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Browsers — the Gaming Platform of the Future? 95

Posted by Soulskill
from the might-as-well-merge-our-nerd-holy-wars dept.
Trip Hawkins, founder of Electronic Arts, spoke at the recent Game Developers Conference about how he expects game platforms to evolve in the future. Hawkins thinks the role of web browsers as a platform will greatly increase as the explosion of mobile device adoption continues. "For all of the big media companies, this phase of disruption is dramatic and happening fast. Where it's really going to lead is where the function of the browser is going. ... The browser has taken over 2 billion PCs — it's going to be taking over a billion tablets over the next few years, billions of mobile devices. It will end up in my opinion very strong on the television. The browser is the platform of the future."
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Browsers — the Gaming Platform of the Future?

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  • by intellitech (1912116) * on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @03:27PM (#35422114)

    If everybody in the future plans on selling micro-games with abysmal graphics [technabob.com], then maybe. There's really not that many situations that I can see where developing for a web browser would be more advantageous than developing a game for a native OS architecture, whether it be for a console (xbox, PS3, etc.) or computer (Mac, Windows, etc.). Even for mobile devices, if you design for a browser, what does that leave you with? Native application SDKs exist for android, iOS, and the like, which I'm sure provide better performance capabilities for rendering and whatnot than Flash or something yet-to-be-developed. That leaves ChromeOS, which I assume will use HTML5 or Flash. But, if the day it comes, it would be glorious to see Black Ops playing in a browser tab. Call me skeptical, but I just don't see this really make a dent in the hardcore-gaming market.

    • by devxo (1963088) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @03:33PM (#35422192)
      You don't need graphics for games. You don't even need flash. There are many persistent multiplayer games that work in real time and you just use your browser to play them. Currently I'm playing Slavehack [slavehack.com], a hacking game where you can hack to other peoples computer and public servers, and they might hack into yours (and even steal your money from your bank account if they happen to get the bank ip and account number from the logs before you clean it and hack into it). Your computer remains online even while you're not playing, so you have to be clever. I also used to play games like Ultima Online where you build your own nation with other players and a game called Trukz, where you basically were a truck driver and it worked in real time, meaning you basically logged in few times a day to drive your truck further on its way. They all combine multiplayer in the way of companies, guilds, or player versus player gameplay.

      And actually I find them really fun too. They're not going to replace traditional games, but there's room for both!
      • hey're not going to replace traditional games, but there's room for both!

        Of course there is - the combination of

        • wide distribution,
        • quick+easy development,
        • ability to add advertisements and,
        • very importantly, no requirement to download something that runs locally

        is a sure-fire recipe for thousands of little games that you play for a few minutes before leaving it forever. Which isn't a problem for me - someone else will be along in a minute.

        This shameless plug [lelanthran.com], for example, took me a full working day to write. Bear in mind that the last time I used javascript for anything o

    • Yes, argue with the man who founded and ran the world's largest and most profitable gaming company until last year, who then saw his entire company put together get passed up by a single browser game, about that you don't think something that already happened is likely.

      Totally reasonable.

      • Considering that as you say a single browser game passed EA the entire company last year and he is saying browsers are the platform of the future. I see no problem with someone questioning him as he seems more reactive that insightful about the 'future'.
      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        By your logic only an insane person would have questioned a statement made in the 70's that leisure suits were the fashion of the future.

        Trends come and go. Comparing a recent jump in numbers isn't all that useful for determining the long term viability of a medium.

    • If everybody in the future plans on selling micro-games

      Micro-games at micro-price keeps gaming interesting, so that you're not doing the same thing over and over for the 50 hours that the $50 game might last. Perhaps my taste just differs.

      with abysmal graphics

      I didn't think the graphics seen in the video of Tiny Wings that you linked were that abysmal; they're just stylized. Is it that you prefer the "real is brown" art style [tvtropes.org]?

      There's really not that many situations that I can see where developing for a web browser would be more advantageous than developing a game for a native OS architecture, whether it be for a console (xbox, PS3, etc.)

      I can think of one: a developer may be too new or too small to meet Nintendo's or Sony's requirements for a license. I can provide a citation for such require

      • by bberens (965711)
        If you're saying .NET is not a native framework then I'd also argue that Android's java/dalvik framework is not native either. Just adding another point in your favor I guess...
        • If you're saying .NET is not a native framework then I'd also argue that Android's java/dalvik framework is not native either.

          You're correct: Dalvik uses a JIT, and it used to even use an interpreter. But Android at least has NDK, which allows writing much of the program in standard C++, compiling that to ARM machine code, and then connecting that to a front-end using the Java/Dalvik framework. This can prove convenient if your program is ported from another platform, and its model [pineight.com] is written in C++. Windows Phone 7 and Xbox Live Indie Games, on the other hand, lack anything comparable to NDK or NaCl; they run only IL which must 1

    • I would agree that this is not relevant for the hard core gaming market. But most of the growth (percentage wise at least) is going to be in the casual gaming market, and there the browser can, and probably should rule.

      As games like CoD move away from hard core at least towards casual, it will be interesting to see if it ever does make it to the browser. I suspect by the time it does the hard core crowd will have moved on to something else.
    • by lazn (202878)

      Umm: http://www.quakelive.com/ [quakelive.com]

    • by TopSpin (753) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @04:05PM (#35422622) Journal

      micro-games with abysmal graphics

      Webgl is real and works today in the latest browsers. Go here [chromeexperiments.com] (with Chrome 9 or FF4 and a real GPU) to see it right now.

      developing for a web browser would [not] be more advantageous

      In terms of performance, browsers already provide an environment that has parity [debian.org] with the best stand-alone dynamic languages. Both HTML5 canvas and Webgl are sufficient to solve the rendering problem for a broad class of games. These tools are standards based and free. If you've ever earned a living making games you can't miss the potential.

      Large investments into browser development are coming from several competing organizations. Don't be surprised if browsers become superior to traditional techniques.

      • by binkzz (779594)
        Or, even better, check out Quake II with multiplayer support [youtube.com] completely done in html5 and javascript.
        • by LUH 3418 (1429407)
          >> check out Quake II with multiplayer support [youtube.com] completely done in html5 and javascript.

          Completely done in html5 and javascript... Except it isn't. This won't run in a stock browser, it needs custom plugins.

          I looked into programming an FPS game in a browser myself, and ran into multiple issues. For one, you can't capture the mouse. This means you can't have traditional FPS-style mouse control. The networking is also an issue. You can't just do regular TCP/IP. There's websockets, whi
      • by tepples (727027)

        Go here (with Chrome 9 or FF4 and a real GPU)

        I tried that, and https to self-signed sites stopped working. (Perspectives isn't yet ported to Chrome or Fx4.) And the majority of PCs sold even in 2011 don't come with real GPUs, unlike video game consoles all of which come with a real GPU. Instead they have Intel's Graphics My A**, which is optimized for rendering a bunch of essentially big sprites in a window system. Sprites have far lower geometry requirements than a 3D game might have.

        In terms of performance, browsers already provide an environment that has parity with the best stand-alone dynamic languages.

        Sure, JavaScript competes with Python, but that doesn't mean it com

    • Umm.. Onlive Games (Onlive.com) anyone? Technically, since the graphics rendering is done remotely, you don't need more than a browser to play games through that service. Ughh.. I don't know how to embed a url
    • There's really not that many situations that I can see where developing for a web browser would be more advantageous than developing a game for a native OS architecture, whether it be for a console (xbox, PS3, etc.) or computer (Mac, Windows, etc.). Even for mobile devices, if you design for a browser, what does that leave you with?

      The value of video games is 1% technology and 99% game design.

      The actual graphics in a game is much like the box art and advertising; it gets people to buy the game, try the game

    • by dingen (958134)
      What's abysmal about the graphics in the game you link to?
    • both firefox and chrome having hardware 3d acceleration, i don't think it's that big of a stretch to guess that quite complex 3d browser based games will be popular in a few years
    • Abysmal graphics? Heard of QuakeLive, running in a web browser on PC, Mac and (gasp) Linux! If I had a mouse with me right now I'd be playing it as I sit on the train to work... not sure the guy next to me would like it though ;)
    • ...with abysmal graphics...

      Honestly many of the best games I have ever played had no graphics or old style graphics at best. To often modern day games substitute content for beauty. In the end beauty only goes so far.

      This is just an opinion and should be treated as such, odds are yours is different.

    • by polyp2000 (444682)

      That leaves ChromeOS, which I assume will use HTML5 or Flash. ... Google have Native Client which addresses these issues. http://www.geek.com/articles/games/google-shows-off-quake-clone-running-in-native-client-20100513/ [geek.com]

    • You obviously dont have a clue where the development is heading, with webgl and the html5 canvas you have a pretty powerful tool at hands to deliver a good gaming experience in a browser.
      Also constant connections for multiplayer gaming is no problem anymore thanks to websockets.
      WebCL is in the works as well.

  • Sure, why not? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @03:30PM (#35422158)
    Because Firefox doesn't chew enough CPU cycles now.
    Yay. More Javascript and Flash.
    • HTML5 is attempting to fix that issue with the canvas element and web workers (i know its a stupid name) . You still need JavaScript but not Flash, and Google has been optimizing Chrome for JavaScript because they already knew the browser as a platform is the future.

      A lot of the content and interactiveness coded in Flash can now be done in HTML5 which should be more efficient. Look at the Chrome store, there are very infantile implementations of HTML5 apps available now, and HTML5 isn't going to be ratif
  • I bet Farmville has got more players and greater user loyalty than almost all other electronic games. It may be a terrible game but it's still hugely popular. It really kinda sucks because the industry has moved away from making inventive games that are full of depth toward current trend of more casual gaming.

    • FWIW, they're making a sequel to Demon's Souls. :-)

  • So when will the browser and operating system achieve a seamless integration? Why do we keep thinking in terms of "browser" and "web page" for what's becoming just another storage/source of executables?

    This has been attempted several times in the past (Java Launcher (?), Active Desktop, etc.). Just fuse them already; the concept of "browser" is becoming an obsolete construct, impeding semantic progress.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @03:35PM (#35422222)

    Why couldn't something else?

    • Quake Live doesn't run in the browser. It launches from a browser but the game runs in a native browser plugin so it's not like Quake Live is and HTML5 game or something.

      I personally wonder how companies expect to make money from games when they are giving out the source code. If your game is truly browser based (ie. written in Javascript and HTML) then everyone has the source code to the client-side code of your game. That's a lot of IP you're just giving away for anyone to copy and use in their own gam

      • by StikyPad (445176)

        The same is true of compiled code, only with the added step of decompiling and assigning labels to functions that are typically unnamed*. A competent hacker could RE the major components of an entire game in under a week. It's not like RE is terribly difficult; it just has the aura of the dark arts. Any halfway motivated teenager can pick it up in short order, and many do. Sure, civil law in the US provides remedies/penalties if caught, but that may or may not be a deterrent for some company in Thirdwor

      • I personally wonder how companies expect to make money from games when they are giving out the source code.

        The same way authors make money even though everybody knows how to assemble and bind a book.

        The source code is not the game...it's just framework and presentation.

    • by antdude (79039)

      Simple Flash games work fine. I dislike the games that require web browser like Battlefield Heroes.

  • I don't see why not. It would be so easy to program a game for lots of different browsers, as they all follow the same standards. Also, there is nothing like the performance of a hardcore game running in top of another software (that runs on top of a lot of other stuff plus the OS). Who needs those hard to program console SDKs, anyway?
    • It would be so easy to program a game for lots of different browsers, as they all follow the same standards.

      Two major web browser platforms, Gecko and WebKit, indeed follow the same standards. Users of Internet Explorer on Windows can install a WebKit plug-in called Google Chrome Frame that will automatically switch rendering to Chrome for those sites that opt-in.

      Who needs those hard to program console SDKs, anyway?

      Say you have a set-top box with a web browser. It's likely to be WebKit based, just like the browsers in iOS and Android. Now how do you get it to use more than one remote control so that your mates visiting your place can play with you without having to

  • by Chemisor (97276) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @03:53PM (#35422448)

    The kind of game you can put in a browser is not the kind of game you are used to. Browser games are like Angry Birds; toys, not serious games. You get a few minutes of enjoyment that can be had at any time you want. But if you want a lengthy game with decent graphics, like say, Fallout, or Civilization, or Empire Earth, or Sims, then no, those are not going into a browser. The thing is, nobody is making those kinds of games any more. Fallout 3 was the last one as far as I'm concerned. From now on it's just mindless toys for mindless enjoyment.

    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      I guess you don't know anything at all about HTML 5 then, huh?
    • NaCl has some possibilities here. It offers a framework for more or less arbitrary x86 code inside a browser framework--so yes, you can have your 4X or your RPGs or even your FPSs inside a browser just fine.
    • by dingen (958134)

      I actually think games like Civilization are especially well suited to run in a browser.

      And obviously, you're underestimating Angry Birds a lot and overestimating the importance of "serious gaming". Farmville is already probably the most-played game ever and there's no reason why gaming in the browser wouldn't become more popular than it already is.

    • Maybe not quite as full on video and HD graphics; but lengthy games with depth? (e.g. Civ or Sims) then yes these are going into the browser... Except they are hugely more concurrent (rather than just a couple players in multi-player mode)... For example: http://www.illyriad.co.uk/ [illyriad.co.uk] And with html5 even free civ is browser based: http://www.freeciv.net/ [freeciv.net]
    • by GauteL (29207)

      "The thing is, nobody is making those kinds of games any more. Fallout 3 was the last one as far as I'm concerned"

      It is only a little more than two years since Fallout 3 came out and much shorter since Fallout: New Vegas, which was pretty much along the same lines.

      You're not the first to complain about everything being better in the "good ole' days", but it seems somewhat desperate to complain about such a recent end of days.While I haven't had all that much time for gaming over the last two years, I doubt

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      serious games

      Jumbo shrimp!

      You keep saying "game". I do not think that word means (only) what you think it means.

  • Gaming platform? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ant P. (974313) on Tuesday March 08, 2011 @03:58PM (#35422528) Homepage

    Not going to happen as long as the sound and input APIs completely suck.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      parent++;

      I'm currently using Java to hack a way to do mouse-look features (used in FPS games, where the mouse is positioned in the center of the screen, and used to look around).

      Sound is hijacked via Flash using SoundManager2.

      So sure... browser based games can work if you bring in Java and Flash. Wait, how is it an HTML5 game now?

      It's premature at this point, but I think we will eventually see browser based games explode once these issues are solved and modern browsers widely distributed.

    • You know, I play a lot of games with the sound off. Probably half of the market does too.

      First rule of running a gaming business - know your customer. Realize the people you run into at gaming cons are not necessarily your customer and listen to them but don't do everything they say they want.

      If I can hook you with a simple game and sell you addons and chrome or spiffs, then my revenue goes viral and I make more than if I give you everything you want all at once. Selling different versions of games maximi

  • Seriously, every time a new gadget comes out, people are raving about how it will replace everything, only to be thrown to the wind a year later.
    Stop trying to make such silly projections.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wasn't it this guy that said the 3DO was the future of gaming and basically the be all end all and what not?

  • Quite frankly, he has no idea how much of a business gaming is, and I predict that we'll be seeing a lot of HTML5 and HTML6 versions of browser gaming apps, especially as tablets dominate the home and business market.

    Yes, that includes WOW.

    • by dingen (958134)

      Speaking of WoW, why isn't that on more platforms already? Why isn't it out on the Xbox, Playstation or Wii? Where is the iOS version? Or Android for that matter?

      I'm really surprised Blizzard is sticking to the PC so rigidly.

  • We've heard this refrain before, I believe it was almost ten years ago and the fact of the matter is it just hasn't come true. Sure, we use our browsers to access social media, broadcast media, news and information sites, but it's certainly not the only thing we do with our computers. Will we see an even more dumbed-down device that runs just a browser as its OS? Sure. Will it sell as well as, say, an iPad? Probably not.

    Now, I may not have founded Electronic Arts, but my opinion is also based on facts

  • Doesn't that count as a successful browser-based game?
  • Until the browser supports input devices other than mouse/keyboard/finger, I don't see this becoming a reality.

    • by dingen (958134)
      I do agree input is something that could greatly be improved, but obviously there are lots of popular games that lack gamepad/joystick support, so that's not really a barrier.
    • by tepples (727027)
      Even PC games that don't run in web browsers tend to have poor support for gamepads. Developers assume a mouse and keyboard because 1. every PC comes with those, and 2. genres that are system sellers for gaming PCs tend to require rapid, accurate pointing. I'd give more details, but I've given details in so many previous topics about PC vs. console gaming that I'm accused of sounding like a broken record.
  • In case you're still in the dark about browser-based games, here's Interstellar Marines.
    http://www.interstellarmarines.com/ [interstellarmarines.com]
    The graphics are pretty darn good for a browser-based First Person Shooter. I'm looking forward to seeing how multiplayer will be. For now, the shoothouse-type scenarios are pretty fun, even if it is only against bots.
    • by kaffiene (38781)

      That uses Unity, not HTML5

      • by Onuma (947856)
        Correct.

        I never stated it was HTML5, Flash, Java, or any other type. However, it is a browser-based game; once you've got the extremely small Unity file installed, you're g2g.
  • Gamers and game developers are constantly pushing for more and better - better graphics, more realistic physics, better AI. All of which requires increasing amounts of memory and processing power. Running games within a web browser will impose unnecessary resource bottlenecks on the game and affect the gaming experience. Because of this I don't think web browsers will become any more of a gaming platform than they already are now. I do believe the market size for browser based games will increase but there
    • by dingen (958134)
      Nobody is saying gaming will be exclusive to the browser. But I do think it's fair to say gaming in the browser will become *a lot* bigger than it is today.
  • since It's worked so well for business applications. I've seen so many users just weep for joy at the radical upgrades in usability.
  • With some large additional download they are going to be games like http://probablyinteractive.com/url-hunter [probablyinteractive.com]
  • For example, Elite Command is a highly graphical multiplayer browser-based game, and it doesn't use any fancy HTML5 features:

    http://elitecommand.net/ [elitecommand.net]

    No flash, no HTML5. Just regular old HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (DHTML, as they used to call it).

    Disclaimer: I developed Elite Command.

  • Yes, it uses the unity web player plug in, but you play it in your browser. So it's not a pure "html" game, but yet it's played in your browser. Graphics are on par with about 10 years ago on a regular desktop PC or console. At least at the lower graphics settings I use since this is an older machine. When I did have the settings up things looked pretty good.

    To me it was amazing to see what could be done in a browser these days.

  • Check out The Lacuna Expanse [lacunaexpanse.com], a browser, iPhone, and iPad game that doesn't at all feel like a browser game.
  • And with savegames stored online instead of locally on cookies, you can keep playing both at home and at wor....

    It's a horrible, horrible idea.

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