HTML5 Spectrum Loading Screen

I was searching around to see if someone had written a Javascript library to simulate the old ZX Spectrum loading screen. I didn’t find a library but I did find this great little HTML5 screen loader on robeesworld.

For those of you too young to remember, this is what Spectrum owners would see for large portions of their time with the machine:

Spectrum Loading Screen
Spectrum Loading Screen


This inspired me to hack a quick one for our GameCity visit with MicroTowns and here’s what take 1 looks like. Need to pixelate it next and add the yellow/blue borders 🙂

Hackable Games, MicroTowns and the Craft Computer at GameCity

Hackable Games, MicroTowns and the Craft Computer at GameCity.


Very Exciting!

We’ll be running kids coding workshops at the forthcoming GameCity 8 in Nottingham from October 23rd to 26th.

But even more exciting, we’ll be showing of our Hackable game MicroTowns for the very first time. I know! I can barely type for the all the hoopla.

What’s a hackable game you ask?

A hackable game is one that allows you to hack on the ‘code’ of the game while you’re playing it or running it.

Aimed at children at Key Stage 1 and 2 (KS1 / KS2) ages we’ll be making Craft Computers to learn about the main components inside and some Computing fundamentals such as files and programs.

After they’ve mastered their hardware we’ll let them loose on our MicroTowns prototype which will teach them the basics of Computational thinking and programming.

MicroTown Logo
MicroTown Logo

The schedule, locations, times, nitty gritty, 411 and the lowdown are all here:

MicroTowns and the Craft Computer at GameCity

For the Craft Computer sessons we’ll be using a craft based approach, lots of card, glue and colouring in to teach your little computer whizz-kids the fundamentals. We’ve been running it for the past four weeks in a local primary school with a girls only group and the results are pretty astonishing. Best of all, they love it 🙂

Here’s a pic of them yesterday with their Craft Computer cubes

Mynydd Cynffig Infants - Craft Computer Club
Mynydd Cynffig Infants – Craft Computer Club
The Craft Computer Cube
The Craft Computer Cube

Building A Programmable Game for – Day 2

A programmable game has to be the most fun way to learn to program so I’ve decided to build one for my Craft Computer workshop at [info on the Craft Computer here]

I’ve built it to tie in with the Craft Computer that my junior computer experts will build in the mornings. Once they’ve made their craft computers and learned about what makes computers “tick” they will get to write a program for their ‘MowBot‘. (Here’s the previous post on using Jeff Minter’s Hover Bovver as the inspiration for our  programmable games)

They’ll learn basic programming via Hover Bovver MowBot such as instructions and loops

This is what I’ve got running after Day 2. It’s a basic tilemap engine but today the sprites are programmable! Each sprite has a little stack and program counter which can be ‘hacked’.

See the vine for a quick clip – the little chap moving, is MowBot and he’s now being controlled by a program rather than the keyboard 🙂

Hover Bovver Bot – A Programmable HTML5 Version For Teaching Children Algorithms

Hover Bovver was a Jeff Minter* game for the Commodore 64 published by his studio Llamasoft. 30 years later, I can still recall the day I first saw it on my neighbours 64. And hearing it, to a Spectrum owner it sounded incredible:

I had a ZX Spectrum so my games sounded like a bunch of wasps in a tin can

Like most of Jeff’s games, he takes a classic game mechanic and adds his own uniquely brilliant take on it. In this case, he takes Pac-man’s famous ‘visit all the locations” mechanic, changes the ghosts for a gardener and dots for grass.

I’ve always had a soft spot for it, so I’ve decided to remake it for my Craft Computer workshop at the forthcoming GameCity**. I was looking for something simple and cute and for some reason the theme tune to English Country Garden popped into my head 😉

Here’s how the prototype looks after Day 1:

The game itself will be mechanically the same as the original but there won’t be any keyboard or joystick inputs…

Instead the children will have to program the “mowbot” via an iconified programming language – a bit like punch cards!  Rather than the procedural “route finding” approach we’re going to use an event driven language.

If nothing else it should result in the kids having lots of garden based floral carnage!

*Jeff and Llamasoft are still making games and are due to release TXK on the PS Vita shortly. He’s like the Game Industry’s Willy Wonka and if you’ve not played his games, you should go check them out – here’s his Llamasoft site.

**GameCity: I’m going to be there from Weds 23rd to the end on Sat 26th, I’ll be at Waterstone’s running Craft Computer workshops.

Finally: A playable demo of The Vault – our html5 browser game development

Very excited to be able to post up this playable demo of our html5 browser game development I’m working on. It’s called The Vault 

You can play Farringdon Lane and the Vault of Alien Mind Terrors here (Chrome/Firefox only at the moment, mobile browsers to follow 🙂

The Vault HTML5 game
The Vault HTML5 game

Once we’ve finished the game, I’ll write up the technical side of using JavaScript and HTML5 to make a game. In the main I’m very positive about it, particularly the applications it has as a tool for teaching children basic programming. As a language for large projects it has some severe limitations, mainly around objects, typing and debugging. But in the main, these are outweighed by brevity and speed of development.

The other part I want to write up is the 2D platform genre which HTML5 can rejuvenate. Some of my favourite games were of this genre (e.g. Turrican, Metal Slug, Ghost n Goblins, etc) and this project really also explores whether they can provide depth but more on that later…