Microsoft announced that it has teamed up with the developers of Contre Jour to bring the popular game to the Web with HTML5. The Web-based version of Contre Jour, available now at Contrejour.ie, includes the first three chapters of the game, or 30 levels. It offers the same look, feel, and performance of the native app, complete with 10 levels exclusively for modern browsers that support multi-touch, like Internet Explorer 10.
Contre Jour, which was named the 2011 iPad game of the year, is based on the French phrase “against daylight.” Set to an orchestrated soundtrack from composer David Ari Leon, the game challenges you to navigate and survive a dark and dangerous game world. Using your finger, you morph the landscape — by pulling, swiping, and tapping tendrils, air geysers, and pulleys — to complete clever puzzles and propel a mysterious creature named Petit to safety.
The game was designed for touch-screen devices, but most of the levels on the Web-based version will also work with a mouse and keyboard. Ryan Gavin, general manager of Internet Explorer, said the game is so app-like that players will forget they’re even on a website.
Bringing Contre Jour online was one of the most ambitious uses of HTML5 to date, Microsoft said. In fact, when Redmond first approached the game’s creator, Maksym (Max) Hryniv, he thought it couldn’t be done.
“I didn’t think it was possible to bring my all the intricacies of my game to the Web,” Hryniv said in a statement. “Once I understood how amazing the Web game could be, I immediately went to work on creating more levels!”
This is the latest in a string of projects Microsoft has taken on this year to showcase what is possible on the Web with HTML5. The company, in partnership with Atari, recentlylaunched the Atari Arcade, where gamers came play eight classic Atari games that were completely remade in HTML5. Microsoft has also tackled HTML5-enhanced music videosand shopping catalogs.
We sat down with developer Hryniv and Microsoft’s Gavin prior to the announcement to get the inside story behind the game and how the partnership came about.
For those who haven’t played Contre Jour, how would you describe it?
Gavin: Fun and imaginative game play meets this beautiful atmospheric world where art and game play come together. There are a lot of games out there that have fun interaction, but Contre Jour is one of the first apps with the whole package. The music, the look and feel, the backlighting, and the colors all draw you into an immersive experience. It’s easy to lose yourself in it.
Hryniv: As the creator, I can tell you that I put a part of my soul into this game.
Contre Jour has a totally unique look and feel to it. How did you come up with the idea for the game; what was your inspiration?
Hryniv: We can separate it into two parts. First was the idea of the mechanics. I had this idea for a few years, but didn’t know how to implement it. Then I had a flash, and knew how to make it, and wanted to try. I made a demo in a few days and it actually worked and had great ‘wow’ factor. The inspiration for the story and character came from The Little Prince. After creating part of the game I started to find some additional similarities to the book and can say the book really inspired me.
How did the partnership with Microsoft come about?
Hryniv: They said to me let’s create a game [for the Web], and I told them we can try, but it’s impossible. We started with 10 levels and after I saw the result we decided to create more because we have a really good experience on the Web. I think that users deserve to have a good part of the game playable through the Web.
What are some of the coolest features of the Web-based version of Contre Jour?
Gavin: The things for me would be touch and performance. One of the things people aren’t used to on the Web is using touch, particularly multi-touch. Everyone’s kind of used to using your finger to scroll up and down on the Web, but touch on the Web today is very, very limited. One of the things you’ll see with Contre Jour is that you’re fully interacting with sometimes three fingers simultaneously to pass a level. That’s very unique in terms of the capabilities of the browser and what’s been built into the site itself, and it feels incredibly app-like.
The second thing is what you won’t notice, which is that it’s just so fast and fluid that you will forget that you’re on a website, and that’s actually the point. It should be the feature that you never have to talk about because you’re so focused on Contre Jour’s amazing, immersive experience. You should never have interruptions, and what IE enables is that fast and fluid performance with things like hardware acceleration in Windows 8 and these new device form-factors. The touch capabilities bring it all to life now that you can use 3, 4, 5 fingers to play a game like Contre Jour.
Hryniv: As for me, the best thing is the user experience; it’s very exciting because it’s just the same as the native app. You can forget that it’s a website.
Microsoft has taken on a number of HTML5 projects this year. What is the purpose behind this effort and how do you see HTML5 transforming the Web in the future?
Gavin: We reached out to Max because we’re always looking for the set of things that no one believes can be a website. The first time you play Contre Jour, you’ll think it’s just gorgeous and it’ll be hard to wrap your head around the fact that it’s actually a website that has the exact same performance and touch interactions [as the app.]
For us, it’s about finding some of those examples to help set the inspiration for where the Web can go. This is the promise of the Web. If you look at what’s happening with HTML5 and modern browsers, the Web can be a lot richer. We talk about this idea of a more beautiful Web. The Web is relatively static today and it doesn’t need to be.
Also, there’s a lot of innovation that goes on whenever we take on one of these projects, and a big part of this is giving back to developers. When you’re in the Contre Jour experience, one of the things you’ll see is a “behind the scenes” section where developers can go, and we break down the individual components of the game to show exactly how we created them.
It’s always super important for us that we package a lot of that goodness and release it out to developers via open source. In this case, we have a library framework that provides the foundation for basic physics for a game like Contre Jour. That’s going to be released via GitHub so developers can build on this foundation that we’ve created with Max and Contre Jour and create their own game experiences.