Flash is dying. On December 31, Adobe is pulling the plug on the venerable animation tool. With browsers increasingly removing support for the software anyway, that frontier of game development has become harder and harder to revisit. This week, the Internet Archive launched its own Flash software library, a catalogue of .swf files that lets you revisit the best (and worst) games of the 2000s as their creators intended—through a tiny window in your web browser.
At time of writing, there are over 530 different games, animated movies, and nonsensical web toys to explore over on the Internet Archive’s Flash Library. The classics are mostly there, sure (Alien Hominid! Line Rider! That infuriating Badger song!) but they sit next to all the weird, terrible games and shorts that flooded Newgrounds, or whatever knock-off site got through the school’s internet filters.
Unlike similar preservation projects like Flashpoint, everything is playable and watchable in your browser. An essential part of the experience, really, but a terribly dangerous one when you’re trying to write a news post without falling into a nostalgic trap.
“Utilizing an in-development Flash emulator called Ruffle, we have added Flash support to the Internet Archive’s Emularity system, letting a subset of Flash items play in the browser as if you had a Flash plugin installed,” archivist Jason Scott wrote in a blog post. “While Ruffle’s compatibility with Flash is less than 100%, it will play a very large portion of historical Flash animation in the browser, at both a smooth and accurate rate.”
That “less than 100%” compatibility can be a bit of a headache, mind. While plenty of games do, in fact, run smoother than ever before, there are some notable outliers. I was sat here ready to violently tear myself back to 2006 with Fancy Pants Adventure and Line Rider, but the emulation struggled to keep a solid framerate. Probably best I not fall down that hole at work, anyway.
Scott does note that Ruffle is a “developing emulator”, and that compatibility should improve as time goes on. His blog post also provides instructions on how to upload any loose Flash files you may be holding onto. Posting on Twitter yesterday, he reckons there should be a thousand games in the library by the end of the week.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve just seen they’ve got Yeti Sports.