So what if HTML5 and WebGL games makes it to the mobile browser?

In this post im going to be talking about the usecases that I bet, few people have thought about regarding games in mobile browsers
I’m also going to be hilighting some of the stuff Google demoed at Google IO 2013 which is related to mobile browser games…

The real usecase of mobile browser games

People’s general expectations for mobile safari and mobile browsers in general is nowhere about games – we have so many apps for social media and tools for mobile at the moment, that people relatively rarely use the mobile browser… – And if they do, its to find information they only need now, not again and again, that is what apps are for – and the mobile browser is not something you open up to dwell about for hours, like we might do on desktop… Its common use and expectation of, is to quick access info.

related post: “Users want Apps not mobile websites…” 

and remember the fact that kids don’t know what the browser is on mobile and in general can’t figure out how to use it – the only thing they do know is how to get out when they accidentally press a banner ad in the games.

Rule of thumb: people want apps for things they do more than 2 time per week – the web is for “one time experiences”

Browsers are built for accessing stuff on the internet instantly- the stuff we load up in the browser has to be accessible in a split second – common expectations… – a game doesn’t fit that model in any way – the term “downloading a webpage” seems kind of odd because we don’t see it as being downloaded… – but the term “downloading a game” seems normal because we know its a huge package of data – like any other thing we normally “download” as a file.

The conceptions and expectations of the mobile browser is somewhat still in a transition from web 1.0 (a consuming service) to web 2.0 (a channel of self contribution and interactivity) because we have all those social media apps, blogging apps, youtube, google maps apps, and so on- and of course because the onscreen keyboard is not super convenient…

Browser content and Games are like conceptions of TV and Movies…
Browser content / TV – we know its there now and gone again the next second when we change the “channel”
Games / Movies – this is a tangible copy, something we download or bought as a “physical” copy of our own – we can play it replay it and control it like we want it is something that we conceptually know we own and is in our hands.

Games fits the concept of an App…

its known to man that mobile games come from the App store/Google Play – why ? – because they fit the concept of what makes apps great, and the rules for, why you want it as an app:

  • Because you use it regularly.
  • You want it to open and be able to play instantly
  • And you want it to open up in fullscreen, by it self… Not having a browser interface wrapped around it or having to press fullscreen and accept “yes I allow fullscreen mode” every time.
  • You don’t want to be loading the whole game every time – and let me mention, great games fill 30-50 MB.

– thats what makes games great for apps – simply because its an experience you want to come back to regularly -I don’t want to play level 1 and 2 at home and then have to download level 3 in the train on my dataplan

even if we could cache the game content or preload the whole game – so we didn’t have to re-download it or download the rest in time – then it would be the same as we have for apps – except! – you don’t have control over those piled up megabytes – the games are somewhere in the pile of browser cache data – that might be cleaned up now and then… – you cant keep it for as long as you like, and uninstall it individually when YOU want… and this would keep you from cleaning unwanted cookie data now and then, because you don’t want to re-download all your games in the browser afterwards…

imagine every time someone in the household would clean up browser data to save space – everyone who have games in the browser have to redownload the whole thing and would have lost all save games… the App ecosystem was build for stuff like games for a reason – and one of those reasons is individual local storage – which is used for saved-games.

I bet adobe didn’t think of that when they claimed games are moving to the mobile browser…

– in fact how is HTML5 games “streaming” compared to flash ? last i heard HTML5 is pretty much progressive download right ? you need to download every thing before you can start ? – *cough* streaming texture format for flash *cough*

but lets see why games are great in browsers on Desktop but not on Mobile…

Games in the browser on desktop vs mobile

Time, Screen-space, Gigabytes, hi-speed internet and a Keyboard…

one of the great success about games in the desktop browser is that you have time, screen-space, gigabytes, hi-speed internet and a keyboard…

Time: often when you sit down in front of a computer or place your kids there, it is meant to last more than a short moment – compared to mobile – I guess that why they call it mobile because it is something that you carry around and only use in a longer timeframe when you are on public transports (away from wifi) – correct me if i am wrong…

Screen-space: when you launch up most browser games today they are made for a small part of the full browser screensize – something like 800×600 so they run in a little window in the middle of the browser, about half the size of your screen – this seems to work fine as the desktop screen is fairly large so the game will show up in an acceptable size – if we where to do that on a mobile or tablet browsers it would only have a couple of inches to work with partly because of the browser interface size – and it would seem even smaller because of touch interface takes up much more screen space than buttons for a mouse – but then again no one prevents us from going fullscreen – except apple maybe…

Gigabytes:  this one is pretty much self explanatory – the data space we have on desktop is somewhat 30-50 time bigger than on tablets so we care less if we have to load up a game that fills the browser cache with 20 mb – on desktop we might not clean our browser cache as often to save space, than we might do on mobile, especially if games come to the mobile browser. Remember the fact that up until now most older flash games are vector based and therefore have a very small data size. The graphics for the entire Interface, menus and popups for our Nerdball game is around 8 KB even though the rest of the game is hardware accelerated… (note: the usecase about cleaning browser data on mobile deleting save-games – is not a big issue on desktop because flashgames has its own local storage on browser that you dont clean along with the normal data cache)

Hi-speed internet: most desktop computers is connected to hi-speed internet – so if we need to download a game around 20-30 mb – it might take a short moment at home but will take alot longer on the fly – this adds to the time issue

Keyboard: most studies shows that the onscreen keyboard is nowhere near as fast or convenient as the real deal, so when you are on the fly with you mobile device you will either have to type the addresse or search for that game you played the other day, with your onscreen keyboard – yes you can bookmark it, so it looks like an app. But it is less intuitive, not everyone knows how to do this and you cant force it with a script – not on mobile safari at least…


And for the tech…

first lets look at where we can expect WebGL working today:  http://caniuse.com/webgl

Google IO: demoing WebGL running on mobile…

I saw the Google I/O keynote where they demoed a WebGL game on a tablet, well it actually ran on a laptop but they said it was a tablet, or something (watch the link below)
[Google IO keynote when they demo webgl on mobile(laptop)]

the WebGL Rivendell sound demo they show afterwards “supposably” running on nexus (with no ineractivity) – I would say, ran like a joke – it was super low poly, lagging and they never showed him actually playing with it.
so if it works like WebGL in Firefox mobile then there is a long way to go – I have to note that FireFox mobile WebGL only shows one frame all in all, like a still picture, on my ASUS transformer and on my LG optimus G with a 4 core processor – and there is no reaction to touch. (last time it actually crashed my phone)
but I must say I am a bit excited to test some of my WebGL labs on the new Chrome mobile browser.
but for the Google IO demo i was not impressed…

Javascript VM on desktop compared to mobile…

They showed that desktop chrome javascript, benchmarked about 17.000 compared to mobile which is at about 1.800 – note that mobile chrome can only run about 10% of desktop – crazy bottle neck – and they talk about it like they are even – Its a joke…
[Goole IO when they talk about the speed of javascript]

let me put it this way, when the 3D performance is the same from apps, as for the browser on mobile -we can talk about it…

and still we have the fact that javascript is not meant for 100.000 lines of code that is often needed to build great games…  – but i know the fact that asm.js and typescript might zero out this argument in a hardcore tech debate, even though javascript IS a script language and not a real OOP language.

And lets not forget you can not protect your games sourcecode and assets when built with HTML5 like you can with Flash – in the browser users can download the source files and use it for what ever they please – (just as we heard happened to spootify when they tried the browser environment)

– besides the chrome mobile browser might take years to get proper penetration rates on all mobile devices…

But lets say it will be doable to build great games for mobile browsers in HTML5:

Other Cool Stuff Google is coming with…

Google Wallet – new one click payment (might not be so safe for mobile browser games) : click here to watch

I really hope there will be a password – and not quite as simple as they demoed – because then I bet my kids are gonna rape my credit card when they are playing browsergames with ingame purchase. like the wild west I talked about in my earlier blog post: http://wp.me/p14B8U-M

VP9(WebM) video :  Google IO – showing VP9

– looks awesome – but what about the video formats for Safari IE and Firefox – in other word html5 video is still a jungle – lets celebrate when it can be used in practice everywhere in other words when we can encode flv with VP9, if only it ran mobile 🙂

WebP (image) : Google IO – showing the new animated image format

– it looks great – transparency, optimized encoding and animation – I see Banner ads – let thank Google for coming up with a “real” substitute for low kb flash banners… – Adobe should put that into Flash Pro…

im not going to talk about all the great API’s and services Google are releasing, regarding player hiscore and so on, stuff we already have in flash… I bet alot of other people will do this for me, thanks in advance 🙂

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