Rocco Balsamo

@theroccob

WebGL needs a Home: Flash Bit Rot

A few days ago, I wrote about how there wasn’t a cohesive place to find WebGL content on the web. And when you post that type of declaration to Reddit, it raises a few eyebrows.

In this article, I’ll talk about the traditional places to find games and WebGL content on the web and talk about why something new is needed.

But first, my Reddit post about Simmer Industries, a website I’m starting to solve this problem.

I got a few replies!

So the truth is YES, there are many places, including itch.io to host WebGL and game content. But is there a cohesive place?

itch.io is super cool…

…but it is definitely different than what I’m trying to achieve with Simmer Industries. I think they have about 50,000 games or something huge, but a good chunk of them are downloadables.

itch.io

It took me a number of clicks to finally get to browser / WebGL content (here’s a link to the itch browser games section) and when I finally got there and selected a game that looked interesting, this is what I got:

the dreaded Unity Web Player error

To be fair, there were number of really interesting experiences in the itch browser games section, like this ball-physics demo:

But it just felt like I had to do a lot of hunting to find really good WebGL content.

Update: The founder of itch.io, Leaf Corcoran pointed out that the correct page for browser games not requiring plugins is https://itch.io/games/html5, and he added a link to the front page to make them easier to find.

What about NewGrounds?

NewGrounds is another interesting portal for 2D and 3D web games. They’ve been around since the 90's!

I had a little bit better luck finding WebGL content on this site, but whenever I found a highly rated classic game, here’s what I got:

How about… Kongregate?

Kongregate was a pioneer in Web / Indy games, and was sold to Gamestop in 2010.

they let me watch a full 30s advertisement about Six Flags before sending me this error

Uhhh? Sure, I’ll go out and download IE11… riiiiigggghttt.

What is Bit Rot?

Well, I’ve just basically defined bit rot in the proceeding sections, but here’s the textbook definition:

Software rot, also known as code rot, bit rot, software erosion, software decay or software entropy describes the perceived “rot” which is either a slow deterioration of software performance over time or its diminishing responsiveness that will eventually lead to software becoming faulty, unusable, or otherwise called “legacy” and in need of upgrade. — Wikipedia

Why WebGL is Different

WebGL is a JavaScript API for rendering interactive 3D and 2D graphics within any compatible web browser without the use of plug-ins.

WebGL is a web standard. This means that every major browser has come to a consensus about the spec.

It is not Flash, owned by Adobe.

It is not Unity Web Player, owned by Unity.

It is an open source Web standard, and the spec is published for anyone who wishes to build their own browser. It’s open, it’s beautiful, and it has been fully adopted by all of the major players:

I see Opportunity

It’s really a shame that all this content is getting lost to Bit Rot, but the good news is there are new and open technologies like WebGL and WebAssembly that will stand the test of time.

Imagine if someone was to write a WebAssembly + WebGL program that could read and display most old Flash content. Now that would be damn cool.

Simmer Down Now

So I’ve plugged it a few times already in this article, but I am starting this new company Simmer Industries that will host a ton of great WebGL content.

Get on over there to be notified of the preview launch!

Or add your name right here on medium:

Please 💚 or follow me on Medium if you enjoyed this! It gives me a ton of motivation to keep rockin’ the WebGL.

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