Multiplayer html5 games tools

html5 multiplayer games

WebSockets are the most popular technology for developing multiplayer html5 games. They allow bidirectional communications between clients and server using a single socket TCP.

We code our multiplayer html5 games in javascript, both the client and the server side. More specifically, we use a game engine called phaser.io for the client and Node.js in the server.

There are several options for working with WebSockets. The most common and simple is Socket.io. We implemented sockets.io on our first projects. However, due to the increasing complexity and demands of our current projects we decided to change to SocketCluster.

Why we love doing html5 multiplayer games using SocketCluster

SocketCluster is an open source framework optimized to run with Kubernetes (K8s). It’s the base for our multiplayer development for the following reasons:

  • Because it’s faster and more versatile than socket.io. SocketCluster uses µwebsockets (coded in C++) and offers pub/sub.
  • Highly reliable.
  • Supports custom codecs during transmission to increase data exchange speed.
  • It’s easy to scale. Vertically using multiple cores of the CPU of a single host and horizontally with several servers. It doesn’t require Redis to share the state between processes.

For all of you looking for an introduction to SocketCluster we recommend this complete example of an Agar.io game type:

MultiPlayer game example using phaser on GitHub.

Finally, here a very useful comparison of the main modules implementing WebSockets:

uWebSockets

Guess which is our favourite Git client

We’ve been implementing Git for quite a while on our HTML5 games projects and we love its code management possibilities and its collaborative features.

Using Git with the command line is too hard for us, that’s why we need a client. Until recently we were using SourceTree. SourceTree is a great product and it’s free, however there were 2 things we don’t like. First, the theme is white as siberian snow, and our tired programmer eyes really favour a dark theme. Second, SourceTree seems to work better on Mac than Windows. That’s why we’ve decided to test the free version of GitKraken.

git clients compared

The team of programmers developing each of our game projects usually consists just on 1 or 2 guys, so  the free version is enough for our current needs.

GitKraken is based in Electron. It’s coded in javascript and uses html and css, which means it’s cross platform. Its GUI besides being nifty, is dark. Fonts are nice and the icons and its diagrams makes it easy and intuitive to use. Branching, stashing or checking out a branch just requires one click.

Do you already have your own favourite Git client? Have you also suffered from white backgrounds and bleeding eyes?

Jscrambler helps to protect our HTML5 games

jscrambler_protection

We love to code HTML5 games and JavaScript is a nice programing language but unfortunately everyone can access to the source code of our games. And that includes those cheeky guys who doesn’t want to respect existing license agreements or those just looking for “inspiration” for their next cloned game.

Luckily we have a powerful ally called Jscrambler.

Jscrambler is quite intuitive and it’s web based. There are some other javascript obfuscators but JScrambler offers the most complete and secure solution. Its version 4 has just been released. According to Pedro Fortuna, CTO of JScrambler:

“Version 4 brings the product from a code protection solution to a platform that provides a tamper-proof environment to the application, making sure it is executed without interferences and by legitimate users only.”

We’d like to show you an example of the level of protection that Jscrambler offers, we’ll take a function of our game “Alien Kindergarten” and obfuscate it.

We can see that even after using JSbeautifier the code is quite difficult to understand. Besides site-locking they offer some interesting transformations such as dead code insertion (that’s why the obfuscated code is longer) and member enumeration.

Mission accomplished…. it looks like that doing the whole thing from scratch is much easier than attempting a reverse engineering.

Ahhhh! forgot to say that Jscrambler is optimized for games and doesn’t affect performance.

Help phaser development

 phaser_logo

We’ve been using an html5 game engine called Phaser for over a year. It’s open source and was created by a photon storm.Our experiences with Phaser have been fantastic. We’ve tried several frameworks but found Phaser the best game engine to develop our games from the usability and performance points of view.Now Richard Davey, the man behind Phaser, has started a campaign to collect money to be able to dedicate more time enhancing his incredible framework.Please check this out:

>> Phaser on Patreon

Using Trello in game development

trello_screen_captureAs game development technology evolves, so do work methodologies. One of the up and coming ways of organizing work, used by an ever increasing number of studios, is scrum.

Scrum is an agile development method that allows for quick iteration and offers great adaptability to suit the needs of the project or any sudden setbacks. It mainly focuses on … getting a working game as soon as possible, and then improving upon it. As such, it can be an invaluable tool for studios wishing to save time otherwise spent redoing previous work all over.

And this is where Trello comes in. Trello presents itself as a board, accessible to all participants in the development process of a game, where tasks to be done get pinned for everyone to see. This allows everyone on the team to be up to date on what must be done, or what’s already been done, as well as swiftly assign new tasks.
There are no bosses in Trello: anyone can add their own cards and assign people to them, move them around, or edit existing ones to add extra info. For example, if a task requires certain assets, such as an image or a code snippet, you can add it so whoever is in charge can get it without needing a file transfer.
Typically, a Trello board is split into three sections: “To Do” – where tasks planned are stored and are assigned or picked up by different workers, “Doing” – for tasks currently in development or subject to change, and finally “Done” – for tasks completed and awaiting approval. Additionally, we make use of an extra column dedicated to bug reporting “Bugs :(“. This way, if anyone involved on the development finds a bug in the game, they can file a ticket immediately.
Another obvious advantage to Trello is knowing at any time who is working on what, avoiding unnecessary overlap due to poor communication between team members while also being able to gauge each worker’s workload at a simple glance.
All in all, Trello has become a must for our studio, and we encourage others to try and use it on their games, we are sure you’ll see an improvement!

Stepping up performance with TexturePacker

Companies are always thriving in order to step up their performance, and every little bit helps. In fact, we are no different. Thus, we like to pick up proper tools, matching to our needs. And our last decision was to implement TexturePacker.
texturepacker sprite sheet
TexturePacker is a spritesheet building software. And the best at it, if you ask us. Why? May you ask. Well, there’s a lot say then. We’ve tested pretty much all other options, both browser based or native software, and we came to feel what makes it different.
First of all it’s fast. Ridiculously fast. It takes less than half a minute to just take all your sprites and convert them into a functional spritesheet. Moreover, it’s also easy. Default settings fit in most scenarios, which really helps with newcomer fellows. And this can be extrapolated to anyone who wants to start building spritesheets as well.
Then, it is a powerful tool too. It lets you save your spritesheets in a wide pool of over 40 supported data formats. We mainly use JSON files, as we work with HTML5, but it also supports the most popular frameworks, like Corona, Unity or Cocos2D. It really has a lot of options to toy with in search of the blending or look you’re after, be it with preloaded settings, or adjusting values one-by-one. Special mention to the “Reduce border artifacts” option that prevents halos from appearing in OpenGL, which we found utterly helpful.
To sum up, it’s continuously being updated, keeping up with all the frameworks it works with, preventing those pesky incompatibilities that happen from time to time and mess up your day.
And last but not least, it’s low priced. We like to see it this way: A lifetime license that includes one year of updates costs around 30€. Then you can add up more years of updates for the same price.
Summarizing, we invested in TexturePacker because it  offers us ease of use and performance, at an affordable price for an indie studio.

TexturePacker is available on www.codeandweb.com.

It’s time to optimize the loading time of html5 games

Loading time is critical on mobile html5games. Some optimizations can be achieved by reducing the size and the quantity of the assets to be uploaded without giving up quality.

We’ll describe some of the basic things that can be done to minimize loading time. They are quite standard, followed by most developers and include optimizations on these fronts:

 

Audio – Code – Graphics

 

Audio

Our game Foot Chinko contains more than 30 audio effects, that’s a lot. We wrapped them in just 1 audio file with this open source application:
Tõnis Tiigi Audio Sprite on github

The resulting file is called audio sprite. Size wasn’t reduced but the amount of assets indeed, and this helped a lot to keep loading time low.

Game Engine – code

We are currently implementing Phaser for all our html5 games. Our cute Pocahontas Slots doesn’t make use of all the capabilities of this great and robust framework. It doesn’t need the physics module, for example. Instead of referencing this file in the index.html:

phaser.min.js (709kb)

we include the smaller:

phaser-no-physics.min.js (472kb)

Don’t forget to minimize your code too.

Graphics

Choose a good and unique resolution, all assets of your game will be dependent of this initial decision. We usually work with the iPad2 resolution, that is 1024 x 768 px. Our games look alright on desktop and devices with a big display without punishing players with smaller resolution devices.

Did you know about texture atlas?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texture_atlas

A good program to generate them is Texture Packer. Once you’ve packed all the images into a texture atlas is time to compress the resulting png. We use an online tool called tinypng for that. This is the last step before releasing the production game.

In case you need a simple background image with a color gradient, for example, let’s say for the sky, generate a bitmap procedurally.