For longtime Humble Bundle fans, this week's game offerings might look a bit staid. Osmos, Voxatron, Dustforce, FTL, Zen Bound 2--there are quite a few repeats from earlier bundles. It's the tech at the heart of it all that makes this Humble Mozilla Bundle worth checking out though. All eight games are able to run right in your browser, thanks to ports done internally at Humble.
Humble and Mozilla have partnered up to make these games (and more unveiled next week) available to run right in your browser using asm.js and WebGL web technology. No need to download Steam, no need to download plugins. If you're running a modern build of Firefox or Chrome you can run all eight games just by hitting the Play button on the Humble page. If you're running Firefox you can even check out a demo of the tech by heading to the Firefox Start Page.
Standing on the shoulders of giants
Humble's not the first to explore running full-fledged (read: not Flash) games in a browser. Chrome's Native Client technology, for instance, allows you to run Bastion, and earlier this year I checked out the full-fledged first-person shooter Ballistic.
The difference, as far as I'm concerned, is that people use Humble. The company's game bundles have become a formidable force in the industry, and they've already been a huge influence in bolstering Linux gaming. However, speaking with Humble co-founder and COO John Graham he was unsure how many games would eventually come to your browser. "It takes work to do the ports," says Graham. "You're not going to hear me say we're going to make all the bundles asm.js compatible overnight, but we are interested in doing more of these promotions and this won't just be a one-off for us."
It is incredibly convenient though, and could help woo PC users who are ambivalent about installing a separate storefront such as Steam.
"You look at Steam's hundred million users and that number actually seems a little small. There's seven billion people on the planet, two billion people have fast internet, and there's a hundred million people on Steam," says Graham. "Browsers are platforms. They have hundreds of millions of people, maybe billions, engaging with them all the time. We're curious to see can we break out beyond the hardcore guys who are comfortable downloading and running all these apps."
Hands-on with Humble's web-based games
I haven't checked out all the games but I did run Super Hexagon, which would be most affected by any latency, and noticed no issues whatsoever. Humble has also implemented cloud saves into all eight games so you can play on one computer, leave, and pick up where you left off on another computer as long as you're logged into the same Humble account.
There is one oddity that Humble says they're hoping to fix in the future: It's impossible to know what games you've already downloaded and manage those files. That's probably not a huge deal for these games, which all clock in around 300MB or less of storage, but in the future Graham did confirm to me they'd like to add an easy way to uninstall old content.
And there are other features Humble hopes to add--for instance, the ability to download the first two or three levels, let the user begin playing, and then download the rest in the background seamlessly. Or the ability to update the game builds on your computer by installing only the updated files instead of re-downloading the entire game. Or gamepad support for all titles.
Those features are commodities, though. Expect them to roll out as Humble gets a handle on the technology. For now, you can head over to Humble Bundle and check out the bundle itself. All eight games still come with DRM-free builds and Steam codes when purchased, so you're not locked into the browser if you don't want to experience the future of video game entertainment.
Side note: PCWorld does not take responsibility if you're caught playing these games in your browser at work.