BattleTabs Proves the Potential of Browser-Based Gamesby@limarc
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BattleTabs Proves the Potential of Browser-Based Games

by Limarc AmbalinaOctober 3rd, 2021
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BattleTabs is a browser-based video game that started as a Chrome plugin. Brandon Wu is the co-founder of the team behind the game. The game is a casual, turn-based multiplayer game inspired by classic board games like Battleship and collectible card games like Hearthstone. The goal for the game is to go to where our players are spending time online, where they are spending their time online. We consider the game to still be in “early access” as we continue to develop in the open with our players.

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I had the amazing opportunity to speak to Brandon Wu, the co-founder of BattleTabs, a browser-based video game that started as a Chrome plugin. Despite the death of flash games, browser-based games still have a high demand.

While playing games with friends is easier than ever, both console and PC multiplayer do come with some occasional headaches. Try cross playing on Warzone or Fortnite between PC and console and you're bound to run into problems once in a while.

Rather than ensure both you and your friend have the same system/console, buy the same game, and party up correctly, it's much easier to send someone a URL and start playing instantly. This is what browser-based games provide. In this Slogging interview, I speak to Brandon about the development of BattleTabs and how browser-based games are still viable in today's gaming market.

This Slogging thread by Brandon Wu and Limarc Ambalina occurred in slogging's official #gaming channel, and has been edited for readability.

Brandon WuSep 14, 2021, 8:14 PM

Hi all, happy to be here! 😄👋

👍 2
Limarc AmbalinaSep 15, 2021, 3:46 AM

Thanks for joining us!

Limarc AmbalinaSep 15, 2021, 3:53 AM

To start, maybe you can give us a summary of the game your team is developing, what it's about and what sets it apart from other browser based games out there.

Brandon WuSep 16, 2021, 9:35 AM

Thanks Limarc! We are working on BattleTabs, a bite-sized PVP strategy game of wits and luck! BattleTabs is a casually competitive, turn-based multiplayer game inspired by the simplicity of classic boardgames like Battleship and the depth of modern collectible card games like Hearthstone. The game is easy to pick up and play, with unique ship abilities and deck-building systems where players can create their own fleets to bring to battle. 

The most unique thing about BattleTabs is that it started life as a Chrome browser extension. After having built several browser extensions in the productivity space, my co-founder Mike and I wanted to get back to our roots and experiment with games as browser extensions. The browser is a unique platform. For most people, the browser is always open whenever the computer is on, making it a place where you can be always connected to a game world. Furthermore, BattleTabs is a new tab extension, meaning every time a player opens a new tab, they can see what’s going on in the game world, and are reminded to play. 

What started out as an experiment quickly turned into a full-time project when more and more players joined in. We have started leveraging other “add-on” platforms for the game as well, creating a Discord bot that facilitates matchmaker for our 12k Discord members, broadcasts in-game events (for example, when a player is on a winning streak), and announces to the game whenever a streamer starts streaming on Discord. 

The great thing about the game built with web technology is that we can make it very easy to share. We’ve continued to add virality features where people can invite their friends to a match, watch replays, and check out other players’ profiles via easily shareable links.

Limarc AmbalinaSep 16, 2021, 5:15 PM

Very interesting Brandon! Is there a reason why you haven't decided to port this game over to Steam, PlayStation and other major platforms? Or is that one of your plans in the future?

Brandon WuSep 17, 2021, 2:29 PM

We consider the game to still be in “early access” as we continue to develop in the open with our players. The very first version of BattleTabs was released after a 6-week development time, and over the past year and a half, the game has evolved drastically, influenced by our active and vocal player community.

We’d definitely consider other major platforms when the game is ready. The goal for us is first to go to where our players are spending time online, platforms where they hangout. (Discord, Twitch, Steam, iOS/Android…etc.). Players had also suggested Nintendo Switch which could be a great fit with its touch interface. On the other hand, playing the game with a gamepad is not an optimised experience right now — we’d consider it if enough players want to play BattleTabs on their big TV. :)

Limarc AmbalinaSep 18, 2021, 4:45 AM

Awesome to hear! So when I first started diving into Battletabs, my first thought was "ok so it's a battleships clone". Which I was fine with because that was one of my favorite "boardgames" growing up 😄 😄 😄

But after playing the game twice, I realized how addicting it was. I'm not just saying this, I planned to play 2-3 games to get a feel for it to ask you questions for this interview, but I ended up playing 8-10.

The reason being your UX is incredibly well-designed and you have created a very powerful gameplay loop that keeps me wanting to play more. Similar to the addictiveness of today's popular mobile games, or the "next video" autoplay features in YouTube, you keep players engaged well.

How did you figure out the best way to keep players "wanting more" ? Do you and your team have a background in mobile game design that helped you craft this?

Brandon WuSep 21, 2021, 12:58 PM

Progression, social engagement, and balancing the game for new and experienced players are 3 important areas for us when it comes to design. People want to play “one more game” when they feel like they are close to unlocking the next thing (progression), when they feel they are getting better at the game (balancing/mastery), and when they feel part of a group (social engagement). 

Although everyone in the team has fairly extensive experience making mobile games, I’d say we look at other competitive games on both desktop and mobile for inspirations when it comes to progression design. It’s a key part of F2P competitive gaming, an area we continue to work on to create more goals for players to work towards. 

The game is also designed in a way that even a new player can have fun playing against a more seasoned player. There is a natural “catch-up” mechanic in the game - the fewer ships you have left, the harder it is to find them. And we deliberately designed randomness and luck into the game so it’s beginner friendly without being too luck driven - we think of these like the random items you get in Mario Karts. 

In terms of social engagement, we want to keep the game feeling alive for players to feel like they are part of a living community. Little icons and prompts show up when there are people queueing for the game, in-game notifications show up when top players are streaming the game on our Discord server, and the “Rematch” button you see at the end of each match is a strong social pull for people to continue playing with the same opponent. We saw battle invites went up 3 times when the rematch button went live - a small feature with a strong result! :)

Limarc AmbalinaSep 22, 2021, 7:19 AM

Super interesting insights Brandon Wu!!! Especially your points on the "catch-up" mechanic. There is lots of strategy involved, despite the simpler main gameplay mechanics. These can include where to position your ships, when to use abilities, whether you go for ships with more tiles or ships with even just 1 time (making them harder to hit but easier to sink).

Limarc AmbalinaSep 22, 2021, 7:20 AM

HackerNoon's audience is mainly software developers and we do have game devs that read our content. What were some of the mistakes or headaches you encountered early on that you can potentially save other devs from repeating? Any advice for the game devs reading this post?

Brandon WuSep 23, 2021, 2:32 PM

There have definitely been a ton of learnings throughout this whole project, from development all the way to fundraising and community management. From a development perspective, two of the biggest learnings for me were: 

  1. Focusing on what moves the needle

There are a million things you can work on when you make games: UI tweaks, animation updates, new content, optimising performances…etc. What we’ve learned is that, most of the improvements we add to the game have very little impact on our core metrics. We now review features and prioritise through the lens of impact - will these features move the needle for us in terms of growth, retention, or community engagement? 

We’ve learned that to have meaningful impact on metrics, we have to make big bets and be open to making huge changes that could potentially alter the fundamentals of the game. The focus on impact has helped us build a much better game and an engaging community. 

2. Distribution

BattleTabs is a unique gaming project in that we did a lot of the “building” of the game after we’ve acquired players. Distribution is incredibly important - how and where you find players should be part of the pre-production, alongside the actual game itself. We have been integrating distribution into the game itself with sharing, and the upcoming streaming/spectating features. Distribution is and should be an integral part of your games - I’d suggest working on it from day one. 

One side note for people working on browser extensions. Last year, we found a bug in a build that we had submitted to the Chrome Web Store. The build was still being reviewed, so we thought we’d unpublished the extension to prevent the bug from going into the players hands and submit an updated build. Unfortunately, when you unpublished an extension, you will be put to the back of the queue for reviews, which meant the game was not available for downloads for over 3 weeks, just as growth was starting to really kick in. Lesson learned!

Limarc AmbalinaSep 28, 2021, 1:52 PM

What would you say are the biggest differences when it comes to developing and building a browser-based and chrome plugin game vs. traditional game development for console and regular PC games?

Brandon WuSep 29, 2021, 11:01 PM

The great thing about building browser-based games is that with the web being an open platform, you can get the game out to players and iterate very quickly. Even with browser extensions, which are typically distributed through marketplaces and stores (such as the Chrome Web Store), it’s still a much faster process to publish when compared to other major gaming platforms. 

Player behaviour can also be very different with web games. A lot of our players play the game on the side while they are browsing the web, watching YouTube, or working/studying. Web games live in a browser tab, co-existing with all the other tabs the player has open, and that makes for an interesting environment for a game to be played in. Web games in general also see a drop in usage on weekends, and tend to have seasonality alongside school holidays. 

As a browser extension game, we had to make sure the game is small enough to download, and very quick to load (particularly since BattleTabs is a New Tab extension). I’d say browser games in general need to load very fast (before the player decides to switch to YouTube 😉 ). This has implications on what tech stack, libraries, or game engines you might choose to use.

Limarc AmbalinaSep 30, 2021, 12:45 PM

Thanks for the super thorough answers to all my questions Brandon Wu!!!! Do you have any final words or upcoming features to announce before we call it a wrap and publish this on site?

Brandon WuSep 30, 2021, 11:10 PM

Thanks! There’s a lot of new content coming in the next few months, new customisation options, unique new ships, and more social features…etc. And we can’t be on Hackernoon without thinking of crypto… 😉

If anyone likes bite-sized PVP madness, give BattleTabs a go! You can find links to the extension and the web app on We are also looking for TypeScript front-end developers so please email me if you are interested in learning more. (mailto:[email protected]

It’s always fun to share our learnings. Thanks for the interview again and feel free to reach out if anyone has any other questions! (Find me on

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