hiding in the SRC folder) and double-click to bring up the code window. Just below the two default “import” lines, write the following:

import flash.text.TextField;

Now enter this code just below the green comment which says “entry point”:

var myTextField: TextField = new TextField();

myTextField.text = “Hello World!”;

stage.addChild(myTextField);

Press CTRL+ENTER to compile and run your code. If everything goes well, you should see a little “Hello World!” application pop up in a new tab or window. Congratulations, you’ve just learned Flash in under 500 words!

For further reading, there’s an extended tutorial on Dev.Mag, an AS3 manual from Adobe and a simple example project over here. Happy Flashing!