Akihabara – 8-bit style game library for HTML5

Given all the current Flash vs. HTML5 furore going on at the moment, I thought I’d throw this into the pit and let it smoke:

Akihabara is a set of game libraries that let you create 8-bit/16-bit style games using JavaScript, utilising a small sub-set of HTML5 that is available in most modern browsers. Yes, HTML5, not Flash. The site claims they’ll work across Chrome, Safari, FireFox and Opera. Apparently a benefit of the engine is that they’ll also work on the iPhone, although given that they use the keyboard for movements/jump this claim is a little strange. But this is of course game dependant, and you could easily code a “mouse only” game that the iPhone could cope with.

There are some demo games on the site, which are also the example games in the download. None of them are going to set the world on fire and all are easily re-created in Flash at much higher frame rates. But I have full respect for the developer who created this project, and I’d love to see where it progresses.

The only reason I won’t invest any time in digging deeper is that the example games don’t work on Internet Explorer (and nor does the author claim they will). And like it or not IE is still the major browser of choice. As a result this is confined to “nice curiosity” rather than “contender” for the time being.


Final thoughts: It’s going to be years before HTML5 is a viable platform for building games, but the day will come. Nothing can prevent it. However I firmly believe that Flash will evolve with this, and there is no reason at all why HTML5/JS can’t become a new publishing target for the Flash IDE.

Of course I firmly hope that Adobe will wake-up and give game developers what they’ve been asking for for years from Flash Player itself. The video battle is over Adobe – you started a whole new wave of technology on the web when you pioneered it. But time has moved on and the browsers have caught up. Leave video behind and start empowering us game developers before you lose us too. We are your final real foothold Flash Player has on the web today. Flash games are still the one area where there are no real contenders, but we regularly have to scale back our games because we know Flash Player can’t cope. We’re hitting the limits of your technology, pushing it as hard as it will go. This is a dangerous place to be.

All of your RIA movements are admirable, but they offer nothing that cannot be achieved via many other different options. Unity know game development, and they know game developers. But their plug-in will never gain critical mass.

Support us or lose us Adobe.

Posted on April 30th 2010 at 11:01 am by .
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7 Responses

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  • Jordan
    May 4th 2010 at 8:57 pm

    I disagree. I think the Unity plugin over the years will saturate the market as it becomes one of the defacto programs to use for game development. Unity is only expanding, not shrinking.

  • May 4th 2010 at 10:55 pm

    It is expanding, and I hope it expands quickly and rapidly – because maybe it will get Adobe to shift their arse into gear and give true 3D power to us all. However you only have to look at the incredible number of FP installs. 8 million new installs per day, or something ridiculous like that. It’s a figure Unity will never match while it remains a “game only” plugin (which of course it always will). FP is only so prevalent because of video on the web. YouTube was it’s “killer app”, but it’s a market share no-one can challenge right now.

  • Bosco
    August 20th 2010 at 6:31 pm

    I disagree as well. HTML5 has plenty enough power to develop modern browser-based video games and, with the correct mindset and approach, is actually capable of more powerful features than Flash. Sounds absolutely crazy, right? But seriously… check out the upcoming Aves engine: http://www.dextrose.com/en/projects/aves-engine.

    And as a minor correction, Adobe didn’t pioneer Flash, they only continued to develop it. Macromedia pioneered Flash in 1996 😉

  • August 20th 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Where does it say above that Adobe created Flash? And if you want to get anal about it, Macromedia didn’t invent it either, they just bought it (much like Adobe did).

    It’s not just the development of the games that HTML5/JS has going against it. Even if you ignore the fact that the majority of people won’t be able to play them at the moment, it still doesn’t get around the issue of packaging and distribution. Like it or not, a SWF file is a nice compact stand-alone means of letting games spread virally. Someone is going to have to create a cross-platform equivalent (that everyone adheres to using, to avoid fragmentation).

    Unity has this issue licked, and more power to them.

  • Bosco
    August 20th 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Alright, true story on all accounts! The Flash thing I was referring to was “The video battle is over Adobe – you started a whole new wave of technology on the web when you pioneered it,” but perhaps I misunderstood the meaning of the statement.

    But you are correct, HTML5 suffers greatly in that it is based on the whims of several different rendering engines, meaning of course that a developer can never be entirely sure that his product will remain consistent across different browsers. The matter of packaging that you brought up is another entirely valid point. HTML5/JS will certainly greatly suffer from the fact that their source code, even if cleverly obfuscated.

    I can only speculate, but with as complex of a engine as Dextrose is developing, I should hope that they are working on answers to some of these problems.

    There will, of course, always be one universal truth that I believe we can rely on: Internet Explorer sucks. Though, as you have implied, not for Flash!

  • August 20th 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Ah ok, I meant that Flash did indeed pioneer web video, I just wish they’d move on and give us game developers such attention!

    HTML5/JS games ARE the future, I don’t doubt that for a second (and suggest as much in the original blog post), that future just isn’t here yet. There are several hurdles they need to clear, which makes me feel this is still several years away from true adoption.

    In the meantime it’s a real bleeding-edge playground for game devs, which is both exciting and worrying in equal measure :)

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