Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 01:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mozilla, webgl
Tools for web developers are pretty astonishing these days. You are able to investigate the driving elements and objects as they are being executed within the browser -- and even modify them. This typically means that you can play around with the various functions and parameters while the app is loaded. You receive immediate feedback about your changes.
Web Standards continue to encompass 3D and other game-related tasks. As a result, developer tools are beginning to take advantage of their browser's managed architecture making it easier to tweak and debug content. In other words: you can poke your 3D scene as it is being rendered.
Now this is quite interesting. Basically all of the GPU's involvement in drawing a 3D scene comes down to two scripts (at least for WebGL 1.0): a vertex shader and a fragment shader. These are operations that run once for every vertex in a scene and once for every pixel an object in a scene occupies, respectively. Together they form a "program" which gives an object's geometry something tangible for users to see.
Here is an example of Unreal Engine 3 being modified at runtime.
The developer tools within Firefox 27 will allow you to modify these scripts at runtime and even turn specific draw calls on or off. This should vastly speed up the rate at which developers modify their effects especially when it comes to fine tuning specific variables such as the rate that waves flow in a water material.
Firefox 27 is expected to be the release version in early February; it is currently in the Aurora channel.
Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2013 - 08:05 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: webgl, artillery games
Artillery Games is taking it beyond a demo. They are developing a fully 3D Real Time Strategy (RTS) title, trailer above, based upon these web standards. The team of 11, 12 including the company pet, consists of many ex-Googlers along with alum from Intel, Lucasarts, Adobe, and more. Their video is quite impressive and, I would say, comparable to an XCOM: Enemy Unknown or StarCraft II level of graphical quality.
That is pretty good, considering we are comparing the Real Time Strategy to full RTS releases.
Being compatible with web browsers also affords quick turnaround for developers. Changes will not require a lengthy compile process as web standards are compiled at run-time anyway. Modifications should require, at worst, a browser refresh and, at best, swap by the next animation frame. This level of rapid iteration should help developers polish their creations quickly.
Speaking of quick, a private beta is expected before the end of the year. Full release is scheduled for some time in 2014. Their demo is shown on Firefox and Google Chrome. They have not mentioned anything about Internet Explorer 11, the first IE release with WebGL support, but who knows.
Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2013 - 12:54 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: webgl 1.0.2, webgl, web browser, tegra, programming
The Khronos Group recently announced that the WebGL 1.0.1 specification is compliant across mobile and desktop systems on a number of platforms. Chrome 25 and Firefox 19 support WebGL 1.0.1 on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. Further, mobile devices with Tegra SoCs can tap into WebGL using a WebGL-enhanced Android browser.
Additionally, the WebGL 1.0.2 specification and its extensions have been submitted for ratification, and is expected to be formally released in April. According to the press release, the following features are being rolled into the WebGL 1.0.2 specification:
- "adds many clarifications for specification behavioral precision
- mandates support for certain combinations of framebuffer formats, to ease developer adoption;
- clarifies interactions with the encompassing HTML5 platform, including the browser compositor and high-DPI displays;
- dramatically increases the number of conformance tests to roughly 21,000 to improve both the breadth and depth of test coverage - thanks principally to work by Gregg Tavares at Google and the OpenGL ES working group."
Khronos President and NVIDIA Vice President of Mobile Content Neil Trevett stated that "The close cooperation between browser and silicon vendors to ensure the GPU is being reliably and securely exposed to the Web is ongoing proof that Khronos is a highly productive forum to evolve this vital Web standard." Meanwhile, WebGL Working group chair Ken Russell indicated that WebGL 1.0.2 is "a major milestone in bringing the power of the GPU to the Web.”
Although there are security concerns to consider, WebGL does open up some interesting opportunities for new web services. The full press release can be found here.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Mobile | December 30, 2012 - 04:48 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: webgl, w3c, html5
I use that title in quite a broad sense.
I ran across an article on The Verge which highlighted the work of a couple of programmers to port classic Realtime Strategy games to the web browser. Command and Conquer along with Dune II, two classics of PC Gaming, are now available online for anyone with a properly standards-compliant browser.
These games, along with the Sierra classics I wrote about last February, are not just a renaissance of classic PC games: they preserve them. It is up to the implementer to follow the standard, not the standards body to approve implementations. So long as someone still makes a browser which can access a standards-based game, the game can continue to be supported.
A sharp turn from what we are used to with console platforms, right?
I have been saying this for quite some time now: Blizzard and Valve tend to support their games much longer than console manufacturers support their whole platforms. You can still purchase at retail, and they still manufacture, the original StarCraft. The big fear over “modern Windows” is that backwards compatibility will be ended and all applications would need to be certified by the Windows Store.
When programmed for the browser -- yes, even hosted offline on local storage -- those worries disappear. Exceptions for iOS and Windows RT where they only allow you to use Safari or Trident (IE10+) which still leaves you solely at their mercy to follow standards.
Still, as standards get closer to native applications in features and performance, we will have a venue for artists to create and preserve their work for later generations to experience. The current examples might be 2D and of the pre-Pentium era but even now there are 3D-based shooters developed from websites. There is even a ray tracing application built on WebGL (although that technically is reliant on both the W3C and Khronos standards bodies) that just runs in a decent computer with plain-old Firefox or Google Chrome.
Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2012 - 12:29 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: webgl, nokia
WebGL is a web standard which attempts to bring the capacities of OpenGL to websites; I will refer to web applications as websites because that is what they are. There were a few WebGL experiments to demonstrate 3D capabilities as well as concepts for sites such as search engines. There is concern over providing that level of functionality to an application, such as a web browser, whose purpose is to routinely accept data from untrusted sources. Microsoft specifically has been outspoken over WebGL which leads to questions about their motives: a harshly learned lesson from ActiveX; or fears that developers will adopt an OpenGL-based standard? Regardless of Microsoft’s intentions, their newfound cellphone partner, Nokia, has just released a 3D mapping system developed in WebGL.
There needs to be a decoder ring for cellphone company drama.
While obviously not an alternative to Google Maps, Nokia’s “Maps 3D WebGL” is quite aesthetically pleasing. Buildings are rendered with quite high detail and perform quite smoothly if you are in one of the zones mapped with 3D building data. You are free to orbit and view the scene from any direction by turning the compass near the bottom of the screen. All in all it is a cool website to show off what the future could encompass when GPUs are allowed to be used for mainstream purposes. Have fun.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 17, 2011 - 04:35 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: webgl, microsoft
WebGL: Heaven or Hell?
(Image from MrDoob WebGL demo; contains Lucy model from Stanford 3D repository)
WebGL is an API very similar to OpenGL ES 2.0: the API used for OpenGL features in embedded systems, particularly smart phones. The goal of WebGL is to provide a light-weight, CSS obeying, 3D and shader system for websites that require advanced 3D graphics or even general purpose calculations performed on the shader units of the client’s GPU. Mozilla and Google currently have support in their public browsers with Opera and Apple shipping support in the near future. Microsoft has stated that allowing third-party websites that level of access to the hardware is dangerous as security vulnerabilities that formerly needed to be exploited locally can now be exploited from the web browser. This is an area of expertise that Microsoft knows all too well from their past attempts at active(x)ly adding scripting functionality to the web browser evolving into a decade-long game of whack-a-mole for security holes.
But skeptics to Microsoft’s position could easily point to their effort to single out the one standard based on OpenGL, competitor to their still-cherished DirectX standard. Regardless of Microsoft’s motives it seems to put to rest the question of whether Microsoft will be working towards implementing WebGL in any release of Internet Explorer currently in development.
Do you think Microsoft is warning its competitors about its past ActiveX woes, or is this more politically motivated? Comment below (registration not required.)
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