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HTML5 will cause tension, says Epic

Tim Sweeney and Mark Rein say platform holders have reason to resist tech that could let devs skip platform-specific versions of games

Epic Games' Unreal Engine 4 will support HTML5, a feature the company knows could put some tough choices in front of developers. Speaking with Gamasutra, Epic Games' Tim Sweeney and Mark Rein talked about the ramifications of HTML5 and the idea of the web as a platform.

"Just like Sony and Microsoft have platforms, the web is now a platform, and if you can build and ship a game, you can have it run in several (and in the future, any) standards-compliant browser and have a great experience," Sweeney said. "It marks the end of drivers, installation, all the other weird quirks of legacy game development."

To that list, Rein added "operating systems." The result is a future where developers looking to ship multiplatform games don't actually need to develop them on multiple platforms. By just releasing an HTML5 game, they would be able to hit an audience on every machine with a standards-compliant browser, whether it be a PC, Mac, or console.

"It's a big area of future tension," Sweeney said. "There's great competition between all the browser makers to make them all as standards-compliant as possible, but when you combine that with the platform-holder who wants to tax app sales on their platform, there's an economic motive to resist fully-standardized, high-performance HTML5 and Javascript."

Rein added that to get the most out of console hardware, developers would still need to make games native to the hardware. But on PCs, where there's a much wider range of hardware power and configurations, developers will have less reason to avoid an HTML5 solution.

"There's two vectors you want to go for," Rein said. "One, you want to go for the widest possible audience. Two, you want to deliver the best experience you can. And the question is, can you do both? Or does the second vector mean you ship native versions here, here, and here? Or is it really more about delivering it to everybody with HTML5? It's like the Brits say, 'horses for courses,' you just make the call based on what you're building."

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