Portalarium Player Enables Console Game Ports On Facebook

Following shortly after the launch of Portalarium two weeks ago, game design legend Richard Garriot has taken his first big step and launched the Portalarium Player for Facebook. The Portalarium player allows games that were developed on various engines, consoles and platforms to run as applications within Facebook. Judging by the quality of their flagship title, Sweet @$! Poker’, Portalarium games may successfully bring the console game experience to Facebook.

To play a game that uses the portalarium player, you are asked to download an add-on for your browser. While this is typically seen as a barrier to entry for most folk, the fact that the request is embedded within Facebook means that the right game may be able to overcome this hurdle. Portalarium has made the process of installation an absolutely snap, and the 500 kb add-on installed in 20 seconds and I didn’t have to reset the browser.

The Sweet A$! Poker game began downloading and playing almost immediately, and the quality of graphics and animation was of particular note. The colours and responsiveness as well felt more like the opening to a PC game you’d buy at a store than the Facebook introductions we’re used to. Also, there was very little slowdown which is quite prevalent in almost every Flash social game on Facebook these days.

While we’ve heard of add-on players before with Unity 3D and of course Flash itself, the fact that this engine supports various other languages makes it very attractive to existing game makers. While there aren’t a great deal of technical details on the capabilities of the engine yet, Portalarium claims that console developers will be able to port their games to this engine quite easily. That’s quite a claim, and time will tell if it works that easily. They also claim they support many popular game engines, like “Unreal, Unity, Gamebryo, Torque, or even your own proprietary code”. Does this mean we could see something like Gears of War on Facebook, without even having to download another client? That’s what the promise is. If so, this may be a key stepping stone into a whole new era of Facebook gaming.