The Humble Bundles offer a variety of interesting games at low prices, with the idea that selling in volume will make up for the lower per-game price.
So far they've been correct, with the bundles raising large amounts of money for both the developers involved in the bundle and a rotating selection of charities. Players are also offered a bonus if they pay over the average price, and that bonus usually includes more games or soundtracks.
The latest bundle offers something different, however. The games have been ported to a platform-agnostic Humble wrapper that will allow you to play each of the games inside your browser, no matter if you're using a Linux, Mac or Windows-based system. This is a new frontier for Humble, and they're excited about what it means for the future.
This isn't streaming
"We've got a little Humble Player sitting right in the browser that let's you play the games right in your browser," Humble's John Graham told Polygon. "This is not an OnLive style streaming experience, you are still downloading the gaming content inside of the browser, but the browser is taking the role of your game library manager. So you don't need any third party apps to install your content."
"We're quite excited because this is the start of Humble Bundle growing beyond just a place to get keys and download links but perhaps growing into a friendly, low friction place to actually play games."
So you still need hardware powerful enough to run the games. Although the titles in this bundle aren't taxing, the code inside the browser is what drives them, which means you can access your games through any computer.
You can see it in action to get a sense for what they're talking about:
This bundle has, in fact, been designed to show off what this technology is capable of.
"We wanted to curate a nice mix of different gaming experiences, from 2D to 3D, from first-person to third-person to really show that the asm.js browser framework can handle many kinds of gaming experiences," Graham told Polygon.
"It is also worth noting that while Mozilla is cultivating asm.js and it runs really well in Firefox, they are not making the technology exclusive to the Firefox browser," he continued. "Chrome has also implemented the technology and we think other browsers are likely to follow. Humble Bundle was founded on friendly, convenient multi-platform experiences and because browsers are so ubiquitous you might consider this the most cross platform thing we've ever done."
Inviting a friend to multiplayer could be as simple as sharing a link.
You can give the technology a try now, and the latest bundle is filled with great games. Graham also listed interesting future uses for this approach to playing games: You could "stream" the download so in seconds you could play the opening of a game. You could load a game simply by visiting a URL without any third-party software; by joining the same URL you can join others in a multiplayer game. Inviting a friend would be as simple as sharing a link.
Developers could create games that are truly device agnostic, that offer touchscreen controls when you access them from a tablet, and standard controls when you're at your PC. Those were "just a few of the crazy ideas" Graham came up with on the fly.
He claims that porting games to run in this way is about as hard as porting to Linux, although they've had to figure a few things out as they process. The process will become easier with time and as developers get used to the platform.
"Music, video and other media have been transformed by friendly browser based services," Graham said. "Why shouldn't premium, hardware-accelerated games start evolving to be just as easy to consume as every other type of media on the web?"