Who Needs Flash? New WebGL And HTML5 Browser Game Sets Tron's Light Cycles In 3D

Cycleblob, an addictive browser game created by Israeli developer Shy Shalom, went live today. The game ports light cycles, the futuristic vehicles from the legendary 1982 film Tron, to the browser. Nerd power! Of course, seeing as Tron was recently upgraded with a new sequel, it’s only fitting that light cycles should be given a more contemporary setting in which to compete — especially if that backdrop takes advantage of modern web standards and contexts.

In the original Tron, light cycles were matched against each other on a flat grid and were limited to making 90 degree turns, so Cycleblob has set its light cycles in motion on a rotating 3-dimensional field (really, a blob) that floats in space. Just as in the original, if you hit the wall of light left by your or your opponent’s vehicle, it’s game over.

The game lets you choose from 10 different blob-fields on which to compete, and you can compete with up to 6 light cycles at 3 levels of difficulty. Shalom wrote the game exclusively in JavaScript, using elements of WebGL and HTML5 to allow the game to come to graphical life in the browser.

WebGL, which was officially released in March, is a graphics library that basically extends the functionality of JavaScript to allow it to create interactive 3D graphics within ye olde browser. As a cross-platform API within the context of HTML5, it brings 3D graphics to the Web without using plug-ins. WebGL is managed and developed by The Khronos Group, a non-profit consortium of companies like Google, Apple, Intel, Mozilla, and more, dedicated to creating open standard APIs through which to display digital interactive media — across all platforms and devices.

A prime early example of WebGL at work is the Google Labs’ Google Body browser, an interactive 3D model of the human body. Like Cyclebob, it’s a bit buggy, but the ideas behind it are amazing. Next thing you know, Google will be releasing a WebGL/HTML5-enabled map of the human genome.

Shalom said that he created Cycleblob to learn how to best use WebGL and other new open standards and specifications in creating games and to generally explore its applications. Though the applications of these browser technologies are still largely incipient, it certainly looks like Cycleblob’s plumbing could eventually spell doom for Flash. Maybe not. You be the judge. And who wants to bet that, when Shalom develops a mobile app for his 3D game, Steve Jobs pastes it all over the front of the App Store?

To see the game in motion, check out the video below: