DirectX 11 comes to browser games

The phrase “browser game” usually conjures up images of simple Flash games, retro emulators or the infuriating onslaught of Facebook games. However, the humble browser could soon be bringing us full-on DirectX 11 PC gaming, via a new plug-in for Trinigy’s forthcoming Vision Engine 8.

Called WebVision, Trinigy says that the plug-in will be available for all the usual web browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Opera. The idea is that game developers can access all of the advanced features in the Vision Engine, but then enable them in a web browser. According to Trinigy, the process of porting your Vision Engine game into WebVision takes just “a few easy clicks.”

The middleware developer says that, using WebVision, game developers will be able to “quickly create stunning 2D or 3D browser-based games complete with animated characters, rich graphics, believable AI and physics.” Trinigy’s managing director, Dag Frommhold, insisted that the usual gaming systems still remained the “core focus” of the engine developer, but added that “we cannot overlook the popularity of games delivered through and played in browsers.”

Explaining how WebVision works, Trinigy spokesman Eric Schumacher told THINQ that "WebVision consists of two components: The browser frontend and the game backend. The frontend is a lightweight browser plug-in, which takes care of all the communication between the web browser and the game.

"It checks system requirements, downloads content and validates it before executing it, and handles versioning of critical DLLs. The backend, in turn, is built into the game itself, which is executed by the frontend after download and verification."

This is an interesting time for Trinigy to introduce WebVision, as version 8 of the Vision Engine supports a lot in the way of new PC hardware features. As well as supporting DirectX 11 and Shader Model 5 features such as tessellation and soft shadows (first introduced in version 7.6 of the engine), Vision Engine 8 also can also utilise all the 12 processing threads available with Intel’s forthcoming six-core Gulftown processor.

As well as this, Vision Engine 8 also features extended support for Havok physics. “Developers will be able to simulate static meshes, terrains, rigid bodies and character controllers using Havok Physics,” says Trinigy. The engine also supports Nvidia’s PhysX technology, as of version 7. "

"Unlike existing browser-based 3D rendering solutions," says Schumacher, "it provides a fully-fledged game engine with high-end graphics features, extensive scalability, a comprehensive tools set, multi-platform support and interfaces that allow both development in native C++ code and the scripting language Lua."

This could be an easy way for game developers to offer short demos of forthcoming games, or even produce whole games optimised for browsers. Of course, the problem that developers will face with WebVision is that not every PC has a decent graphics card that can handle advanced graphics effects.

Not only that, but limited bandwidth will also limit what effects a developer can realistically implement into a browser game. Nevertheless, this is an interesting development that could result in some tight 3D programming, as well as some much more interesting browser games.

Trinigy’s Vision Engine is already used by a large number of big-name developers, including Ubisoft, Firefly and Atari, and its engine also forms the basis of Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom, among many other titles. The Vision Engine 8 SDK will be available to developers in April 2010.