Browser-based gaming is the wave of the future, and Valve's beloved multiplayer shooter looks entirely capable of making the leap.
If you've been living in a cave this past week, you may have missed word that Epic Games recently demonstrated its high-tech Unreal Engine 3 running entirely in Flash. Unreal Engine 3 is the technology that powers Gears of War 3 while Flash is the technology that powers that stupid "Punch The Monkey" ad from 2005. You can imagine why this might be impressive.
Never one to be left out in the cold, Valve Software's Team Fortress 2 has likewise been ported to an unexpectedly underpowered platform. Well, sort of.
... a level from Team Fortress 2 has been ported to WebGL and runs without plug-ins in a browser.
The port of the level has been carried out by Motorola Mobility software developer Brandon Jones. The level in question is 2Fort, and although it's not perfect yet, the important thing is he has the Source Engine running at a smooth 60fps. In some cases it's up over 100fps, which means additional effects and detail aren't going to impact the speed to the point where it becomes sluggish or unplayable.
Key features that are missing include normal mapping on brush surfaces, water, accurate lighting, surface displacement, and a 3D skybox. But seeing as he's just experimenting and playing with other people's code, you can't help but be impressed with the results so far.
That video embedded above demonstrates the level in action, and as you can see, it's bewilderingly smooth. Statistically speaking, that browser runs Team Fortress 2 better than most of the computers currently playing the title.
The key difference between this and the Unreal Engine news is that this project is not officially sanctioned by Valve Software. Thus, don't get your hopes up for a Firefox iteration of Team Fortress 2 any time soon.
That said, it does serve as a very interesting proof of concept. Valve has always made an effort to expose their game to the widest possible audience, and this video, if nothing else, offers evidence that a vast new market segment is there for the taking.
Alternately, it signals an imminent collapse of the world economy. The choice between hunting spies inside a Chrome window and finishing your daily TPS reports isn't much of a choice at all.