Flash development with flixel

Adam Saltsman. What a charming bugger.
Adam Saltsman. What a charming bugger.

Adam Saltsman is a pretty cool guy. He makes some pretty nice games here and there, maintains a pretty interesting blog on Gamasutra, and is always pretty quick to respond when I nag him for info on game development articles. This puts him very firmly in my “good books” territory.

He’s also made a Flash development toolkit called flixel, which is the subject of this week’s column.

What is flixel?

If you’ve followed my Crash Course 500 guide to Flash development, you should have a very raw idea of how to set up and get started with development in Flash’s primary language, Actionscript. If you’re confused about where to begin with Flash and Actionscript, said article is pretty cool. If you want to make a full-blown game, however… well, there’s still a fair amount of work ahead of you. Fortunately, flixel makes that process a whole lot easier.

While you’ll still need to be a reasonably literate programmer to benefit from flixel, it makes things a helluva lot easier for coders who know how to slap a class together but really don’t want to get caught up in all the grunt work that makes a good game system. To put it simply: if your new Flash game is a house, flixel is the foundation that it’s going to be built on. To put it in mysterious code-speak: flixel is a collection of pure Actionscript classes which you can easily extend to create quick and stable game objects. Listed features on the flixel overview page include fast sprite rendering (5000+ objects on-screen), particle systems, collision detection, buttons and organisational classes, several special effects and excellent support for free Flash IDEs like FlashDevelop.

A whole whack of cool Flash games have already been made with the flixel libraries.
A whole whack of cool Flash games have already been made with the flixel libraries.

Sounds cool: how do I use it?

Let’s start from scratch, here. If you’re an absolute green when it comes to things Flash-related, take a look at NAG Online’s tutorial on getting started with FlashDevelop. It’ll get you to the point of your first “hello world” project and arm you with the basics of compiling and running Actionscript projects.

Once you’re set with that, you’ll need to gain more familiarity with Actionscript itself. Some sample FlashDevelop projects can be found here, and the flixel site recommends this tutorial to help you along — just be sure to skip the bit about MXMLC, since it won’t apply to you unless you happen to be going with that particular tool.

Flixel itself can be downloaded from the official site, and a help thread has been set up to point new users in the right direction. There’s also a convincing list of games made with flixel that’s hanging around, so you can check them out and see what Saltsman’s framework is capable of.

The long and short of it: if you’re a fan of Flash, flixel is an absolute must. Give it a try, let the creator know what you think, and have fun making games!