Internet Explorers: Browser Civ

By Alec Meer on February 1st, 2010 at 2:14 pm.

A rifle amongst the oily rags, Toblerone wrappers and bat skulls that litter the floor of the RPS engine room reveals we’ve never posted about open source Civilization clone FreeCiv before. By turn, that means we’ve never written about its newish browser-based offshot FreeCiv.net either. This is exactly the kind of site that should be telling you it’s possible to play one of the most important names in PC gaming history in your browser, for free. Unfortunately, we’ve been washing our hair since December 13th, so we didn’t. Now we all look like Jennifer Aniston circa 1995 (Jim looks especially glamorous), we have time to tell you.

In fact, now’s a much better time to be writing about it, as it’s been tweaked and honed to buggery during the last month and a half. Plus, with over 10,000 registered players, you’ve got a much better chance of finding a multiplayer game. If you can’t, rest assured there is a full singleplayer mode too. I’ve had a quick nose at it, and while it’s obviously not a graphical powerhouse (it’s in a browser! It’s open source! It’s free!) and the interface feels a little sluggish to me – begorrah, it’s Civ! In a browser! Pretty much everything you know from Civ and Civ II is in there, albeit in some cases with copyright-avoiding namechanges, and it even supports savegames. Key to note is that no plugins or extra software is required – all that it requires is a browser with HTML 5 support.

Obviously, this is very early days and the presentation needs a fair bit of work (which I’m quite sure it’ll get), but it’s one of those moments that something at the back of my mind becomes absolutely convinced that the day when operating systems are subsumed and replaced by browsers can’t be that far off anymore. And, and you can even play the thing on your iPhone. Free Civ, anywhere, anywhen – this is quite possibly the pinnacle of all human accomplishment. Until browser X-COM, anyway. Will be keeping a close eye on this one.

Oh, and if you’re a browser gonk, you’ll be interested in this comparison of FreeCiv.net’s significantly differing performance on Firefox, IE and Chrome. Short answer: Chrome wins, IE’s horrible and the comments thread is full of people whining that it doesn’t work on Opera. As will ours, probably. You do know it’s possible to have more than one browser installed at once, right? (They are casting about for a way to make it play nice with Opera, mind).

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37 Comments »

  1. Captain Becardi Jagermister says:

    Really cool news.

    I can’t wait for this to come out on social network sites, with the usual carrots attached. Hope this proves to be a good model, because eventually… RTSs on facebook! Oh, I can’t wait to see the day when college girls become interested in my favorite genre of gaming! Screw happy aquarium!

    • JonFitt says:

      Captain Becardi Jagermister built a Phalanx
      Click Here to Play
      Captain Becardi Jagermister built a road
      Click Here to Play
      Captain Becardi Jagermister wants ten gold. Help him now!
      Click Here to Play
      Captain Becardi Jagermister gave you Bronze Working
      Click Here to Play
      Captain Becardi Jagermister has declared war on The Atzecs, join the fight!
      Click Here to Play

      Yeah… can’t wait!

  2. Rich says:

    Didn’t Sid Meiers say they were going to make their own version of Civ for social networking sites?
    That would be sweet.

  3. Nick says:

    Nice comparison link there:
    “http:///”
    Do I get money for pointing out errors on the internet?

  4. Sp4rkR4t says:

    This will do nicely until Civilization: Network hits Facebook I suppose.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Schaulustiger says:

    Android app, please. Would be awesome to play on a smartphone that is not Apple crap.

    • CMaster says:

      Does your Android have a web browser? One that is in fact based on webkit, just like Chrome?
      Then it should work with that, too – it isn’t an iPhone app, just a browser game.

    • CMaster says:

      Thats not to say it definitley will mind. Worth tyring though.

    • Premium User Badge

      Schaulustiger says:

      I tried. The Android browser is Chrome-based (and supports HTML5) but FreeCiv doesn’t work. Looks like a problem with that Canvas thing, since only the bitmap graphics are messed up beyond recognition.

      Darn, Android definitely needs some good games.

    • Army of None says:

      Yes! Android games please!

    • Bonedwarf says:

      Apple crap? Buy a real device and stop moaning. HA!

  6. Lucky Main Street says:

    BROWSER X-COM! YES PLEASE!

  7. Tei says:

    The browser as a rendering engine has some potential. Most browser engines are optimized to render bitmaps, so anything that is bitmap based will be fast. Anything that need alpha effects, upscaled images, will be really slow. Having lots of entities will not slowdown the browser. Having a single big upscaled image slowdown rendering.

    Theres already a compiler that take Flash (SWF) and generate standard compliant HTML code + Javascript. Of course, you need a browser that support the standards (read: Not this piece of shit we can Internet Explorer).

    So we have about the 99% we need to end the reign of Flash. But we will never have the other 1%.

    The future will be made of HTML5. With it, we will be able to mix video and vectorial graphics (with SVG) so often, It will be possible to do more than with Flash. And It will be safe ( Flash is *not* safe) and fast (but *not* as fast as Flash is nowdays)

    Javascript is turing complete, and very flexible. There was a lisp interpreter. I can see how in the future there will be compilers from Any language to Javascript. Maybe C++ to Javascript, .NET to Javascript. Maybe even recreate x86 in javascript, and run all MS-DOS games in a HTML page.

    • bookwormat says:

      The future will be made of HTML5.

      this. I assume we will see a lot of projects this year, including first steps with WebGL.

      What’s currently missing are frameworks,high level APIs on top of the HTML5 stack. There is a lot of work in progress, but currently most projects reinvent the wheel over and over again.

      Maybe even recreate x86 in javascript, and run all MS-DOS games in a HTML page.

      http://www.masswerk.at/jsuix/ (2003)

    • Sentient says:

      C++ to JS wtf?
      For some things .NET is 10 times slower than C++, and JS 10 times slower than .NET so that’s a factor 100. And C++ is quite a complex language with a lot of features. So even if the can get the C++ to JS correct then you’re still having the performance issue.

      That being said I like jQuery.

    • bookwormat says:

      For some things .NET is 10 times slower than C++, and JS 10 times slower than .NET so that’s a factor 100.

      .NET is a software platform, C++ and Javascript are programming languages. Programming languages cannot be faster or slower (in terms of execution performance) than other languages. That depends on the implementation of said language. Javascript on .NET does not need to be slower than C# on .NET or C++ on .NET .

      And then, “fast” is not a requirement for software. “fast enough” is. As long as the software is fast enough, it does not matter if another technology could have made it faster. Especially if the “slower” technology allows for faster development, faster maintainance, faster enhancement.

    • Sentient says:

      I was just trying to indiciate that there’s a huge performance gap between compiled-to-machine code (C++), compiled to bytecode(any .NET language) and an interpreted language(JS).

      Furthermore C++ is an elaborate language, so creating a C++ to JS compiler will be an enormous task. If the only benefit is playing DOS games in a browser then I’ll doubt it will happen.

      True about fast enough and ease of development. On the other hand Dragon Age compiled to JS will not be “fast-enough”.

  8. Daniel Klein says:

    I’ve always been bugged a little by the interface of FreeCiv; clearly they really don’t care about that aspect. I’m not talking shininess or anything, I’m just talking simple usability. This is worse than the full FreeCiv thing. Selecting units is really annoying and painful, there is no list of shortcuts available, etc. I really hope someone will sink some work into that aspect. Or actually, I’m hoping they don’t, because if they do, this will eat megaseconds of my time. Hundreds of megaseconds.

    • Hodge says:

      Wot Daniel said.

      It’s a common thing with open source stuff – crummy user interfaces near-ruining otherwise fine pieces of software. FreeCiv is wonderful, it really is, but the GUI is like some overly zealous nightclub bouncer, scaring away all the potential punters.

      (see also: the GIMP)

    • Smeghammer says:

      Hodge:

      Gimp is open source, so things like can exist.

    • Kakksakkamaddafakka says:

      I don’t get what people have against the GUI in GIMP. It’s like every other photo program out there. Slightly different from the others.

  9. Premium User Badge

    James G says:

    I’m surprised that there appears to be any concerted effort to get the game working with the current version of Opera, as come version 10.5 (the next major release) it’ll have an entirely new javascript engine. Seems the time would be better spent ensuring things work on that. Of course, depending on the nature of the bug (either in freeciv or Opera) it may not be time wasted.

    Tempted to give it a try in the 10.5 alpha, but don’t have it installed yet.

    • Tei says:

      James G:

      A problem with browsers is that once a browser is out, is out forever. Is the webpage renders poorly on version X, is your work to patch your page and live with it.
      Everyone is migrating to something like jQuery, that helps hide these browser details, so the uglyness is on the library, not on your game. But the proper way to create a webpage is making javascript optional. So you can’t rely on jQuery for most problems.

  10. TenjouUtena says:

    But the proper way to create a webpage is making javascript optional.

    How do you expect interactive websites to work then? HTML 5 doesn’t have any interactivity built into it, so you need some other script engine to interact with the website. (Unless you want the entire thing to work on the submit-render moved, which does WORK, but in practice is far too slow and clunky for mos tpeople, when JS provides a much cleaner interface.)

    Javascript is abused, both in undesired effects AND in poorly written scripts, but I don’t think anything like freeciv or anythign gamish or applicationish could be accomplished without it.

  11. FernandoDANTE says:

    I keep clicking “Play Now” and nothing happens. Crap.

  12. FernandoDANTE says:

    I’m using Chrome and it simply doesn’t work. It won’t start, at all. All I get is the stupid home screen.

    • Unaco says:

      I’m using Chrome, went through making an account, and starting up a game. Seemed to work fine for me. Using Chrome v3.0.195.38. Just noticed there’s an update available… what version are you running?

    • FernandoDANTE says:

      Nope. Everywhere I click, be it the “connect with Facebook” or the “SIGN UP NOW!” links, it all goes back to the home page. Broken piece of garbage.

  13. Unaco says:

    Curse you!! I have a PhD to be doing, that involves sitting infront of a computer for the best part of the day… these sort of things are no help to my attempts to be a healthy, productive, dedicated research student.

    Seriously… I tried out FreeCiv a few years ago. Really had the feel of Civ2, which every one should play (along with Alpha Centauri. For me it was the pinnacle of Civ style gameplay). I’ll probably give this a look, either when I have free time, or I can use the XKCD “Compiling!” excuse, when I’m running my simulations on the Cluster down the hall.

  14. brkl says:

    I use Opera :(

  15. Carra says:

    Everyone knows that Firefox is best!

  16. Jeremy says:

    I can play the game, but it looks nothing like the screenshot on the homepage. I’m missing a lot of info icons, can’t see if/where citizens are working on the city screen, and I can’t interact with other nations. Hmm. Or is it just suppsed to be like that and they haven’t implemented anything yet? Using firefox.

  17. LionsPhil says:

    Oh good, a flood of uninformed blather about how browsers are going to render operating systems obsolete.

    Why, with IE8 and Chrome finally using OS process separation to isolate each tab, and modern JavaScript/HTML having some kind of shitty storage API, it’s almost as if we were really, really badly reinventing EXACTLY THE SAME THING. Only now instead of files, you get little packets of JSON hiding in your browser profile. Or on somebody else’s server. Oh, glorious day.

    Oh, and don’t ever press Alt-Left, because that’ll instantly quit your “web application”. Oopsie!

    • LionsPhil says:

      Also, anyone not mortally offended by the “powerful” system requirements for a game which has the technical complexity of a title it’s cloning that would run on a 200MHz Pentium? You make the Heavy cry. That’s right, your apathy toward this gross inefficiency just strikes the big guy right in the core of his being. He weeps for your squandered battery life as a high-end CPU screams flat-out to blit some 2D graphics to the framebuffer via so many crappy abstraction layers that when the Engineer tried to diagram them all out he accidentally created a critical mass of UML that collapsed in on itself and swallowed the entire red base into a black hole.

    • Devenger says:

      Can’t comment on the validity of your point, but I’m loving the style of analogy employed here.

  18. Leperous says:

    I want browser Sim City 2000 tbh.