JavaScript Game Development — Where to Start?

This is the question that I have asked myself this morning. The JavaScript ecosystem is huge. But today I decided to experiment with something new, how about making something simple and fun — oh I know a game.

A slightly more advanced version of Pong

Usually before evaluating any technology choice it’s a good to have requirements in place to pick the right tool for the job (or the shiniest tool for the job). Do you have requirements, you ask, yes — Pong. I want to start with a simple prototype of Pong, because I have 0 game development experience (actually, not true I did build BlackJack, Tic-Tac-Toe and Rock Paper Scissors Spock Lizard games in Ruby).


The biggest player in the indie game development scene is Unity, they offer an end-to-end tooling for the next AAA and indie game makers. But learning C# is not something that I have planned as my next learning topic. It looks like Unity also supports UnityScript which is like JavaScript but not exactly. From my brief exposure to Unity feels a little too heavy handed, I just want to experiment.


Another option that I have considered is Elm, it’s an intriguing compile-to-javascript language that promises 0 runtime exceptions. Some of the example do feature games: Mario, Adventure (Zelda), Pong and others.

In addition Tobias Hermann offers many praises for the functional approach to game programming in Elm. It’s also been that inspiration to things like Redux. The Elm language is very interesting and I want to come back to it, but it looks like currently there is no set “Game Engine” or any other support library in Elm — everything is do-it-yourself.


JavaScript the best* language

Ok, ok so what about vanilla JavaScript you ask. Unsurprisingly JavaScript has many libraries and game engines to choose from, HTML5 Game Engines and this Github Wiki offer some choices. Did I mention choices, oh so many choices. After some research, primarily reading Reddit threads (yes, I know) and looking at the websites of the most popular frameworks (judging-a-frameworks-by-its-homepage™) I am considering these 3, no, 5 game frameworks:

  1. Phaser —“A fast, fun and free open source HTML5 game framework”, looks like it has many features, ooh Opal support.
  2. Pixi.js — “2D webGL renderer with canvas fallback”, its fast?!
  3. Create.js — “A suite of JavaScript libraries and tools designed for working with HTML5”, not just games.
  4. Crafty.js —“A flexible framework for Javascript games”, looks small maybe simple too.
  5. gameQuery — “Javascript game engine for jQuery”, looks unmaintained and has a nice SteetFighter demo (unplayable) but hey, it’s jQuery.

So, my plan over the next few posts to experiment with these game frameworks and share my experiences.