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Taking the App out of Apple

March 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm / by

John Denton kicks the hornet’s nest with ubiquitous trolling headline ;)

Of course we love apps really! We make them after all so what the hell, right?! What I want to talk about here is the emergent online landscape where it’s now possible to produce genuinely high quality mobile titles that run in-browser and by doing so rather conveniently sidestep the whole App submission process entirely, whether Apple’s or anyone else’s!

It’s like Flash sites all over again! Whoo! They were great fun to make, and easy to release! Except this time we’ve already learned that people really don’t want that intro animation…

We recently released our Open Source javascript 2D rendering engine called Pixi.js Yes, there are lots of these engines about at the moment! The big deal with Pixi is that whilst made to harness the power of webGL, it has the key feature that it falls back to canvas when webGL isn’t available. This is a huge thing as it means that content authored with Pixi can easily be made to work on virtually all browsers but most importantly – work in iOS (and other mobile) browsers.

We’re really excited with what we’ve been able to pull off with pixi.js and think that we’re on to a genuinely viable alternate to the existing ‘packaged app’ model for rich, interactive creation in mobile browsers.

AppAppleBig

Before any more yap, let’s go hands-on with a couple of examples. Of course the big deal is that these titles will run in pretty much ANY browser but in this context we’re really talking about tablet & mobile. To kick off we made Run Pixie Run which was a proof of concept game demo.

Following on from that we’ve just released our first commercial application for Pixi.js – a game for the new single Fight For Everyone by The Leisure Society. This title definitely starts getting closer to this concept of an App-less app, and when saved to your homepage looks and behaves almost indistinguishably from a ‘real’ app. Sure, there’s more to be done (working offline will be the next feature) but it’s a good example as to how close this new model is.

Our magical vision of a truly platform agnostic world is right there on the horizon!

Obviously there are always limitations and at present the biggest one for us is getting the balance of visual fidelity to performance right. Let’s not beat about the bush – the better your mobile device, the better the performance, but that’s nothing new. And of course, with each iteration of new tech, the burdens are lessened.

One nice trick Pixi has is a CPU load test to determine what level of performance your device can achieve. This is crucial considering the super-wide spectrum of platforms we can deliver to. Of course it’s kinda cool to have the same content run on a modest smartphone right up to a big beasty desktop rig, but we wanted to do more than just that.

The Pixi load test means that not only can we now offer progressive enhancement with layout and features, but we can also do the same for performance and visual FX! So if we sniff out a webGL powerhouse you’ll get served up the full-fat, multi parallax HD version, and if your device isn’t so happy we can scale back the bells and whistles BUT retain the core experience.

It’s a simple example, but try Run Pixie Run on a couple of generations old Android and you see that parallaxing is disabled and frames rate is throttled back to 30fps. iPhone 5 on the other hand seems to be impervious to anything and churns out 60fps with all the paras, fully… laxing…

But for now we’re pretty stoked with what we’re seeing on our phones and other devices and the next steps will be some more beefy webGL additions that will see displacements mapping, bendy shaders and whatever other treats we can throw in the pot.

And tentacles. You’ll also be seeing tentacles. (good, honest, clean none-manga ones however)

As for the trolling attention seeking title? Well, apps are here to stay, but what we’re really excited about is the prospect of delivering amazing interactive experiences without the need to pass through third party vetting and approval delays.

Once again, creative is current.

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4 Comments

  1. JDavis says:

    Love the work you guys are doing! Top notch framework and the canvas fallback is a good move.

    Didn’t know about the CPU load test, thats pretty clever.

  2. John Denton says:

    Cheers! Yes, it’s early days of course and there’s lots of kinks to be ironed out, but in-browser gaming and interactive content can only get better from here on in!

    The load test could of course also be used for more information driven sites simply to find out how capable a device is before delivering big image / video loads.

  3. wouter says:

    Hi, following a lot of nice projects lately. like live coding, playscript. This has some great potential either. I would love to see webgl eneabled on ios soon.
    thanks for this great framework. i’ll be exploring this.

    cheers.

    • John Denton says:

      Yes, webGL is ever more tantalising for iOS now that it features in iAds. In theory its implementation into iOS Safari would be quite straight forward. I guess we’re still at the mercy of Apple on that one!

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