Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Words Facebook: rocking a new kind of technology

Shawn Lohstroh on HTML5 and the future of online gamesHTML5 has gotten a lot of attention recently as being the future of multimedia on the web. It’s been cited as a replacement for Flash, a solution for everything from videos and games to other web animations, and has gotten support from some big players in the tech industry, including Apple.

Since Words With Friends is one of the first major Facebook games to be made entirely in HTML5, we wanted to chat with Shawn Lohstroh, lead developer for the Facebook version, about the decision go with the burgeoning technology.

Zynga With Friends: When did you guys know you wanted to bring Words With Friends to Facebook?
Shawn Lohstroh: Really since the beginning, it had been a goal of ours. We’ve always wanted to bring our games to as wide an audience as possible. We felt HTML5 was the best way to do it.

ZWF: So level with us — what exactly is HTML5? To the uninitiated it might sound like some kind of Internet hit squad.
SL: It’s just a new revision of the HTML standard the Internet was built on. It gets a lot of press as a new way to deliver video on the web, but really it’s a whole gamut of tools that includes Javascript, CSS and HTML. Most importantly, it doesn’t need any proprietary plugins or APIs — it just works.

HTML5 Hit Squad to the Rescue!ZWF: Most Facebook games are made in Flash. Why HTML5?
SL: We were looking for something that integrated well with our existing service. Of course, Flash, Silverlight and other software are ubiquitous around the web, but as we explored HTML5, we fell in love with what it could do. Also, Facebook has a great JavaScript SDK that was easy to use.

ZWF: Were there any tradeoffs?
SL: The tools for designing games in HTML5 are still in their infancy or non-existant (it’s currently geared towards traditional web development). Also, not all the browsers perform quite the same, which posed some challenges for us. However, we felt we could bring the core experience of Words With Friends to the web and Facebook with HTML5 and provide our customers with a great gaming experience.

ZWF: Wait, HTML5 isn’t as good as Flash?
SL: Well, for now, maybe. Part of this started out as an investigation into what was possible with HTML5. While it’s early in its inception, we realized HTML5 is only going to get more popular and robust, and we wanted to get ahead of the curve and bring that expertise to our studio. Besides, when a company like Apple throws their weight behind something like HTML5, you tend to listen.

ZWF: So why should the Average Joe care what technology Words With Friends uses, so long as they get their daily triple word score fix?
SL: There are a lot of reasons — everything from small stuff like opening a game a few seconds faster or using less power to run the game to bigger picture stuff. Ultimately we’re really pushing the envelope in terms of what’s possible with online gaming. Ultimately, HTML5 will let us take the training wheels off online games and let them go all sorts of places unimaginable before.

No comments:

Post a Comment