Choosing the Right HTML5 Game Engine | by Yandex Games Team | Yandex Games | June 2022

The web revolution led by HTML5 has made modern browsers more powerful than ever. Instead of having to rely on third-party plugins, they are now able to render sophisticated graphics natively, in both 2D and 3D. For game developers, this opens up limitless possibilities. While you can certainly write a great game in pure JavaScript, there are plenty of game engines designed to streamline this process. A game engine – or game framework – already contains most of the basic building blocks, leaving it to you as the developer to use those building blocks and build your game around them. Today we’re here to find out what some of the best HTML5 game engines have to offer and how they compare.

The first engine we want to mention is Construction. As its name suggests, this engine allows you to construction full-fledged 2D games without any coding. But don’t let that outward simplicity fool you: Construct has quite a few cards up its sleeve that make it stand out. For starters, Construct supports hardware acceleration on Android and iOS: your games will run just as well on mobile as on desktop. Recently, this engine has been extended with basic 3D functionality (while keeping a 2D priority). You can combine the accessibility of Construct’s visual editor with your JavaScript skills to fine-tune your game to perfection.

Just like Construct, Unfold has a lot to rave about. It offers a visual editor, allowing you to create 2D games – zero code style. If you know a thing or two about Lua, you can make your projects even better with a few lines of code. Defold has a huge advantage over Construct, as it is cross-platform and completely open-source. You won’t have to pay royalties or subscriptions to use Defold’s feature-rich toolkit.

Defold deservedly holds the place among the most commonly used engines in our catalog with a thriving community. In tandem with the Defold team, we’ve organized a month-long Games Jam in 2021. Check out the winners here.

Naval battle universe by Insality Games: a charming take on a timeless tabletop classic and one of the winners of the Yandex Games Jam

Speaking of open source, GExpand is another freely distributed engine designed for 2D games. Similar to Defold and Construct, GDevelop’s main draw is its visual editor. Although the UI might look a bit clunky, GD is a respectable event engine. But what if you’re looking for advanced 3D capabilities?

Even if you’re not a game developer, chances are you’ve heard a lot about it Unity, the most popular game engine in the world. Love it or hate it, Unity is by far the most versatile framework included in this list. Thanks to the WebGL library, Unity games can run in modern browsers.

Unfortunately, there’s a catch: As powerful as it is, Unity won’t do almost any serious programming for you, unlike Construct or Defold. This engine requires a good command of C# and can be incredibly intimidating for beginners. Another drawback of this engine is its exclusive nature – you will have to pay licensing fees if your monetized games exceed a certain amount. Finally, games made with Unity are sadly difficult to optimize, which was doubly true for HTML5 games. Fortunately, the recent release fixes some of these issues, and the Unity team is constantly working to ensure smooth and smooth WebGL performance.

Battle Heroes: Kingdom Defense by Fantasy Games is a beautiful open world action RPG built with Unity

A free and open source alternative to Unity, Godot is another feature-packed contender that can satisfy your 3D needs. That’s not to say that Godot isn’t ideal for 2D games either: in fact, that’s where it shines even more. Godot’s liveliness, advanced physics engine, editor for visual programming, and native support for multiple programming languages ​​are just some of the many advantages it has. If you need to add code, you can do it in the engine itself without having to use a third-party IDE. (We’re looking at you, Unity!)

To sum up our brief spotlight, Laya Air is an ultra-lightweight open-source engine that supports 2D and 3D. Be careful, it is not an easy engine to master, because the mastery of JavaScript and TypeScript is essential. But it pays off – HTML5 games created with LayaAir run flawlessly even on low-spec PCs by seamlessly switching to Canvas if the GPU doesn’t support WebGL. Moreover, when we say “ultra-light”, we are not really exaggerating: LayaAir only takes about ten megabytes. For comparison, Unity can consume up to 12 gigabytes of disk space when it contains additional components.

dark genesis by Esprit Games: an incredibly addictive idle fighting game made with LayaAir

There are many other engines and frameworks suitable for developing HTML5 games, such as Unreal, String, PlayCanvas, GameMakerStudio, RPG Creator, Phaser, Babylon, etc. We will review some of them in one of our next articles. For now, remember that no engine is inherently better than another: it’s up to you to decide which software is better, all based on your own vision and confidence in your skills.

Some engines have modest functionality and are designed to be easy to use, while others offer a virtually unlimited arsenal of tools but are much more demanding on the user. Opening up an engine like Unity for the first time can be scary, but the amount of stuff you can achieve with it might be worth it. Conversely, a more user-friendly engine won’t make full-fledged game development a cakewalk: a lot goes into a good game, from assets and overall design to individual mechanics.

But whichever engine you decide to use, we’ll be happy to publish your HTML5 games on our platform – totally free, no strings attached. All you have to do is follow our developer guide to get started. There you will also find a ready-made Yandex Games SDK for easy integration of your games into our platform. Earn money from in-game purchases and ads while leaving the hard work to us: Yandex Games covers your infrastructure, advertising and analytics.


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