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  Assembly Programming For Fun! 02:42 AM -- Sun May 28, 2017  

Yeah, I'm still alive! For a minute there last month it looked like I was going to get somewhere with the website. I had somebody all set up to help me do it, but when he looked through it, we discovered all manner of complex issues as to what exactly we wanted to do and how we wanted it to end up (the site as-is does not function anymore, so changes need to be made...). So we're kinda back to square one, and I've been super busy transitioning Growtopia to Ubisoft. But we're getting somewhere. It'll happen, someday.

Anyway, I wanted to chat a bit about the idea of programming games (not the act of programming games, but rather playing games that are about programming). That's a genre that is very niche, and there aren't a ton of games in it, but nevertheless I intend to go deeper yet and specifically focus on games about assembly-language programming! There are even fewer of them, but they're the ones that are really fun!

You see, assembly language itself is basically a logic puzzle. It's the most straightforward and simple type of programming, in that there are just a few different possible instructions (sometimes very few), and each instruction is incredibly simple - it can have one, or in some languages/situations, two values attached to it, and that's it. For example "MOV AX,7" (I don't even remember if that's accurate 6502 assembly, but it's something like that) is an assembly instruction. It means "put a 7 into the register AX". Of course in a game, it might be more verbose but it comes down to the same thing. Super simple individual lines, able to access only a select few registers (data storage spots), and yet Turing complete. So it's very easy to grasp, yet very very complicated to get it do something worthwhile, and it's that process of building up from simple blocks into vast structures that makes it so compelling. If you can make the little parts work, then put them together logically, you'll have a bigger working unit. Simple concepts combining into great complexity.

So I thought I had played a few of these games lately, but it turns out it was just two. I just finished Human Resource Machine today (though I cheated on the last puzzle, which was like an order of magnitude bigger and more complex than all the ones before it!), and other games I've played along these lines are TIS-100 (I failed to finish, it gets hard!), and Carnage Heart (but that's going waaayyy back to the 90's). I know there's also Shenzhen IO, which I haven't played. SpaceChem actually shares many traits though it'd be hard to call it assembly language programming. It's no coincidence that three of the five games I just named are all made by Zachtronics. I guess there aren't a lot of people in the assembly game arena! It's too bad, because it really is fun, and makes programming accessible to anyone who likes logic puzzles. A great learning tool as well as a fun puzzle.

Anyway, if you like puzzles, you might want to try this kind because it'll really worm into your brain, and as a bonus it'll teach you a lot about programming! Human Resource Machine is a really nice simple example. The early puzzles are fun and easy, though you'll really need some chops to get all the way to the end. TIS-100 is way more hardcore. I would not recommend starting there if you aren't a programmer yourself.

I would love to hear about any others you know of in the comments, but yeah... the site isn't working too hot right now, speaking of programming. It'll be back soonish(tm)!
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