A few weeks ago I wrote about the first Mozilla HTML5 games work week in Toronto and why it is important. In this post I summarise the week’s events and highlight some key observations.
Before I start I should point out that I won’t be making any dramatic announcements from Mozilla or going into too much detail about some of the decisions that were made during the work week. While some important discussions and decisions did occur, some aren’t quite ready to be made public yet. However, we will be posting specifically about some of these things in the coming weeks so keep an eye open. The purpose of this post is to give an overview of the week’s events and some of the discussions that were made.
So with that out of the way, let’s crack on.
Why a HTML5 games work week?
To create a vision we need to find out who within the Mozilla community is actually interested in games and how we can work together to lay the path towards the future. The HTML5 games work week was set up to start the ball rolling. It’s safe to say that Mozilla cares a lot about games and this work week is just the beginning.
Aside from the internal interest and passion to build games, there are an increasing number of HTML5 games being released in the Web community each and every week. This shows that there is desire for these types of games and for browsers to work out how to support them.
It’s also clear that there are areas of improvement that need to be addressed within all browsers so that HTML5 games can flourish in the future. The point of the work week has been to bring all interested parties together in one place to make stuff happen and actually make decisions about how to address these issues.
From another perspective, the work week gave Mozilla the chance to listen to external developers and hear about the issues they are experiencing in the real world of HTML5 game development. We don’t develop games every day, so it is of absolute importance for us to fully understand the concerns of the people who do. Without this type of feedback we simply won’t be able to make our improvements as useful as they could be.
Who was there?
The work week was split into 2 parts: the first was attended by Mozilla staff and key Mozilla contributors, and the second included some invited external guests.
It was clear from the beginning that we had a whole bunch of people within Mozilla who were passionate about games and wanted to see us commit to them. I already knew a handful of these people, but I had absolutely no idea that so many Mozillians from so many different areas of the organisation were so interested. It great to see all those people in one (big) room working together to make awesome stuff happen.
The invited guests for the second part of the work week included developers from game studios like EA, as well as individual developers who have proven themselves experts in specific technologies, like WebGL. We worked with these guests to hear about issues from the guys dealing with this stuff every single day. It was absolutely fascinating to hear their concerns and work with them to find ways of improving the situation for games on the Web.
What was discussed?
Overall, both the internal Mozilla staff and invited guests covered the following areas and many more (in no particular order):
- Looking into the issue of mobile and how its requirements differ from those on the desktop
- Working out what tools are needed for authoring HTML5 games
- Graphics, specifically Canvas and WebGL
- Delving into the issues surrounding DRM and the protection of assets
- NaCl and Emscripten as methods of porting existing games to the Web
- Being clear about who exactly wants HTML5 games
- Looking at what dev tools are required to ease the debugging of games
- Learning the business model behind games from those with years of experience in this area
- Working out how to better engage with the game development community
- Producing a roadmap for the Firefox platform specifically related to games
- Discussing the situation with asset management and how it can be solved
- Uncovering any new WebAPIs that might become necessary
- Delving deep into common audio issues and looking at its future
- Hearing how high-precision timers would be used by game developers
- Learning about WebRTC and how it will provide the functionality for peer-to-peer communication
- Looking at how games tie into the Mozilla Marketplace and the questions that Mozilla needs to answer in this area
All in all we covered a huge amount of stuff in the space of just a few days. I won’t list each and every decision that was made but rest assured that you’ll be hearing about them in the near-future as they get finalised and released.
In the meantime, please check out the Are We Fun Yet site as it’s where you’ll be able to keep tabs on the status of game-related technology within Mozilla. There are also some links to the detailed feedback and notes taken during this work week.
External demos and code review
During the final 2 days of the work week we saw demos from our external guests and worked with them to review specific issues that they have been experiencing in Firefox.
As a result of these demos and code reviews, issues have been pinned down, test-cases written, and in some cases even fixes produced there and then. It was really a very useful aspect of the work week that we clearly need to explore further in the future.
So, what does that future look like for Mozilla and game development? Frankly, very bright indeed. There is so much interest and desire within Mozilla to further the Web as a platform for games. It’s clear that we have the knowledge and resources, we just need to work out how best to apply them.
While we work on refining our position on games and exactly how we’re going to tackle them, there are a few things that I can say for sure about the future.
The first is that we’re dedicated to helping developers learn how to use Web technologies, that’s the reason why MDN and this blog exist. We’ve started to work on ways to help developers learn how to use Web technologies to create games. We’re not quite there yet but it’s a priority.
You’ll also see games as a focus on this year’s Mozilla Festival. We’re refining the program but we’re working on tying in elements like the successful Game On competition that we ran last year.
Documenting the game-related decisions and discussions within Mozilla is key, and it is something that we’re working on improving. For now the best place to keep up to date is this blog, the #games channel on irc.mozilla.org, and the HTML5 games page on the Mozilla wiki.
With recent announcements it’s clear that Boot to Gecko (B2G) and games will be an area that Mozilla and the developer community will explore in the near future. It will be interesting to see what people do with a mobile platform as open and hackable as B2G.
I could go on but it’s safe to say that there is a whole bunch of stuff happening around games at Mozilla, it’s an exciting time indeed. No doubt we’ll have another work week in the coming months to take stock and take more steps in the right direction.