Yeah, Pretty Epic: Unreal In Flash

By Alec Meer on October 5th, 2011 at 9:10 am.

Yes, yes, UT3 was boring, BUT IT'S THE ENGINE THAT MATTERS YOU FOOLS

Last night saw just the latest sign that civilisation is on a nosedive to hell, as the entire internet lost its mind over the prospect of seeing pictures of a new telephone. Subsumed by that news was far more interesting news for people who prefer their technology in a hot metal box: Epic have gotten their Unreal Engine 3 running in Flash. In theory, this means running the likes of Unreal Tournament 3 in a browser – as is demonstrated below.

WITCHCRAFT.

This is apparently thanks to Adobe’s latest update to the web-straddling monster that is Flash. Flash 11 brings hardware acceleration, which means, says Epic’s king Tim Sweeney, “games built for high-end consoles can now run on the Web or as Facebook apps, reaching an enormous user base. This totally changes the playing field for game developers who want to widely deploy and monetise their games.”

Ew, he said “monetise.” But he also said that we could be in for mega-graphicked PC games that step away from traditional installing altogether, if the games are designed smartly enough. Here’s another demo, of their Epic Citadel iOS app converted to Flash on a desktop PC:

I’m quite impressed. I don’t know that I necessarily want to be playing streaming browser games instead of sitting down to something installed and ready and all that, but this stuff is tantalising and clever indeed. Wonder what the current browser engine monarchs, the Unity guys, will offer in riposte to this?

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69 Comments »

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  1. godgoo says:

    And I’ve got no defense for it.
    The heat is too intense for it.
    What good would commonsense for it do?

  2. sonicblastoise says:

    Holy crap. The death of Unity3D? I sure hope not

    • Awesomo says:

      Unity already has its own browser plugin so this is arguably no as big a deal for them, but they’re actually working on this too

    • bill says:

      Except flash has about a 95% install rate, and unity is probably well under 5%.

      With HTML5 taking over most of Flash’s regular uses, Adobe seem to be repositioning it as a games platform… which is probably big competition for unity.
      But might also open up the market for them.

    • Mad Hamish says:

      It’s way more difficult to make games on the Unreal engine. For luddites like myself, Unity is much quicker and easier to use to make games. If you want to make a game, Unity has to least amount of barriers between you and a finished game. I think there will always gonna be a market for the likes of Unity.

    • robb says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Unity added Flash 11 as a deployment target, too

    • Premium User Badge

      sasayan says:

      I second the ease of development for Unity, they also have a huge community putting out tutorials, help pages, and code packages to make things even easier.

      Plus, in Unity you can right click.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      There is no lack of documentation for UDK. And Epic’s UDK forums is one of the nicest place on the internet.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hideous says:

      Unity can already export to Flash, as well.

  3. Derppy says:

    Flash :(

    If it ran without any extensions, on WebGL, I’d be way more impressed.

    • Tony M says:

      Flash! Flash I love you! But we only have 14 hours to save the Earth.

    • Premium User Badge

      hexapodium says:

      Dispatch War Rocket Ajax to bring back his body!

      combos aside, this looks really exciting from a “pretty browser games” perspective. Not sure it’ll take off with truly large triple-A titles, just because of the trouble with Flash access to local data, plus the problem of streaming all that texture/model/sound data (unless you’re running from a local flash object, in which case why aren’t you just installing the UDK base?). I’d be interested to see a UDK/flash implementation of something on the scale of Machinarium/Trine though. Or even just bejeweled/peggle with UDK level prettiness.

  4. Rao Dao Zao says:

    Respawners… On a battlefield.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Hideous says:

    Unity 3D already exports to Flash, you know.

  6. Vexing Vision says:

    I never liked Browsergames. To me, I can’t shake the “it’s Mafia Wars with elves/shotguns/steampunk/cybermancy”-comparison.

    Until recently. Unity is an impressive proof-of-concept (that hasn’t been fully realized yet, but things like Battlestar Galactica and Tiger Woods online are actually quite impressive). The Drakensang game is, fo all its boring mechanics. an amazing piece of technology. And now this…

    I really don’t want to admit it, but these browser-game people might be on to something. Ugh.

  7. Optimaximal says:

    I’d like to see this *actually* running in *my* browser, not a video of it running in someone else’s…

    • Hoaxfish says:

      yea, I get the feeling this might well just be a juddering mess burning a hole through my motherboard if I tried it personally.

    • Salt says:

      It’s doing all the fancy processing on the graphics card (which is a new feature in the just-released Flash Player 11) so it should be no more taxing on your system than a traditional downloaded game.

      I’d love to link to a plethora of demos, but in a truly hilariously move a few months ago in the beta they changed the method for initialising the backbuffer which instantly broke all the demos made before then. It’s literally one line of code to fix, but the internet is inherently lazy about tidying old stuff.

      Here’s an example from a free-to-play Chinese tank game – make sure you have Flash Player 11 installed.
      http://alternativaplatform.com/en/demos/crash/

      It’s kind of a pain when the best example I can give is a game built on a pre-existing 3D engine. There were a load of really nice (and much faster loading) demos showing off fancy effects. All my work is with 2D graphics and is severely lacking in the looking exciting and new. It really is lovely and fast though.

    • Milky1985 says:

      OK couple of things firstly is it actually running as a normal flash thing does, in which case won’t you need an epically (pun not intended) big temp file to store all the textures it downloads?

      Oh and clear your temp internet files, there goes the download again for more waiting?

      Or is it actualyl just streaming aka onlive?

  8. Flukie says:

    You can give this a try to see the basics of whats possible.

    http://www.nissan-stagejuk3d.com/

  9. Shadram says:

    You’d still have to download all the textures, etc, which could mean massive loading times to get into the games. Hardware acceleration in Flash is a very good thing for the web, and browser games in general, I’m just not sure about the feasibility of such high fidelity games as UT3 running that way. I’d be more than happy to be proven wrong, though.

    • Cryo says:

      Procedural textures could help with load times.

    • MadMinstrel says:

      Progressive texture streaming might help that quite a bit, though at the cost of visual fidelity until they’re loaded.

  10. Ovno says:

    @sonicblastoise (damn reply button)

    Impressive, not going to change much for unity in my opinion though, its such as good product for indies, cross platform and fast prototyping that those who are using it aren’t going to swap to unreal with its high royalty payments and vastly different development style. Also unity can be used to produce installable games as well as browser based, so people are already using it in arenas where unreal is available.

    I know I won’t be swapping over anyway…

    How about Big Robot, you guys gonna stay with unity?

  11. mkultra says:

    So does this mean the end is near?

  12. WaveOfMutilation says:

    Pretty tech.

    But I’d be alot more excited if it was in browser UT2004 not UT3.

    For some reason UT3 just never clicked with me.

  13. clownst0pper says:

    Apple: run away!

  14. Bull0 says:

    “High-end consoles”

    Which ones are those then

  15. Heliocentric says:

    To quote Shaun Elliot quoting Unreal Tournament 3 “EFF YEAH”

    You realise that all of those mods-come-free games like Project Stealth could now be browser games?

    Mind blown.

  16. Valvarexart says:

    Unity? I’d say that Jagex have managed to do more advanced things in… Java. As has Notch.

    • danielfath says:

      Really.
      Can either of those be used as an engine to create your own games quickly and easily? Can either of those compile run natively on PC, Android, iPhone, XBox and PS3 and Wii? Can either of those allow you to port your stuff into it easily? Like drag and drop models into it?

      I use Unity and it’s just a tool to speed up development. It’s not a godsend. But comparing a game engine to Minecraft is like comparing a Honda to a car made of Legos. Latter might be fun to play around but for a real work to be done you need the former.

      The feat of it being able to compile (and debug) your projects to almost any significant platform seems like more of a feat than procedurally generated Blocko world.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Unity to Minecraft is not a valid comparison: they are not in compatible categories. It’s like saying, “Which is a better car, a Mazda RX-4 or a feather duster?”

      You’ll get further comparing Unity to Java, but even then, you’re asking, “Which is an easier game development platform, a specialised game development platform or a general-purpose programming language?”

    • Koozer says:

      It’s LEGO.
      /flee

    • danielfath says:

      @harlader: I guess you are right. I’m just saying the point is that Unity is a nice tool. A bad workman blames his tools. Unity is perfectly capable of making decent games. But it has limitations like any other tool…

  17. Metonymy says:

    This is timely, because the new version of flash just started locking up my computer.

    Not a browser crash, not a BSOD. Full lockup, followed by cold boot.

    Hardware acceleration is up there with javascript in terms of Really Bad Ideas. How am I going to stay current with the new generation now, when I have all this fancy tech turned off? I’m telling you, it’s getting difficult to be both intelligent and hip.

    • LionsPhil says:

      NoScript, and lots of it.

      I, for one, welcome a new class of exciting exploits from dubious Flash banner ads taking advantage of bugs in graphics drivers now that they are effectively passively exposed to arbitrary content. Maybe for an encore Adobe could just let Flash download and run native code as administrator.

    • mashakos says:

      oh look, some IT nerds have joined the conversation.
      I blame you fools for the dot com bubble.

      To qualify: unlike above IT drones, I’m a web developer and I am very excited by Flash 11. Cannot wait till it reaches 80% adoption rate so I can try some ideas I’ve had since PaperVision hit the scene in early 2006

    • Thants says:

      Flash is great. It gets all the annoying, obnoxious, animated parts of websites in one place so I can block them in one swoop.

  18. mmorpg games says:

    wow, seems better than unity, tho i like the dev tools from unity more.

  19. PearlChoco says:

    /waits for Unreal Engine in HTML5.

  20. Premium User Badge

    TheApologist says:

    Is this the alternative streamy future to Onlive?

    • NothingFunny says:

      It would require even more hardware power than running out of flash. So no.

    • Salt says:

      It’s really completely different from Onlive.
      Where that streams a video of the game you’re playing, this is just downloading a game which happens to then be played in the browser. All that it really means is that Flash can now do the same graphics stuff as Unity.

      Mentions of streaming is referring to the possibility of downloading assets for the game as you play, rather than downloading the whole thing at the start. There would still be a significant amount to download before you can get playing at all, and depending on how the game’s put together a chance of finding missing textures and the like.
      Incidentally World of Warcraft started doing just that earlier this year (might be wrong on the date) allowing you to start playing when the client was only partially downloaded, with the warning that if you go to the wrong place you’ll face a world of missing textures. It actually works rather well and helps combat the absurd size the WoW client has grown to.

  21. Kollega says:

    Saying that the civilization is doomed just because iPhone 5 is lauded as kind of a big deal has got to be that trademark British humour. Because objectively, even though it dosen’t do us any favours, it dosen’t equal, say, an asteroid crashing into Earth or Hitler retroactively winning World War 2.

    As for Unreal-in-browser… eh. I don’t feel like downloading 4 gigabytes or even more into your browser is that good of an idea. Dosen’t seem too practical to me. Perhaps some lighter engines can benefit from that feature, but i don’t feel that UE will be taking a particularly big advantage of it.

  22. aerozol says:

    Not sure if I’m being an idiot for saying this- but they did THIS before releasing a right-click / volume control feature?

  23. bill says:

    Only problem I with Unity was that my browser already had dozens of tabs open and was using about 1.5gb of ram… so everthing ran like crap unless I opened a new instance of the browser with only one tab. At which point it was pretty close to just having to run a normal game… (without all the installations).

    I imagine this would be the same.

  24. LionsPhil says:

    Why.
    The.
    Fuck.
    Do.
    People.
    Want.
    To.
    Run.
    Things.
    In.
    BROWSERS?!

    It’s a fucking hypertext client, not a desktop environment. I would like my programs in windows of their own, as proper first-class entitites! Gah!

    • aerozol says:

      The implications for lowering price barriers/ letting poor people use what we use, are pretty big.
      A future without hardware isn’t necessarily a terrible thing.

      I wouldn’t mind having my (pretty epic) old ball and chain (PC) moved to the cloud.
      Hehe, I’m actually thinking of how it would make LAN’ing easier. Obsolete, sure, but would be amazing.

    • LionsPhil says:

      There is nothing “without hardware” about this. Try OnLive (another terrible idea) if you want that.

    • Salt says:

      I agree with you that Unreal Tournament running in a browser is of no value to me, and the idea of downloading a mass of assets each time I want to play a game is absurd.

      But in defence of in-browser games existing at all: It’s a very convenient and far more secure way of experiencing small (both in file size and game length) games released by small group or solo developers.
      The alternative is to download a free floating .exe file from someone’s personal webspace and run it. No matter how much faith you have in the anonymous developer, that is just about the worst thing you can do for a computer’s security.

      I see this news as not being about the ability to play Unreal Engine games in Flash, but an indication of what the new Flash Player is able to do.

    • aerozol says:

      Read: “a future”

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’d rather see the OS pick up on tighter, easier sandboxing, really. Run As limited user helps somewhat.

      The browser’s sandbox is a leaky re-implementation, both in terms of escaping out into the OS (plain old vulnerabilities, including via plugins like—say—Flash, or Adobe Reader), and in inter-site isolation (e.g. the mess with CSS :visited selectors).

      And on top of this are the age-old chestnuts like the plugin losing focus and backspace or alt-left or whatnot suddenly being taken by the browser as “Back”, throwing you out of the game/app. Or the inverse, where plugins are a complete damn sink for keyboard focus and stop you being able to Ctrl-Tab cycle out of there or Ctrl-W kill them. Sitting in a browser window is terrible UI and “trying out dubious programs in sandboxes” could be done so, so much better.

    • icupnimpn2 says:

      Depending on how much work the developers need to do to make their PC game run in the Flash 11 environment this could be a step towards making games more portable across platforms.

      Think about it. Yes, Flash normally runs in a browser. But it doesn’t have to. We have stand-alone flash games like the first release of VVVVVV or Machinarium.

      Have the user intstall Flash 11 on their machine. Develop the game for Flash 11 release. Instant PC/Mac/Linux compatibility? Plus it will run in ChromeOS’s tab environment, etc?

    • Milky1985 says:

      “Have the user intstall Flash 11 on their machine. Develop the game for Flash 11 release. Instant PC/Mac/Linux compatibility? Plus it will run in ChromeOS’s tab environment, etc?”

      Just because they have enabled hardware acceleration doesn;t mean that users will have the hardware to use for hardware acceleration. Just because its on flash 11 doesn;t mean it’ll run, this wil actualyl cause MORE confusion for peopel who now need a pixel shader 4.0 card (its unreal engine, they are completly incapable of doing anything without the newest pixel shader) just to play something “in the browser”

    • Salt says:

      @Milky1985
      Now that player 11 is released we’ll see if it works as well as advertised, but Stage3D in Flash is designed to work universally.

      On MacOS it uses OpenGL, on Windows it uses DirectX, on anything else or anywhere it cannot access hardware (the user can disable access, and embedding code has to allow access) it uses a software implementation. By whatever manner it gets run it will produce the same output. Of course the software implementation is going to be much slower, but the actual output is theoretically identical. There should be no case where a user has Flash Player 11 installed and content will not work.

      From the very beginning that has been a key strength of Flash content. Every browser has slightly different ideas about how an HTML document should be displayed. But as all Flash content is run through a plugin made by Adobe they can make sure that its displayed and behaves in the same way. The downside has also always been a drop in performance, and Stage3D is unsurprisingly not as powerful as a native DirectX (or OpenGL) application.

      You certainly don’t need a pixel shader 4.0 card to get hardware acceleration in Flash. In fact their shader language is limited to shader model 2.0 (I’m currently writing a tutorial on it). Which leads to the conclusion that technically this is a version of the Unreal engine running in Flash, specifically one which lacks whatever features are unique to higher shader versions.

  25. Moni says:

    Realistically we shouldn’t expect too much beyond Epic’s iPhone games’ level of quality, tech-wise. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because Infinity Blade is really pretty.

    Although, even Infinity Blade might be a bit too much, it’s about a 700mb download.

  26. RockPiLP says:

    Another implication might be: Unreal games on the Mac. Oh, wait, that was last month’s news…

  27. DeanLearner says:

    Oh boy!!! I love UT3

    *click*

    Loading….

    1%

  28. DeanLearner says:

    2%

    3%

    4%

  29. DeanLearner says:

    5%

    6%

    6.2%

    *goes outside and plays headers and vollies*

  30. MadTinkerer says:

    Hmmm… I wonder if we’ll see a big improvement in the graphical quality of Indie flash games?

    I’m very much NOT expecting a lot of Unreal Engine 3 level stuff as Indie very much != having a dozens of 3D artists to make things pretty. I’m not expecting a Rage killer on Newgrounds anytime. But I wonder if we’ll start seeing more Doom-y, Minecraft-y, Playstation 1 era style stuff on Flash game portals.

  31. adonf says:

    “the entire internet lost its mind over the prospect of seeing pictures of a new telephone”

    Weird, I was under the impression that no one cared this time around.

  32. Robbeh says:

    Always online DRM? Stuff that

  33. lijenstina says:

    Imagine all the people in cubicles working boring jobs and contemplating about suicide.
    Suddenly, they remember about UT3 in flash.
    “Hey life has meaning again! I’m over a 9000 kill streak now!
    *Adobe Flash Plugin has crashed*
    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  34. manveruppd says:

    This also had Flash in it, and was a lot more epic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pv7HNAtCH74&ob=av2n