Xbox: a new arena for your Flash design skills

Xbox ring of light
As a Flash designer, the Xbox could bring you new work

In its infancy Flash was all about primary coloured vector animations and a little shape tweening on the side.

As a toddler it embraced video and greater levels of interactivity.

Now approaching its teens, Flash's advanced tools and constantly updated functions are being used to create mobile phone applications, graphical user interfaces and its next conquest – console games.

Flash's flexibility as an animation and coding tool has led to its use in the creation of interactive and animated textures for in-game UI assets. It can be used to create virtually anything a player physically interacts with.

Microsoft uses Scaleform and Flash for mini and micro games such as Fable II Pub Games on Xbox Live Arcade. Flash is mostly used for menus, mini games, in-game interactive objects with animated Flash controls and video, and in-game Heads Up Displays (HUDs).

Flash skills have never been so marketable. Console games user interface design is a huge growth area crying out for Flash designers and developers. With advances in middleware technology, control of console interfaces has been placed well and truly in creative hands.

Before Flash's rise, hardcore C++ developers had been tasked with a lot of the creative execution of the user interface. For the developer or designer who chooses to broaden their skill set and look beyond the pure digital/web arena, the shift could reap rewards in a business where diversification is key to staying employed.

New horizons for Flash developers

These new horizons in Flash have opened up courtesy of middleware developed by Scaleform Corporation as Matthew Doyle, its gaming products specialist, explains: "Scaleform GFx is a fast, robust user interface engine that brings the power of Flash vector graphics and ActionScripting to games," he says. "It provides a cross-platform, hardware-accelerated Flash player that enables users to deploy their UI across all major consoles, as well as on PC-based applications."

Scaleform GFx has been used to great effect in Mass Effect, Civilization Revolution, Crysis and many other AAA games across all gaming platforms. Doyle, meanwhile, has worked in the games industry as a 3D artist, game designer and producer for companies such as EA Mythic and Midway Games. He was also lead world designer for Warhammer Online.

With such impressive gaming credentials he's seen, first hand, the enormous leap Flash has made since it was first released. "Flash is being taken more seriously by triple-A game developers as the UI solution standard through the use of Scaleform's GFx middleware product," he notes. "With the boom in casual gaming, social games on Facebook, MySpace and other sites, and mobile gaming, it's become a critical path tool."

It seems that Flash, and the designers and developers who use it, are playing an increasingly significant role in games' UI development. Shane Mielke, who's currently creative director at 2Advanced Studios, worked with EA on the James Bond: From Russia with Love game, using Flash to design main menu items as well as internal game menus. All the animation prototyping for these elements was completed in Flash too.

"I took all the UI work I'd created in Photoshop and then animated it in Flash," explains Mielke. "I created transitions, button rollover states, animations, explosions and so on. EA's development team then integrated the text fields, multi-language capabilities and tied everything in to the actual statistical side of the game."