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Hover! A Next-Gen HTML Experience

The remake of Hover! (http://hover.ie) was released today to the web from the Internet Explorer. I want to highlight the importance of this game coming out to the web.

Hover is a remake of a game that originally came out on Windows 95 and demonstrated the multimedia capabilities of the Windows platform. Making a game was an accessible way to demonstrate the power to regular Windows users. This is exactly what Hover! for in HTML is doing for HTML based gaming: showing everyone the power that is HTML.

UPDATE: If you are looking for the technical details on how IE made Hover! a next-gen game, they go into the details on their blog. Definietly worth a read if you're an HTML developer.

My Process

I distinguish next-gen HTML games by attemping to setup my gaming experience in a certain way. Here is the process I follow to setup a next-gen HTML experience:

  1. Go to game site (http://hover.ie)2. Go into full-screen mode by pressing F123. Get into the game.

My process isn't much to look at, I know, but that is the point. A great HTML game is just a great game. I shouldn't need to do a bunch of crazy setup or have to ignore a bunch of problems. If I can't go full-screen, then I'll have distractions. If I can't "get into the game" then, that is a problem with the game itself, but (at least for now) is likey due to distractions within the game platform itself.

So what makes it "Next-Gen"?

That's a good point.

HTML5, the modern and ever-evolving web standard has been around for a while. So, why am I calling Hover! a next gen HTML experience? It's because it's a game that you can get immersed in the experience it delivers using nothing but HTML and open standards.

No special sauce. Just a full gaming experience.

Let's take a look at some of the more specific points that make it a next gen HTML game.

Multiplayer

That's right. Multiplayer, PvP, bumper car awesomeness.

You click "Multiplayer" and it gives you link to share with one or more players and you can get your game on. This is something that pushes the envelope, and it works using HTML and open standards. Maybe there are more 3D real-time multiplayer games that live in the web, but I certainly haven't seen one.

  • Step 1: Create a game and share the link with other players* Step 2: Play Game.

More and more we are starting to see cool HTML games that provide multiplayer like Lugdunon (http://lugdunon.net) and Bombermine (http://bombermine.com/) coming from the indie development scene. I think that moving forward, the bar is going to continue to be raised in what it can provide in terms of a multiplayer experience, and Hover! is definitely raising that bar.

Full Screen Experience

When I game, I don't want to see an address bar, or a navigation bar on the left side showing me links to blogs or some kind of advertisement. A game needs to be a full-screen experience.

I know technically it's not a 100% full screen, but is certainly works as a full screen gaming experience. The curved window, the dashboard of your hovercraft, all of it just works really well. I wish the little "Learn More" link in the bottom left corner was a little more out of the way (although I don't have a good suggestion on where to put that), but it looks and feels great playing in full screen mode which is something that makes this a next-gen HTML experience.

Rich Graphics and Sound

Let me be clear that "rich" graphics and sound does not necessarily translate into 3D and digital 7.1 audio or something along those lines. What I mean is that a game needs to provide graphics and sounds that look and feel good for their experience. More and more we see games with pixel art take center stage and are better experiences for it.

Hover! provides a nice 3D environment, complete with a soundtrack that fits and sound effects that word (I really like bumping off of things). Are they the best graphics and soundtrack that I've ever seen? Absolutely not, but they fit the game itself, and that is what is the most important.

It Feels Like a Game

I believe this is the most important of the next-gen characteristics that Hover! brings to the table. The fact that you navigate to a website, but that it doesn't feel like you're on a website makes all the difference in the world.

For the longest time, when I thought HTML games I thought of a website that had a game on a webpage rather than a full gaming experience. Hover! is a great example of how HTML game developers can redefine what it means to publish your game to the web.

Works in the Big Three

In this case, I'm not talking Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. Rather, I'm referring to Microsoft, Google, and Mozilla with their web browsers.

It might not seem like something that significant considering we are talking about a game built on open standards. But, it really is considering that the game was produced in collaboration with the Internet Explorer team. Moving forward, I believe that it is a requirement for next-gen HTML games to work across all three of the latest browsers, and with WebGL in place in IE11 there really isn't an excuse for developers anymore.

As people look to HTML to build their rich experiences, I continue to see people not support Internet Explorer, or make an exclusive game/app for a particular browser. Unless you are building something that relies on an experimental feature, I don't see why you can't support all three big browsers. Sure, supporting the old versions is totally a pain, but supporting IE10 and now IE11, shouldn't be a problem. If you think it is, explain to me why and I'll probably poke a hole right through your logic.

Moving Forward

As I see more of these games, it gives me hope that HTML is truly evolving past its roots of a document collaboration standard and turning into something bigger, richer, and more powerful than we thought. I applaude Daniel Church and the Internet Explorer team for making Hover! and raising the bar.

Hover! has raised the bar. Who will be next to take HTML Next-Gen to the next level?

Thanks for playing.

~ DW