May 07, 2013

Could HTML5 Game Engines Change the Way We Play Games?

HTML5 is a new markup language aiming to redefine how websites display and structure content on the Internet. The nitty-gritty details of the language haven’t been hashed out yet, but the fifth iteration of HTML5 is set to launch mid-2014. The technology looks to be promising for online gaming by ridding the need for web browser plugins and, more importantly, by being a standard which can reach across desktop, mobile and tablet devices.

For example, tech company Turbulenz revealed it’ll make its HTM5 gaming engine open source, allowing anyone with the time and the know-how to create their own in-browser video game. The engine, available at Github, is flexible and allows for developers to create both 2D and 3D environments. As Turbulenz CEO James Austin tells GamesBeat the technology is "powering a new generation of high quality and engaging content accessible instantly online.”

But Turbulenz isn’t the only in-browser game engine on the block, nor is it the biggest. Epic Games announced its upcoming Unreal Engine 4 will be compatible with mobile and HTML5, and will let game developers, and anyone else interested in paying for the technology, to scale their products to virtually any device.

But Epic’s announcement also suggests an underlying transition in the game industry: that any device with a compliant browser can ultimately be used as a gaming platform. Epic and other companies have already proven in-browser gaming to be possible, with Unreal Engine 3 running in Firefox without a problem. This begs the question: if HTML5 game development can reach a wider market for a lower price than its console brethren, as Epic’s vice president Mark Rein suggests in an interview with Gamasutra, then why develop for console platforms?

That said, however, HTML5 is an imperfect platform. As TMCnet’s Steve Anderson notes, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (NewsAlert) once called HTML5 Facebook’s "biggest mistake." German developer Wooga echoed that statement, claiming the technology simply isn’t there yet. But the inroads laid down by Turbulenz and Epic suggest the technology will, eventually, be there – it’s only a question of when at this point.

Edited by Alisen Downey


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