Web Monetized HTML5 Game Development - Grant Report #1
Our Grant for the Web project was announced in the middle of July 2020 - it had a somewhat generic name “Web Monetized HTML5 Game Development” since it was actually a few (six to be exact) smaller projects revolving around monetizing web games: three Enclave Games creations, js13kGames competition, an eBook, and a Gamedev.js Survey.
Our journey started twelve months earlier - from me giving a talk in July 2019 at the W3C Games workshop, then one month later there was already a Web Monetization category in the js13kGames 2019 competition supported by Coil. Two next months after that I was showcasing our (Enclave Games) monetized creations and some of the js13kGames entries from the category at the MozFest booth in London.
It was the time when Grant for the Web program was introduced, and we were talking about the opportunities to be involved. Fast forward to July 2020 and we finally got our grant confirmed and announced.
Bear with me as I’m going to go through almost half a year worth of updates from our Monthly Reports, which were containing Web Monetized updates as well - I’ll try to keep it as short as possible, but I want to give you a full overview.
Our grant was announced at the beginning of July, with the actual project kickoff around the middle of the month. I wrote the official announcement on the Enclave Games blog, and also did a short post on my End3r’s Corner.
The original submission contained six smaller tasks as part of the one big project. Those were:
- Enclave Games’ three new games implementing Web Monetization API, with the documentation of the whole process
- Web Monetization category in the js13kGames 2020 competition
- an eBook Building tiny games with Phaser (v4 Nano), with a chapter on Web Monetization
- Gamedev.js Survey to document the current state of the HTML5 game development community
I published a few blog posts about the js13kGames competition, including offering a Nintendo Switch to the winner of the Web Monetization category and Jupiter Hadley’s guaranteed YouTube coverage of all the games from the category, and a piece for the Mozilla Hacks blog mentioning both WebXR and Web Monetization categories.
I talked about games and Web Monetization at the SFI Academic IT Festival podcast, GitHub Open Source Friday live stream, and Investment Summit Online panel.
Remember that managing the js13kGames competition took most of the month of August, and similarly the next few ones, up until (more or less) the beginning of December, and even now there are still many things to be wrapped up.
I’ve started working on the first HTML5 game, Hat Tricks. I also summarized five years of the Tech Speakers program, explaining how I’m shifting focus from speaking to coding, and focusing my efforts on Web Monetization in general.
I gave a talk Introduction to Web Monetization in HTML5 games during the W3C Games Community Group meetup at the TPAC 2020 online event, and volunteered to lead the Web Monetization topic updates for the group.
I summarized Web Monetization category in js13kGames 2020 in a lenghty post including some lessons learned. I also mentioned familiar faces that got the grants, which I’m hoping to work with in the near future.
I worked a bit on the other gamedev project - Rack Match. Also, gave a talk Limitations spawn creativity at the Future of Micropayments 2020 conference, wondering if Web Monetization can help developers wanting to switch from web to (web) game development and earn any decent income out of that.
I was also interviewed at two different podcasts (yet to be published), talking about games and Web Monetization. There was plenty of video/email introductions and discussions about adding Web Monetization to various tools/platforms/businesses.
December (so far)
As a judge I was playing and voting for the games from The Web Monetization Challenge 2020 that was running through November, and after that I published my top 5 games list. I also participated in the second bi-monthly W3C Games Community Group meetup, where I gave a very short update about Web Monetization.
I gave a talk Earning money from HTML5 games using Web Monetization API at the Warsaw IT Days 2020, plus there’s the commitment to help with the Web Monetization topic in the Kernel Gaming Guild that will be running in January.
Progress on objectives
From three games, one was prototyped and two were being worked on past that stage, but they are not completed yet. The Gamedev.js Survey was planned, but it hasn’t launched so far. An eBook was discussed as well, but I haven’t started writing the chapters. The Web Monetization category in the js13kGames 2020 competition was a fully completed success though.
There are three main reasons why our projects from the grant were delayed that much.
First, the js13kGames competition in general - it runs yearly since 2012, and since 2013 we have a PHP backend that handles submitting the games, hosting them, voting on them (up until a couple of years ago), and all the other functionalities. It was a quickly built website that was going to be updated in the near future, but fast forward to 2020 and it’s still running, with only a handful of modifications applied over the years. There was, like, 5 or 6 separate attempts from various developers (I’m not a backend dev myself) since 2014 of rewriting everything from scratch properly, but failed miserably every single time, for different reasons. That’s why since the very beginning, I was spending from 3 to 6 months total every single year on managing the competition semi-manually.
For 2020, the plan was to try having new website once again, and this time it was going quite good, but then… pandemic happened, and the plans were shattered. I was assuming, or hoping, that the work will resume at some point, and there will be something new that will give me more time for other things to work on, but this never happened. That’s why I spent similar amount of time again, managing stuff semi-manually instead of enjoying new backend and focusing all the available time on doing fun projects from the grant.
Second, Phaser 4 Nano. When we were confirming the grant details, Richard Davey was working on the fourth iteration of his awesome HTML5 game framework. He decided to build a Nano version first, which would be a tiny variation with minimum functionality, and then work on the “full” version of Phaser 4 having all the features. This was suppose to be published fairly quickly, and I was really excited to play with it.
The original idea assumed I’ll be using Phaser 4 Nano to build all three games, and write an eBook about them implementing Web Monetization as well. Now I know it’s better not to depend your own plans on someone else’s, since Nano was scrapped, Rich was working on the v4 version for some time, and then spent a few months bringing many of those new features into v3.5, which was released just a few days ago. We can expect him to resume the work on v4 at the beginning of 2021.
I was really hoping v4 would be out earlier, like a couple of months ago already, that’s why I was reluctant to work on the games using v3, and was constantly pushing development “for later”.
Third, public speaking. I was so excited to work on the grant projects that I didn’t leave any free time for anything else. I filled 100% of the available time - the plan assumed mainly coding, but also writing. I wanted to focus on them full time and skip any client work and other projects. I even wrote the shifting focus blog post where the end of the Mozilla Tech Speakers program was the confirmation I’m taking a break from public speaking. Pandemic cancelled physical gatherings, and I wasn’t interested in the online ones at all…
…until I started missing them. Over the years it was my passion to talk about cutting-edge tech like Firefox OS, Gamepad API, WebXR, PWAs, and now Web Monetization showed up and I was excited to tell everyone about how awesome it is. I didn’t put this in the grant, and I haven’t secured a single day of work on this. Yet when the opportunities began to appear, I took them.
I gave an intro talk about Web Monetization to my fellow Tech Speakers before the Mozilla program was cancelled. I did the same at the W3C Games Community Group meetup at TPAC, and then prepared something unique for the Future of Micropayments conference, and then Warsaw IT Days. I was talking about Web Monetization at the SFI, VhiteRabbit, and Vivid IoV Labs podcasts, and also participated in Handbook Events, Investment Summit, and SFI panels as well. I don’t even know how much time was spent on preparations to all these events, instead of doing the actual grant work.
That’s why I’m planning to request a two-month deadline extension. It wasn’t even about the pandemic, which we knew won’t be helping, but assumption that I’ll be offloaded with new js13kGames backend, that the Phaser 4 Nano I was so eager to dive into will be released when I’ll have the time to start the actual coding, and that I won’t be doing any technical evangelism. All the projects listed in our grant are things we want to work on anyway, so it makes no sense to throw some away just to close everything before the deadline, only to get back to them afterwards, past the grant.
There’s so much more we wanted to do when the original grant would be completed: Gamedev.js Jam 2021 with Web Monetization, a video tutorial on how to build tiny Phaser 4 games including the Web Monetization chapter, more time spent on giving talks at meetups and conferences, podcasts and panels, documenting all our experiences and lessons learned so far, another Web Monetization category in js13kGames 2021, and so on. I’ve decided to go all in into Web Monetization last year already, and this is going to be continued throughout next year.
The Web Monetization category in the js13kGames 2020 competition was summarized in a blog post - overall it went good, Web Monetization implementation details in games evolved into more solid ideas this year compared to the previous one, although we had less entries than in 2019. You could imagine the pandemic would give people more time to participate in the competition, but it was exactly the opposite: tough situation in both work and private life took away all the fun for many developers.
There were the Monthly Reports that were already mentioned, which contained updates about our activities. I also reported many tech speaking activities on my blog, although this wasn’t part of the grant.
Communications and marketing
We didn’t have any marketing budget - it was all about sharing progress on our blogs (Enclave Games, End3r’s Corner, js13kGames, Gamedev.js), websites (Coil, Medium, DevTo), the Gamedev.js Weekly newsletter, and social media of those (mainly Twitter and Facebook), also communicating through Slack and Discord.
There’s not much to share (yet) about all three games, the eBook, and the survey, but we “only” need time to actually work on finishing the games, writing the eBook, and releasing the survey, because we’re past the planning and prototyping phase for them.
Since Phaser 4 is not going to be released soon, all three games will be created using Phaser 3, and the eBook is going to focus on more general Web Monetization in HTML5 games topic, since we have a solid amount of experience from implementing this in all our Enclave Games creations, and running two years of Web Monetization category in the js13kGames competition. It was going to be a small eBook from the start, so we don’t need that much time to complete.
What community support would benefit your project?
Andre Garzia finishing Little Webby Press, so I could use it to release the eBook, Richard Davey continuing to work on Phaser. There’s also an effort to get back to the idea of finally building a new js13kGames website from scratch, which would literally save me months of work. When the sources will be released on GitHub, other community members will be able to join in and help create the remaining functionalities. I would be devastated if I had to manage the js13kGames competition the same way again in 2021.
We’re really happy to see the Web Monetization community growing, being more active, and sharing their experiences so far. We truly believe the Web Monetization API will be a viable option to earn money on the web in the (near) future.