Media Art, User Experience Design, and Interface Development

Using a gamepad to interact with Flash

Posted on 2009-10-12

Although its performance is still not at its best, Flash has a bright future in gaming, simply look at how many MMORPGs are made in flash and how many websites host games. With Flash soon to support multitouch events and also soon being ported to the iPhone and I think we will see more games made with the platform.

Time and again I have read articles by people complaining that Flash does not support gamepads. I think I understand Adobe for not wanting to spend time creating more preferences windows and other sorts of open doors into the Flash Player. Be that as it may, I may have found an interesting solution which makes using a gamepad ot interact with Flash possible.

A year ago or so, I switched to Mac, I bought a MacBook Pro. My old PC tower was moved to my living room to replace the previous one. That tower is basically my media station from which I play movies, music and games onto my television.

I do not own an Xbox but I stil am very interested in some games like Braid and OwlBoy, I thought it would be perfect to use my gamepad and not my keyboard to play those games. Braid did not support my gamepad and I was not about to purchase another $50 gamepad for a $15 game. It also turns out that my graphic card is not good enough for the game either. And Owlboy is not out yet. But I digress…

I was browsing Google for options when I found a nice little utility tool: JoyToKey. It allows you to map any key and mouse command to any button of your gamepad. It works like a charm, my gamepad is now my controller for WinAmp.

And this got me wondering. I currently am working on a hommage game to NES era games (more on that eventually) and I was hoping I could use a gamepad to play rather than my keyboard. I’m developping on a Mac. Google to the rescue again, the equivalent to JoyToKey on a Mac is the GamePad Companion. It essentially does the same thing.

So here is my suggestion. Whenever you make a game that you think is better played on a gamepad, do not hesitate. Offer the links to those utilities to your users, have a simple tutorial on how to use those items and maybe explain to them why you have to go this route, since not every one understands that Flash is limited in accessing devices.

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