開發者說:HTML5將會成爲下一個主流遊戲平臺

原作者:Raul Otaolea 譯者:Willow Wu

Raul Otaolea是網頁平臺WiMi5的合作創始人和CEO。

在之前的文章中,我回顧了一下前10年網頁技術領域的里程碑式進展。

目的就是來評估這些技術的成熟度,嘗試着預測如果它要演化爲遊戲平臺的話,未來幾年要怎麼發展。

這一次,我打算來談談我個人是如何看待HTML5的未來。顯然,這樣做有點不自量力,但我相信時間會證明我的對錯。但是對我來說它感覺像是個建構性活動,好吧,把自己當做是先知,讓我們一起來看看手中的水晶球能告訴我們什麼。

我把這篇文章分成了4個部分,文中敘述了網頁遊戲行業升級最有可能的走向,還有對其他平臺的產生的影響。

 HTML5 games(from pocketgamer.biz)

HTML5 games(from pocketgamer.biz)

全新的網絡平臺

隨着移動商店逐漸興起,先是App Store,然後是Google Play,一個基於移動平臺的新行業就這樣誕生了,而且衆所周知它發展勢頭正猛。

自那以後,網遊行業就遭受了不小的衝擊,衰落程度都能和移動平臺的增長程度持平了。

雖說二者提供的遊戲類型都很相似,但是手機用戶數量龐大,使用頻率也高,對他們來說新的用戶體驗也很容易就接受了。結果就是大量玩家從網頁平臺轉移到移動平臺。

網頁平臺無法和移動平臺競爭,因爲web標準並不是相當成熟並且它主要面向的是桌面式瀏覽器。

在那段時期,移動平臺遇到的最大阻礙就是它沒辦法像桌面瀏覽器那樣功能強大,意味着無法將網遊植入到移動平臺。爲移動平臺定製的網遊?這個不存在。

但是我們生活在一個無法預測的網絡技術如何發展的時代,如今看來,天平要傾向另外一邊了。

15年過去了,幾乎沒有什麼東西可以做到一成不變,在過去兩年內所有的Web標準技術都更新了。在我看來,這項技術轉變帶來了翻天覆地的變革,個人總結如下:

新標準能夠讓開發人員製作出舊版不可能實現的內容,提升了移動設備本身的性能表現,例如2D、3D效果,外圍設置、專業音效、硬件接入等等。

新標準適用於所有瀏覽器,包括移動版本。這就意味着,開發者們可以製作出在所有設備上都能順利運行的遊戲,對20多億的手機和平板用戶開放了通道,這是歷史上的首次突破。

隨着新標準的出臺,那些非標準的技術,尤其是Flash,這種目前還在遊戲開發中廣泛使用的技術,已經不再是必需品。網頁瀏覽器開發者們已經決定屏蔽那些非標準的內容。這就迫使上千個還在使用Flash做遊戲的網站不得不更新他們的所有作品。

網頁不再侷限於瀏覽器上。多虧了標準實施中的開放性,開發者們可以基於開放源代碼項目(遊戲邦注:例如Chromium, V8, Chakra, JavaScriptCore, SpiderMonkey, NodeJS等等),利用這些Web標準的優勢所在製作app。

因此,我在這一節標題中所用的“新”是個至關重要的特性。現在我們需要擺脫對網遊老印象了,把它們上升到另外一個新類別,它們不再是所謂的二流或者是三流產品。

現在開始,網遊進入一流領域,將會給人們帶來頂級的內容體驗。兼具單人和多人模式,擁有高質量音效和畫面,在所有設備運行順暢,這樣的2D和3D遊戲問世也只是時間問題了。

實際上,主流的網遊站點已經注意到這個變革了,你可以從Kongregate公司的CEO,Emily Greer的近期推文中得知。

HTML5這麼多年來都被認爲是網遊的將來時態,而如今它終於成了現在時。

— Emily Greer (@EmilyG) 3月7日, 2017

另一個重點就是更新網頁的過程有了很大改變。從現在開始,Web標準的更新將會變得更加頻繁,會和技術提升齊頭並進。

不用再等上15年我們就能看到這些新特性了。事實上,新版本已經出現了:HTML5.1, ES7和ES8。這次更新提升了網頁的速度,精簡了體積,因此開發者們能夠製作出更加優秀的遊戲,豐富遊戲的種類。

這個改變也會導致手機應用市場過於擁擠,商家在營銷和宣傳方面投入了很多,用盡各種方法讓玩家接觸到自家的遊戲。

我個人認爲,近期的Web標準升級不僅僅是更新,而更像是一次顛覆性變革,因爲這次的新性能跟之前根本就不在一個等級上。

你不能忽略他們是把15年的軟件研究過程一次搞定啊。這就是爲什麼我說網頁正在轉變爲下一個遊戲平臺,這種想法比以往更加堅定。這是將來一定會發生的事,但是這個新行業現階段還需繼續探索。

如何能讓網頁端流量快速增長,開拓它的跨平臺性能,最大的挑戰就是如何能夠普及手機用戶,讓他們接受在瀏覽器中玩遊戲。

這是個非常重要的瓶頸,因爲就目前來說,要玩遊戲的唯一途徑就是進入商店,搜索找到它,然後下載。實際上,這個過程也體現了手機app的生命週期,還有移動平臺的原生運作方式。這種模式已經在用戶中紮根,形成了習慣,要改變是一件很難的事。

然而,新的應用程序編程接口比如說谷歌的添加到主界面功能,能夠恰當地引導用戶接受改變。這個應用程序編程接口允許頁面向用戶發出詢問,是否想要在手機桌面建立一個快捷方式。

如果用戶同意,那麼系統就會在桌面創建一個和系統自帶圖標類似的圖標,點擊它就會出現全屏式瀏覽器,甚至連網站地址欄都隱藏了,跟普通app沒什麼不同。

因此,用戶體驗跟使用系統自帶的app很相似。我們只能拭目以待,看看其他瀏覽器會不會也這樣。

超級app成爲平臺

Web標準最主要的特徵就是它能跨平臺使用。大家最爲熟知的跨平臺遊戲方法就是通過瀏覽器。然而,這並不是唯一的途徑。

超級app巧妙地利用了網頁的跨平臺特性掀起了一股新潮流。超級app就是普通的app升級演變成他們自己的平臺。意思就是這些超級app可以在應用內安裝其他服務程序,這要由第三方設計。

這種新模式提供的第一批應用服務就是聊天機器人和遊戲。難就難在選擇一個足夠強大、靈活、熱門的技術,能在所有操作系統中運行的,能夠通殺那麼多種設備的技術就是網頁了。

第一批在應用內嵌入HTML5遊戲的通訊app有Telegram, Kik和Messenger,這些遊戲還是由第三方開發。

最有趣的事情是他們這些通訊應用其實是利用遊戲來增加用戶參與率。

令人無法忽視的是,這三個超級app隨便挑出一個每個月都有20多億的用戶在使用。這樣開發者們的遊戲就有走紅的機會,利用這些app的社交功能比如向朋友發起挑戰,分享成就,排名等等讓更多人知道這遊戲。

另一方面,這些通訊應用的用戶發現在app內直接就可以玩遊戲,這是一種全新的用戶體驗。由因及果,這樣就有了一種雙贏的局面,app,開發團隊還有用戶,大家都有受益。

我們需要密切關注這幾個超級app,同時也要留心其他超級app,看看它們是否會再次聚合成另一個遊戲平臺。

App成爲遊戲接口(遊戲邦注:當然大部分的超級應用都沒做好成爲入口的工作)

還有另一種有趣的趨勢就是利用這些超級app的相同特徵,但是聚焦的部分有所不同,這些人關注的是它能成爲遊戲接入口。

在HTML5中開發遊戲時,這些app可以混合遊戲的原有特性。就像超級app一樣,這些web技術能讓開發人員對他的所有作品進行動態更新,而且速度非常快,也不用經過手機商店的一系列的審覈。

另外一個優勢就是由於我們製作的是網頁內容,在那些傳統的網站上也可以提供,可以在超級app中發佈,甚至也可以把他們的app提供給第三方發行,自成一個超級app。

這樣做的話,他們就能充分利用大多數渠道。舉個最好的例子,Gamee,它剛剛又完成了一輪集資,資金合計達220萬美元。

這個類型裏還有兩家有趣的新興公司,Blackstorm和PlatoApp,但是他們關注點不同。

Blackstorm的首輪集資達到3300萬美元,他們打算利用這筆資金把自己打造成app stores的替代平臺。EverWing,這個公司也是Messenger選擇的首批HTML5遊戲開發者之一。

大概就在一週以前,我們聽到了消息,有一家名爲RGames的新公司成立了,而且他們還聯手了日本巨頭遊戲公司Rakuten。其目的就是給日本,乃至整個亞洲市場提供一個HTML5遊戲的入口。

類似的,PlatoApp正在策劃將通訊app和經典的聯機遊戲結合起來。儘管他們首輪融資只有3百萬美元,但是帶領他們的也是一個巨頭公司:雅虎。遊戲這個東西,肯定是以趣味爲目的。

在我看來,之後我們將會看到越來越多采用這種方法的新興公司崛地而起,他們充分利用了web技術當下所提供的選項,把這些優勢融入到遊戲中。

混合平臺

電子遊戲平臺由三個主要部分組成:一個自帶操作系統的設備來運行遊戲,一個可以繼續開發它的工具,還有一個可以分銷的市場。

在網頁平臺,由於它的開放性,還沒有任何一個程序可以同時提供這三個元素,但是這樣也在行業內提供了更多的機會。

如此一來,網頁就不會僅僅侷限在一種開發工具上了,而是擁有更多選擇。市場也不是隻有一個,還有很多。而且它們也不是隻限於某一種類型的設備或者某一類操作系統,而是全部通用。

另外,它不像其他平臺,一定是基於設備或者是操作系統,例如Xbox, PlayStation, Switch,手機上的安卓和iOS,網頁不需要針對特定的設備或者操作系統,但是需要基於web標準制作。

換句話說,它是一個軟件平臺,最常見的網頁瀏覽器。然而,就像我之前所說的,科技迭代更新很快的,瀏覽器只是衆多貫徹這種標準的例子之一。

這種特意設計以適應不同設備、不同操作系統的技術也在爲其他平臺搭建了橋樑。

由此,不僅僅是能增加平臺的靈活性,也能讓世界範圍內的更多用戶參與進來。實際上,我認爲所有人都會想要進入這個平臺。而且他們會通過以下三種技術進入:

Emscripten

它支持用C++語言開發電子遊戲,還有其他可以移植到JavaScript的語言。實際上,它轉換成了JavaScript的子集,稱爲asm。現實中有很多運用這種技術的例子。

WebAssembly

雖然還處於開發階段,但是它是網遊製作史上的一座里程碑。可以這麼說,WebAssembly是Emscripten的升級版本。

而且,它也能讓用其它編程語言開發的遊戲移植到WebAssembly,開發出通用的高度優化模塊。瀏覽器將會安全地運行WebAssembly,性能會接近原生版。

所有的專業遊戲引擎,例如Unity, Unreal等等,已經在着手把他們的遊戲輸出到WebAssembly。這也是爲什麼說這些新類型的網遊在其他平臺也會和它們的原生同胞融洽相處的原因。

相同的遊戲在不同平臺上會有什麼發展,還有不同營銷團隊針對不同平臺會怎樣設計無線自組網(ad hoc),這都是很有意思的。由於網絡營銷的成本並不高,我個人認爲網遊的勢頭在未來幾年會越來越好。

混合模式移動應用

這類app實際上是利用僞瀏覽器(pseudo-browser)運行遊戲。App的外觀和用戶體驗跟傳統app是完全一樣的,在大多數時候它們之間難以區分。很多公司都在用這種方式,不僅僅只應用在遊戲中,各種類型的app也有用到,因爲它能夠幫助這些應用更順利地移植到其他平臺上。

不要忘記這些,還有網絡已經向世人展現了一個跨設備式平臺,顯然,在不久的將來,網頁的概念不會再侷限於電腦桌面式瀏覽器,會對所有類型的瀏覽器開放,包括那些在移動平臺、電視端還有其他設備上的。

其他平臺的遊戲能夠一鍵移植到網頁端,這樣就會增加市場的競爭性,衝擊網頁的優勢,導致一個遊戲平臺走向衰敗。

網頁變成大衆目標平臺,這種時代會來臨的;到時候的流程會是先開發手遊然後把它移植到網頁上,舉個例子:設計遊戲的時候,從一開始就要考慮到這遊戲會移植到移動端和網頁端。

結論

不要忘記上訴所講的內容,毫無疑問,在接下來的幾年我們將會看到:開發者們利用這種對所有設備通用的web技術來製作遊戲;遊戲會嵌入到app內;遊戲的目標app是通訊類應用;用其它編程語言開發遊戲然後植入到網頁端,這些現象統統都會一起出現。它們都是網頁遊戲。

在短時間內我們將會見證許多變革,這會對電子遊戲的整個行業產生有趣的影響。

可以確定的是網頁端會成爲下一個遊戲平臺,一個全新的特殊平臺,和那些現有的平臺都不同,網頁端利用了它們的潛能同時也與它們相輔相成。

這樣豈不美哉?

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Raul Otaolea is Co-Founder and CEO of web platform WiMi5.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

In a previous article, I went over the most relevant advances in the area of web technologies of the last decade.

The objective was to measure the level of maturity of these technologies, to look at them from the perspective of trying to predict how the web will evolve as a gaming platform in the next few years.

On this occasion, I’m going to talk about my view of the future. Obviously, this is a bit daring on my part, and time will prove me right or wrong. However, it seems like a constructive activity to me, so with crystal ball in hand, here I go.

I’ve divided this article into four sections, which represent the most important possibilities for revolutionising the web game industry, as well as the implications of this for other platforms.

New web platform

With the opening of mobile stores, first the App Store and then Google Play, a new industry was created, based on the mobile platform, which we all know has grown exponentially.

Since then, web games have suffered a considerable decline that parallels the growth of the mobile platform.

With a similar offer in terms of type of games, mobiles, with their massive deployment and constant use, can offer a new user experience that is incredibly accessible. The result has been a substantial migration of players from the web to mobile devices.

The web, as a platform, couldn’t compete with mobiles, since web standards were still very immature and aimed mainly at desktop browsers.

The biggest obstacle in that time period was that mobile browsers didn’t have the same abilities that desktop browsers did, meaning it wasn’t possible to develop web games. Web games for the mobile simply didn’t exist.

Now, however, we’re living in an unprecedented time in the history of the web, which looks like it might change the balance.

After 15 years of little to no evolution, practically all standard technologies that make up the web have been updated in the last two years. In my opinion, this technological transition is having a radical impact, which I summarise below:

The new standards allow for the creation of content that was impossible with the older versions, rivaling in capacity and performance what mobiles offer natively (2D, 3D, peripherals, professional sound, access to hardware, etc.).

The standards are applied to all browsers, including mobile versions. This means that, for the first time in history, it’s possible to develop video games that work on all devices, opening access to more than two billion mobiles and tablets.

With the new standards, non-standard technologies, especially Flash, which were in massive use up to now in video game development, are no longer necessary. Web browser developers have decided to block non-standard content. This is forcing thousands of websites still running Flash games to update their entire portfolio.

The web transcends browsers. Thanks to the open nature of the implementation of standards, it’s possible to develop solutions based on open-source code projects (Chromium, V8, Chakra, JavaScriptCore, SpiderMonkey, NodeJS, etc.), which allows apps that exploit the advantages of these web standards to be created.

Therefore, the word “new” that I used in the title of this section is of vital importance. We are now in a position to re-imagine web games, hoisting them up into a new category, leaving behind the belief that they can only be second or third-rate products.

From now on, web games will be first-class citizens that offer top-quality content. It’s only a matter of time before we see 2D and 3D games, in single-player and multiplayer, with high quality sound and graphics, working smoothly on all devices.

In fact, the main web game sites are already noticing this change, as can be seen in a recent tweet from Emily Greer, the CEO of Kongregate.

After years of being the future of browser games, HTML5 is finally the present. pic.twitter.com/EPwnxytwBj

— Emily Greer (@EmilyG) March 7, 2017

Another relevant aspect is that the process of updating the web has radically changed. From now on, updates to web standards will be much more frequent, and will parallel the advancement of technology.

No longer will we have to wait 15 years to see new features. In fact, the next versions are already popping up: HTML5.1, ES7, ES8. This ensures a much more agile evolution of the web, and therefore more possibilities to create better and different types of games.

This change is also arriving in a moment of severe overcrowding on mobile app stores, where large investments in marketing and publicity are needed in order to have any kind of visibility and reach users.

My opinion is that the recent evolution of web standards isn’t just a mere update, but rather a disruptive change, since it offers new capabilities that are in a completely different order of magnitude.

You have to keep in mind that they’re cramming 15 years of software progress in at once. That’s why my view, now more than ever, is that the web is turning into the next gaming platform, and that it will, as such, open up a new industry that’s still to be explored.

The main challenge for the web to experience exponential growth and exploit its multi-platform capability is for mobile users to willingly accept playing on a browser.

This is an important bottleneck, because up to now, the only way to play a video game was to go to the store, find it and download it. In fact, this process represented the life cycle of the app, and the native way of working in the mobile platform. This model has created a habit in users that will be hard to modify.

However, new APIs like Google’s Add to Homescreen are channeled right at proposing an alternative. This API allows a web page to ask the user if they’d like to create a shortcut on the mobile desktop.

If the user agrees to do so, an icon, indistinguishable from that of a classic app’s icon, will be created, and when tapped, the icon will open the browser in full screen, even hiding the browser’s address bar, again making it indistinguishable from an app.

So, the user’s experience will be very similar to that when using a native app. We’ll have to wait and see if other browsers implement this feature.

Super-apps as platforms

The most important feature of web standards is their multi-platform nature. The most obvious way of consuming multi-platform video games is the browser. However, it’s not the only one.

Super-apps are creating a new trend that intelligently exploits the multi-platform nature of the web. Super-apps are normal apps that have evolved into becoming their own platforms. This means that they offer the possibility of installing other services, designed by third-parties, in the app itself.

The first services offered in this new mode were bots and video games. The challenge was to select a sufficiently powerful, flexible, and popular technology that would work on all operating systems, and obviously, the best-adapted technology to working on a large number devices is the web.

The first super-apps to offer HTML5 games developed by third-parties and embedded in their platform were messaging apps Telegram, Kik and Messenger.

The most interesting thing about these messaging apps is that they’re actually social networks that use video games as a tool for increasing user engagement.

You have to keep in mind that between these three super-apps, there are more than two billion monthly users. This allows developers to get the chance to have their games go viral, exploiting the social characteristics of these apps like challenging friends, sharing achievements, creating rankings, etc.

On the other hand, messaging app users find an instant entertainment option without having to leave the app, which is a new user experience. A priori, this is a win-win situation, because the app, the developer community, and finally users all benefit.

We’ll have to keep a close eye on the evolution of these and other super-apps to see if they can consolidate as yet another gaming platform.

Apps as game portals

Another interesting trend that is exploiting the same feature as super-apps, but with a different focus, is that of apps that act as game portals.

These are apps that can mix native features with games developed in HTML5. Like super-apps, web technologies allow them to update their game portfolio dynamically and instantaneously, that is, without having to go through all the approval steps in stores.

Another advantage is that since we’re dealing with web content, they can also offer the same games via conventional websites, publish them in super-apps, or even turn themselves into super-apps by offering their app to third-parties for publishing.

This way, they can make the most of all channels. An excellent example of this type of app is Gamee, which just raised another round of financing totaling $2.2 million.

Also in this category, but with different focuses, are two other interesting startups: Blackstorm and PlatoApp.

Blackstorm raised $33 million in their first round of financing, which they’re going to use to try to become the alternative to app stores. The company has also been one of those chosen to create one of the first HTML5 games for Messenger, called EverWing.

And just a week ago, we heard about the opening of a company called RGames along with Japanese giant Rakuten. The goal is to launch an HTML5 video games portal for the Japanese and Asian markets.

Similarly, PlatoApp is proposing a combination between a messaging app and classic multiplayer games. Although their first round of financing raised a more modest $3 million, Plato is led by the creators of Yahoo! Games, which will certainly lead to interesting proposals.

My opinion is that we’ll soon see more startups based on this approach, as they can make the most of all the options that web technologies currently offer when it comes to video games.

Hybridisation of platforms

Video game platforms are made up of three pillars: a device with an operating system that runs the game, a tool to develop it with, and a marketplace to distribute it.

In the web platform, thanks to its open nature, there isn’t a single entity that offers these three elements, but rather delegates these roles to the industry.

This way, the web doesn’t have one development tool, but rather many. There isn’t just one marketplace, but many. And they’re not limited to one type of device and one operating system, but rather they can work on all of them.

Plus, unlike other platforms whose main axis is a device and/or operating system like Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, Android and iOS on mobiles, the web doesn’t have a destined device/operating system combo, but rather an implementation of the standard.

That is to say, it’s a software platform, most commonly a web browser. However, as I commented earlier, this is changing quickly, and the browser is just one of the many examples of the implementation of this standard.

This technology, expressly designed to adapt to many devices and operating systems with different characteristics, is also building bridges to other platforms.

With this, not only is the platform more flexible, but it’s also evolving to a platform where the whole world can be. In fact, my opinion is that it’s a platform where everyone will want to be. And they’ll do so by using three technologies:

Emscripten

This allows video games developed in C++ and other languages to be ported to JavaScript. Actually, it translates it to a subset of JavaScript called asm. There are many examples out there of the use of this technology.

WebAssembly

This is still in development, but it represents a milestone in the production of web games. We could say that WebAssembly is the optimised and official evolution of Emscripten.

It also lets games developed in other programming languages to be ported to WebAssembly, and develop general purpose highly optimised modules. Browsers will be able to run WebAssembly safely and with a performance that is near native.

All the professional game tools, such as Unity, Unreal, etc., are already working to be able to export their games to WebAssembly. That is why this will mean the launch of a new category of web games, which will coexist with their native brethren on other platforms.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how the same game will evolve on different platforms, with different marketing campaigns designed ad hoc for each platform. Since web marketing is so much more affordable that native platforms, my opinion is that the presence of web games will grow well in the next few years.

Hybrid apps

These are apps that actually include a pseudo-browser that runs the game. The appearance and the user’s experience is the same as a conventional app, making them indistinguishable from conventional apps most of the time. Many companies are taking this approach, not just for games, but also for all types of apps, because it allows them to port them easily to other platforms.

Bearing all this in mind, and that the web already represents a multi-device platform, it’s clear that soon, the concept of web will transcend the desktop browser and open up to include all browsers, including those on mobiles, televisions and other devices.

The fact that games on other platforms can be ported to the web with one click will make the rivalries and the lack of confidence of the web as a gaming platform diminish.

The time will come when the web is a normal target platform; the process will go from developing a mobile game and porting it to the web, to design a game taking into account from scratch that it will be ported to the mobile and the web, for example.

Conclusion

Keeping all the above in mind, it’s clear that in the next few years, we’re going to see video games developed with web technologies designed for browser for all devices; video games embedded in apps; video games aimed at messaging apps; and video games developed in other languages and ported to the web all living together. And they’ll all be web games.

There will be a lot of changes in a short amount of time, and this will have an interesting affect on the video game industry as a whole.

What’s clear is that the web is the next gaming platform, a new and special platform, different to the existing ones, but which leverages their potential and at the same time complements them.

Isn’t it wonderful?(source:pocketgamer.biz