One of my newer pleasures in gaming are browser games.  Flash and Java games are the majority of games in this boat, since they often overlap in content and are both easily accessible online, but it also extends to a handful of other implimentations (HTML 5.o for example).  Generally you can to just lump the two together as “browser games” or more commonly “Casual Games”.  As such I’ll be using “browser” to cover both; though there is a distinction between the two. Specifically a flash game uses Flashplayer where as java games are a programmed applet that is more independent; which is why java games usually also exist as a stand-alone application that can be downloaded or purchased.  Java games generally have better support for GPU enhancements and system optimization as compared to the more memory heavy flash.  The flip side is that flash is much easier to work with so games generally need much less development and are less expensive to produce.  Which is why flash games are generally free where java games tend to have a higher percentage of shareware trials with the full game being $10 or thereabouts.

Now browser games are really nothing new, they’ve been around since the Pogo and Popcap era started in the late 90s/early 2000s, where games like Bejeweled and Zuma started and quickly gained popularity. However, in recent years there has been an explosion of accessible browser games of all shapes and sizes; mostly written in flash.  There are huge repositories of flash games out there where you can play just about any style of browser game you can think up.  Strategy, puzzle, action, rpg, sports, platforming, etc.  Just about anything you could want is out there, either free or for a nominal fee.  Anymore, even if the game isn’t free, you can usually play a stripped down version of the game for free and for a nominal charge (usually around $5-$10) you can unlock all the extras.

Generally, the only issue I have with browser games is that most are made with flash these days.  Currently flash is rather memory intensive and does not have the GPU support that it should have to make the applications run more smoothly.  And as flash evolves, it requires more and more memory, which becomes an issue with older systems that lack the RAM resources.  Anything running less than 4 GB of onboard memory tends to bog down significantly when playing flash-based games, and I really wouldn’t want any platform running less than 8GB in the near future.  These are things that, with an overhaul of how flash works, could be reduced with some GPU support.  But, we live with what we have and I’m sure it’ll get there eventually… maybe.

Anyway, one of the more interesting genres made popular with the rise in popularity of browser gaming is “tower defense.”  Tower defense has stormed the gaming industry and is now evident everywhere; both in flash/java browser gaming, and in stand alone games.  There are a multitude of flavors out there, from the widely know Desktop Tower Defense to the lesser known Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord.  I’ve found that one of the best offerings of the genre is the GemCraft series.  Truly a very good series, and now that it’s established as a game series all it’s own I would not mind at all if they started to develop a stand-alone games which better utilize system resources beyond what flash can do (Java or other language).

GemCraft is such a good offering that I would not hesitate paying for future chapters if provided as stand-alone applications.  Moving away from flash to an optimized, stand-alone application would be worth paying $10-$20 a chapter to play.  It’s a pipe-dream for sure, but I can hope.

It’s rather sad that browser gaming tends to get such a bad rap, especially from the ‘hardcore’ gaming group.  There are a LOT of really good browser games out there at present, even some that I would include on a list of essential games for the truly hardcore gamer to play.  It’s rather unfortunate that either by its own fault or by the skewed views of others that browser gaming has the reputation of being a collection of shabby, quick play games with little to no offering for the gaming connoisseur.  To be entirely fair, that was certainly the case 10 years ago when the best offerings were on Pogo and consisted mostly of quick puzzle games that were largely forgettable (such as Spelling Bees).  However, despite the leaps and bounds browser gaming has made since then, the reputation has stuck and is only very recently starting to change thanks to games like Sonny, GemCraft, and Chronotron that appeal to those who previously did little to no browser gaming; myself included.

I’ll most likely be covering the Gemcraft games in a Monday’s Game in the near future, so I’ll  provide a more in-depth description of them.  However, for those of you looking for something to kill 15 minutes (or several hours) I recommend heading over to Armor Games and giving them a play.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?