The History Of Google Chrome's Offline Dinosaur Game: A 17 Million Years Playtime

Not everyone knows that Google Chrome has a hidden game that can be played when the web browser is offline.

The Easter Egg is a dinosaur game, a simple infinite runner game that features the Lonely T-Rex. Somehow got trapped in a desert, the T-Rex runs and has to avoid obstacles like cactus and pterodactyls, with the game speeding up as users progress further.

The controls are basic: using the spacebar to start the game when the dinosaur first appears, and to jump when playing the game. To duck, they can use the down arrow. For users on mobile can start the game by tapping the dinosaur (in Android or iOS).

The goal of the game is to survive as long as they can, through days and nights (the colors invert after users reach certain milestones) or at least until the internet starts working again.

In an interview with its developer, Google explained the game's origins.

Google Chrome - T-Rex runner game

According to Chrome designer Sebastien Gabriel, it’s a play on going back to the "prehistoric ages," which was way before the existence of the ubiquitous internet. While the moment without internet connection may alienate some younger people, but there was a time when people can only go online in certain places.

Those places include their own home, school, work, or at internet cafés which were thriving businesses back then.

"It’s a play on going back to the ‘prehistoric age’ when you had no Wi‑Fi," said Gabriel. "The cacti and desert setting were part of the first iteration of the ‘you-are-offline’ page, while the visual style is a nod to our tradition of pixel-art style in Chrome’s error illustrations."

Chrome's dinosaur game was given the codename “Project Bolan,” which itself is a reference to Marc Bolan, the late lead singer of 1970’s rock band T-Rex.

Alan Bettes, Senior Visual Designer at Google, explained that the only restriction the team placed upon themselves was to keep the motion rigid.

At the beginning the developers thought: "What if it did a cute little kick in the beginning like our favorite 90’s hedgehog? What if it roared to signal to people that it was alive?" But in the end, they settled with the basic runner game with duck and jump to avoid obstacles.

Google Chrome - T-Rex runner game

Chrome first released the game in September 2014. But since Google struggled to make it work on certain platforms - particularly on older Android devices, the developers did some tweaks and rewrites, and completed it by December that year.

If ever Chrome users want to play the game when the internet is on, they don't have to switch to Airplane Mode or disconnect their internet connection. They can type in chrome://dino in Chrome's address bar to launch the game, anytime they want.

This will take them to an arcade mode in Chrome, where they can play as the Lonely T-Rex in full-window mode.

The developers boast that the game can last for almost an eternity. Or 17 million years to be exact. This is roughly how long the T-Rex was alive on Earth.

"We built it to max out at approximately 17 million years, the same amount of time that the T-rex was alive on Earth," said Chrome UX engineer Edward Jung. "But we feel like your spacebar may not be the same afterwards."