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Hi, I’m Rob Hawkes and I’m here today to talk about creating games on the open Web using
If you don’t already know, I work at Mozilla.
Unsure about my devotion to Mozilla? This here is a beautiful chicken and leek pie with extra
It was made by my talented girlfriend and it was delicious.
My official job title is Technical Evangelist, but I prefer what it says on my business card.
Part of my job is to engage with developers like you and I about cool new technologies on the
And for those of you with no idea of what a rawket is, I made a multiplayer game called
Rawkets in which players ﬂy around in little rockets and shoot each other in the face with the
latest Web technologies. It’s quite addictive!
I’m not sure how much time we’ll have for questions at the end, but feel free to grab me in
person after the talk or on Twitter.
These slides will go online after this talk and they’ll be available from my personal website.
I’ll put all the details up at the end.
Before we move on I just have a quick disclaimer.
They’re technologies that are intrinsically linked to each other by nature, but saying HTML5
So instead I’ll just be saying HTML5.
So let’s go back in time for a moment.
Now I don’t actually remember when I ﬁrst started playing computer games, although I know
that I started with consoles.
My ﬁrst experience was with the ZX Spectrum and its amazing noises and epic loading times,
which I sorely miss…
Then there was the SNES, which really got me addicted to gaming.
Although it turns out my SNES was stolen when I was a kid. I did wonder where it went…
My parents replaced it with the Megadrive which, although not quite as awesome, was just as
From there it has been a constant stream of consoles, each smashing the performance and
functionality of its predecessor.
The N64, the Gamecube, the Dreamcast, the Playstation, the xBox.
You get the idea…
And spread throughout that time I dabbled in PC gaming, starting with games like Sim City…
And playing multiplayer Doom at my Dad’s Internet cafe.
What I’m getting at here is that gaming has been a big part of my life growing up, as it has
been with a lot of other people as well.
They’re fun to play, and they’re surprisingly fun to make.
Today we’re now on the threshold of something cool; being able to create awesome and
addictive games with nothing more than the technologies that we normally use to make
Since I began developing on the Web I really can’t remember a time when so many people are
working together to achieve something like this.
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Recently there have been some particularly notable events surrounding HTML5 gaming.
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The acquisition of HTML5 gaming engines by large companies.
Like Aves being bought by Zynga and Rocket Engine bought by Disney.
The recent recruitment of HTML5 games developers for well-known gaming companies, like
The huge amounts of funding being made available to games that help prove the Web as a
Like the Game Lab from Bocoup and Atari’s general sponsorship of HTML5 games.
The two large-scale HTML5 gaming conferences in the last few months.
onGameStart in Poland and New Game in San Francisco.
Each attended by hundreds of game and Web developers alike.
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The investing of time and resources by Google, Mozilla and Opera into the creation of
technologies and services for the beneﬁt of gaming on the open Web.
Some of which we’ll be looking at in a moment.
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The involvement of Facebook in HTML5 gaming performance.
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And the recent port to HTML5 of massively successful iOS games like Angry Birds and
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Now there aren’t a huge amount of HTML5 games just yet, although that number is growing
In any case I thought I’d show you a selection of my favourites; some full blown games,
others demos of the technologies available to us.
Multiplayer Quake II remake with Google GWT (Google Web Toolkit).
Minecraft map viewer, using WebGL.
Freeciv, an open source Civilisation-type game that uses HTML5 canvas and WebSockets.
3D WebGL version currently being worked on.
Rawkets is a multiplayer space shooter that I created while at university to explore HTML5
canvas and WebSockets.
There isn’t much to say about Angry Birds really, most of you probably know about it.
The HTML5 version uses WebGL for accelerated 2D graphics.
Fieldrunners was ported from iOS to HTML5 by Bocoup.
Like Angry Birds, it also uses WebGL for accelerated 2D graphics.
Created by Phil Banks (@emirpprime)
It’s clear that HTML5 is something that is really becoming a contender for games on the Web.
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But why is it important?
related to the future of the Web.
Pretty much every new technology that is coming out within the browser-space is connected
And what’s great is that every major browser has invested in them, so they won’t be going
anywhere any time soon.
But there’s more to it than that.
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They are open technologies.
Anyone can get involved in their creation; through browser developers like Mozilla, or
through standards organisations like the W3C.
A few weeks ago I was in a W3C meeting to explore what is needed for making games with
these technologies. What was cool was that anyone was allowed to take part; which included
everyday developers, employees of major browsers, and games companies.
Also, these technologies are open in that anyone can view the resulting code that is used
within Web pages, which is a fantastic way of learning.
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They are free technologies.
Anyone can use these technologies without having to pay anything, both for using the
technology and developing with it.
This is unlike closed environments like Flash where you have to pay to use official code
editors and production environments.
They are technologies baked directly into the browser, which means no more plugins!
No longer do you have to rely on users having third-party software installed to use rich
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These technologies allow for quickly hacking stuff together to experiment then tidying things
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These technologies are built to work across platforms; whether that’s desktop, mobile, TV, or
This makes it great to develop this way because you can be sure that it will work on any
platform that has support.
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As with any technology on the Web it’s important that you can use it across all the major
Fortunately the bigger features of HTML5 like video and audio are supported by all the major
browsers, with some of the newer and smaller features getting better support as time goes
The situation isn’t perfect but we’re deﬁnitely in a position where these technologies can now
be used in production.
There’s a fantastic website called Can I Use? which lets you know what browsers support each
But it’s not all rosy with HTML5.
Why might you not want to use it?
Here are just two of the major issues that are ﬂoating around right now.
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Not every browser supports every part of HTML5.
For example, canvas isn’t supported out of the box by any IE below 9. Although, you can use
ExplorerCanvas to replicate canvas functionality, but it’s not ideal and as doesn’t perform as
WebSockets is only support in IE10, and it isn’t supported in Android. But again, you can fake
this by using Flash for the sockets, like with Socket.IO.
WebGL also has patchy support with absolutely no support in IE, and Safari and Opera
requiring a development build.
If you need DRM or have a burning desire to hide absolutely everything about your code.
Remember, the code isn’t compiled, so where would the DRM go? The beauty of Web
technologies is that they can be read as plain text by simply viewing the page source.
However, DRM isn't bulletproof in itself and you can still crack into Flash.
You can obfuscate and minify your code if you think it will help, but even this can be worked
around with relative ease.
There are a few key technologies that are involved in the development of HTML5 games.
Here are some of my favourites.
It’s quite amazing what can be done with such simple drawing and image manipulation tools.
Silk is a stunning example of what can be achieved by combining the simple drawing tools
available in canvas.
WebGL brings the ability to provide advanced 3D graphics directly within the browser.
HelloRacer is a little game that lets you drive a Formula One car around your browser. It’s a
beautiful example of WebGL in action.
Rome is a music video created with WebGL. It’s an amazing example of what the technology
can achieve in a real-world situation given a large team.
This is a rather freaky example of how interesting WebGL is.
It’s a demo that shows just how realistic WebGL can render materials, like skin. This isn’t
much unlike the quality of modern games consoles!
HTML5 audio allows for plugin-less game sound effects and background music.
Audio data APIs implemented by Mozilla and Google allow for manipulation of audio and
much more ﬁne-grained control.
This is something I made especially for the ASSEMBLY 2011 event in Finland.
It’s an audio visualiser that uses WebGL and the HTML5 Audio Data API.
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WebSockets can be used for the real-time communication between a player and the game
With WebSockets you can create multiplayer games with relative ease.
Node is often used as a multiplayer game server, controlling the logic and handling the
WebSockets connections to the players.
It can be used for player authentication and the storage of data so gameplay can persist over
multiple game sessions.
This is all made relatively easy with great third-party modules, like Socket.IO for WebSockets,
and others that handle Redis and MongoDB for storage, for example.
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Local storage is great for storing data locally on the player device.
This way you can cache game data and allow the game to pick up where the player left off.
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The Full Screen API allows you to expand any HTML element to ﬁll the users screen, even if
the browser isn’t running full screen itself.
The Mozilla implementation is not perfect yet because you can’t use the whole keyboard in
full-screen mode, but it’s in the latest Nightly builds and works in all other respects.
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The Gamepad API is one of the major improvements to input that is coming.
Both Mozilla and Google are working an an implementation of this and there is actually an
experimental build of Firefox available to the public that has it working.
What I ﬁnd most interesting about the Gamepad API is that it might be just the thing we need
to ﬁnally justify HTML5 gaming on a TV or console.
Who wants to use a keyboard and mouse while sitting on the sofa?
This is a little demo that I put together to show off the Gamepad API.
In this example I’ve connected my xBox 360 controller to my Mac, but I could also use a PS3
controller or practically any other USB controller.
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The Mouse Lock API is an attempt at improving the mouse as an input device.
It would be used in situations like games and 3D visualisations where the mouse position
rotates or moves you around a 3D space.
As it stands there’d still be a cursor moving around the screen causing all sorts of trouble
when you want to click on something in your game.
With the new API you can lock your mouse position and stop it from getting in the way and
being a nuisance.
Both Google and Mozilla are working on an implementation of this right now.
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The concept of Web apps is something that is gaining a lot of traction at the moment.
HTML5 games are effectively gloriﬁed Web apps.
It’s no doubt this this traction is as a result of the success of native applications and games
on the desktop and mobile, particularly with iOS and Android.
Google are spending a lot of time on Web apps with the Chrome platform.
It’s something we’re also spending a lot of time on at Mozilla.
Although we’re approaching things a little differently.
We envisage Web apps to run on any device, any browser, and to be distributed through any
store or website.
One of the main differences between Web apps and native apps is that native apps can be run
New technologies like the application cache allow for a website or Web app to cache
necessary assets to that it can still run while offline.
Combining this technique with intelligent use of things like local storage will allow your game
to continue working even if the Internet connection goes down. You just sync up all the
changes when it gets connected again.
Something that needs to be tackled with Web apps is how to make them feel like real
applications rather than websites.
One way that is being considered is completely removing the browser chrome and running
the application in it’s own window.
This will effectively mean that you have full control of the app UI and it won’t look like it’s
being run in a browser.
This kind of approach isn’t anything new but it will be the ﬁrst time it will be baked into
For now you can use things like Fluid, which is a Mac app that lets you turn a website into an
app that you can run from an icon on the desktop.
It uses a browser engine behind the scenes but it hides away all the unnecessary chrome so it
I currently use this approach for music streaming websites like Grooveshark to turn them into
That way I don’t have to remember which tab they’re open in my browser.
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If you haven’t already then I encourage you to give HTML5 game development a go.
And you don't have to create an entire game infrastructure from scratch, you can use some of
the existing engines that are proving popular.
I used this recently, and it’s really well made.
The documentation is great and the author is active and very helpful.
It’s a free engine and is doing much better than other free engines out there.
One of the most promising engines out there today.
Massively multiplayer networking built in, uses Node and MongoDB, and has canvas or DOM-
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It’s still early days with HTML5 games.
There are a few things that I’d like to see in the near future that will help.
Need better ways to benchmark browser performance, network connections and operating
systems speciﬁcally for games.
Better HTML5 audio. Right now things can be a little tricky, the ideal situation would be to
have consistent support across browsers.
Hardware accelerated canvas on Mac and mobile devices. This is a small ask but one that I
feel will make all the difference.
with Mozilla, but more documentation is needed in general. I’d love to see more game
developers sharing their solutions to problems that they encountered during the creation of
Personal website and blog
RECENT PROJECTS MORE COOL STUFF
Twitter sentiment analysis Rawket Scientist
Delving into your soul Technical Evangelist at Mozilla
Get in touch with me on Twitter: @robhawkes
Follow my blog (Rawkes) to keep up to date with stuff that I’m working on: http://rawkes.com
I’ve recently worked on a project that analysis sentiment on Twitter: http://rawkes.com/blog/
would be. The working title is jsCraft.
TH An R b
If you have any questions feel free to grab me on Twitter (@robhawkes), or email