Why Can't I Play Your On-line Game Any More?
Friday, 14th February 2014
A few people have been asking about this over recent months. The hnefatafl games embedded in the site Hnefatafl: the Game of the Vikings use Java. Oracle, who now own Java, have tightened Java security so much that many people cannot play the games any more. Alerts are telling you that the application is dangerous, that you ought not to run it, and that if you really need to run it then you need to alter your Java settings. Many people cannot do this, and because of the way the warnings are worded, many quite reasonably do not want to.
The hnefatafl games were written about ten years ago, and were designed not to need to access the site visitor's computer, apart from displaying the game on the screen in the web browser. At that time, this was considered secure enough, and many simple games and other applets worked this way. But security risks have increased over the years, and the owners of Java have struggled to keep up with them.
What Oracle expect me to do now, to get the games working again, is to send a significant sum of money to have the applet "signed", that is, verified by a trusted organisation. Given that the games are free to play, and that I can't easily verify that they're having any impact on the sales of the game that I make, I can't justify spending money to have them signed. I also feel, because Oracle are restricting the effective use of Java for this kind of thing to those who have financial backing, that Java's days are now numbered and it would be unwise to invest any money in the technology now.
My future plans, then, are to rewrite the hnefatafl games in something other than Java. This isn't the work of days, though, or even weeks; the current version took me many months to write, and a replacement rebuilt from scratch would take a similar amount of time. So in the short term, I'm afraid visitors are stuck with the choice of not playing the games here, of twiddling about with their Java security settings, or of installing another Java package like IcedTea.
Rest assured, though, that I am looking into this, and will try and get the games back on-line for everyone as soon as I can.