March 04, 2014

What Does HTML5 Mean for the Nostalgia Market?

It was easily one of the biggest events in science fiction that the 1990s had to offer: the conversion of Michael Crichton's “Jurassic Park” novel into film form. It showed off the power of sound systems, the amazing depth the big screen could produce, and what science fiction could really look like when given the fullest room to run. Now, HTML5 has brought to life one of the most iconic scenes in “Jurassic Park”: trying to get the computers back online after Dennis Nedry shut them down to steal the dinosaur embryos.

Developed by Tully Robinson, the “Jurassic Systems” website combines Javascript and HTML5 to give us a computer screen that looks a lot like Jurassic Park's own systems, with the critical addition that we can type into it. The scene from the movie, where chain-smoking computer genius Ray Arnold takes on Dennis Nedry's attempts to obfuscate his escape, can be replicated directly—don't forget to shout “Please! I hate this hacker crap!” at the screen after doing so—but there are also some extra commands mixed in. For instance, “display” and “LS” are also on hand, and those enterprising souls who take a cue from Nedry and add the “magic word” to commands (just try “access security grid please” without the quotes) get a special surprise. Adding commands from the book, meanwhile, will prove less than fruitful, but the movie buffs should enjoy it.

Granted, it's a bit mild in terms of what it can do, but Jurassic Systems does it with such faithful recreation that it's really hard to fault it even for its simplicity. But what's really interesting about Jurassic Systems is that it joins a steadily growing fraternity of games being produced in HTML5, and based around the nostalgia market. We have seen things like “Full Screen Mario” at the end of last year—though it was subsequently taken down following intellectual property claims from Nintendo—and, more recently, a huge array of “Flappy Bird” clones to emerge in HTML5 form following the game’s removal from app stores.

There has always been a market for retro, and there likely always will be. From Nick at Nite to Boomerang, from DVD releases of classic television—it's never been easier to have the complete series of “Joanie Loves Chachi” on hand—to online ports of old video games, the retro market is getting its fullest chance at greatness thanks to technology like HTML5. Sure, the ability to play eight-bit Nintendo games has been on hand for some time, between the various Nintendo stores out there and less-than-legal alternatives like emulators, but HTML5 stands a chance to not only help bring that retro-style experience back, but also help bring out the next generation of releases as well. The Nintendo Web Framework, for example, uses HTML5 extensively along with Javascript and CSS (NewsAlert), allowing smaller developers the chance to get games to Nintendo's console.

HTML5 is likely to be part of the landscape when it comes to gaming development for quite some time. Throw in the nigh-constant demand for retro fare, the growth of the abandonware market—games whose owners are currently either unknown or no longer exist—and similar measures, and a recipe emerges for gold in the nostalgia market. Just how far it all goes, we'll have to wait and see, but HTML5 is likely to be at least near the tip of the spear when it comes to development, and “Jurassic Systems” is just one of the newest entries showing off the language's power.


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