Mozilla and Epic bring Unreal Engine to the browser

March 28, 2013 | 11:44

Tags: #epic-citadel #in-browser-gaming #javascript #unreal-engine #unreal-engine-3 #webgl

Companies: #epic-games #games #mozilla

Mozilla, the non-profit foundation behind the popular open-source Firefox web browser, has announced a partnership with Epic Games that looks to bring console-quality gaming into the age of the web.

Building on the work done by Mozilla on OdinMonkey, an optimisation engine for asm.js due to ship with Firefox 22 when it launches in June, Epic Games has helped the company bring the Unreal Engine 3 into Firefox for console-quality browser-based gaming. Ported to JavaScript and WebGL, the web-based version of the OpenGL graphics library, the browser-based Unreal Engine is somewhat closer to that found on mobile devices than on a full-fat gaming PC or even a current-generation games console - but it's still a serious step forward for browser-based gaming.

Demonstrating the capabilities, Mozilla and Epic Games have released a video showing the Epic Citadel demo - a 'game' that allows the user to wander around an uninhabited medieval castle and its grounds, originally developed to show off the capabilities of the Unreal Engine running on Apple's iOS devices and since ported to Android - and for a browser-based title that requires no plug-ins or special software, it's undeniably impressive. What's even more impressive is that the team claims it took just four days to port from its mobile incarnation, using a combination of asm.js and Emscripten.

Mozilla claims that the asm.js optimisation engine it has developed will not only allow for more impressive browser-based games on the desktop, but also to make this kind of impressive 3D experience possible on mobile browsers as well. The company has announced it is working with publishers including EA, Disney and ZeptoLab on using the optimisation engine to improve the performance of their mobile games, while other developers are investigating the possibility of having Epic Citadel-level titles running entirely within the mobile browser.

These games, Mozilla explains, will be made available through the Firefox Marketplace, the foundation's attempt to cash in on the popularity of click-to-install storefronts that has seen Apple, Microsoft, Google and others follow in the footsteps of companies like Canonical with its Ubuntu Software Centre. Currently available as a preview for Android, and to form a central part of the company's mobile-centric Firefox OS when it launches later this year, games published on the Marketplace will be playable with a single click on supported mobile devices through Firefox Mobile.

If you're curious to see Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3 running in a browser, check out the demonstration video below.

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