Wednesday, April 15, 2009

FLASH IS HARD

I'll explain my thinking on first using Flash, then switching back so fast we all achieved powerful and enchanted new WHIPLASHQUIP: FULL PLATE OF THE NECKBRACE TEMPLARS.

Here is a summary of what actually happened first.

On April 10th, I launched the new story, "Homestuck", made entirely in Flash. My plan was to complete the whole story in Flash, adding interactivity, music, and stuff like that. I completed 8 pages.

This turned out to be way too much work. To put this in perspective, doing these 8 relatively simple pages was MORE DIFFICULT AND TIME CONSUMING THAN ALL THE SEPULCHRITUDE ANIMATIONS COMBINED. I am not joking about that!

I don't know if this says more about my inexperience with Flash, or my proficiency with Photoshop (in which all PS work was done). Probably both. I don't mind dealing with Actionscript, really. It was the whole environment I had trouble with. It felt very unnatural to draw in, and difficult to manage everything spread across multiple time lines and movie clips. Even doing simple things was like pulling teeth.

So in order to prevent the story from grinding to a halt down the road, I just switched back to Photoshop and started over. I kept the Flash version online, and recast it as the "Homestuck BETA", which now appears to have been "released" three days prior to the current version. You could even call this a happy coincidence that appears to have been planned, since it echoes an aspect of the story, in which the beta for a game was released three days prior to his birthday.

But I guess MSPA tends to be full of these sorts of coincidences which make you wonder what was planned and what wasn't. But here I am telling you it wasn't planned! I should really work on being more mysterious.

(You will also note, the age of the character jumped from 10 to 13 in this three day span. This is, for mysterious reasons, because the "magic number" for this story is now 4/13 rather than 4/10.)

Perhaps ironically, the Homestuck beta, which was never supposed to be a beta, genuinely did serve as a beta! I had a chance to test out some things there, and when I realized it wasn't working, I pulled the plug. But I got to establish the Flash page infrastructure on the site, so now I can use Flash pages whenever I want.

And I intend to! Sparingly. Mostly for when I want to include musical elements, which was really my biggest reason for switching to Flash in the first place.

The bottom line is, the adjustment I made now feels right. Overall, I like the look better. And the production is virtually effortless, a process streamlined over hundreds of pages of Problem Sleuth. This will allow me to update with crazy amounts of pages as usual, which I think you will agree is a very important thing. Maybe the most important thing!

43 comments:

HolyDemon_Snapdragon said...

Yes, quantity in some cases is a great deal. But quality also matters. As for this, I believe you have good quality, and your quality increases over time, and either way, the interactivity or seemingly interactivity makes up for it greatly.

I could've told you Flash takes awhile. <,< And because of that I dislike it. XD I'm learning more about it recently in my class, but I still prefer Blender, Lightwave, and any other 3-D animation program (for right now - I might develop disliked programs later) that can be thought of. Just for the fact it is in 3-D and it makes it all the more rewarding in my opinion.

Of course, I feel it's more rewarding because I can constantly move the camera around, especially in games, and not worry too much about drawing every single thing (I hate repetition), and instead, just make the models and manipulate the bones and such on the models I wish to use. And later I might even be able to combine acting (which appears to be the case in a lot of things) in order to better move my models about, rather than have to do all the nitty gritty work by hand.

Then I can also focus more on (when I'm doing explosions and such, and making fur, and learning other programs and plug-ins like hypervoxels to make everything more "realistic"),
on the other stuff, as well as making it even more detailed, and editing stuff where need be.

There will always be a place for teamwork though, because specification, but also generalists and stuff - these things are always good. Etc. etc.

I commend you for your work in Photoshop, because if it's how I imagine it to be - animating it - as I've imbued video footage into Photoshop (it's all separate layers - fun for apparently low-level meditation) - then you are indeed a more patient person than me. Not to mention better artist on the computer - mainly because I'd find it whacky trying to use both mouse and 'stylus' for drawing.

3-D is more topographical or w/e, h/e. So it's easier - especially with the pen tool and easy/quick zoom-in/zoom-out functions.

Sorry for taking up so much room. XD

Anonymous said...

So Problem Sleuth is just a
metaphor for PhotoShop?

Anonymous said...

Oh by the way, forgot to mention... XD

I call them miraculous coincidences. :o I thank God and you for your MSPaintAdventures by the way. <,<; As uncomfortable as that might make you feel. :o

A-NOM-ynous said...

That's fine with me. Viewing the Flash pages was a nuisance for me, as my RSS reader does not support Flash.

phort99 said...

I was really disappointed and bitter when I found out you were switching back to GIFs. However, that's what you've been using this whole time so that's what you're best at at this point. I have quite a bit of experience working with Flash (a bit less with Actionscript) and I can see where you're coming from, comparing it with just drawing and manipulating layers in PS.

Maybe you could just use your GIF animations in Flash instead of redrawing everything, so you could add interactivity and audio. If you put an animated GIF straight into Flash it will turn it into frames and dump them into the timeline with the same timing as the GIF has.

By the way, just curious, what version of Flash are you using? From what I've heard, Flash CS4 is a big step backward in terms of usability.

Vincent said...

I could not possibly be more disappointed in the persistently declining standard of quality in MS Paint Adventures. I remember that, in its inception, it featured a series of hand-painted canvases, custom-made to replicate the plot suggestions of a meager but sophisticated audience.

With greater popularity came the need (or "need") to streamline the process, and Andrew switched to pen and ink and ordinary paper. Still, the personal touch of the master was plain, and each work was more than an adventure. It was a masterpiece.

Eventually, the initially ironic title became literal, when the story "Jojo's Winery Mishap" was begun and completed entirely in MS Paint. That no irony was intended, however, did not become clear, until subsequent efforts did away with physical artistry all together, and depended entirely on the lazy projections of a computer program.

Reading this "comic" is like fucking a robot. It makes me sick.

Carsonist said...

If the Flash takes extra work for you, it's best that you skip it, I think. Having the page not be choppy as it loads up is a little annoying, but I'd much rather have more MSPaint Adventures than a slightly better interface.

I'm always impressed by the volume of your output! Keep it up!

sleepygamer said...

Well aren't you a happy bunny, Vincent?

As you your switch from flash to gif again... sure I'm a lil disappointed. I really enjoyed the look of the flashed stuff, and the lil sound effects gave it sparkle, but in the end I respect that it was arduous work to do that, and to continue the output you have set for yourself, and your continued sanity, you had to switch.

I do look forward to seeing little elements of flash later on, however, perhaps you could devise minigames or puzzles for us to complete to continue the story?

I really enjoy your work, and can't wait to see how this story will progress!

HolyDemon_Snapdragon said...

To the person above me - and God I hate six... <,< I keep seeing it. XD

But anyways!! v,v; X3 Regarding the person above me - have you EVER _TRIED_ doing so much repetition and trying to draw everything for ONE fucking scene and (some people make a mistake when first learning it regarding the layers) then having to redo everything?

I, myself, tend to be a person that, although lazy, tries apparently exceptionally hard compared to some others to make things awesome to the point of others wondering what's the point, even though I feel myself constantly drawn into situations where I have to debate with myself, "is this really necessary? Do I SERIOUSLY have to deal with this bullshit - is it worth it?" Then I'll either weigh up the pros and cons or else go with my heart to save time. I'm an impatient person.

It'd be a lot better if it were my imagination that was creating everything, literally, and everything got painted out for me into a physical, distributable form. Mainly because you can't necessarily depend on different forms of kinesis' to distribute information or w/e, nor for people to believe it. At the very least, the ones that help in a most obvious way for communicating.

Other things can be used for communicating obviously, but in a less of an obvious/apparent way (I use 'obvious' too much). <,<

If you've tried it before, then let me ask you this.

DID you try doing as many scenes as Andrew did? The Hussie Andrew, and I can think of all sorts of punishing puns that rhyme with that. <,<; Which means it's a fun name. :D It both sounds good and it's fun. ^,^;

But anyways, I like the other guys' comment a lot more - I had forgotten about that. The import/export functions. It is true you can export the .gif file-thing and just import it into Flash and add music and such. I've done it with video footage before that I've finished editing. You can also do it vice-versa.

Not too difficult.

All in all it's like one giant editing machine, because of how things can be transferred to others for more editting while still keeping what you have.

It's intersting, sort of, but not long-dwelling interesting. At least I think so. >,<; X3

Morgan said...

Well, Flash CS3 and greater has this nifty Photoshop Importer thing that preserves all your layers and shit; it doesn't preserve your animation, but really you don't need to bother with movie clips and AS for most of the stuff you would be doing.

And if you haven't got Flash CS4, it's got some brilliant new animation tools, including the motion editor from After Effects and 3D manipulation.

HolyDemon_Snapdragon said...

x.x My post was about Vincent's by the way... <,<;

Otzlowe said...

Er... I'm failing how people didn't catch the sarcasm in Vincent's post.

Seriously. He literally stated in there, "it featured a series of hand-painted canvases" and he mentioned a story arc that (to my knowledge) Andrew Hussie has not done.

Otzlowe said...

Arg! I'm failing to see*

Arren said...

I'm glad you switched back to GIFs. The polished look didn't really seem to fit the whole "MS Paint Adventures" feel for me. It seemed too new, while trying to recreate an old game style. For me, Flash doesn't work for this.

Anonymous said...

The restart works out for me in a sort of trivial way. I prefer a 13-year-old hero to a 10-year old hero. Mostly because a 10-year old is such a departure from our beloved hard-boiled sleuth, while a 13-year old is less of a departure. I still miss Pickle Inspector, though.

Anonymous said...

well taking from the point that it was meant to be MsPAINT adventures, even if andrew uses photoshop, the drawing style still give the feel of PAINT and i dont really liked the idea of flash for the new comic, so mantaining the comic style is good for me

Wyatt said...

Personally, I'm glad you moved back to PS. Flash is neat and cool and fun, yes, but I also think it takes some of the personal touch out of the whole thing. I understand that doing the comic entirely in MS Paint is also unfeasible, so PS is a good middle ground that I think you should stick to. :)

rc5 said...

I like it much better in Photoshop. The paint-edges are part of the charm! And you can't just put Flash on low-quality cause it looks dumb.

Also my computer doesn't have speakers and I'd always be hunting for headphones constantly to see if I'm missing soundy bits...

Plus, having tried using both programs in question in the past, honestly, I can't blame you for half a second.

In short, I am happy with your decision. =)

Krakenen said...

I'm no expert with flash or anything like that... but as far as music goes, in order to save some flash animation work, you might want to experiment with having a very small area of the page running flash (maybe just above the picture, perhaps with a volume control?) whose sole purpose is to provide music while the reader looks at the pictures below it? It would probably be less CPU intensive for some readers, plus I think (after reading your blog post) that it would be less graphical work for you.

Krakenen said...

PS: Plus it would mean that you might be able to have some ambient music during some of the more boring (as if any of your adventures are 'boring') moments during each adventure.

drew said...

I absolutely understand your problem. For a college assignment, I had to write actionscript in free Flash. It was so jury-rigged, it was cobbled together with duct tape and clothespins, and instead of electricity, it used mice running through PVP pipes. I can't imagine that the licensed version was much better.

MrD said...

Flash is a pain in the bum. Unless you're using Flash 5, then it's simply just annoying.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I can be of some help here, I'm a bit of an expert in animation, have been since...oh... 2001 I guess?
But animation expert isn't my words, it's actually the words of anyone who's seen anything I put true effort into. I only have a few examples of old work remaining, search the name Aleniums on youtube and you will see.

Now, the first problem is that you think music has to be EMBEDDED IN THE FLASH ANIMATION ITSELF, you are DEAD WRONG about this, that is a TERRIBLE idea, it would lag the hell out of our storylines too.
What you need to do is embed the music SEPERATELY in another (hidden) flash SWF file. ONE FLASH FILE PER MUSIC, once it's in our internet cache, the pages will load like normal, and still have the musics, and it saves you on BANDWIDTH and WEBSPACE as well.

Message me on youtube if you wish to know more, I am user "Aleniums" on there.
I can be of great help. I found Problem Sleuth to be a pure stroke of genius because it was so simple, yet so deep.
Well, I can help you make your new story just about as simple (and easy for you to encode), but still as deep as you want it to be. :)

PS: I think I speak for the majority of us when I say WE DON'T WANT INTERACTIVE FLASH, in other words, we're used to clicking "next" and seeing what happens. If you made the flash more like a gif, that would be great. :)

The Reporter said...

Flash is one of the worst programs I have ever used...the only reason I've found to keep using it is for the user interactions, but the interface is really obsolete. You could try a 3D program (they can render in 2D), but I like the Photoshop look, and it's nice to not wait hours for huge files to load....

voodooKobra said...

Hey, you're expanding your horizons. A Flash page for every single goddamn user-submitted command is a bit impractical. Yes, it would have been an incredible experience for your high-speed internet users, but it would've gotten old fast.

It's best to keep it restricted to a rare treat. :P

vdogam3r said...

You're lucky you even know flash. Yesterday I tried making an animation but I had a loss of intrest because I had no idea what to do. Will you be... my master?

Anonymous said...

I like the photoshop style better than the flash style. It has more charm and character to me. Though, a tiny bit of flash here and there wouldn't hurt.

Sanjay said...

I disagree with the first poster. Quality is for suckers. Let's get more quantity!

If I wanted quality I would be reading webcomics about caviar on my yacht.

Salem Jansen said...

HOLY CRAP.
You actually tried Flash? I have CS3 - and it's one of the more useless programs I have (Go, LightWave!). Anyway - as much fun as the animation is, it's reeaalllyy time-consuming if you don't take shortcuts (like Tweening.. gah. One thing: If you want Fash music along with the panels - try putting the flash file in a very small space inside the Photoshop panel.
Alternatively, you could try a certain Anonymous' idea. That's also a good idea. >.>

Ngame989 said...

I'm glad MSPaint looks like it's namesake again. As far as I'm concerned, PhotoShop is all you need, Andrew. Seriously, you work hard enough as is w/o Flash to deal with. Yes, the occasional Flash is a nice touch. BTW, was the newest CD page done with flash? IDK if gifs are interactive or not, so I figured I would ask.

galaxor said...

Yeah, don't use flash until it's open source. I think it's BS that a single corporation controls access to like 50% of the stuff on the web.

Now, there *is* an open-source flash compiler called SWFMill. Plop some files and actionscript into a directory, write some xml, and you can make a flash file, without using any non-open-source software.

TECHNICALLY, this could be viewed in an open-source flash player: Gnash.

But this stuff isn't all there yet. I'd rather people stick to open standards until it is all there.

Tasgall said...

I'm glad its back to gifs... They just look more, "Authentic" in a way (whatever that means).
Also, the interactivity, while a good idea to use sometimes (like the cd rack page), could get annoying on every page... I think its better to just click through and read what happens and watch/view the little animation/picture on each page without worrying if there's some hidden easter egg you missed.

Another thing I like about the GIFs is that for some reason they load faster on my computer then the flash does.

John Baima said...

Eh...

I know it's difficult, but it was so much better.

I wouldn't mind the entire series taking 10x longer if it were in Flash.

Maybe you can keep practicing and *actually* use it on the next story (if there will be one).

Fission~inferno said...

I agree with those of us sane here: I'd rather you stick with the awesome GIFITUDE and put a few dashes of FLASHSAUCE here and there.

The Legacy said...

Keep in mind for those who don't know the difference between GIF and Flash: GIF is a bitmap format (an animated 256 color one, mind you), and Flash is a Vector format. Before you all look at my funny, I'll describe the difference:

Bitmap: Each pixel is coloured and catalogued in a single file, as instructions on what each specific pixel has to fill. Because each one has a defined color and position, it takes up a large amount of code and processing power. Used for detailed images. To make a hypothetic example of bitmap in terms of coding;

Pixel (0,0) 255, 255, 128
Pixel (0,1) 255, 128, 255
Pixel (1,0) 255, 128, 255
Pixel (1,1) 255, 255, 128
etc...

Vector: A vector is a point-to-point line from one pixel to another, with modifiers that adjust the curvature of the line. If a line makes a complete loop, these vectors can be filled in. All fonts are vector formats, and so are simpler graphics. The benefit of vectors is that there is no 'pixelization' of images when scaled, because the images are a mathematical formula rather than a grid. Downside is that it's impossible to make realistic images with them. To make a hypothetic example of coding of a vector:

Vector (0,0) (35,35) (255,255,128)



Now why did I just explain this for you? Because doing Flash is MUCH harder to do when you're going from a GIF to a Flash format. In order to draw Flash, you have to learn vector. Learning vector can be done, but the other issue is that flash, during animation, can cause those vectors to distort if done incorrectly. It's a very complex format to learn, and as he said, much harder to do. He has to draw the vectors, then do the keyframes, then the actionscript, and so on. GIF? It's a simple point-to-point animation, and what is so impressive of the original work was the detail in each frame he put in.

As for the music issue Andrew, try this instead somewhere in your page code:

(embed src="path/filename.mp3"
width=## height=## autostart=true repeat=true loop=true) (/embed)

Note: Replace MP3 with whatever format you use. Remove width and height if you want it hidden from view. The rest is pretty self-explainatory. Replace the brackets with typical HTML bracketing, as blogger won't accept it for display.

Source: http://www.hypergurl.com/music.html

honky_adonis said...

Flash is clearly a superior medium. I mean, look at all the GREAT Flash animations all over the web! It's truly made the internet a better, more easily navigable and interesting place. Take it from me, chums: if you're still looking at "images" and "text," take a step back from your CRT and do some fucking reassessing, because this is *important*.

Anomalous said...

The Legacy:

I'm not sure if you've used Flash, but it isn't so complicated that you actually need to know that the vectors are cubic B├ęzier curves, and you don't have to manually draw the curves point-by-point using the pen tool or anything like that.

Flash has drawing tools that will convert your drawing into vectors automatically, and it's actually a pretty usable program for freehand vector drawing.

"flash, during animation, can cause those vectors to distort if done incorrectly." ... "GIF? It's a simple point-to-point animation,"

Not sure what the heck you're talking about here.

SatansBestBuddy said...

You know that one part in the beta where you had to move a cake, so you clicked on the cake and then moved it to the bed?

Yeah, do more of that in the comic proper, as it was pretty cool to have that slight feeling of interactivness with the comic, whereas when we reached that part with a gif after the feeling of doing it with flash, well, it was kinda lame.

Vincent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mister Pookie said...

Okay, I wasn't sure how where to ask this, but where did you get those pictures of the 'Harlequins'?

I have to know, because I'm about 90% sure that I know who painted them.

Vincent said...

The correct response to my post was not that I was wrong or clearly sarcastic.

The correct response is that there is nothing wrong with fucking a robot.

Cirien Phoenix said...

Dude, seriously, when are the Candy Corn Vamp shirts coming out? I need one... now...

Please?

Cirien Phoenix said...

This has nothing to do with what you wrote, but I got my candy corn vampire t-shirt and I love it! I even get compliments from people who've never read the comic before! I'm going to get a pic of myself in it and post it somewhere for amazing people to see. :D