After last years FOTB I was literally bursting with inspiration so I was really pleased to be heading back down to Brighton again this year for the 3 day conference. After last year I made a list of things I wanted to learn and do over the year, including creating my blog, learning Papervision and buying a MacBook (last year I only saw one person presenting on a PC, and it crashed during the presentation!)


I got down to Brighton from London nice and early to pick up my pass and eagerly awaited the keynotes. The conference opened with a bit of comedy, 3 guys, the Mariachis, dressed as Mexicans in ponchos and sombreros – view the Mariachis here. They arrived on the stage with a guitar and sang a comedy song about graphic design. After a huge cheer from the appreciative crowd the annual opening video was played which I was really impressed with, a fantastic job to rival Rob Chiu’s video from last year.

After the usual welcomes etc from John Davey (who does a great job of organising the event every year), Richard Galvan took to the stage from the Adobe team. He kicked off by running over a few stats about Flash Player 10. Penetration was up to 86.7% in June this year, a stat that will definitely be higher now. This is great news as we’ll soon be able to start using it for client projects taking advantage of all the great features FP10 has to offer:

> Audio & Video streaming
> 3D drawing/perspective transformation
> Improved text capabilities, including right to left and vertical text, also flowing text into a shaped container
> Pixel Bender (check out this game made with Pixel Bender)

They then went on to talk about the latest update to the Flash CS4 IDE which includes these features:

> The open info dialog doesn’t force itself above all other open applications
> Code completion for custom classes in the IDE
> Greater integration between Flash and Flex

There was then talk about FP10 on mobile devices and also excitingly on television although with limited time these were only quickly brushed over. Final couple of points worth mentioning on the keynotes is Adobe AIR 2.0 will be released soon and Flex has been rebranded as Flash Builder.

It sounded like Adobe will be making a few more announcements at the Adobe Max 2009 conference in LA next month. To find out more about that view the MAX website.

Keith Peters – Casual Game Architecture

We haven’t actually had an opportunity to do any game development at TMW yet, but I’m sure we will eventually and it’s something I like to play around with in my (limited) spare time.

I’m a big fan of Keith Peters after reading both his Foundation and Advanced Making Things Move AS3 books so I was really looking forward to finally seeing him present as he clashed with Rob Bateman’s Away3D talk last year so I unfortunately missed him.

Rather than going into great detail (as this post is getting a lot longer than intended) I will just list some of the content I took notes on from his presentation.

> A book recommended by Keith is Domian Driven Design by Eric Evans
> Games in Flash should be Event driven not polling
> A Game is an application, and game play is just part of that app
> FP10 3D caches everything as Bitmaps which kills the frame rate, read more here
> For complex games a good option is Component Oriented Design – all elements are entities but they can have multiple components

Carlos Ulloa – HelloEnjoy

I was slightly unsure who to see next as it was between Carlos Ulloa (Papervision) and Chuck Freedman (using the Flash microphone for advanced interaction). Despite having already seen Carlos present (most recently at LFPUG) I opted for him as I’ve always learnt a lot from watching his presentations.

This time was no exception as he talked about 4 projects he’s recently worked on, going into both technical details and how he went about solving problems that arose.

Mike Jones – Who’s A Bright Spark Then

After Carlos I watched Mike Jones talk about Spark, the new component architecture in Flex 4. He also gave a quick demo of Flash Catalyst, something I’m sure we will use at the agency sometime in the future.

I generally program in FDT using only AS3 but this session has inspired me to learn a bit more about Flex (sorry Flash Builder) and MXML, particularly for forms it will be very useful.

Thea Eaton – Accessible Action Games!

The next session was on accessibility and this is where people will stop reading this post and close the webpage! Accessibility (particularly in Flash) often gets designs and developers running for the hills. However it’s an important subject and since the agency I work for was paying for the conference I sort of felt obliged to attended (even if it did mean missing Dr Woohoo).

One thing I learnt from the session is that Flash is much better for creating accessible websites than I realised. Thea showed some great examples of how she has combated accessibility issues in the past and really got me thinking I should be doing more to make my Flash content accessible. However, I did feel the session could have had more about the technical side of accessibility, and it did massively overran.

Hillman Curtis and Joel Gethin Lewis

The final two sessions were not really Flash related but great all the same. Hillman Curtis talked about his love for portraits and showed some short films, and the evening inspiration session saw Joel Gethin Lewis talking about his work and inspirations. I really enjoyed Joel’s session, he did have the advantage of presenting after everyone had a few beers, but regardless his presentation was very interesting and inspiring. He talked about some very interesting projects he’s worked on for UVA, including going on tour with Massive Attack and working on the Regent Street Christmas lights in 2007.

Overall the first day of the conference was a great success and particularly Keith and Joel’s presentations where very interesting. I’m gonna get some sleep now as it’s very late and I have to get up early for the short train ride from London to Brighton again.