What’s in a Flash game? (What are .SWF files?)


Many of you 2000s kids probably grew up playing Flash games on your web browser as a kid. But have you ever wondered how exactly a Flash game works?

The simplest of Flash games is composed of one file ending with the .swf extension (Small Web Format, previously called ShockWaveFlash). That file contains all of the code and assets (such as artwork, audio, fonts, etc.) and it’s playable using a plugin called Macromedia Flash Player, which was later renamed Adobe Flash Player after it got purchased by Adobe. The coding language that is used is ActionScript, and graphics are usually vector, which is different from your usual image.

Instead of having an image made out of pixels, vector graphics will instead have information on the lines that form the image. That means you can scale a vector and never have to worry about the image becoming blurry because instead of scaling an image made out of pixels, you are scaling an image made out of lines. This will also in some cases reduce the file size.

Speaking of SWF, there are many other uses for Flash content. You have Flash movies, which are animated cartoons, and applets, which are small applications that are integrated in a webpage. Even online video players once used Flash!

Discontinuation of Adobe Flash Player

Flash Player was once the most used and the most needed plugin for your web browser. You couldn’t browse the web properly without Flash Player because tons of things needed it. In recent years though, Flash has declined in usage and Adobe is planning on killing the plugin at the end of 2020.


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