Flash to Unity 3D Glossary

If you’re thinking of transitioning from Flash to Unity 3D, you’re in luck: the two programs are very similar, and it shouldn’t take you very long to feel right at home. The biggest difference that i can see between the two is that Unity is a proper game engine, while Flash is a program that you bully, beg and cajole into doing game-like things. Want collisions, 3D depth-swapping, particle systems, physics, shaders, and a whole lot more right out of the box (instead of implementing Box 2D, Away 3D, Collision Detection Kit, and God knows what else)? Unity is a real treat!

Here are a few glossary terms that kinda sorta carry over from Flash to Unity:

MovieClip == GameObject (but more accurately, Symbol == Prefab. Much like a MovieClip/Graphic/Button in Flash, whatever changes you make to a Prefab in Unity will replicate to all instances of that Prefab)

Scene == Scene (but Scenes in Flash are generally useless and glitchy … Scenes in Unity are the bee’s knees)

Unity 3D Scenes


Library == Project panel

Flash Library


Unity 3D Project Panel


Properties panel == Inspector panel

Properties panel in Flash


Inspector panel in Unity


Timeline == A-NOTHING!! (except that there IS a timeline that allows you to animate GameObjects. The resulting animation is stored in an .anim file inside your Project panel. You can apply an animation to any GameObject in your Scene, so animations are curiously reusable)

Timeline in Flash


Timeline in Unity 3D

Unity. (warning: the UX [user experience] on this thing kind of blows ass.)

Instance names == tags … sorta (but unlike in Flash, you can have multiple GameObject instances with the same tag)



Layers == layers (but Unity does not display its layers in anything nearly as nice as the Flash timeline)



5 thoughts on “Flash to Unity 3D Glossary

  1. Damian Pope

    Very cool. Thanks Ryan! I’ve been learning Flash (AS3) for the past six months to make games. I’ve also just started playing around with Unity. Seeing Unity’s more powerful, should I be forgetting about Flash & switching over?

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Mmm … not necessarily. A few thoughts:

      1. The biggest drawback to Unity is that next to no one has the player, compared with Flash, where EVERYONE has the player (98% install rate in countries with running water). The Unity web player install process is a bit hostile, especially on a Mac, where they just download a dmg file to your machine and you’re supposed to install it.

      2. Flash does 2D far better than Unity. There are sneaky tricks you can pull with Unity, or you can write your own 2D sprite manager (or use the actual Sprite Manager/Sprite Manager 2 product that one Unity-using dude built), but for really slick pixel-perfect 2D vector stuff, it’s Flash all the way.

      3. Flash has the leg up in a BIG way on UI and text. There are no vector font outlines in Unity. If you want to change the size of text in Unity, you need a whole new set of bitmap font images at that size. Creating and positioning UI elements in Unity is an enormous pain in the ass, and it’s entirely code-y and not visual, which drives me nuts.

      4. Flash has this moleHill project in the works – we’ll see what happens with that.

      5. It’s far less expensive to develop games in Flash than in Unity. The amount of effort that goes into designing, modeling, texturing, rigging, weight painting, animating and importing a 3D model in Unity is far, far beyond the effort you’ll put into building a 2D puppet in Flash.

      Those are just a few thoughts off the top of my head. Use the right tool for the job, always.

      – Ryan

      1. Damian

        Thanks for the detailed reply. Much appreciated. What you say makes a lot of sense.
        I’ll keep learning Flash and play around with Unity as well. Do you of any good books on Unity? :)

        I like Flash a lot. I find it has a low barrier for making cool, albeit 2D, games.
        Thanks again. See you at the next IGDA meet up.


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