Epic: HTML5 Unreal Engine 4 'upgrades the web to a platform'

Remember that browser-based Unreal Engine 3 demo we showed you on Thursday? Well, Epic is also porting Unreal Engine 4 to the web—and it's got some pretty big ideas about what HTML5 could mean for PC game development. Here's what Epic's Tim Sweeney and Mark Rein told the folks at Gamasutra on Friday:

Tim Sweeney: This upgrades the web to a platform. Just like Sony and Microsoft have platforms, the web is now a platform, and if you can build and ship a game, you can have it run in several (and in the future, any) standards-compliant browser and have a great experience. It marks the end of drivers, installation, all the other weird quirks of legacy game development.

Mark Rein: Operating systems.

TS: Yeah, it's instantly deployable. Now you can have world-class graphics in any web browser -- for games, tools, whatever. And it's not done through any quirky language like Javascript, either. We're doing pure C++ code, the same code we run on all other platforms, and it's just being cross-compiled into HTML5 and Javascript for the web environment.

According to Gamasutra, Unreal Engine 4 can deliver "near-native performance" when running inside a web browser with HTML5. That may not be good enough for console development (according to Rein, "[with consoles,] you work really hard to make those games push into every crevice of performance for the platform"), but it could be plenty for PCs that already have horsepower to spare.

So, yeah. Pretty exciting stuff. I don't know if we'll all be playing the next Gears of War in Firefox, but the prospect of developing for the web as opposed to discrete PC platforms certainly sounds liberating. Making triple-A blockbusters web-based might also improve the chances of lesser PC operating systems, like Linux and Chrome OS.

In related news, Epic released an extended version of its Elemental Unreal Engine 4 demo at GDC last week. The video has now popped up onto YouTube, and it's a nice complement to the Infiltrator demo we saw on Friday:

Mmm. Purdy.

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