Chrome 94 beta – According to Google’s announcement for Chrome Beta 94, the company is bringing in some new web standards to enable improved browser-based gaming experiences.
Toward making cloud gaming easier and faster, WebCodecs, which are slated to be released very soon, and WebGPU, which is in its experimental phase, could make it easier for developers of browser games to access the power of your computer.
WebCodecs are codecs used to decode and encode video streams that are already bundled with a browser. They allow developers better access to the codecs that do this work for them. Chrome 94 Beta already has a few methods of playing video, but they’re not designed for low-latency cloud games, which are best when playing video in Chrome 94 Beta.
Testing next-generation browser gaming technologies in Chrome 94 Beta
As a result, WebCodecs reduces overhead, allowing your video stream to appear on your screen as quickly as possible, even with the aid of hardware decoding. Furthermore, it will theoretically perform better than it does now on slower machines (which is the kind of computer where cloud gaming is most desired anyway).
With WebGPU, web developers now have direct access to your computer’s graphics power, since they can hook into your computer’s native graphics API (such as Apple’s Metal, Microsoft’s DirectX 12, or Vulkan). The benefit is that web developers can communicate with your graphics card in a language it understands, without having to go through other layers that might slow things down.
Essentially, it’s a next-generation version of WebGL, allowing developers to tap into the (now relatively out-of-date) OpenGL framework. As a result, developers will be able to create graphically intensive games that run in the browser, utilizing the full power of current generation GPUs.
It is also possible to use both technologies outside of gaming. Google told a July 2020 talk that Zoom was considering using WebCodecs for videoconferencing and WebGPUs for rendering 3D models in the browser and accelerating machine learning models.
These apps would show up in Chrome 94 Beta, as Google is actively involved in all of these areas, from cloud gaming with Stadia to its own video conferencing software. The W3C has developed both pieces of tech, and other browser makers are exploring them too.
WebCodecs and WebGPU won’t be available for a few months, however. The release of WebCodecs is really close (it will be enabled by default in Chrome 94 beta), but apps will still need to support it.
In terms of WebGPU, it is currently in an experimental trial phase. Google expects it to be completed by early 2022. At that point, whether it becomes a feature depends on whether the trial goes well, if the specification is ready, and if enough people are interested in using it.
Technology may not make things that were impossible possible, but it’s still exciting to see how they work. A more flexible environment enables developers to enter the field more easily.
As game developers continue to work on slicing frames onto your screen, they save time they can use to enhance other aspects of the experience for gamers playing on the web, either through streaming or native games.