Changing the web, again. by Thibault Imbert

Zombie Tycoon with Adobe Flash Player using MolehillA few years ago, the Flash Player team introduced video in Flash Player, and today, we know how the Flash Player changed the web for video distribution. Today, we are happy to introduce the public availability of the Molehill (3D GPU accelerated) APIs through the Incubator builds available here.

You cannot imagine how the team is excited to imagine what you guys will do with Molehill, definitely a game changer.

But first, what is this Adobe AIR and Flash Player Incubator thing ?

The AIR and Flash Player Incubator is a place for the Adobe Flash Runtimes team to share with developers features that are under development or experimental in order to get early participation, testing, and feedback from the community.  It is targeted at you guys that are interested in testing out the bleeding edge of runtime capabilities and contributing to the future of the platform. Keep in mind that the capabilities in Incubator builds may or may not be supported in a future release of the runtimes.

We will use the new Adobe AIR and Flash Player releases blog to share announcements about new Incubator builds. I will also relay the info here. For each new Incubator drop, we will highlight the features we are looking for feedback on. Incubator builds will contain features under consideration, development, or just experiments. By providing feedback on the features, use cases or things you will create, you will help us shape the future of the Flash runtimes.

As a developer, the Incubator program is extremely valuable, first, because you get to see features under consideration or development, but it also allows you to test your content against our builds. This way, you can track early in our development process if a current feature you rely on breaks, to make sure your content performs perfectly on the new version of the runtimes.

The Incubator builds are watermarked on the top bottom right of the stage, so that makes things easier to know if you are using an Incubator build or not. Watermark for Incubator builds

Here are the key two features available in the first Incubator builds :

  • “Molehill” 3D APIs for Flash Player and AIR — A new set of low-level, GPU-accelerated 3D APIs that enable advanced 3D experiences across devices through the Adobe® Flash® Platform runtimes.
  • Cubic bezier curves — Using the cubicCurveTo drawing API, developers can easily create cubic beziers without custom ActionScript code required.
We worked closely with most popular ActionScript 3D frameworks so that anyone can get started with Molehill, not only advanced 3D developers. The following frameworks are already Molehill enabled today :

On the top left of this post you can see the amazing Zombie Tycoon game developed by Frima Studio, they took this existing game produced for the Sony PSP and made it a web game with Molehill. You can play to the game by clicking here, of course make you have installed the latest Incubator build.

NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits using MolehillI am sure other companies will follow quickly by adapting more and more games and make them available inside your browser. We just received a few days ago from the Mandreel company, they ported this beautiful game called NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits (screenshot on the right) from the Wii to Flash Player using Molehill.

The power of Molehill does not stop to 3D. You should think about it as a new rendering engine tied to the GPU. If you architect your application, website, or game correctly (by using classic techniques to leverage the GPU) you will be able to use Molehill in many situations. If you develop games on the GPU already you know exactly where I am going. Think about using a sprite sheet that is uploaded to the GPU, where you can sample the frames in your big bitmap and use them as UV textures on your 2D plane, and you're golden -- 2D on GPU.

But it is important to note that this new capability is not limited to games. Again, Molehill is not a gaming engine, just pure raw GPU APIs. You can imagine 2D components or 2D animations used as transitions running on Molehill in any website or application.

Molehill for 2DI will cover more details on this in a forthcoming article. On the picture on the left, we have those animated characters exported from Flash Pro as a series of bitmap, merged into a sprite sheet and then displayed. The same movie running in the display list uses about 150% CPU, but uses about 7% CPU on Molehill with no tearing at all, just great.

Check 2D animation with the display list (check your CPU usage)
Check 2D animation with Molehill (check your CPU usage)

To be fair, I could have used bitmap blitting (BitmapData) for the display list demo, but it would be really hard to achieve the same performance as with Molehill with many elements on screen. The idea here is to highlight that you can also use Molehill for 2D animations.

I am pretty sure some popular 2D gaming engine frameworks like Cocos2D will be quickly ported to ActionScript to allow simple workflow with Molehill with 2D use cases. Of course, new ones will emerge and not only for games.

Note : Do not forget to download here the AGALMiniAssembler, if you want to work with low-level shaders bytecode from assembly string.

The team is excited to be able to work with the broader community at an earlier stage of development through the Incubator program, and we hope to bring you more exciting features and ideas as the program ramps up. Come and interact with us through the forum and have fun! Exciting times ahead ;)

Comments (44)

  1. Nikita wrote::

    Molehill!! Yeah!

    Is Molehill stable enough to start developing a commercial project on top of it that will release when FP11 will?
    When can we expect FP11 to come out?

    Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 8:18 pm #
  2. Dessar wrote::

    At last! I’m back in love with the Flash platform.

    Molehill is low level, so I don’t suppose the feature set is going to change significantly considering the hardware isn’t going to change.

    Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 8:21 pm #
  3. Gary Paluk wrote::

    Awesome stuff Thibault, but :o you missed us off the list http://www.zest3d.com ^_^

    Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 8:31 pm #
  4. ZoulouX wrote::

    Awesome
    Very nice work!

    Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 8:31 pm #
  5. Mr.doob wrote::

    Uh, I was taking a look at the French Butcher comparison. I zoomed in on both and realised the non-molehill version uses vector while the molehill version use bitmaps. Shouldn’t the non-molehill version cache the vector animation to bitmaps to be more fair?

    On the molehill version when you zoom in twice it disappear by the way (Ubuntu 10.10).

    Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 8:40 pm #
  6. McFunkypants wrote::

    Hi Moles,

    Just for fun I created a terrain demo – 40,000 polies at 60fps. I would be grateful if all my Mole-friends would kindly test it out on your rigs and tell me what kind of framerates and CPU use you are getting.

    http://www.mcfunkypants.com/2011/molehill-terrain-demo/

    Here’s the text from the blog post:
    Molehill, Adobe’s new Flash 3d API, can handle absolutely insane numbers of polygons and still render at 60 fps. I programmed a quick stress test demo (a heightmap terrain) that I was sure would bring Flash to its knees, but to my chagrin it was able to handle the scene with ease. In fact, I’m certain that I could double the number of polygons from 40 thousand to closer to 100 thousand without any framerate hiccups at all.

    Controls: hold the mouse button down and move the mouse to look around, and use the keyboard arrow keys to fly around the mountainous landscape. Press the spacebar to make the world turn. Enjoy! (Flash Molehill Beta Required:)

    Testing to work great in Firefox with the Flash Molehill beta drop 9 plugin. If you have the new debug prerelease Molehill version of the Flash plugin installed on your computer, then the .swf above should be redering a mega-complex 3d terrain at very fluid framerates. This will NOT work on the regular public Flash player: it you aren’t a game developer you probably do not have the right Flash plugin version installed and you will not see anything. If you experience poor framerates or errors, not to worry: this is simple a tech demo using beta code.

    When the new version of Flash comes out that has Molehill, you can expect fabulous 3d graphics in your games the likes of which have never been seen in a Flash animation before. Just try to render 40,000 polies in software-only Flash and see what happens: the framerate would drop to the point that this animation would look like a slideshow.

    So how did I make it? I used FlashDevelop which compiles pure AS3 projects using Flex. In the code I set up a simple Molehill-compatible render loop using the beta SWC that Adobe has provided members of the pre-release program. In code, I use a BitmapData of a heightmap to describe the heights of the 40,000 points by generating x,y,z coordinates depending on how white each pixel is. Pure white is the top of a mountain and pure black is the lowerst valley. This is what the heightmap image looks like:

    These vertex coordinates are fed to the video card as a vertexbuffer, which allows your 3d video card to render all those polies in a single line of code once initialized. This is why Molehill is so insanely fast: your GPU does all the work. Even while rendering full-screen at 60fps, my CPU never goes about 10% use.

    Incredible! I can’t wait to continue to write tutorials and source code that uses Molehill.

    Kindest regards,

    Christer Kaitila
    aka McFunkypants

    P.S. Thank you Thibault and everyone else involved for such a generous gift to the Flash gamedev community! You ROCK! =D

    Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 8:46 pm #
  7. Matthew Fabb wrote::

    Incredible news. It would be nice for a future article, to get more details on how NyxQuest ported their Wii game to Flash (Alchemy?).

    Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 9:04 pm #
  8. fr wrote::

    When you say “Cubic Bezier Curves” you mean the illustrator/photoshop/inDesign/postscript/Adobe curves i’m missing in Macromedia flash for ever ? Niiiiice.
    Now send Stephane back :)

    Franck

    Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 9:07 pm #
  9. echeese wrote::

    Where is AGALMiniAssembler? I haven’t been able to figure out how to use it yet.

    Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 9:29 pm #
  10. Scott wrote::

    Looking forward to the 2D tutorial using the Molehill APIs.

    Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 9:43 pm #
  11. Mehdadoo wrote::

    But what’s the use of all these when I am in Iran and Adobe won’t let me download the new flash player?

    Just because i am Iranian, Google also won’t let me to download away3D and zest3D OPEN SOURCE and FREE projects.

    One day i will create my own flash player, but will let anyone from any country use it.

    You think just because you are Americans, you are better than me? I started flash when i was 13, waiting for GPU for 9 years, but i see Adobe wont let me download molehill!

    Much Racists.

    Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 10:36 pm #
  12. Joa Ebert wrote::

    Grandiose!

    Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 10:57 pm #
  13. lonicmol wrote::

    Unity3D is coming to Flash3D: http://blogs.unity3d.com/2011/02/27/unity-flash-3d-on-the-web/

    Monday, February 28, 2011 at 1:11 am #
  14. focus wrote::

    Great performance, revolution is coming.

    Monday, February 28, 2011 at 1:30 am #
  15. Ringo wrote::

    \hurray/, congratulations all !

    For a ‘molehill ready’ 3D physic engine, checkout jiglibflash at http://www.jiglibflash.com

    Monday, February 28, 2011 at 1:47 am #
  16. Héctor wrote::

    Gorgeus! Keep it coming Thibault!

    Now, it would be nice to have some whitepaper on how to port old code using the display list to the new Molehill API. I have a project where using Molehill would be highly welcome, but the 3D graphics would be mostly used in an intermediate layer, so the current implementation could not be used directly (not whining at all).

    Monday, February 28, 2011 at 2:09 am #
  17. greg wrote::

    Still no first-tier 64-bit support? I hope you’re kidding.

    I don’t really get it, what is the strategy with 64-bit support? First Adobe releases a 64-bit preview of 10.1, then drops it again. Later Adobe releases the “Square” prerelease for next-generation Flash, only to later on apparently drop support for 64-bit again with the Flash 11 preview. This is really messed up.

    Monday, February 28, 2011 at 6:19 am #
  18. cn_ai wrote::

    create effect! it seem to develop for game!

    Monday, February 28, 2011 at 8:26 am #
  19. Thibault Imbert wrote::

    Hi Mr.doob,

    Yes, that is true, It would be fair to use BitmapData for the display list demo. But still, would be tricky to get the same performance and rendering experience as with the Molehill APIs.

    Thibault

    Monday, February 28, 2011 at 9:13 am #
  20. hayesmaker wrote::

    the 2d animation demo for molehill doesn’t work.

    Monday, February 28, 2011 at 10:47 am #
  21. thomas wrote::

    Awesome !

    I installed the plugin for firefox, but material acceleration was’nt activate by default.

    It will be for the final release ?

    Monday, February 28, 2011 at 12:58 pm #
  22. Flasheur wrote::

    Awesome, can’t wait to play with it!

    Monday, February 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm #
  23. Jesse wrote::

    Hi All,

    So I got all set up to publish swf’s targeting FP11 following a couple of tutorials and realized there was one shortfall: can’t publish and test inside your IDE (Flash CS5 in this case). So I wrote an executable that acts a standalone Flash Player 11 executable, and created a tutorial on how to get it set up so you can seamlessly, completely build and test FP11 targeted SWF’s in Flash CS5 on windows. Please note this is all legal, there is absolutely no Adobe copyrighted code or material in the executable. It simply interfaces with the Flash 11 runtime once you’ve already installed it. I include all of that and more in my blog entry at:

    http://blog.ascensionsystems.ca/?p=147

    Just want to also say, super freaking awesome work Adobe I’ve fell in love with Flash all over again.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 12:28 am #
  24. Héctor wrote::

    Great to see we can use Flash CS5 after all. I can stop bothering some people about it now, heh.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 1:07 pm #
  25. Fruity Sudz wrote::

    What I like most about it is that it’s not downloadable by people in Iran.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 3:53 pm #
  26. Eduardo wrote::

    Why no GPU acceleration for Intel GMA X3100 in Macbook?

    Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 4:28 am #
  27. Villmer wrote::

    Mobile! Mobile! Mobile!

    When will we be able to create a GPU accelerated application in Flex and run it on a mobile device, such as the Galaxy Tab or XOOM? Will there be a new Flash Builder Burrito version with an updated AIR for Android build?

    Villmer

    Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 3:23 pm #
  28. I really feel that the 2D spritesheet demo is not a very comparison. It doesn’t use any kind of bitmap blitting (for the display list version) and is straight vectors, which is of course slow.

    Friday, March 4, 2011 at 12:05 am #
  29. Thibault Imbert wrote::

    Hi Tarwin,

    Agreed, would be more fair. The idea of this demo is not to say that BitmapData blitting is irrelevant with Molehill, but just highlighting that you can do 2D through Molehill just like with BitmapData with even better performance. On mobile especially, using Molehill for 2D ensures you to get the best performance possible.

    Thibault

    Friday, March 4, 2011 at 5:46 am #
  30. Si ++ wrote::

    Thibault,

    Has Adobe released any AGAL documentation or little “how to” Molehill tutorials?

    Having the Incubator tools and API documentation is fantastic, but there doesn’t appear to be anything that clearly explains how to actually create and render something, either 2D or 3D. Obviously we can look at the source code of various online demos, but that doesn’t really help to explain what everything does.

    :)

    Friday, March 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm #
  31. Thibault Imbert wrote::

    Hi Si++,

    Make sure you download the AGALMiniAssembler here : http://www.bytearray.org/wp-content/projects/agalassembler/com.zip

    It allows you to convert an AGAL string to AGAL bytecode. This zip file also contains other helper classes.

    For documentation on AGAL it is covered in the asdocs available here : http://download.macromedia.com/pub/labs/flashplatformruntimes/incubator/flashplayer_inc_langref_022711.zip

    Let me know,

    Thibault

    Saturday, March 5, 2011 at 5:45 am #
  32. Behrouz wrote::

    hi Thibault
    Grate
    I think this change could be one of the most important developments and starting point for getting more professional know Flash Player.

    be successful.

    Saturday, March 5, 2011 at 2:02 pm #
  33. tomsamson wrote::

    super lame fake with the non molehill version of the butcher anim being vector while the molehill demo being bitmap driven:

    super lame fake comparison.

    Adobe should have made all graphical things in the IDE and using old APIS codeside be hardware accelerated. Having to redo all with new apis is weak sauce.

    As´k yourself why anyone should pay for your tools anymore.

    Monday, March 7, 2011 at 4:49 am #
  34. Thibault Imbert wrote::

    Hi tomsamson,

    There is nothing fake here and I explained multiple times the value of bitmap blitting or manual bitmap caching or explaining that cacheAsBitmap sucks. Just wanted to highlight the value of Molehill for 2D animations too. I agree that it would have been fair to add a BitmapData example, but in many cases using the display list will not be worth compared to Molehill performance through Stage3D.

    The impact it could have if a tool like Flash Pro would output content on top of Molehill instead of the traditional display list would be great. I cannot talk for the Flash Pro team, but believe me, we talked about it and they are excited about the idea.

    As an old Flash Pro user, I am really pushing for making all this automated through tools and transparent for everyone.

    Thibault

    Monday, March 7, 2011 at 6:29 am #
  35. Si ++ wrote::

    tomsamson,

    Personally I don’t think the native display list in the Flash Player should be pushed through the GPU. The GPU is going to be used mainly for high-quality 3D rendering and 3D/2D games, in both cases it will be pushed hard, and I doubt that many professional developers will want menu systems and HUDs etc using precious GPU power.

    If pushing the native display through the GPU was optional (flagged with a boolean by a developer) then that would be fine, but seriously, having “everything” pushed through the GPU isn’t as ideal as it initially sounds.

    :)

    Monday, March 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm #
  36. Thibault Imbert wrote::

    Hi Si++,

    Good reminder yes. There are some things which can be more expensive in memory and just harder to do on the GPU (so slower), so the display list is not going anywhere but I am pretty sure good frameworks can make a good job at using the best tool for the best result. But think about ScaleForm, this is essentially what they are doing, putting on the GPU the display list content authored in Flash Pro.

    I think we all agree on the fact that tooling should make things easy and let the user decide when he wants to use the GPU or not. Abstracting the complexity and automate the use of Molehill when needed would be great.

    Thibault

    Monday, March 7, 2011 at 6:49 pm #
  37. tomsamson wrote::

    Thibault: yes, it should be abstracted and well implemented ina visual workflow allowing IDE.
    Si ++ saying “I doubt that many professional developers will want menu systems and HUDs etc using precious GPU power.”

    –>Sorry, i don´t think that makes much sense, i can´t think of anyone who would prefer having anything what´s done with the claiss displaylist, in flash ide visually etc all be just as extremely slow and bad performaing as always.

    After all this hype people will expect to do something (anything) in the next flash version (not just codeside using new apis but also ide visual workflow side or using old api commands for graphical operations) and then expect some disappointment when they realize all that is actually not accelerated.

    Yes, Scaleform is a good example for what some expected from flash on some ends for some years.

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 6:58 pm #
  38. Si ++ wrote::

    tomsamson,

    You need to consider things such as vector animations, and how the GPU actually works. In order to render vector animations using the GPU, the display list object(s) need to be captured as bitmap data (pixels) and then uploaded as textures to the GPU, which is an expensive operation, especially if it needs to be done at ~30 FPS. I really can’t think of anything beneficial to be gained from pushing the entire display list through the GPU, it will at least double the amount of work Flash and the CPU will need to do in order to render the display list.

    ScaleForm is doing a good job but I think it will run into performance problems very quickly, especially if there are lots of vector animations (or a few large ones) running in the display list.

    Maybe Adobe could program the Flash Player to push “cacheAsBitmap=true” display objects through the GPU. I’m still not sure how beneficial that would be, but at least it will allow non-programmers to choose the rendering path of specific display objects.

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 9:00 pm #
  39. aesthetics.data wrote::

    where is the valid link to donload the latest Flex SDK to develop with Molehill ?? the link on opensource.adobe is dead.

    Thanx.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 12:20 pm #
  40. Thibault Imbert wrote::

    Hi aesthetics,

    Check here : http://opensource.adobe.com/wiki/display/flexsdk/Download+Flex+Hero

    Thibault

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 7:41 pm #
  41. seb wrote::

    Bon tout ca c’est super, mais est il possible d’avoir une fourchette de temps avant que flash player 11 ne sorte en version finale ? Genre 3 mois, 6 mois ? . . . Car vraiment ca donne envie :-)

    Friday, March 11, 2011 at 3:47 pm #
  42. mircea wrote::

    ..a little adjustement: Alternativa does not release any “molehill ready” framework yet (not for flash cs5, not for builder)
    They have a new fresh “7.7.0″ with some BIG waited improuvement…but not molehill…
    And really, i am surprised because few mount ago , all the new announced 3d web perspective, started with their name….
    Well…i found something ,….a date on the forum: april. Let’s hope !

    Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm #
  43. northmantif wrote::

    Flash 11 beta released, but the community suffer for lack of good tutorials treating ‘molehill’ – but I quess it’s connected with the complexity of the topic…

    Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 8:12 pm #
  44. Kuba wrote::

    Hi,
    How to get to beta tests of AIR 3 with Stage3D for mobile? I am planning a new game, right now I am ready to go with HaXe but if AIR’s performance would be good I would to go with AIR. So I would like to check its performance on mobile!

    Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 3:10 am #

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    [...] Changing the web, again. [...]

     
  30. Adobe Flash and 3D « Allen Ellison’s Technobabble on Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    [...] Adobe Flash Player 11 (currently released via our incubator program, see Thibault’s blog http://www.bytearray.org/?p=2810 for more information) supports the Molehill API’s on the desktop, and will bring this same [...]

     
  31. WebGL 1.0 is done. Where’s Microsoft? | My Gadget Review on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    [...] online gaming. Flash has lacked true 3D support, but that’s changing. In the last week, Adobe released a preview version of Molehill, its 3D programming interface, in a Flash Player 11 “incubator build.” And like WebGL, [...]

     
  32. Actionscript & 3D « dkor on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    [...] recommend to go deeper on this subject by reading : ¬ Changing the web, again, by Thibault Imbert, on 27th February 2o11. ¬ Digging more into the Molehill APIs, by Thibault [...]

     
  33. [...] a un article qui résume parfaitement ce que je pense de cette nouvelle version “Changing the world, [...]

     
  34. Anonymous on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    [...] [...]

     
  35. 2D Sprite Sheets with Molehill | AdobeShowCenter on Friday, May 13, 2011 at 8:51 am

    [...] posted a 2D sprite demo with his announcement. How was this done? Well, it’s rather simple: here is the code for [...]

     
  36. WebGL 1.0 is done. Where’s Microsoft? | Tech News on Friday, June 10, 2011 at 12:53 am

    [...] in online gaming. Flash has lacked true 3D support, but that’s changing. In the last week, Adobe released a preview version of Molehill, its 3D programming interface, in a Flash Player 11 “incubator [...]

     
  37. [...] 说到Web上的3D,你可能需要看看Adobe的Molehill (3D GPU accelerated) APIs,这里有一篇介绍文章。 [...]