Sibblingz Talks WebGL and Cross-Ported Games

Web and mobile game engineers tend to spend a lot of time speculating how development for their various platforms will converge — Facebook, iOS, Android, and potential future additions. Sibblingz CEO Ben Savage recently told us that he’s throwing his hat into the ring of a specific technology: WebGL, an emerging browser technology that allows 3D graphics with hardware acceleration.

WebGL is part of the HTML5 Canvas, but isn’t necessarily one of the technologies that’s being referred to when HTML5 comes up. That’s partially because it’s not widely available. Firefox and, since early this month, Chrome both offer it on the web, but Internet Explorer does not; for mobile devices, only Firefox can use it.

But WebGL has been getting plenty of attention lately, especially following a post this Wednesday on the Facebook Developer Blog. Savage has favored the idea for much longer, though – Sibblingz has been working for over a year with a sister technology, OpenGL, to build its own proprietary system for cross-platform porting of games.

The initial focus is on moving Facebook games coded in ActionScript for Flash to mobile versions. In the view of most developers, that process is more trouble than it’s worth – usually, the game is just remade. Savage says Sibblingz can use 95 percent of the original code, with a shell of Objective C around it for iOS, or Java for Android.

Sibblingz tested out the technology with Happy Island, a game developed by YouWeb sister company CrowdStar. “The proof that works is that the day the Samsung Galaxy tablet came out in the Verizon store, we went, launched it on the tablet, and it worked. It’s gratifying to say, we wrote the software and it works on devices we never knew existed,” Savage says.

Beyond code, graphics are also key. While some web developers are trying to move beyond the vector graphics that characterized many of Facebook’s earlier hits, Savage thinks that vector art will be dominant even on mobile devices, where games like Infinity Blade have already wowed users with console-style graphics.