Building an HTML5 game framework at the bottom of the world

It’s been a while since my last post, but I’ve certainly not been idle. In fact you could say it has been one of the most exciting periods of time in Photon Storms‘ history so far. As mentioned previously I hung-up my Technical Director gloves and bid farewell to the wonderful team at Aardman. After a single day of holiday I hopped onto a 737 at London Heathrow, shot off into the air and 30 hours later landed in beautiful Wellington, New Zealand – quite literally the other side of the world.

My reason for being here is because the cool guys at Instinct Entertainment shared my same passion when it came to game development. They understood my desire to create a kick-ass and fully open source HTML5 game framework, and that is exactly what I’m here doing. These first few weeks are crucial to ensuring that our vision and plans make sense and that myself and the rest of the team draw-up a realistic  roadmap that will see this project to the end of 2012 and beyond.

Why on earth do we need another HTML5 game framework?!

Damn good question 😉 It does feel like you can’t go for a month at the moment without another new framework being announced. But there are several key reasons why we elected to start from scratch rather than adopt something already out there:

  • Very few of the existing frameworks actually care about the mobile browser, or optimise themselves for it. A lot of them just blast the entire contents to a single canvas and are done with it. For us the mobile web is the whole reason for existing in the first place and we’ll always optimise as best we can for it.
  • Virtually none of the frameworks have any kind of community behind them. This is of paramount importance to me. Having helped build and nurture game development communities for over a decade I firmly believe that they are the true life blood of any successful framework. A place to talk, share code, get support and feel included in what is going on.
  • The community will drive the features that end-up in the framework. We intend to be fully transparent about our development process, allowing you to feed into it and help us prioritise features.
  • We wanted a powerful architecture, flexible enough for both old-skool retro style games, and much more modern ones too. Yes we’ll have tilemap support, but you won’t be limited to just using that for creating game levels. Yes we’ll have sprite sheets, but we’ll support alternative animation formats as well. We’ll have arcade level physics built in, but we’ll allow for Box2D if you want it. We’ve been very careful to ensure you’re not forced into doing things just our way, but can bend the rules or extend them as you need.
  • Having spent many years working with Flixel I really appreciated what that did for developers, the way it helped them skip past the dry and dull set-up and just dive right in to making the game. I promise you’ll have the exact same level of ‘pick-up and play’ from this, and we’re working hard to keep function names and objects sensible and documented.
  • Game Objects – these are not part of the core package, but you’ll be seeing lots of them! An example of a Game Object may be a ‘grenade’ object. Drop the file in, add in a line of code to create the object and it’ll appear in your game – bouncing, ticking and exploding as you’d expect a grenade to do. There will be a good range of game objects at launch ready for direct use in your games, or just for you to open, edit and tweak as needed.
  • Online Tools to support your game making. We’re going to be providing comprehensive online level editor tools, animation tools, path tools and more. You won’t have to use them if you don’t want to, but they’ll be there if you need.
  • Careful integration with 3rd party APIs. From realtime multiplayer APIs to direct phone billing and all the social ones you can think of in between. Games these days rarely exist in isolation any more, there are a wealth of additional services out there you can benefit from, and we’ll provide the hooks to do so.

Most importantly of all though – probably the largest reason why this is being built is because it has been my dream and desire to do so for many, many years. Back on the Atari ST I released piles of source code for others to use in their games, on the PC I released hundreds of DarkBASIC code snippets and ultimately spent years working there helping the community, with Flash as lots of you know I spent months releasing tutorials and Flixel libraries.

This framework is really the culmination of all of this – the net result of decades of fascination and love for opening up game development to all abilities.

So when is it out?

Patience grasshopper 🙂 This week has been all about planning and careful structure (along with a few cool demos to check our effects pipeline will work!). We will be releasing our roadmap next week, with the first public release of the code shortly after. The plan is to develop on a live public github repo, so you can follow along and contribute from the start. Rest assured we’re in this for the long haul and are fully financed for the rest of this year, with the potential for that to carry on definitely. It’s exciting times indeed and I can’t wait to share what we’ve got in store for you. The strangest thing of all right now though is that we don’t yet have a name for it! It was going to be called Kiwi.js but that’s a popular node plugin. So back to the drawing board.

Posted on July 6th 2012 at 12:09 pm by .
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