Biolab Disaster: an HTML5-only game that may pave the way for much more – Console news

Need a distraction this lunchtime? Got a “modern” browser? Then you might care to go and have a play on Biolab Disaster – a fairly standard platformer which wouldn’t draw much attention, except for the fact that it’s entirely written using HTML5 and Javascript.

Is that clever? Cool? Well, it’s interesting, because it shows that more developers are getting to grips with the possibilities offered by HTML5. Was it harder than doing it in Flash? Quite probably – but once one person has done it, and shared their experience, it gets easier for everyone who comes after them.

And as Dominic Szablewski, the developer, says,

“Biolab Disaster formulates the playable truth that it makes sense to create games for HTML5. Not only is the result on par with current Flash games, but also is the development process incredibly smooth and satisfying. The hurdles that a new technology such as HTML5 sets, were already overcome by the game engine. For the development of the game itself, I didn’t have to deal with any browser or platform issues at all.”

“With Microsoft delivering some HTML5 support in Internet Explorer 9 and JavaScript and rendering performance steadily increasing, I can’t see any reason why JavaScript and Canvas would not be the gaming platform of the coming years that finally removes Flash from its quasi monopole.”

(I think he means “monopoly”. Though monopole is a good word too.)

This echoes the rather larger effort that we’ve seen from SPIL Games, which at the end of August announced that it would be offering HTML5 versions of its its games websites – and that it thought that would be a new standard within a few years.

Of course, no new technology ever runs completely smoothly. There are still big differences between browsers in performance, and compatibility.

The author offers his own notes on compatibility: Opera 10.61: PerfectSafari 5.0 (Mac): PerfectFirefox 4 Beta 3: PerfectFirefox 3.6: Sound issues; slowChrome 7: Sound issuesIE 9 Preview: Sound issues; slow.

In fact, he’s a bit narked with some of the browsers involved. Specifically, Safari:

“please get your shit together! You are a very nice browser; my game runs with an excellent frame rate and everything works fine. But please (please!) support the Ogg Vorbis codec for Audio elements. There is no reason not to. I had to encode all my sound files in Ogg Vorbis and MP3, just because of you, Safari. You make my life unnecessarily difficult.”

Unfortunately I think he’s going to be disappointed – the chances of Apple supporting Ogg Vorbis are between zero and none.

All the browsers tested performed well – offering frame rates above 30fps – apart from Internet Explorer 9 (preview 4), which could only manage 23fps on his Intel Core2Duo/Windows 7 rig (on which Opera 10.6 managed a whopping 263 fps. (To see the comparative rankings, click the picture at the top of this post.)

Still, never mind – we’ll have to see how the real Internet Explorer 9 (released this evening) performs.

And if you headed over there on your iPhone/iPad and didn’t get a result, he’s ahead of you…

“The [game] engine gets no canplaythrough notification for sound files from Mobile Safari. Haven’t really looked into it, as the game itself will only run with ~12 FPS (iPhone 3GS) anyway (the bottleneck is the drawing performance – it easily consumes 90% of the CPU time).

That’s got to be embarrassing for Apple, which has made much of the HTML5 qualifications of its iOS operating system. Perhaps someone will get in touch with Szablewski and help out.

Also: he doesn’t know if it works on Android. Anyone got an Android phone and want to try?

There’s also a making-of video. And when you next do a making-of video, do think carefully about what web searches you’re going to leave visible in the browser search space.



Charles Arthur © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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