Brian McHarg's strategies for successful cross-browser, cross-platform games development with HTML5. Sign up below to get the latest from Creative Bloq, plus exclusive special offers, direct to your inbox!
Creative Bloq is part of Future plc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. There are hundreds of thousands of smartphone applications available for consumers, with more invented everyday.
When most people first think of a smartphone, they see it as a way to stay connected with the world around them. Speaking of entertainment, some of the most popular types of smartphone applications have to do with watching live video, reading books, or playing video games.
Another type of smartphone application can help users interpret the world around them in almost any situation. Some of the phone apps people have are good for things like checking the weather or finding directions. To put it simply I feel that this kind of thing is creating a barrier between people and their actual lives. A couple of days later I had another friend who spent an hour searching her mobile's apps to source a coffee shop with outdoor seating. You can unsubscribe at any time and we'll never share your details without your permission. Icons for online shopping, internet marketing, refferal marketing, computer and mobile phone apps, finance, planning, strategy and advertising. The screen is so bright it hurts my eyes to read on it for more than five minutes at a time! My boyfriend and I use it to sync up things like our to do lists and other important documents. My other favorite smartphone apps are the free mobile apps for reading. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea in principle, and can see how useful it can be to have information at your fingertips.
So what do I have against the seemingly unstoppable smartphone application development wave?
Several restaurants we hadn't tried came to mind, but rather than just give one of them a try she was straight on her phone to check both menus and reviews on them all.
In fact, there is a new app for Weight Watchers that offers you the point value of a product by simply scanning the barcode into your phone. It's an understandably attractive option for anyone looking to develop games for a large number of devices and platforms.The term HTML5 itself, much like the specification that it represents, has a different meaning depending on who's describing it.

It is amazing because I try to buy low point foods when I do my grocery shopping, but it is hard to do all that math in your head. It feels like a computer because I can surf the web and download a lot of different mobile applications. Sometimes I even read a page or so while I'm waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store! For example, the other day I wanted to know what movies were available to rent at my local video kiosk and I downloaded this free Smartphone application and not only was I able to see what movies were available for rent, but I was able to reserve them from my phone as well. And as developers, that's where our main challenge lies, especially if your aim is to deliver your game across a range of platforms.Desktop vs mobile vs cross platformBy now we're all familiar with the fantastic examples of HTML5 games that run within desktop browsers. They're often created by browser manufacturers themselves to showcase particular strengths in their own software, or to make the case for particular APIs that they would like to see ratified into the HTML5 specification.Games such as Cut the Rope or Contre Jour for Internet Explorer, or some of the excellent Chrome Experiments like Jam or Racer are great examples. I think that there are so many apps that it does feel like a different world when you first get a Smartphone. It keeps my kids entertained while we are waiting in line at the grocery store or at a doctor’s appointment.
Yes, that's an operating system that's almost three years old, but it still represents almost a third of the installed Android base, a figure that could skew even higher depending on your target demographic.
You'll see a similar experience on Apple devices running iOS5, or lower powered devices like the Kindle Fire. In actual fact, you currently won't find a single mobile device that will run every one of the above demos well.As mentioned earlier, for most clients the reason for choosing HTML5 is to ensure that their browser-based game is truly cross-platform. If you're developing for desktop only, Unity and Flash are both strong options that should always be considered. They both have good browser support and the ability to export to devices as a native application, giving you a route to mobile and tablet from the same code should you require it.There are two obvious challenges when developing cross-platform games in HTML5. The first is the fluid nature of the HTML5 specification, resulting in fragmented feature support - not just from device to device, but from browser to browser on each of those devices. The second, and more challenging as a developer, is the massive variation in mobile handset performance and capabilities, meaning that even when using a consistent feature set, how your game runs on one device will vary massively from the next.To get a feel for how much of a variance exists, just run one of the many JavaScript benchmarks to test device performance. As an example, rendering 100 sprites via Canvas will perform at a relatively solid 60 frames per second on devices like the iPhone 4S or 5, Galaxy S3, Nexus 7 or Lumia 820. Nearly a third of UK page views are from mobiles and tablets, with that growth climbing at such a rapid rate that it is expected to overtake desktop views in 2014. Working with children's brands, we have often found ourselves working within the constraints of older 'hand-me-down' phones, or cheaper, underpowered devices, but with careful design and a lot of optimization we believe that it is still possible to produce engaging games on the mobile web.What have we learnt from those experiences? Well, if we had to produce a list of the top 10 tips for HTML5 games development, it would be as follows:01.

If you have web metrics, use them to determine the core range of devices your visitors are using and target your solution at those devices.02. Design with your technology in mindYes, this should always be the case, but the limitations and fragmentation in HTML5 make it even more pertinent. Use devices not just simulatorsGet your hands on as many devices as possible, running as many different OS versions as you can.
Simulators will help during development, but to get an accurate picture of how your code is performing you have to be running on device. There are some great community-led device testing labs like Open Device Lab that will give you access to a huge range of devices. Keep abreast of the landscapeThe HTML5 specification is constantly shifting, as is device support, so you need to keep on top of these developments as they happen. This is especially relevant to areas like sound, where features like the WebAudio API can radically change the capabilities.06.
Allow yourself the flexibility to adapt to these changes as they happen throughout your build.07. Look at ways that you can create a good experience on mobile and then layer on functionality and effects for other platforms as they permit. Target those devices using user agents or media queries and deliver a tailored experience relative to each.08.
KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)By all means test the limits and try to push the capabilities, but remember that you're working with a technology that's in its infancy, and an overcomplicated or overambitious project is only going to cause you pain down the line.09. Consider your content's lifespanCapabilities are changing all the time, and your content can become dated very quickly as new features are enabled on devices. If your game is going to be live for a reasonable length of time, allow yourself time to go back and both bug fix and update it.10. Test on every device you can, as often as you can.Gladiator, you will go on my second whistleHTML5 is going to be the de facto development technology for cross-platform browser-based gaming, of that there is no doubt. At the moment it's a painful space, but that's the case with most technologies in their infancy. Test regularly on the biggest range of devices you can, and be pragmatic in your game design.

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