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The future of video games will be in your browser

Alex Cocilova | Oct. 16, 2013
Browser gaming isn't limited to PCs. Each new generation of smartphones, tablets, and even smart TVs gains computational power. Many of them can already play console-quality games, and the industry is only just getting started.

games

I've had it with interminable game downloads—and you can keep your fancy new Xbox, PlayStation, and Wii consoles. The future of PC gaming is in the browser, and it'll be here sooner than you expect.

I'm not talking about silly Flash games or Facebook time-wasters. We'll soon be playing AAA games that don't require pricey investments in new hardware. Even better, most of them will be absolutely free to play.

Challenging the status quo

I recently sat down with Artillery Games' CEO and cofounder Ankur Pansari and Starcraft II community superstar Sean "Day[9]" Plott, who recently joined the company as head of games. Pansari and his team are developing a real-time strategy game, code-named Project Atlas, that they promise will rival Starcraft in depth and quality. The game will run entirely in a modern browser using HTML5 and JavaScript, and it won't require any plug-ins or downloads.

The demo I played loaded fast on a freshly booted, uncached Macbook Pro, and all I had to do was provide a link. The Chrome browser fired up, and within 30 seconds I was matched with another player dialed in from the company's headquarters.

The game is still in a very early stage of development. I saw little more than a group of units running around on an impressive-looking 3D battlefield, beating each other up until they were all dead. But if I hadn't known, I would never have guessed that all the action was unfolding inside a Web browser. The game launched in high resolution, all the hotkeys worked, moving the mouse to the edges scrolled the map, and everything was responsive.

Unlike conventional games, which can gestate for years, Artillery started work on Project Atlas in September, and the company hopes to start small, closed beta testing by the end of the year. Plott told me he learned the new development platform in a matter of weeks and can already produce new content in a fraction of the time it would take using traditional development tools.

"Our browser-based platform will be transformative for the industry by not only making core games easier to develop, play and enjoy, but by providing everyone with browser access to AAA-quality games typically only playable using a console or PC download," said Pansari.

"The most important core principle we built all this around was rapid iteration," Pansari continued. "We're making sure we can iterate on a game design quicker than any other company on Earth." Developers can change any of the game's properties or visuals on the fly, and receive instant feedback simply by refreshing the page. Compiling code becomes a thing of the past. Developers no longer need to buy expensive software tools or license pricey middleware, either—which means that browser-based game development significantly lowers the financial barrier to entry. Building a great game, of course, still requires plenty of good ideas, know-how, and time. But none of those things require lots of capital.

 

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