Services & Software

IE takes Contre Jour to the next level

Where's a popular iPad game like Contre Jour to go after winning 'Game of the Year' from Apple itself? Why, HTML5, of course -- and it's getting there with help from an unlikely source: Microsoft.

Contre Jour may look like little more than a high-gloss version of Cut the Rope, but that sheen goes a long way. Last year, it earned top honors from Apple itself in 10 countries across Asia and Europe, and starting today you can play Contre Jour on the Web for free for the first time.

It appears to faithfully replicate its gameplay from the iPad, right down to the multi-touch controls required to advance in the third chapter. But while the game is pretty to look at and fun to play, it's a showcase -- like Google's Cirque du Soleil experiment -- for what HTML5 can do. But even that doesn't tell the whole story.

The browser itself disappears when you play Contre Jour in Internet Explorer 10, but it is there when you want it. Microsoft

The real story is how this new version of Contre Jour clears up Microsoft's strategy for pushing a cutting-edge browser like Internet Explorer 10 alongside a new, native code platform like Windows 8. Sound confusing? It is, but only because the new paradigm isn't going to be either native apps or the Web, says Ryan Gavin, Microsoft's senior director of Internet Explorer. It's going to be both.

"Our job is to say [to developers] that we have a great Web site platform and a great app platform. It's the best of both worlds, and you shouldn't have to choose," he said in a conversation at CNET's San Francisco office last week.

Contre Jour creator Maksym Hryniv apparently agrees, and enthusiastically so. "I was so reluctant initially that I insisted we start by just developing ten levels. But after I played the game on a tablet using IE10, I was amazed -- it was like nothing I had seen before on the web," Hryniv said in Microsoft's blog announcing the Web version of the game.

"There's absolutely no compromise between IE10 and the native app," said Gavin. You could hear in his voice the pride he's taking in Internet Explorer's turnaround.

On a technical level, the Gavin explained some of how Contre Jour for the Web was built. It uses multiple layers of Canvas, no Sprites, he said. And he noted that while the entire game is touchable, it has the ability to activate multitouch on multiple elements on the screen, but disable others like pinch-to-zoom.

All the levels in the first two chapters of the game will work in any modern, HTML5-compliant browser, he added, but the third chapter requires multitouch to play the game as you would on an iPad. And right now, there's only one desktop browser that can say it offers solid multitouch support: Internet Explorer 10.

Contre Jour for the Web. Microsoft

Expect that to change, as other browsers look to compete on Windows 8 the way that they've been able to compete on previous versions of Windows. "Multitouch is going through the W3C standardizations process now," said Gavin.

In some ways, that's the easy part. Cross-platform and relatively easy to improve, the browser remains the single app that unifies desktop and mobile. How to get a cutting-edge browser to not just co-exist but to thrive alongside a brand-new native app platform that will be struggling for developer attention and apps will be the harder sell.

When asked, Gavin would only say the solution is take an HTML5 app, and to build a concurrent Windows 8 app from which to make money. The strategy may be apparent, but its chances of success remain harder to predict.