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New browser tech lets games download, play without plug-ins

Monster Madness Online now available for in-browser testing

A new technology created by Mozilla will allow developers to make their games playable directly on the web, with no need for extra plug-ins.

Monster Madness Online, from Dungeon Defenders developer Trendy Entertainment and its subsidiary Nom Nom Games, is the first game to use 'asm.js' to run straight from any modern browser. The game is available for testing until December 19 on its website, after which it will release in May 2014.

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Though engines like Unity already allow for complex games to be played in-browser, Trendy Chief Technology Officer Jeremy Stieglitz told CVG that, in his team's experience, as much as three-quarters of a game's potential audience loses interest if they must install a plug-in before playing.

"It appears most casual web players are not thrilled at the prospect of installing a third party plug-in that they may know nothing about," Stieglitz said. "[Asm.js] also supports more operating system platforms than the Unity web plug-in, such as Linux."

Since asm.js converts C++ into browser-friendly JavaScript, it opens up a world of tools for creators beyond HTML5 engines and Unity/proprietary plug-ins.

"This provides options for proprietary game engines to easily run on the web, and given that a lot of indie games do use in-house tech, I think that this really provides every indie with the viable option of making their game - whether high-end or low-end - into a web game if they want to reach more players that way. Especially with the gradual decline of Flash as a viable browser game platform, this will be really important to the future of web games," said Stieglitz.

Users will even be able to save game assets permanently using IndexedDB, another new piece of browser technology. This can cut down on the long load times endemic to web games.

That said, it will still be a while before games like Skyrim or Crysis 3 will be viable on browsers. Stieglitz said games using asm.js run at about 40 to 50 percent of native performance, whereas hardware-intensive games need closer to 100 percent. Until then, less-intense games like Batman: Arkham Asylum or Gone Home could be good candidates to run in-browser on an average gaming computer, suggested Stieglitz.

Mozilla also collaborated with Epic to bring its Epic Citadel tech demo to browsers in May.

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