Web Gaming Has a Future, It Is Just Not In Your Browser

By Oliver Castaneda // 1-30-2019
A few years ago, I wrote an article asking “Who Killed the Web Game?” I put the blame squarely on Apple and Steve Jobs for launching an assault on Flash that would ultimately lead to its eradication from browsers. Sure, Flash had its issues, but it was easy enough for a teenager to be productive with, and communities built around Flash gaming were prolific and unabashedly weird (I have a lot of nostalgia for games about fish, stick figures, helicopters, escape rooms and morphing planetary puzzles). Websites like Newgrounds and Albinoblacksheep offered endless content from amateur devs that provided my generation much needed entertainment in highschool, and inspired me to write my first viral game, which helped me launch a career in software engineering and game development.
That’s all history now, and in its place, we now have the powerful but decidedly underutilized HTML5. I’m actually a huge fan of HTML5 and WebGL, and spent a few months working on a 3D puzzle game called rotopo to try out the technology. Still, for a variety of reasons ranging from inability to monetize, difficulty to coordinate between so many different languages (Front-end javascript, back-end anything, databases, CSS, HTML… ), lack of development tools, arguably lackluster performance, not to mention confusing discrepencies between browsers and ever-changing security policies, the content just isn’t being made, users are not impressed, and web gaming is about as dead as its ever been.
But there’s a glimmer of hope in a new project called Castle to keep the dream of the web game alive, albeit in a decidedly new form. After all, who wouldn’t want the benefits of quick loading times, hyperlinking, and the massive distribution potential and social engagement that comes with the web?
Overall I became productive in Lua + Love 2D much sooner than I expected and after a few weeks, shipped my first game on the platform, GemZen, a falling-blocks game with a few twists and single player and multiplayer modes. Download the Castle app for free from their website if you want to play GemZen on PC or Mac. You can then click here in your browser to launch the game automatically. Mobile versions are coming soon. You can also try your hand at making a game in Castle now. Full disclosure, I’m being contracted by the company to get some preliminary content out the door, but I’m largely doing so because I share in their long term vision for a modern game sharing platform.
Specifically, the folks behind Castle are excited about a few central features that they think can recapture the spirit of those pioneering web game with some additional improvements. For one, they hope to encourage a community of modders, hackers and amateur developers to learn from and remix each others’ games, as creaters are encouraged to open-source their code, while still exploring revenue-sharing and subscription monetization schemes so that talented people can get rewarded for their hard work. Additionally, they hope to connect content creators with their audiences with streaming and analytics so that developers can the feedback they need.
And perhaps most excticingly, Castle is being developed from the ground up with multiplayer in mind to make diving into multiplayer game programming easy for beginners, or for anyone who just wants to focus on gameplay and art design without getting bogged down by netcode and server hosting. I’ll be working closely with the Castle team to make this dream a reality and I’m pretty excited to see what weird and wonderful projects creators will build with these tools.