Thursday, August 27, 2009

To Applet or not to Applet?

Some free games require you to download the source code and compile it yourself. Some require you to just download and install. Others are just download, unzip and run. However, by far the easiest are flash/applet web games, where you just point your browser at them and that's it - once the game has loaded you can play it straight away.

However, maybe due to this simplicity, or maybe due to the fact that a lot of web games are simple in themselves, they are not treat with the same level of respect as games that require more work to start up. It seems that the more effort you are prepared to expend to get a game working, the more time you are prepared to spend on it.

(Taking this to the extreme, I find that when I play a lot of old Speccy games, of which I have many fond memories, I give them approximately 10 seconds of my time (since that's pretty much how long it takes to load it up nowadays) whereas in the past, when it took minutes, I'd play them for longer and give them far more of a chance. Actually, I think I've just invented my own axiom: "The time a player will spend playing an average game is directly related to how long it took to them to run it.". You heard it here first!)

Anyway, back to my point. I've got a game called Island Commander, which is an applet, but is increasing in complexity. However, because of the lack of "respect" that web games get, I'm tempted to turn it into a stand-alone game so that people will take it more seriously. In addition, nothing is more galling than seeing comments by people about games written as applets, all saying how much they hate applets.

Is it mercenary to make it harder for people to play the game in the hope that they will spend more time on it? Maybe my whole premise is wrong, and flash/applet games get played far more than stand-alone games. However, out of all the most popular free open-source games out there with large communities, I can't think of any that are web games.


qubodup said...

I agree that some reviewers too well remember the early days of Newgrounds (NG).

However this is changing. TIGSource for example treats browser and executable games equally.

One game removed any doubt about in-browser games: GemCraft (I only played GemCraft Chapter 0) is more epic than any Tower Defense game made for Warcraft III.

I am definitely for providing additional jar files for off-line play, but I'm certain that the amount of players which IC got is mostly due to it being playable in-browser.

One thing about presentation of games that you can play in the browser: you should allow to darken the surrounding via a JS button (NG has this feature nowadays) or load them in single windows, which have a neutral-color (that would be dark gray) This removes distraction and you still can have links in not-too flashy colors (light gray).

MrZaphod said...

I do think you need to consider what a 'customer' is seeing when using an applet. Remember that some people are playing on netbooks(1366x768,1024x600) or widescreen LCDs (1200x800) so you are limited by the amount of screen height you have to play with.

One annoyance with the current island commander page is that I have to scroll down to see the game and if I accidentally pressed my scroll wheel and I loose half of the play area :)

What I do is use the fullscreen option on my browser - but how many users know about this?

Steve said...

Thanks for your points. I've decided to keep the applet format due to its advantages (easily updated, access is easier, etc...) but I've changed it so that it opens them in a new window (I don't know why I didn't think of that before since IC is a bit big). At least that makes it look more like a stand-alone game.

qubodup said...

You could add the text "Press F11 to use all of your screen!" *below* the game area to help some users.

Steve said...

Good idea, and I was going to do that originally, but now that I get my applets to open in an almost-full screen it's not required.