HaXe is cool not only for platform compatibility with things like the iPhone (and who knows – maybe other platforms like Android or Windows Mobile), but also for its language features. They deployed support for the new Flash 10 high-performance memory intrinsics before the official Adobe compiler. HaXe has generics/templates, decent conditional compilation, inlining, advanced typing a lot more. The biggest claim to fame HaXe has is a big performance margin over AS3, as well as better memory management options.
Since my day (and sometimes nights, too) job is working on a Flash game framework, HaXe looms large on my radar. AS3 and HaXe can already interoperate so if you want to use a HaXe physics library from your ActionScript 3 code, there’s no problem. But should we switch the core engine over? Having a seamless way to target iPhone would be big. Having an easy way to run your server code without requiring an integration with Tamarin would also be nice.
The language is great and has many features ActionScript lacks. It baffles me how one man army nicolas can single handedly write a language and a multi target compiler, and in many respects stay on top of the ActionScript compiler.
My first problem with Haxe is just that. The one man army. Should nicolas decide he doesn’t feel like it anymore, the platform is dead. Sure, there’s more people working on it, but in it’s core it seems to be that nicolas is the driving force. My second problem is that although there is a huge pool of ActionScript developers, which can work together within the industry standard called ActionScript. There’s not even near that many people who’ve even touched haxe, let alone the number of developers who are able to call themselves “Haxe Professionals”.
HaXe is very cool. But it doesn’t have the ecosystem and infrastructure to justify targeting it exclusively. As a small startup, we only get to target one platform for our technology, and AS3, although it leaves performance on the table, wins in terms of the pool of potential developers and the accessibility of the toolchain. How many people out there are using PHP or Java vs. x86 assembly?
If the basic technology is good enough, ease of use always wins out over performance. So for now we are going to stick with ActionScript 3 for PushButton Engine. You can write compelling content on it. If you really need HaXe for something, the option is there to link it in.
But I want to put the plea out to Adobe. I love you guys and all you have done in the Flash space. But please update your compiler technology. At least give us the compiler optimization wins like inlining and generics. It’s simply embarassing that one guy’s work can outperform you on your own VM!
Adobe, you have smart people working for you. You have smart people in your community. You have pretty decent tools. None of us want to jump over to a third-party technology, but if HaXe keeps beating you at your own game, it might be necessary. Buy HaXe if you must, or else match it with your in-house tech, but either way – I know you can solve this problem.
The web is catching up with you on the player front. You could dominate on the tools front and make the world better for everyone. Please. As a middleware developer, I really don’t want to have to support anything other than a single mainstream language and platform. 🙂