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I've spent some time looking over the various threads here on GDSE and also on the regular Stackoverflow site, and while I saw a lot of posts and threads regarding various engines that could be used in game development, I haven't seen very much discussion regarding the various platforms that they can be used on.

In particular, I'm talking about browser games vs. desktop games.

I want to develop a simple 3D networked multiplayer game - roughly on the graphics level of Paper Mario and gameplay with roughly the same level of interaction as a hack & slash action/adventure game - and I'm having a hard time deciding what platform I want to target with it. I have some experience with using C++/Ogre3D and Python/Panda3D (and also some synchronized/networked programming), but I'm wondering if it's worth it to spend the extra time to learn another language and another engine/toolkit just so that the game can be played in a browser window (I'm looking at jMonkeyEngine right now).

Is it worth it to go with engines that are less-mature, have less documentation, have fewer features, and smaller communities* just so that a (possibly?) larger audience can be reached? Does it make sense to even go with a web-environment for the kind of game that I want to make? Does anyone have any experiences with decisions like this?

(* With the exception of Flash-based engines it seems like most of the other approaches have downsides when compared to what is available for desktop-based environments. I'd go with Flash, but I'm worried that Flash's 3D capabilities aren't mature enough right now to do what I want easily. There's also Unity3D, but I'm not sure how I feel about that at all. It seems highly polished, but requires a plugin to be downloaded for the game to be played -- at that rate I might as well have players download my game.)

For simple & short games the Newgrounds approach (go to the site, click "play now", instant gratification) seems to work well. What about for more complex games? Is there a point where the complexity of a game is enough for people to say "OK, I'm going to download and play that"?

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-1 You're not being clear. So what's your actual question? Please try to ask one and make it obvious which one of those many question marks is the actual question we're answering here. Bear in mind that as the FAQ puts it, this is a site for "practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page." I suspect you're trying to start a discussion, and overall I just have no idea what the heck you're actually asking. –  Jonathan Hobbs Jun 20 '12 at 4:24

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Is there a point where the complexity of a game is enough for people to say "ok, I'm going to download and play that"?

No. The logic of what you are suggesting is that people see simple games which are uninteresting, and then as they see progressively more complex games, they eventually think, "aha! This is complex enough for my interests - I shall download it".

I don't think that is really what you mean, but that is what your logic suggests.

What really happens is this: a player sees a website with a game on it, and makes an assessment of how interesting the game is to them. The degree of interest they have dictates the amount of effort they are willing to go to in order to play the game.

Therefore, there is almost no situation where a person would be more willing to download and install an executable rather than play a web-based game. And if you have a downloadable executable, you will get better traction with a smaller download than a larger one. You will get more players if you remove the need to explicitly create an account - you'll have even more if there is no login process whatsoever. And so on.

From your side, it's never as simple as that, because even a web-based game may involve installing a plugin, or upgrading a browser, etc. But on the whole, the complexity of your game makes no direct difference - it's a pure comparison of how interesting the game looks vs. how much effort the player will need to put in to try it.

Is it worth it to go with engines that are less-mature, have less documentation, have fewer features, and smaller communities* just so that a (possibly?) larger audience can be reached?

You're asking whether 9% of 100 is bigger than 90% of 10. Only you can decide whether you need to reach a wider audience at a cost of whatever sacrifices you need to make to offer it on the web. What's your monetisation strategy? What sacrifices would you have to make? You have to pick what is best for you. If there was One Right Answer then the world couldn't support both Modern Warfare 3 and Farmville, so we know that isn't the case.

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In with Unity before anyone else! (or I'll delete my answer).

Unity really is the standout in this space, and it can in fact be used to distribute standalone games.

If you want to make a game, use something very polished like Unity. If you want to mess with technology, use one of the systems you mentioned.

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Also, with Unity you can compile your game into Flash, if you're so afraid of the plugin (-8 –  Nevermind Jun 20 '12 at 4:22
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The Flash support is still fairly experimental. –  Kylotan Jun 20 '12 at 12:02
    
@ Kylotan: Unity 4 will support it. –  Tili Jun 20 '12 at 13:10
    
Unity 3 already supports it (maybe just in the betas, but plenty of people are using it already), but there are quite a few things that just don't work or work differently. –  Kylotan Jun 20 '12 at 15:15

I don't think you should go with a browser game because it might entail producing 2 version of code: one for browser and one for desktop. In addition, browser technology might not be powerful enough to handle your game (depending on your exact situation).

Unity might be one of the better choices for both desktop and browser deployment, but you have to consider the download of the Unity Player. While its filesize is actually quite lightweight and likely to be much smaller than your game itself, people are rather put off by the need to download.

See http://forum.unity3d.com/threads/27081-losing-users-when-they-have-to-download-Unity-webplayer

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Maybe Google Native Client suit your needs. Can't really recommend since I never used myself.

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I recommend looking into the Three.js. It's a neat abstraction (not sure if it classifies as an engine) on top of WebGL (this is the engine, technically speaking?) and it has loads of great examples. But the best thing about it? No plugins! It's all HTML5 and WebGL, which are standard features of almost all bigger browsers now! I messed around with it a little, and it is great.

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I don't think either one is a game engine. I'd call them libraries or frameworks. –  Wackidev Jun 20 '12 at 17:14

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