Every Wed @ 11 am Pacific we host a live Q&A event on twitch called EnhanceLive where we invite industry experts to join our panel to answer your questions and then do a live tech demo of Enhance™.
This week we had the pleasure of having Richard Davey ( @photonstorm ) on the show and heard some great conversation and opinions about the future of Flash, html5, and all things game development monetization from him and Chris Hughes (CEO of FGL). Rich is a long-time user of FGL. He’s most well known for creating Phaser and helping to foster the HTML5 movement and community.
If you missed the show, you can find the full episode here.
Also, below are a handful of the questions that were asked and answered during the show.
Q – Can you define html5 quality and scope of games that grabs pubs attention
Rich – Exactly the same as Flash. People are producing stunning quality html5
games, so that is what publishers expect.
Q – So what’s your main focus today? Like, what kinds of games are you
building and who are you building them for?
Rich – My work is kinda split into two. Most of my time is spent on Phaser and
the rest is split up between client work and publisher work, ie building games
for clients. Wherever you used to see traditional web gaming on an agency
level in the past has had the technology shifted over to html5, so the
campaigns we’re doing are basically what we were trying to do 4 years ago.
Q – With Phaser, we’ve been really impressed with how it’s blowing up! We saw
like the #1 language. It’s really huge! That’s awesome!
Rich – [laughs]… yeah… it’s gone absolutely mental! I mean.. it was
created out of a need… something HAD to exist and there wasn’t a great deal
around. What there was were basically just little hobby projects. So I
thought, “Right. Nope, something’s gotta be done about this.” So I released
it. That was just a few years ago, and since then it’s gone absolutely mental!
We’ve already seen over 2 million visits to the Phaser site this year.
Chris – Wow… That’s great! I have to admit. I’m cynical on Game Frameworks or
Engines, especially because of back in the Flash days when there were hundreds
and everyone was making their own engine. I mean it was the same thing where
if someone was building their own games, they’d have to build their own
engine, then think “eh, maybe I’ll release it to everyone”. I think the thing
that really set you apart from the others who were doing it was the level of
support and continued growth of it. I really think that’s amazing, what you’ve
been able to build and kinda continue. I think you might know, because I was
in your forums.. but I actually used Phaser to build a game and I loved it.
WAY back in the day I used to build websites, and I HATED it… so I thought,
“WHY would you want to build a game using the same technology?!” But Phaser
which was nice.
Rich – Thank you! The difference with Flash is that it did so much for you,
yeah? So you had like a Rectangle Class and a Bitmap Class there for you
already that you don’t have in html5. A lot of Phaser is offerring the
structure and groundwork that Flash was doing and the other half is doing
things that other Flash Frameworks were doing.
Q – Do you think releasing a game in html5 to validate the concept and build
an audience before releasing on iOS or Android is a good idea?
Rich – Ah.. good question.. I guess that depends on the game, doesn’t it?
Because it depends on whether the audience for your game can be found on the
web or whether they’re mainly the people that you would hit by going straight
to native anyway. I think there’s two sides. If it’s just a quick playable
prototype to see if it works, then sure, yes. To check if people enjoy it,
sure, yes. I think what that’s going to tell you though is whether or not you
have a good game. And then how that survives on the app store is sort of at
the whim of the gods.. and the other sort of assistance that can be enabled by various services. I’m not saying html5 is the solution to this, but rather
making and testing the game is the solution to that, really.
Chris – Yeah, there’s a movement lately to kinda go “web first”, which is sort
of anti-“mobile first” like we’re used to hearing. It’s exactly what you said,
it’s a lot easier to catch an audience on the web. Whether that’s Flash or
html5. I mean, if you’ve got a web game, you can find an audience faster…
now monetizing that game is a lot harder. But I think there’s a lot of wisdom
in what you said that, if you have a game, release it on the web to find out
if you even have a good game. If noone likes the game, you’ve found your
answer and you stop. If people love the game then you can build on it, iterate
on it, and then move it to mobile. I think that’s sound advise.
Rich – Yeah, I definitely think that everything hinges about audience, like
the types of people who are going to play your game. I firmly believe that
there is cross-over between web based players and mobile players, but I do
think there are LOTS of mobile players who live on those devices exclusively.
Just because you’ve got a successful web game doesn’t mean that it’ll
translate to a successful mobile game, I think lots of companies have found.
Q – Do you know how many people use Phaser at the moment?
Rich – I can’t give an exact number, because it’s free on GitHub, so anyone
can grab it. But I estimate that it’s in the tens of thousands, I couldn’t
give you an odd plus number, but it’s pretty substantial.
Q – Do the updates that Chrome and Firefox bring hinder your roadmap for
Phaser? And if so, are there any particular changes that you can remember that
really set you back?
Rich – Mostly they push things forth, but every now and they do like really
interesting little curve balls that really screw us around. For example the
GetMedia API is used if you want to use a web cam in your game and they
recently said, “Now this is only going to work in ssl”. So any game that was
previously made to use a web cam for interaction now suddenly breaks if it’s
not running a secure connection. iOS9, for example, completely broke the
Unlock Sound on a device when you touch it, which broke every single html5
framework out there. So… yeah. There are absolute challenges, no doubt about
Q – How’s Phaser 3 dev going?
Rich – Yeah, very well. Just to explain, Phaser 2 is the current stable
version and is being worked on and updated. It is built on a renderer called
Pixie, which sits under the hood and handles all of the WebGL and canvas
rendering. 10 months ago we started working on our own renderer to replace it
that basically has game specific features that we needed, like multi-camera
support and stuff. So we’ve been working on that and the renderer is getting
into a really, really good state now, so we’re looking for a release of that
towards the end of this year.. built into the Phaser 2 framework. We’re very
careful about how we do point releases now. Phaser 3 will be a BIG change,
there’s no doubt about it. We’re making it completely modern.
Q – What are your thought about html5 game monetization? What’s possible right
Rich – There’s kinda the publisher side of things, like selling a game for a
straight amount of money (standard sponsorship), and there are still companies
out there that still buy games and buy licenses for games. But it’s slightly
different in that it’s not all web based. I know that sounds a bit strange,
but basically they’re not all necessarily web sites. There are a lot of
Telecoms companies out there that maintain their own games portals that are
specific for their customers to run on their own devices. Like, you pick up
one of their phones and there’s a games icon and it launches a website with
games that they’ve curated or brought in from various partners. In terms of in
app purchases and stuff, it’s not massively taken off. I’d love to hear from
anyone who’s done well with it, but I don’t know of any personally. So I’m
pretty sure that money is straight in work for hire, client based stuff,
agency based stuff, publishing, selling publishing games, and producing as
Chris – As you know, we do a lot of html5 ourselves. We did a big push about 1
year ago to support it heavily. Some of that we’ve pulled back on, but we
still support licensing, sponsorship, and so forth. Every week we still have
people going in and getting games. It’s still to today less than Flash, which
is kinda surprising. We personally don’t care which tech you use, we support
whatever, there’s still more people investing in Flash than in html5 on that
front. It’s funny, when I go out to conferences and talk to big portals. I
keep hearing, “I want html5!”, so I show them a bunch of html5 games and they
pass on all of them… and they take the Flash games! The only thing I can
think is that there’s a tiny bit of difference in the quality. That the Flash
game on the web is going to be better, if you invest the same amount of time
as an html5 game currently (as far as optimization and what you’re going to
get out of it and so forth). Do you kinda feel the same way Rich? I mean, is
that getting closer at least to parity?
Rich – The worflow, isn’t it? It’s all down to workflow. The Flash workflow is
honed and pretty perfect, quite frankly. You’ve got developers and animators,
and designers all working within one tool. It’s always going to be faster to
create something when you’re in that environment with so many resources and
stuff around you. I’ve seen some html5 games that easily peak the best in
quality of Flash creations out there. So in terms parity of what can be built
in html5 vs Flash, that we’re there, absolutely. In terms of how long it takes
to build it, yeah that’s probably faster in Flash.
Q – What inspired you to make Phaser?
Rich – It was a combination of frustration and need, really. I remember it
quite well. I had a free weekend, the family were away. So I basically just
sat down and thought, “Right, I’m literally going to port Flixel to
week and I sat down to look at it and thought, “Oh.. this is quite nice,
really..” It was an experiment, really. I knew I wanted something myself that
I could work with and expand on for the work I was doing. So that’s where it
started from. Then I thought, “Eh, I’ll just stick it on GitHub and see what
happens..” and then someone started using it! And then someone sent me a link
saying, “Hey I made this game!”, and I thought, “You did what? Even I haven’t
made a game in a year!” and it basically snowballed from there, really. So I
would say the inspiration for wanting to make game development easy literally
came from Flash. I wanted the same parity in html5.
Q – Do you have a patreon to support Phaser?
Rich – Absolutely! We set it up a couple years back. If you’d like to support
us on patreon. I posted an update there recently and I’ve been really
surprised at the level of support.
Brian – Alright, so if there are any more questions, please get them into
chat! Otherwise we might let Rich get back to building out Phaser for your
Rich – I did have a question for you guys, actually. What has been happening
in terms of the Flash community? I mean you have a unique perspective on it,
in terms of the Flash community. Obviously I see everything that’s going on in
the html5 side of things, because that’s where I live and I see people coming
in from Flash, but I’m not entirely sure what’s happening to all the Flash
developers (of which there were thousands). Are they still at it? Or did they
move to native apps? I’m just curious what you guys are doing?
Chris – Yeah, totally! This is something that we talk about a lot in the show
where, at this moment in time we’re in a really exciting, yet scary time. It’s
like a transitional time for games. The last GDC I went to was the first time
in a long time where there was no message that everyone had, like, it wasn’t
“Facebook / social”, it wasn’t “mobile”, it wasn’t… it was a little bit
of everything! You had some console, you had the new ones like AR/VR, you had
mobile. And so, no one really knows where it’s all going to culminate, if it
even is, you know, to the one big thing. We see the same kind of thing with
Flash game developers. Some go off and make Steam games, a lot are still
trying to make Flash games, a lot are doing stuff with html5. We still do a
lot with html5, which is a big reason why we renamed ourselves as ‘FGL’ not
FlashGameLicense. In fact right now, for the amount of revenue that we make
developers, 2/3rds of it is mobile right now. So almost all the money that
we’re making for developers right now is in mobile, so that’s where a lot of
them are going. I mean, we had the huge html5 push and I’ll be honest, we
made, for all of the developers we worked with overall, like $1-$2 million for
them. So it was a success at some level, but there was no long tail to it. So
we simplified that, if you’d like to make an html5 game, we’re going to stick
to the licensing model, because all of the other models just weren’t working.
I think that’ll come around though. Here’s the big thing. If it were just as
easy, just as fast, and just as efficient to make an html5 game vs a Flash
game, I think it would change the game today. You know, that’s the only role
Again, if you are interested, be sure to watch the whole show. I had to paraphrase and cut out a lot of the banter to reduce the length of this article!