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Shockwave@6, Part 3

March 8, 2002
by Darrel Plant

Welcome to the final installement of Shockwave / at / 6, a round-table discussion and recognition of the sixth anniversary of the release of Shockwave for Director. For a brief (opinionated) history of Shockwave and the previous discussion, check out Part 1 and Part 2. The panelists are six developers who have been working with Director, Flash, and other multimedia tools for a total of well over 40 years between them.

Darrel Plant, Director Online

How could Shockwave be better? Are there features or functions now that could be improved slightly that would make a world of difference? Even if it's your main delivery vehicle now, what do you think would make it more attractive to clients or users?

Gary Rosenzweig, CleverMedia

If you would have asked me six months ago what feature Shockwave was missing, I would have said 3D. But those clever folks at Macromedia have already taken care of that.

But I can think of little improvements that would make a big difference. If some of the Xtras out there could be incorporated into Shockwave by default, the apps produced would be more polished and easier to develop. I'm thinking of the OS Control Xtra, which adds OS-specific user interface elements like buttons and pop-ups. Also robust MIDI functionality like what is found in the Beatnik Xtra. I've learned from having one foot in the game development industry that music is much more important than most people think. However, sound files, even MP3s, are too large to add to most games. But MIDI files are perfect ways to add a good soundtrack to a game or application. There is a lot of compression technology in Shockwave to squeeze out every K from images and non-music audio, but MIDI capability is ignored.

Clint Little, Periscope3

Speeding up Director and its execution of functions etc. to make it more competitive with languages like C/C++. Continue to work on making the Shockwave player smaller and "bundled" to more OSs, etc., and the biggest is marketing. Market what Shockwave is better! Invest more in getting the message out of what it is, the power and potential (type of applications) it has, and probably most importantly, how much different it is from the other products (Macromedia ones included)...

Steve Bullock, / at / dver / at / ctive

Gary makes a good point about the inclusion of some of the most-used Xtras within Director. The OS Control Xtra and MIDI (Beatnik) Xtra would be close to the top of my list; but at the very top I'd add a desire for truly flexible printing functionality -- functionality that would be included in the Shockwave Player. "Paper" hasn't gone away and the ability to easily output high quality color docs from Shockwave and Director Apps would be a real help in pitches to clients. We find ourselves doing more and more with Flash printing (as quirky as it is) even from within Shockwave apps. But that requires expertise in three areas: Director, Flash and Director-to-Flash communications. It is far from easy.

I'd also like to see the things which Clint described: speeding up code execution and making the plug-in smaller. But I'm afraid that the cost of a full code rewrite (for speedup) is not anything that Macromedia would be brave enough to undertake with a "mature" product. I wholeheartedly agree with his point about getting Macromedia to promote and market Shockwave as a better solution for many types of web applications and web multimedia. Marketing groups, like water, flow downhill. For several years, the marketing of Flash and Dreamweaver was very straightforward (they are outstanding products). Sales were booming and it was easy for the marketing group to latch onto this and ride. In such times, it takes more discipline and direction to work hard at keeping other products in the spotlight -- and Director became an afterthought for the marketers, though it remains a gem of a product. Now, in a tougher market, we all hope that Director/Shockwave will get a bit more of its deserved focus.

Stephanie Lone, SportsLine.com

Since it's been a while since I've personally worked with Director or Shockwave, I've asked some of the developers on my team to give me some feedback. Here's what I've gotten.

Rebecca Lovelace, Funnybone Interactive

I agree with Clint, my number one request would be speed. My number two request (along similar lines) would be better garbage collection/memory management. Every so often we have to justify our use of Director and the fewer things that make it less attractive than other engines, the easier it is to justify.

Darrel Plant, Director Online

This may be an odd thing to ask at the end of this discussion, but how do you define Shockwave? What is Shockwave?

Gary Rosenzweig

Shockwave: a delivery mechanism that allows us to distribute our games on the Web. As a game developer this has allowed us to enter the market without establishing expensive relationships with publishers and distributors. With Shockwave, CleverMedia can be both the developer and publisher.

With us, Director Shockwave is always our first choice (over Flash or Java, etc.) for all development work and the newest features (3D and RealMedia) will simply help our clients, rather than us, realize that Shockwave should be their first choice for great web multimedia and interactivity.

Steve Bullock

Just as "text" begat "rich text", so too did the web's basic multimedia (HTML) begat "rich multimedia". Today, this rich multimedia is primarily delivered by Macromedia's two plug-ins, Shockwave and Flash. Of the two, Shockwave is more full-featured and flexible. It can handle more media types and has a much faster, more optimized code engine than Flash. Today, it remains the best delivery vehicle for sophisticated multimedia apps (of which games are only one sort) running within a standard browser page.

Mark Reijnders, PegHole

For me personally Shockwave is a technology that changed my life. It gave me, as a small developer a much wider audience that I ever would have with CD-ROM publishing.

Clint Little

Shockwave is a robust delivery mechanism that allows me to virtually create any type of software application I want. It is powerful, flexible, and fairly easy to build with.

Darrel Plant, Director Online

Thanks, everyone for participating.

Darrel Plant is Technical Editor of Director Online. He is the Publisher at Moshofsky/Plant Creative Services in Portland, Oregon, and the author of or contributor to a number of books on Macromedia Director and Flash, including Special Edition Using Flash 5,, Flash 5 Bible, and Director 8.5 Studio..

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