Retro RPGs in HTML5

2013-05-06

I missed the golden age of RPGs such as Eye of the Beholder or Zelda, and only played a couple of the newer classics, none of them to completion. To be honest, I didn't go out of my way for them, either. It's just not my kind of game. Curiosity is still a factor, though, and some recent titles just happen to be accessible enough for a casual player such as myself, both because of the platform they run on and the considerably simplified interface.

browserquest 1 heroine dusk 2

When people say "retro first-person dungeon crawler", they usually think of something like Legend of Grimrock, tile-based and turn-based but otherwise with all the modern goodies of 3D-graphics. Heroine Dusk goes several steps further (or back, as the case may be) in proposing a game that runs at a real resolution of only 160x120, scaled to the size of the browser window. And you know what? It looks just fine. FYI, dear GPU snobs, this is called style:

heroine dusk 1

Heroine Dusk is only a demo, with small, hand-crafted maps, and the modern control scheme (which I think is meant to be suitable for touchscreens) makes it easy to play. Not so much easy to win, however. With just a few more tactical options, it could keep my attention for a good number of hours.

Of a slightly different nature is BrowserQuest, a top-down MMORPG made by Mozilla as a demonstration of new Web technologies. It's an easy, whimsical game, with self-referential NPCs and a variety of larger maps that load seamlessly as you walk around.

browserquest 3

Like Heroine Dusk, BrowserQuest is designed to run on mobile devices as well as PCs. The higher budget shows however in the larger amount of content and extra features such as achievements. Ironically, I've spent less time with it, but as the game continues to be developed I should probably make some one of these days.

Most importantly, both games are open source and available on GitHub -- an excellent source of both inspiration and learning. Not to mention encouragement, because if games that low-tech can still be fun more than two decades after their time, then anyone can create the next great computer masterpiece.

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