Given my failure to get started writing Flash code, I decided to try Java. I downloaded Java 5.0 (which comes after 1.4, believe it or not) and Eclipse 3.0. Both of those sites need to have a much easier way to download the software. Java led me down a maze of multiple versions, marketing material, and legalese. Eclipse led me to a page of international mirrors, none of them useful (when I clicked on them, I got a big file listing and had no idea what I needed to download).
Despite some glitches (like some dialog boxes being blank and some being far wider than the screen), I got a simple applet running. My next step is to learn how to draw lines on the screen so that I can start creating a small isometric map. After that I need to learn how mouse events work so that I can let the player select tiles on the map.
The main disadvantages of Java compared to Flash are: it’s not as widespread, and it appears to be a more verbose and cumbersome language. I'd really like to do something with Java3D, but it looks like that is not installed by default on anyone’s machine. I just installed Java and I don’t have Java3D. I don’t want to ask my readers to install new software just to look at my demos. I think Java3D would be much more popular if it were installed by default.
Update: I’m not the only one who had trouble downloading Eclipse.