A Simple History of Web-Browser Games
Types of Browser Games
Web browser games come in two different flavors: Games that are played solely on the person’s personal computer but require a web browser to play and those that use the web browser as an interface with game servers. While the latter’s need for an internet service provider is obvious, the former require a connect to facilitate scoring and other gameplay elements; in both cases while the game may be able to be played temporarily without a connection, long-term play requires a connection. This means that the game is ultimately limited in play by both the power of the machine that they are played on as well as by the internet connection.
Shockwave vs Flash Online Games
Most of the original games either used some version of HTML of Shockwave. A lot of the original games used HTML, sometimes modified by other languages; however, these games tended to be extremely simplistic with limited graphics. Shockwave games were actual fully-fledged games with full graphics and were actually capable of limited adversarial roles. By the late 1990s few games used HTML and Shockwave was replaced by Flash; Flash allowed for not only smoother graphics but for a more responsive AI, allowing for even more challenging games.
The problem with using HTML is that the game required a lot of redundant programming. Also, HTML just was not able to handle much more than simple movements; it could react to what a player was doing but was unable to act beyond its programming. That is, it was only good for the simplest games and they became repetitive fairly quickly. This made them great for marketing and life simulation games, such as virtual pets, but little else. Because of that they quickly faded and by 2000 they were rarely used.
Flash games, however, allowed for a more responsive AI as well as smoother graphics. HTML was limited to simple graphics while Flash could use actual animation, making Flash much smoother and less reliant on the connection speed. Also, Flash used much more sophisticated programming with its own shorthand; this allowed Flash games to not only have denser plots but to also possibly out-think an opponent. While Flash games were still somewhat simplistic compared to console games, they could still be used to play chess with a decent adversary. Combined with only needing to download a few times during play and upload only to save, and Flash games eventually rules the browsers.
The next major development in web-browser games came with social media games, such as Facebook games. Facebook games allowed people limited interaction with each other, allowing players to set up characters that could fight other characters, allowing players to compete with each other with more than just scores; they could actually kill other players, but this created its own conventions. For example, players could only complete with each other so many times in a given period, but it did allow players to team up and even create armies. They could even assist each other by sending each other gifts, thus making it a truly social game.
With the advent of smart phones and thus app games, fewer people are playing web-browser games, even on Facebook. Apps allow for all of the advantages of social games without requiring a person to use a web browser, and their access to downloadable content makes them more fun for the player and more profitable for the creators. However, this does not that they have gone completely out of style: They are used more for education today, especially educational games, and are still accessible on older sites. In short, while they may have lost the fight they are still around and still used, making them something we are unlikely to ever really see disappear.