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Mozilla Teams Up With Epic Games to Make Unreal Engine 3 Browser-Friendly

Posted by on May 3, 2013 at 2:09 pm
UE3 FireFox Header IMAGE

Real-Time reflections in your browser, YO!

It’s natural that once you create a technology, the next step is to minimize it to a fine point. This would be my guess anyway. Graphics engines like Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 continue to iterate every year or two, leaving us all curious what will be pulled out of their metaphorical technology hat next.

Well, now we’ve got Epic working with Mozilla to port their engine in its entirety into JavaScript. That’s over a million lines of C++ code being compiled into a WebGL-recognized format. That’s right, Epic’s 3rd-generation engine was able to be compiled completely in Java in four days using Mozilla’s latest iteration of Java, labeled asm.js, a so-called “highly optimized subset of JavaScript”, using a compiler called Enscriptem.

Seeing as HTML5 felt like a bust, and even Carmack was pretty dismissive of WebGL, it seems like a rather dubious move on Epic’s part to bring UE3-powered games to your browser, especially when the browser needs to be compatible with both HTML5 and WebGL. Still, I can see what they’re trying to do here, as anyone else may have caught on to this as well.

For starters, Mozilla wants to stay relevant and competitive to other browsers like Chrome, which I’ve been using exclusively since release. It’s a tough market and Flash that tends to own the market on providing top-notch graphical content to people while HTML5 feels like an interesting experiment, or maybe some sort of weird alternative that might produce good web content some day. I won’t risk a guess on that front. I don’t write code for websites professionally, and have no real desire to.

Another fact to consider is that it may become possible for game developers to simply release through a browser, applying updates directly to the game within a local server, rather than sending out patches via a client system or patch download. Such a system would most likely save time and effort in developing compartmentalized packets of data and leave the user free to play the game without hassle.

Of course, with such a concept come dangers, one of which being a server fault that severely undermines a player’s ability to access content. Hey! Remember when Maxis and Ubisoft thought software should be “Always-On”? Yeah, that’s what I mean, except now it’s relegated to a web page error, instead of some stupid pop-up stating that you can’t contact a log-in server or some such stupid and grotesquely overdone nonsense. Oh, and let’s not forget those wonderful advertisements telling you to “Play This Game” to win “Free Merch”. I’m sure the floodgate of abuse for that is just waiting to be let open.

The demo, dubbed Banana Bread, was developed by Mozilla and is an interesting, if glorified tech demo showing off the capabilities of converting Unreal Engine 3 files into Java and accessing them via Web. Oh, the load times can be pretty atrocious at times, and performance lag was prevalent, but I can easily classify those as user side problems. It looks pretty neat for the most part and could have some nice future applications for online games, as Mozilla has stated their new JavaScript will rival native apps, or rather, anything released as a piece of PC gaming software.

If you feel enticed to find out more, and you have the latest version of FireFox installed, you can go see the Epic Games example at www.unrealengine.com/html5 or you can simply look up Mozilla’s Banana Bread demo through your preferred search engine. They’ve talked about support for iOS and Android, so expect some kind of offering there.

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