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Google rolled out its Chrome 66 update last month, and its main feature is that autoplay content will be turned off by default. This may be good for people who are fed up with malicious videos while browsing the internet, but it has had a negative effect on game developers who embed their HTML5 games on the web.
Developers who download their games from their personal sites as well as sites such as the platform independent Itch.io can allow players to run their games in the browser. This is a popular option for small projects, such as those made for the Ludum Dare game jam. Itch.io founder Leaf Corcoran said that “quite a large number of games” on the platform were affected by the Google update, causing games to run without way to turn on audio.
“To make matters worse, from what I can tell, Chrome doesn’t make it clear that it turns off audio,” Corcoran said in an email to GamesBeat. “These are probably also mute games that use game engines that initialize audio on startup, but don’t immediately have audio playing. “
A workaround is for gamers and developers to select “Click to run HTML5 game integrations” in their Itch.io settings. This way, when you go to a game page, you agree to hear the audio when you click “run”. In January, Itch.io has deployed more integration optionsincluding allowing developers to make all their projects “click to run” by default. However, Corcoran says some gaming experiences “make more sense when they load with the page,” so Itch.io didn’t force developers to embrace this feature.
“We may have to make all games ‘click to run’ due to the Chrome update, but we’ll wait a bit to see how that plays out,” Corcoran said.
Google Chrome communications manager Ivy Choi pointed out previously published documentation for developer best practices going forward.
“With Chrome’s new autoplay policies, developers shouldn’t assume that audio can be played before a user gestures,” Choi said in an email to GamesBeat. “With games in Chrome, it can affect Web Audio. We have shared details on how the developers can go about fixing this issue, and the policy design was released last year.
Chrome made a very reasonable change to IRT autoplay videos. The change completely and inevitably breaks any net-art games or projects. Google doesn’t care about this, because art and games are not something that browser vendors consider valid use of the web. https://t.co/m8iT8AL0gx
– mcc (@ mcclure111) May 7, 2018
Chrome’s new autoplay policy is a disaster for gaming and audio art on the web, as anything that is no longer in active development will no longer play audio now. Almost all Phaser / Unity / Pico8 games will be silenced. Their development team invites comments on the new policy to @ChromiumDev
– Bennett (@bfod) May 7, 2018
Freelance Developer Andi McClure call update “good and appropriate”, But notes that Google did not connect with the development community before deploying it. This has led to confusion over what is affected by the update and what is not. For example, Google uses a Media Engagement Index (MEI) to assess whether or not a user allows audio playback on a site. However, the way it categorizes pages is opaque. On Itch.io, I also didn’t seem to have any issues with Unity games, even though they didn’t have a “click to run” button.
For McClure, she noticed that if people click on a game from its main page, the audio will play. However, if someone tries to access the game through a direct link or by clicking from another location, such as Twitter, the audio is muted.
“It really seems to me that it affects a lot of developers,” McClure said in a conversation with GamesBeat. “I see a lot of people posting about being affected today. Moreover, it affects even developers whose websites always seem to be working.
She says the documentation provided is unclear and does not answer some of the questions developers might have about how to proceed with the new rules. The guidelines make sense to the majority of developers, but “vague about what happens in some semi-rare cases.” Choi did not respond directly to questions about whether or not the Google Chrome team were planning to clarify the documentation or if they had made additional representations to the game developer community.
“The thing the developers are supposed to do is pretty straightforward. You should wait for the first user interaction event callback, and then cancel the suspension of your audio context. This is sufficient for the majority of developers, ”said McClure. “The issues I’m seeing are (1) What exactly are the relevant user interaction callbacks? It doesn’t say. (2) What about audio objects [or] createMediaElementSource? (3) Why the hell is my website, which is based on WebAudio and doesn’t follow Google’s rules, muted? “
McClure notes that the AutoPlay update is similar to Apple’s Safari mobile browser restrictions, so if a developer wrote code to satisfy one, they might not be affected. However, it is not clear whether this is the case or not.
“The biggest problem is that most game developers won’t be able or won’t have the time to patch their games for this,” McClure said. “I have six WebAudio games on my website. Cabbibo and To augment have dozens each. Developers are more likely to leave their games broken than to individually rewrite the code and reship 20 separate games.
Almost all of my online work is interrupted due to @Google Chrome update on audio playback. I feel that with this decision @Google actually killed https://t.co/LEY8FnusuY && https://t.co/1gptd8RYcm and I plan to remove them in the near future
– cabbibo (@Cabbabo) May 5, 2018
Independent developers who are now working on HTML5 games may not have as many problems. Some are already documentation of workarounds in accordance with Chrome 66 guidelines. However, unless Google rolls out a fix for older games that were discontinued by the update, it is impractical for most developers to spend the hours necessary for them. recode. These games can simply stay shattered forever – or disappear when the developers choose to take them down.
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