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HTML5: Then and Now What a difference six months makes
by Robbert Van Os on 04/01/14 06:52:00 pm   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

By Robbert van Os, HTML5 Advocate, Spil Games

In 2010, we predicted HTML5 would almost certainly become a primary technology for online and mobile games within the coming year. Do you remember those not-so-distant optimistic years?  It turned out of course that HTML5’s adoption took a bit longer than we initially forecast.  In fact, by 2012, after witnessing the overall quality of HTML5 games in the market, we began to wonder if our crystal ball had an expired warranty! 

 

Personal example of a short-lived moment of fame back in 2010: I was proud of Bubble Hit despite the screen’s need to redraw, no audio and a lack of solid controls!

The primary problems with HTML5 initially were lack of support on all browsers, lack of quality tools and, last but not least, the new game playing populous which sought games from app stores.  By the end of 2012, the industry had become pretty sceptical as a whole when the subject of HTML5 came up.  It was completely dismissed by some.

On the other hand, developers were struggling with finding success in app stores and they were frustrated by having to create different versions of games for different platforms. In fact, 60 percent of developers were below the “App Poverty Line” earning less than $500 per app per month according to Vision Mobile.

Despite the odds, as an industry, we began to see the light in 2013. We had finally accepted that touch devices were here to stay.  We also knew Flash wasn’t working across all of those devices.

It’s no wonder that HTML5 came back to the forefront of discussion.  By the summer of last year, the tide began to turn.  Game developers began improving issues and developing tools that helped speed up and improve game development.  HTML5 seemed to have gone through a rebirth.

Since then, I have been amazed at the speed of the industry’s about-face with HTML5. 

At Casual Connect last month, the number of developers who declared they were committed to HTML5 was an incredible sight to see.  We’re witnessing a genuine shift in attitude that is driving the quality of games we are able to now produce.

Over at Spil Games as well, we redoubled our efforts and earmarked $5 million for HTML5 developers to not only build games using HTML5 but to share problems and learnings as well as to find solutions so we can all benefit.  In fact, along those same lines, I recently got a new position at the company as HTML5 Advocate.  With so many developers wanting to transition to HTML5, we all need to help each other. Together we can address the obstacles, needs, wish-lists and ambitions.

A game like ‘1001 Arabian Nights’ from Blinzy Studios is clear proof that HTML5 is the wave of the current future.  It has taken advantage of the improved standardizations in HTML5. It also performs well on current devices, comes with a native like experience and the graphics scale properly to devices.

1001 Arabian Nights

The developers at Absolute Hero have made vast improvements in audio and game quality with their ‘Link’ series of games which have proven to be immensely popular across devices. They added the ability to work with audio sprites, which allowed them to place sound effects with lower latency on devices without Web Audio API support. They also used a Grunt (JavaScript automation tool) task to automate the creation of audio sprite files from existing audio assets.

Link series of games from Absolute Hero Games

Subsequently, Absolute Hero Games now has an audio library that provides scalable support across platforms by taking advantage of high-end capabilities where available, and falling back to less rich, but still acceptable functionality, where not. 

Other developers are making similar strides, so as an industry we are all seeing great improvements.

A big next step for all of us is to nail down is more consistent monetization. In-game advertising in HTML5 games can be the right solution.  Ad dollars are moving from TV to online, so as an industry we need to continue to make advertising relevant to our online/mobile players. Creating ad servers that recognize when an ad should be served to a player who is engaged with an HTML5 based game is tricky business, but a challenge worth pursuing.  We’re constantly perfecting the right moments for ads so players are in a receptive mood. 

Next steps are continuous sharing of best practices.  As we watch game developers like Absolute Hero and Blinzy find success with HTML5, the industry can emulate them and make additional forward strides. And other successful developers should tout their learnings so we can all leapfrog forward. 

Those that continue to pray that app stores will feature them--and give them their ten minutes of fame--are great risk takers and I applaud them. 

Truth be told, however, with broad discovery across all devices, the future of all game developers—even those with medium success—helps the industry and gives players a broader range of great titles from which to choose. 

That happy world is much more appealing than trying to win the lottery. The mobile web is the future for games.  We hear it from our kids: “Apps should work on all of my toys!”  And my wife demands that her favorite games are on her tablet and phone with no glitches.

 

Ads shown at cliffhanger moments

After all of the fits-and-starts in the industry, the tide finally began to turn by the time we reached last summer.

Now we’re watching a huge upward trajectory in the number of quality HTML5 games coming to market.

Robbert van Os, HTML5 Advocate for Spil Games, was previously the CTO.  Van Os has been a senior member of Spil Games' staff for the past decade.  He recently spoke at Casual Connect


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