The Game Developers Conference is under way in San Francisco, so it's no wonder that plenty of companies are making announcements around this time. But among the usual players, you'll find some new ones as well, notably Google and Facebook.Google has been pushing for gaming quite a lot recently, no wonder with two big platforms for games, Android and Chrome.
With Android, things are tried and tested, you get a set of APIs, access to the GPU and so on, a fairly standard platform.
Where things get interesting is with the web and the web technologies. On the one hand, Google is working on several standard technologies, part of HTML5 or complimenting it, things like HMTL5 Canvas, WebGL, Web RTC and the Web Audio API.
On the other hand, Google is working on the pseudo-proprietary Native Client, a technology that enables web apps to run as fast as native ones which is only supported by Chrome, for now.
It's important to make the distinction between web apps and web apps. Web apps can mean applications built with standard web technologies, HTML5, WebGL and company which may be hosted online but may also be "installed" locally, for example a Chrome app.
At the same time, web apps can mean applications that are run from the cloud or have a cloud component, but are built with C/C++ as is the case for Native Client apps. It gets even blurrier as these apps can run completely offline, again by "installing" them in Chrome.
Google is playing on both fields and it probably makes sense to. While HTML5 is always evolving, it's not yet ready for games. APIs such as Gamepad, Mouse Lock and Fullscreen, which are supported by Chrome and other browsers to varying degrees, are changing that, but it's still early.
Native Client is even younger than HTML5, but since it enables developers to reuse their C/C++ code, building games on top of Native Client is significantly easier. What's more, middleware BlitzTech Gaming engine and the Havok Physics Engine is also becoming available for Native Client, Google announced, expanding the possibilities for developers.
Google will be talking about all of this throughout GDC, but a recent blog post provides an overview of what to expect.