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Unreal Engine 4 heads to web browsers
March 12, 2014 | By Kris Graft

March 12, 2014 | By Kris Graft
More: Social/Online, Video

It might be hard to believe that a next-gen graphics engine like Unreal Engine 4 would be able to run in a browser, but here you go.

Today, Firefox creator Mozilla and Unreal Engine developer Epic Games showed the first glimpse of Unreal Engine 4 running in Firefox with no plug-ins. That means the same engine that powers graphically intensive next-gen console and PC games can also take advantage of the accessibility of a web-based format.

Firefox and Epic had been working on game-centric web technologies for some time now. Last year, the companies showed off Unreal Engine 3 running in Firefox using the JavaScript subset asm.js.

Engine performance appears smooth in Firefox, but it's not quite near native. Mozilla expects optimizations to continue quickly. Though performance is optimized for Firefox, any modern browser can run asm.js content.

Mozilla CTO and SVP of engineering Brendan Eich said in a statement, "Using Emscripten to cross-compile C and C++ into asm.js, developers can run their games at near-native speeds, so they can approach the web as they would any other platform."

The companies stressed that UE4 isn't just for high-end, graphically intensive games. The video above also shows a demo for a side-scrolling platform game.

Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic Games added, "We believe the web has a crucial part to play in the future of game development and deployment, and Mozilla has proven it is the catalyst to make this happen."

You'll be able to see UE4 in Firefox in person at Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next week at both Epic and Mozilla's booths.

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Cid Newman
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"The companies stressed that UE4 isn't just for high-end, graphically intensive games. The video above also shows a demo for a side-scrolling platform game."

Then why not the WiiU?

Brent Orford
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UE4 isn't just for high-end games, but it IS just for high-end "platforms".

WiiU lacks the hardware support necessary graphically (uses a graphics processor with hardware support up to DX10) and computationally is on par with the XBox360.

UE4 on the other hand makes use of hardware features introduced when DX11 hardware came out and thus only supports nextgen.

Duvelle Jones
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I am not sure about that. This demo is mostly in regards to Mozilla's efforts on mobile, an area that has captured Epic's interest.
You simply can't rely on DirectX in that environment... since (aside from Windows Phone) everything else is OpenGL/WebGL on the two platforms of interest (iOS and Android) as well as the one that Mozilla is creating (Firefox OS).

I remember that Epic did have scalability in mind with UE4, something that US3 is sort of poor at. The reason for this is simple... they want in on mobile and they want it BAD. That simply can't be done if DirectX is the only GL target.

That said, didn't epic say that the engine was possible on the Wii U? Now support is another matter entirely, which they'll give you none of. Which matters with an system as big in scope as UE.

Steven Bobson
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> UE4 on the other hand makes use of hardware features introduced when DX11 hardware came out and thus only supports nextgen.

You realize it's running on WebGL, right?

Charles Elliott
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That was literally the exact same thought that came into my mind and lo and behold, it was the only comment on this article. I completely agree.

Brent Orford
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Sorry I was talking about the hardware support more than the API used to access it.

You certainly could port an engine to WiiU (and Xbox360/PS3) with enough effort but someone's going to have to pay for that and it won't have the same performance/feature set because the hardware can't simply pull it off. My guess is if Nintendo paid them enough they'd do it, but that call isn't being made.

You hit the nail on the head saying "they" [Epic] want in on mobile, and if UE3 isn't sufficient for that they'll make UE4 happen.

Adam Campbell
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I think the fact that UE4 is targeting the Web's answer to OpenGLES 2.0 and is looking to target mobile in the future too, hardware isn't the issue in WiiU support.

It looks like a political factor to me. Epic Games have made no suggestion they like the platform let alone feel there's a business case to support it.

They will make UE4 mobile happen, because whilst UE3 is in that space already, it has much room for improvement. It would be great to see the modern toolset brought along and of course, make it easier to deploy multi-platform from mobile through to console and PCs of the current generation.

Sergio Rosa
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I like UE a lot (UE3 at least) but unfortunately it's not very indie-friendly compared to other engines, like Unity. I can't even begin to imagine how much licensing UE4 costs.

Duvelle Jones
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You know what has been funny about that... most licensing deals that I have seen with UE4 don't mention the terms. I would seems that Epic doesn't want that to be a public value that is known outside of the companies involved (or, which is more likely, companies like Square-Enix are getting a deal on the licensing costs).

Duong Nguyen
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It's interesting that Mozilla is vehemently against Googles initiative to build in browser support for 3D tech through Native Client but are more than willing to integrate a 3rd party engine like UDK right into the browser, politics I guess..

Jonathan Ghazarian
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They aren't integrating unreal into their browser. The demo can actually run in any browser. The reason it works even better in firefox is that they integrated support for asm.js(which mozilla developed) into firefox. This allows them to treat certain javascript code in a way that allows for better performance, but any other browser can still run that javascript. The big difference here from native client, is that native client is running native code, which means it needs a completely different sandbox for it to run. There are pros and cons to each approach, but Mozilla typically goes for stuff that runs within web standards.

Actually, the UE3 demo from last year actually runs really well in chrome now thanks to a lot of optimization in their javascript interpreter, even though they haven't implemented asm.js. You can check that one out here:‎

Aladine Dhiabi
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there is something that i don't get here...
why play "high quality" games on browser (by high quality i mean games that need more performance power than others)
I mean, the main reason people keep playing browser games (flash games) are because these games are small, casual and very fast to load, sure there is a few exceptions, but those are *EXCEPTIONS*
my point is what difference could it make to run a a high edge game on browser instead of just downloading it like usual ?

In my opinion, i believe that this technology will only benefits developer who want to make a "medium range" game, something like Fez or MineCraft a game that cannot be made (easily) with the usual tools but also will not kill the browser or make you wait for a decade before it loads...

Anyone is hoping for a Unity3D plugin-free web build announcement :roll-eyes:

Mark Morrison
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this is great news for anyone online!!!