The signs were all there. The company I worked for was a microcosm of various game technologies. It was never clear to me why the same company would have native mobile development, Unity AND Flash under the same roof, when for a fact they were competing technologies with zero ability to work with one another. But on the other hand it was one helluva gaming greenhouse and alas a predictor to platform trends.
From the outset my mission was simply defined, but complex in nature: prove that not only I can code an entire bingo game in Flash, but I could also port it successfully to iOS and Android. I was confident that I could get the job done and took on the challenge.
The challenges were several: first of all there was no game design document and I didn’t want to waste any time creating one, so the graphic designer and I had to improvise as we went along. The same went for the server API. Another challenge was that I was the only programmer working on the client side of the project with only one dedicated graphic designer, making this the tiniest team ever to work on such project in that company. The last challenge was waiting way in front of me in the future: deploy to mobile with as little change as possible.
Six months later the first playable version was ready for consideration and got greenlit. Over the course of the next 3 years I have worked on it relentlessly, expanding its features, scale and improving its performance.
The programmer I have replaced for the job wasn’t even able to deploy a simple button demo to mobile after 3 months of work, so there was reason for tension when eventually the day came to prove that it was also mobile friendly. And you know what? Flash delivered the goods. The Android port was easy as pie and ran on our base machine quite well. A week later with quite a bit more work came the iOS version, which ran well enough on an old model. I have delivered on my promise.
It should have been my triumphant hour, but it wasn’t. We didn’t move forward with the game on mobile and resumed to launch on Facebook only. Later one of the owners approached me and asked me on my thoughts on porting the game to Unity. I was stumped. “It doesn’t make any financial sense. I have proven that with a single code base it’s simple and quick to port the game to multiple platforms.Why on earth would you want to restart from scratch?”. But it seemed like his mind was set. I didn’t get it at the time, but the financial reasons extended far beyond development time. He was far more business savvy than I and he knew that the company’s value lied within its tech stack as well. Flash was simply no longer a hot proposition.
And I knew it. In my spare time I have started to explore other technologies. I have learned and created demos in Unity and LibGDX (a Java game library). But I wasn’t focused, mainly because I didn’t know which direction the marker would take. Silly me, it was obvious that Unity was the new king. All of my teammates knew this. Alas I didn’t choose a direction a stuck with it, so basically my expertise was still in Flash alone.
And one day that the axe fell and I have found myself along with two thirds of the company looking for a new job. And I have found myself in a technological desert. Flash was but gone. Touting myself with ActionScript prowess was akin to showing off leprosy. The fact that I’ve had two decades of game development experience not only didn’t help, it actually hurt me in the process, because I was both under AND overqualified at the same time!
It took me over four months to find my new calling and put game development on hold for a new career path, but the process was both slow and painful. It was a huge blow to my ego and a humbling experience altogether. It has also made me wiser on the caveats that developers might face at a certain stage in their careers and a excuse for a whole new article.
But for now the key takeaway is this: keep your finger on the technological pulse. Flash has fallen from grace far slower than your average front end tech yet I was still off guard. I will not make the same mistake. Another thing I think will keep you safe from harm, specialize as much as you wish in your field, but keep your tooling as broad as possible. Do not fall for the endless trolling of “which is better?”. It doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day even if it sucks (it usually really doesn’t) it will put food on your table. Embrace it and forever be an competitive employee.