Simple Slot machine game using HTML5 Part 4: Offline mode

This is the fourth part of the Slot machine game in HTML5 (previous parts 1, 2, and 3) and this time we modify the game to support HTML5 offline mode, also known as HTML5 Application Cache.

Slots Offline

Try out offline supported version here.

Word of warning. HTML5 offline mode is powerful but very fragile feature. It’s tricky to get right, but once you get it to work the mobile user experience can be very native app like.

Some problems you will encounter

  • Browser refresh logic is confusing. Especially the fact that browser does not use updated manifest and resources when they change but only after next reload. Fortunately Javascript workarounds exists.
  • Application cache file maintenance needs diligence. For example, browser will not reload any assets if this file is not modified.
  • Externally linked resources do not generally work offline. This makes CDN use difficult.
  • Web server has to use right MIME type and cache settings to reliably use application cache files. Most web servers don’t do this in default configuration.
  • No reliable way to detect if page was loaded in online or offline mode.
  • Chrome bypasses some restrictions (e.g. cross-domain issues) in the specification and what works in Chrome may not work anywhere else.
  • Each browser has slightly different meaning and heuristic for using offline mode. For example if browser can load some unrelated pages but can’t currently load your app page it may not show your page in offline mode and simply shows “Can not reach the server error”. This may happen especially if it knows from last load that manifest has been updated. Then at other times, it may load page few times in offline mode even when connectivity has returned.

Manifest file

Web page must use application cache manifest file to support offline mode. This manifest file is specified in html tag of the page.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html manifest="slots.appcache">

The file has listing of all content that page needs. For detailed explanation of each section, refer to Beginners guide to HTML5 application cache

# version 10

# here goes resources that must be never cached


Web Fonts

Web fonts must be hosted locally if you want to use them offline. Note that some web fonts may have licensing restrictions for local hosting.

<link type='text/css' rel='stylesheet' href="css/webfonts.css"/>

The webfont.css defines the font face and loads true type file.

@font-face {
  font-family: 'Slackey';
  font-style: normal;
  font-weight: 400;
  src: local('Slackey'), url(Slackey.ttf) format('truetype');

The file Slackey.ttf is hosted locally in css directory.

Web Server Support

Web server must use correct MIME type for text/cache-manifest application cache manifest. For example, in NGINX web server edit the mime.types and add following file type to MIME type mapping.

text/cache-manifest		appcache;

Browsers should check manifest every time page is loaded online, but it may not do this often enough if cache control is too long. Therefore, set short cache lifetime for the manifest files by adding this inside server section of NGINX configuration file. This forces cache lifetime of 1 minute to all *.appcache files.

# set 1 minute cache life for HTML5 offline manifests
location ~* \.(appcache)$ {
   expires 1m;

Verify with cURL that server response Content-Type has right MIME type and that the Expires and/or Cache-Control have correct 1 minute cache life time. If you get 404 error, make sure that site root configuration is set in http section.

$ curl -I http://localhost:8081/slots.appcache
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: nginx/1.4.0
Date: Sun, 05 May 2013 04:43:32 GMT
Content-Type: text/cache-manifest
Content-Length: 38
Last-Modified: Sun, 05 May 2013 04:25:28 GMT
Connection: keep-alive
ETag: "5185df38-26"
Expires: Sun, 05 May 2013 04:44:32 GMT
Cache-Control: max-age=60
Accept-Ranges: bytes

Detecting online status

Currently only “reliable” method to do is to make Ajax request and check the response. There are some caveats

  • Request may fail for other reasons, and this does not mean browser is in offline mode
  • Offline status may change while user is in page, you may want to do repeat polling check.
  • User may be in public WiFi that redirects requests to login server. This can confuse your app that gets response but is not what was expected.

Slots game checks online status in parallel while game loads and only on startup. Slots game does not really need to know if it’s online or offline, but just writes the status on screen for debugging purposes.

<script type="text/javascript">$(function () {

    var game = SlotGame();

    // Attempt loading static json file from server to detect online or offline mode.
    // The url has unique random parameter to avoid browser or proxy caches
        url: 'js/online.json?ts=' + (~~new Date()),
        dataType: 'json',
        success: function(data) { 
            if ( ) { 
            } else {
                // might be online, but we didn't get expected response. Could be
                // e.g. Wifi login page.
        error: function() {


Otherwise loading images, audio and other content should be fully transparent to your app. Think twice before doing separate logic for online and offline as things will get difficult. Best advice I can give is to that you write code for online use with proper handling for Ajax errors. In this way when app loads in online mode but loses network later in session (e.g. when user goes in subway tunnel), the experience does not break completely.


This is the part where things get interesting, offline is tricky to test because of caching and browser reload logic. See detailed lamentation about subject here in Dive into HTML5.

These are the best practices I’ve come up with. First, set browser manually to offline mode to try things out. e.g. in Firefox this is enabled from File->Work Offline.

Firefox offline

Second, if you develop the game from local server, do not use http://localhost as host, but use real domain name that resolves to localhost. In this example I’ve used that supports wildcard subdomain. Any subdomain resolves to address

$ nslookup

Non-authoritative answer:

In this way you can always start from scratch the offline debugging simply by changing subdomain name. For example I just used,, … etc.:

Trick url

Note that at least Firefox asks each time if you allow offline content.
Accept offline

Before each deploy, remember to increment the version comment in manifest file, so web server notices that the file has changed and browser will refresh it on next load. Server does not look inside the manifest file, so it does not matter how you change the file, as long as it’s changed.

Good Luck!

Code is available in Github.

Simple Slot machine game using HTML5 Part 3: Loading

UPDATE: See also Simple Slot machine game using HTML5 Part 4: Offline mode

In previous part 1 and part 2 I implemented simple slots machine purely in HTML5 with audio support.
After adding audio, the initial loading time increased a lot up to several seconds. This slowdown is easy to miss during development, as developer has always primed browser cache and content is loaded from development server that is hosted locally or even in developers machine.
It’s very important to occasionally clear the browser cache and put the game to remote server and reload the game to get realistic estimation of new users loading time (i.e. the empty cache experience).

This part improves the landing experience by adding loading progress bar so users know that the game is loading and will start soon.

Loading screen

Try out version with loading bar here.

How it works

Loading bar is simple nested div, where parent draws the outline and the child is the filling progress bar.

<div id="progressbar">
   <div id="progress"></div>

The CSS rules set the colors and position.

    margin-top: 10px;
    background: black;
    border: 1px solid mediumaquamarine;
    width: 80%;
    height: 15px;
    margin-left: auto;
    margin-right: auto;
#progressbar #progress
    height: 100%;
    position: relative;
    width: 0%;
    left: 0;
    background: #77e0fb;

Indicating progress is now simply matter of updating the width of #progress div.

Any HTML5 game loading bar implementation should be done purely with HTML and CSS and not use any images, as this just makes total loading experience slower and loading bar does not appear immediately when page renders. If you must use images, consider using base64 embedded images.

#progressbar {

If possible, void building the loading view with javascript as your page must load javascript before being able to show anything.
For best experience you should always have the CSS file in the <head> section of the HTML file and the javascript at the end of file, just before closing </body>. This way page can render with proper layout before any javascript has been loaded.

    <link href='' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'/>
    <link type="text/css" rel="stylesheet" href="css/reset.css"/>
    <link type="text/css" rel="stylesheet" href="css/slot.css"/>

<div id="viewport">
<script src=""></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="js/slot.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript">$(function () { SlotGame(); });</script>

Both image and audio assets are loaded with same preloader, that keeps track of the progress and updates the progressbar. When loading is completed it hides the loading view. See the code for details how the preloader is used to load images and web/html5 audio files.

var progressCount = 0; // current progress count
var progressTotalCount = 0; // total count

function updateProgress( inc ) {
    progressCount += (inc || 1);
    if ( progressCount >= progressTotalCount ) {
        // done, complete progress bar and hide loading screen
        $('#progress').css('width', '100%');
    } else {
        // Update progress bar
        $('#progress').css('width', parseInt( 100 * progressCount / progressTotalCount)  + '%');

// Generic preloader handler, it calls preloadFunction for each item and
// passes function to it that it must call when done.
function preloader( items, preloadFunction, callback ) {

    var itemc = items.length;
    var loadc = 0;

    // called by preloadFunction to notify result
    function _check( err, id ) {
        if ( err ) {
            alert('Failed to load ' + id + ': ' + err);
        if ( itemc == loadc ) callback();

    progressTotalCount += items.length;

    // queue each item for fetching
    items.forEach(function(item) {
        preloadFunction( item, _check);

Improving loading time

You can further improve initial loading time by conventional web tricks

  • Enable HTTP gzip compression in the web server
  • Include jquery and library scripts from google api url, user may have those already in the cache
  • Merge and minify the javascript e.g. with uglify-js
  • Merge and minify the CSS with CSS compressor
  • Minify PNG image files with pngout. Use JPG where possible.
  • Compose all images in single montage and use that with CSS sprites and canvas ctx.drawImage
  • Convert audio files to mono to save half of the size. Use e.g. Audacity or ffmpeg
  • Host asset files in CDN, such as Akamai or Amazon S3. Note that if assets are loaded from different domain than the HTML document, you may encounter security problems if Cross-origin policy is not properly set for the content.

Use Chrome browsers audit tool get idea what takes most time.

Code is available in Github.

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