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22. June 2015

 

Export to web has been a popular bullet point on most game engine feature lists as of late.  Both Unreal Engine and Unity recently offered native HTML5 export (Unity has had a plugin option for years, but plugins have gone the way of the Dodo).  LibGDX has offered a HTML5 target for ages, Haxe based game engines can all cross compile to HTML or Flash.  GameMaker, Construct, Stencyl and more have HTML5 exporters.   Of course, there are a number of HTML5 native engines (I suppose Construct should be on that list actually…), but they aren’t really what this conversation is about.

 

At the end of the day though… is anyone actually doing it?  Is there a “shipped” title from any of these engines that people are playing in any quantity?  It is my understanding that the vast majority of commercial web and Facebook games are still Flash based, with HTML5 representing perhaps 10-20% of titles.  More importantly, most of these titles are relatively simple, nothing harnessing a fraction of the power of an Unreal or Unity type engine.

 

It leads me to question, is HTML5 a feature everybody wants but nobody uses?

 

What inspired this thought was this interesting article on Godot’s efforts to target the web.  I have been actively monitoring the game development world during the entire timespan Juan described and I witnessed all of these “next big thing” technologies that came and went.  Summarized from the article, they were:

  • Native Plugins
  • Google Native Client
  • Flash
  • ASM.js
  • WebAssembly

 

This is by no means a comprehensive list, LibGDX compiles from Java to JavaScript using Google’s GWT for example, and some of these technologies were certainly successful for a time such as Flash.  Of course too, games written and targeted for HTML5 exist.  It’s this whole HTML5 as an additional target approach that I am beginning to think is just a gimmick.  The funny part is, I love the idea too… I evaluate a lot of game engines and I always see “HTML5 export” and think “ooooh, that’s good”.

 

Games in the browser certainly seemed to have a brilliant future at one point.  The Unity web plugin really did bring Unity to the web.  I used a couple of Unity powered 3D tools, such as Mixamo, and it was very near to native in experience (they have since ported to HTML5 since the Unity plugin was end of life-d).  Google’s Native Client (NaCL) had some promise, with shipped titles such as AirMech leading the way, but a single browser solution was never going to fly.  Ultimately Flash, especially with it’s promising (at the time) 3D API had the most promise, but a combination of Apple’s malevolence and Adobe’s incompetence brought that to an inglorious end.

 

Perhaps it’s just ignorance on my end.  Can anyone out there point me at an HTML5 game (not a tech demo, an actual game) created in either Unity or Unreal Engine?  I realize both are fairly new, so I would also settle for examples that are under development but show promise.  Keep in mind here, I’m not talking about HTML5 game engines, there certainly is a future in HTML5 games and of course they can be wrapped and deployed to a variety of platforms.  No, it’s “HTML5 as an additional target platform” support that seems to be pure gimmick at this point.

Totally Off Topic

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