November 20, 2014

‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Gets a Promotion Boost from WebRTC & HTML5

I am all but certain that I am not alone in looking forward to Warner Bros.' release of “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” coming to theaters in a little under a month. For those who just can't wait, or for those who need a little extra push to get excited, a Chrome Experiment that emerged last year has taken on a new coat of paint and some new options, backed up by not only HTML5, but also by WebRTC.

The Chrome Experiment in question, known as “A Journey Through Middle-earth”, offered up a look at the popular Tolkien creation in greater detail ahead of the release of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” But given that the next Hobbit release has much more of a martial air to it—as stated by the name itself—there are some new updates that reflect this shift in tone. For instance, putting to use a combination of WebGL and WebRTC allowed the creators to bring in peer-to-peer (P2P) gameplay options, allowing users to take on other users in a similar battle. It's built in a grid-style setup, allowing players to move troops around to take on the enemy. It was specifically designed to not only reflect what a battle between Middle-earth's four major races—Elf, Dwarf, Orc and Human—might have been like, but also to do so with as few interactions as possible, making it easy to learn.

Exciting enough, but then the WebRTC interaction steps in. The developers had several third-party libraries available for use in establishing the signaling systems necessary to help players not only connect but start talking to each other in-game, and ultimately turned to the Channel API to handle the job. The developers wanted something that could be hosted on Google (News Alert) Cloud Platform—that took PubNub's software development kit (SDK) out of the running as it was hosted elsewhere—and the others were considered but tossed aside as the developers wanted to handle thousands of users at one time. Though there were concerns about issues of latency and the Channel API's ability to handle all those users, its work on the earlier CubeSlam game took a lot of the teeth out of those worries.

While this is an impressive view of just what WebRTC can do when it's added to a game, it's far from the only thing going on in the WebRTC space. To see more of what's going on, all one need do is hit the WebRTC Conference & Expo V event, running through today in San Jose, California. A variety of speakers both were and are on hand, showing off what's going on in the field from things like Plantronics (News Alert)' wearable devices that work with WebRTC to perhaps one of the biggest innovations the field has seen of late, GENBAND's Kandy system.

WebRTC has been a major part of the field of late, and HTML5 has made more than its share of advances as well. Seeing these two technologies come together like this is almost inspirational, and should give most pause to wonder just where the field will go next. Perhaps we'll see more game developers put these tools to work. Or perhaps these will remain curiosities for upcoming movie releases. Only time will tell, in the end, and it should be quite a show all the way there.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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