Mozilla Debuts HTML5-based MMORPG

By March 28, 2012

The Mozilla Foundation and Little Workshop released an HTML5-based massively multiplayer online role playing game this week to promote browser-based software. BrowserQuest can run in Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and on iOS devices.

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In the game, which is rendered in the style of a 16-bit adventure title, the player controls a pixelated character who slays enemies, collects treasure and interacts with other users. Key to the developers, though, is that BrowserQuest runs entirely in-browser, which is intended to highlight the possibilities of HTML5, a web language that has seen increasingly wide online adoption in the past year.

“Since BrowserQuest is written in HTML5/JavaScript, it is available across a lot of different browsers and platforms,” wrote the developers.

Two years ago, then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs thrust HTML5 into the spotlight when he rejected Adobe Flash as an outdated, unnecessary technology compared to newer, more processor- and battery-friendly languages.

Mozilla, an open source project run by a non-profit organization by the same name that produces the Firefox browser, also highlighted the role of WebSockets, a new standard for two-way communication through web applications, in the game.

“BrowserQuest is a demo of how this technology can be used today to create a real-time multiplayer game in a single webpage,” the developers wrote. “When you start to play, your browser opens up a WebSocket connection to one of several load-balanced game servers. Each server hosts multiple world instances and handles the player synchronization and game logic within all instances.”

BrowserQuest is an opensource project, like Firefox. Mozilla maintains a database of other demo web apps, with similarly comic titles like “Pinch That Frog” and “Pinball Maze.”

The HTML5 BrowserQuest is rendered in a 16-bit style

I loaded BrowserQuest, where I found myself in a blocky village. I could enter the houses, but not much seemed to be happening inside. I walked into the wilderness and fought some stationary bats, some of which dropped potions. That was about all my Ubunutu netbook could handle, even in the throwback graphical style, but the performance was impressive given the hardware and browser limitations.

The goal of the game wasn’t immediately clear to all players.

“What are we supposed to do?!” asked a player named Rahat.