edittime

Be intimidated by this lo-fi computer-programming game, or discover its secrets

Several lines of command-line text fade into the left side of your monitor. The sounds of primitive processor clicking and ancient operating system chimes remind you of the birth of the PC. The opposite of the clean and intuitive UI designs that we’ve all grown accustomed to jumps out at you, in an array of light gray modules and text. You think: “What the hell?”

you are essentially teaching yourself how to program 

You scratch your head a bit and squint as you turn to the reference manual. The first line reads, “The Tessellated Intelligence System is a massively parallel computer architecture comprised of non-uniformly interconnected heterogeneous nodes.” You think, again: “What the hell?”

TIS-100 is a logic/puzzle game from Zachtronics Industries. Following Infinifactory and SpaceChem, the studio’s new game is a simulation of 1970s assembly language programming. It’s okay if you aren’t Alan Turing, though; the game can be mastered without much mathematical prowess, or any coding experience, as long as you are willing to consult the manual. For any given problem, the task before you is to instruct a series of nodes by filling in the appropriate commands that will convert a given data set into the desired output.

Moving and manipulating information from one node to another is challenging but rewarding; you are essentially teaching yourself how to program. Perhaps even more gratifying are the moments you realize how a current solution would work well for an earlier problem, and you hurry back to it for further refinement and optimization. And somewhat unexpectedly, there is a narrative hidden within the manual and various puzzles.

You can find out more about TIS-100, which just hit Early Access, on its website.