Next-gen gaming in browsers might be closer than everyone thinks, based on the latest demo of Unreal Engine 4 running in Firefox at near native speeds.
The term "browser game" used to be employed in a derisive manner, referring to badly designed creations that used text and pictures to deliver their schematic gameplay, or to weak "proper" games that would be better left under lock and key than unleashed into the wild.
Browser games started gaining popularity especially because they were free to play and were designed to only take a small amount of time per play session. As time passed, they evolved from the equivalent of MUDs and started adding various embellishing elements, and then even incorporating primitive graphical engines.
There currently are countless games that are playable entirely in browsers, from cartoonish hack-and-slash games to complex massively multiplayer online role-playing games played by users all around the world every day.
Epic's demo of Unreal Engine 4, running in Firefox with no plugins, shows that the future of gaming is already here. The video shows Epic's Soul and Swing Ninja, pointing out to the robust nature of the engine and the vast array of content it is able to deploy.
"This technology has reached a point where games users can jump into via a Web link are now almost indistinguishable from ones they might have had to wait to download and install. Using Emscripten to cross-compile C and C++ into asm.js, developers can run their games at near-native speeds, so they can approach the Web as they would any other platform," explained Brendan Eich, CTO and SVP of Engineering at Mozilla.
The browser-based market has always been a sort of dark alley, only being regarded as a background niche for casual and social titles, rather than a full-fledged deployment platform, and this looks like the perfect time for it to gain some traction.
Especially since browser games are usually free to play and don't require any client software to be installed, except for a compatible browser and sometimes a browser plug-in, as such being extremely accessible and offering a completely portable experience, unlike most games that require a dedicated machine or disc in order to properly function.