The developing WebGL demoscene

One of my key memories from playing a friends Amiga oh so many years ago (apart from Cannon Fodder) is the cool intro demos created by the demoscene. These were usually found on, cough, slightly dodgy versions of games that were “acquired” from various sources :)

What’s always amazed me about these demos is the amount of space the programmers had to play with and the hardware available at the time; both extremely limited. While the space and hardware limitations are no longer an issue, people are still developing these amazing demos. One reason for this is due to an exciting area in Web Development that’s currently flourishing: WebGL. The technical specification was finalised last week and developers have started to take notice of this very powerful visual programming language. Developing demos in the browser environment is a new limitation and programmers are looking at WebGL to push the boundaries.

The demoscene in action via WebGL
WebGL port of 'glass', an old 64kb demo from 2000.

The demo above has been converted into WebGL by a very talented programmer called Per-Olov Jernberg (Possan). You can even take a look at the source on Github if your that way inclined! You can view the original from April 2000 here.

With modern browsers like Chrome, Firefox 4 and now Opera adding WebGL support and improving their JavaScript engines, there’s never been a better time for Web Developers to get involved in this new demoscene. All that’s needed is some JavaScript, Canvas and a little creativity. I genuinely look forward to seeing all the old school programmers diving into WebGL. I personally know very little about this new language so I’ll be able to learn so much by doing a quick “view source”.

There’s already a WebGL competition in progress called gl64k where programmers have to create an interesting visual demo with only 64k (65,536 bytes) at their disposal. Awesome stuff will be emerging from this new technology in the next couple of years and I for one can’t wait to see what!