You may recall a previous blog post I made about games using AJAX. Web pages with the ability to read and write to databases via XML and update the display without reloading allow for the possibility of games that work in any web browser without plug-ins or large bandwidth consumption. But the games would still be limited to what you can draw using CSS and HTML. Thanks to the new canvas element in the newest versions of Firefox and Safari this is no longer a limitation.
As a proof of concept for this idea I have created a terrible terrible demo. It’s really simple and almost embarassing, but that’s what you get with less than an hour of work. I only tested it in Firefox 1.5, but it should theoretically work in any browser that supports XMLHttpRequest and canvas. There are two links and a canvas. If you click a link, the square with the coordinates it represents will turn black. This isn’t anything new, except that behind the scenes those coordinates are being read from XML data. If you replace that static XML data with a web application and a relational database then you’re playing with power.
Maybe the demo will be better by the time you read this. I’m going to keep working on it as a platform for creating games that utilize grids. Tile-laying games like Tigris and Euphrates and strategy games like Dungeons and Dragons combat are top contenders. All that we have to do now is expand the canvas to have real 3d drawing power with the help of the GPU.
What are the long term implications of this technology? The most obvious thing I see is another nail in the coffin of Microsoft. Looking for the reason? PC Gaming is one of the main reasons pepople still run Windows. If all the software is web-based then Firefox becomes the OS and Linux/OSX/Windows doesn’t matter. If we can make a 3d, or even a 2d MMO that works in Firefox regardless of platform we can make a killing. Even people running old versions of BSD would be able to play the game just fine. There are more PCs than consoles out there. Firefox’s popularity is growing daily. A quality game built on this platform could easily overtake the great World of Warcraft because the barrier to entry is so small. To get into most MMOs you have to install software and have sufficient 3d hardware. Signing up for this MMO would be no harder than registering for a forum on the web.
I’m going to talk about this tonight on GeekNights.