SGX, lies, and HTML5 - The future of gaming.

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An interview with Steven Goodwin, by Craig Chappel from Develop Magazine

  • Craig: What do your tools offer HTML5 developers?

    Steven: SGX is, in part, a cross-platform engine so you get a true piece of middleware that abstracts the vagrancies of each specific browser, and gives you a well-tested code base that's targeted to game development. On another level, it's also a cross-_language_ engine with an identical API in both Actionscript and C++. This makes it easy to port your games to (or from) Flash, Windows, and iOS, should the need arise.

  • CC: What are the advantages of using HTML5 compared to other services such as Flash?

    SG: The answer most people will give is about it being available on all devices, including Apple. While that's true, the main benefit is being able to use a wider range of development tools. And they're usually free! Both Chrome and Firefox have good debuggers, and provide the most important functionality of IDEs such as Flex builder. Consequently, the turn-around time from implementing a change, to testing it live, are very short making it ideal for rapid prototypes, and game balancing.

    Also, because Javascript has been around for ages, there's a large talent pool available who are used to the problems (and solutions) of the language, and can handle the client-server communications necessary in service-oriented games.

    Being able to view the source of others people's code doesn't hurt either! (The HTML5 version of SGX was begun by reading the source of every canvas demo app I could find!)

  • CC: Some developers have complained HTML5 is difficult to program games with, whilst many claim audio is also 'broken'. Do you agree with this? What can be done to fix this?

    SG: For those used to languages which enforce declare-before-use and strong data types, developing with Javascript can be a debugging nightmare since the errors your IDE would have caught at compile-time are allowed to sail through into run-time, and beyond. However, if you write with the same diligence you would if it were C++, you will stand a better chance of keeping your sanity! Javascript, as a language, is very capable, it's just unfortunate that it has a bad reputation because it was always used to interact with different (read: incompatible) browsers.

    It's true that the audio implementation is broken... and it's getting worse! Both Google and Mozilla are building solutions to the problem... but in different ways! This is creating the same problems in divergence that plagued the web in years gone by. While middleware is a good interim solution (SGX itself uses the jplayer library, which falls back to Flash) the real solution is for the W3C to work with app and browser developers to create a good standard that everyone can follow.

  • CC:What does the future hold for HTML5? Is it the future of browser gaming, and would this be a good thing?

    SG: In the short term, there'll be a lot of showpiece games (such as "Cut The Rope") used as marketing and promotional vehicles for existing IP and browser technology. This is likely to continue for some time, since many publishers are concerned about having their source code visible to anyone that knows how to hit Ctrl+U. (Most JS code is obfuscated, but the misconception remains.)

    The zero-cost barrier to entry means that new IP will soon come, probably from indie devs, but the problems inherent in charging for web content will mean it'll usually be used as a stepping stone to other paid product. Either games-as-a-service, a mobile version, or as a developers' calling card. I see parallels here with open source in the 90's, compared to now.

    I think it would be oversell to say that it's the future of browser gaming, but it is a good first step on the road to products with a homogeneous game state - that is, the game you play on your mobile can be continued on your desktop, and also your console, with the save files being stored in the cloud, and transfered to the appropriate device when you resume the game.

    Having a homogeneous game state is a good thing, and since HTML5 is necessary to facilitate that, I therefore consider HTML5 gaming to be a good thing.

  • CC: What would you recommend, Flash or HTML5? And why?

    SG: It would depend on what you are trying to develop, and how you're wanting to monetize. But HTML5 is here, and is not going away, so I do think that if you're not experimenting with HTML5 games in 2012, you will lose out in 2013.

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