Adobe Air - An extremely powerful tool whose heyday has come and gone
June 17, 2016

Adobe Air - An extremely powerful tool whose heyday has come and gone

Anonymous | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 6 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
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Overall Satisfaction with Adobe AIR

Adobe Air is no longer being used by Disney Interactive. In the past, it was used to quickly build and release high quality games for iOS and Android mobile platforms. Starting two years ago, Disney caught wind that Adobe Air was no longer going to be supported by Adobe in a capacity that we felt was worth our investment. At the same time, both Apple and Unity dropped support for Flash, and we made the executive decision to completely switch our tech stack over to Unity, as it offered much better support and arguably better performance for about the same level of time investment.
  • Adobe Air helped us very quickly build and iterate on games for both mobile and web.
  • Adobe Air gave our artists good integrated tools and a pipeline to make high quality 2D static and animated assets that were relatively easy to get into the game.
  • Adobe Air allowed us to deploy to both Android and iOS platforms with relative ease, without needing to have an Apple laptop to build from.
  • Adobe Air - at the time - was extremely difficult to get into in a non-professional sense. The industry standard tools for Air (Flash Builder and Flash Professional) were far too expensive to warrant purchasing as an independent developer wanting to try the technology. At the same time, Unity Free version provided a very easy way for curious developers to explore their tech with relatively few strings attached. As a result, it became increasingly more easy for us to find talented Unity engineers than Flash engineers, especially with the industry basically predicting the imminent death of Flash.
  • Adobe Air's iOS crash logs were almost completely useless for debugging. Because Air used its own iOS compiler (which admittedly DID give us the ability to build iOS games without a Mac), symbolicating crash logs for Air apps gave you nothing of use whatsoever. As a result, a lot of crash bugs on our end (mostly caused by native extensions) went unfixed for the lifetime of our products.
  • On the subject of native extensions - they were absolutely horrible to write and debug in Air mobile. There was VERY little documentation regarding how to build and maintain native extensions. As a result, being the engineer assigned to native extensions was about as exciting as being the janitor assigned to cleaning the toilets at Taco Bell.
  • Disney Interactive ended up ultimately having to pivot drastically to switch entirely over to Unity for our tech stack due to lack of support for Air. During this transition, we lost a huge amount of good talent, and were forced to shutter many projects.
  • Prior to the switch to Unity, Air allowed us to quickly port several web games to mobile after overhauling the graphics to be bitmap rather than vector based.
  • Air allowed a small number of our developers to be able to transition to mobile before the elimination of all web flash positions.
Originally, Adobe Air was a great choice for us to build mobile titles from prior web titles when compared to tools such as native iOS with cocos2d. We were able to get games stood up much faster than our competition and out to market to make money. That said, as Unity improved its 2D capabilities, we ended up switching over to that as the support, performance, and tools ultimately eclipsed what was available to us with Flash/Air.
I still recommend new up and coming engineers to give Air and Flash a shot, because it's still pretty easy to learn and quick to develop for. I'm much less likely these days, as the heyday of Air has mostly come to an end, but I still feel like ActionScript and Air give newcomers a fairly intuitive way to build fast little games and apps to deploy on the web as well as mobile. I'm not up to date on the current pricing plans for the industry tools, but I can say that neither exorbitantly priced software nor expensive subscription models are any way to get new developers to adopt your tech. Take a hint from Unity and Unreal and let the tiny indies develop for free.