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Sandspiel – A falling sand game built in Rust and WebGL (sandspiel.club)
1323 points by 15DCFA8F on Dec 17, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 185 comments

Wow! This thread brings back some fond memories. Long ago, I came across a tiny Java applet linked on Fark to a Japanese forum post. Everyone loved it but I found it annoyingly small. It was barely 300px x 400px. I had been coding my senior thesis in Java and had recently learned how to use a Java decompiler.

So I downloaded the applet, decompiled it, spent a few minutes figuring out exactly where the dimensions were setup, changed them to 960x640, compiled it all, and hosted it on my site: http://chir.ag/stuff/sand/

I'm always apprehensive about taking any credit for the Falling Sand Game because I DID NOT make it but I'm always glad to see it in the wild. First it was Fark, then a few months later Digg, then Reddit. At one point someone created a Wikipedia page linking to the enlarged version I was hosting, then it got deleted as not-notable, then someone wrote a song about FSG, then a hundred different versions of FSG popped up, many non-Java and functioning much better than the applet, then the Wikipedia page came back up.

I've long stopped getting giddy emails from office slackers about how much time they waste on my site but even though I didn't really create this amazing game/toy/zen-garden, I feel lucky to have been a tiny part of the arcane pop-culture movement.

This is easily one of the oldest and most enjoyable games I've played. Thanks for the work you've done!

Reminds me a lot of Cataclysm, a game I played loads on the Acorn Archimedes as a kid.

Damn, the game's 27 years old.


My, that brings back memories. I love how that video starts on the RiscOS (3?) desktop.

If i'm not very much mistaken, is the author not https://dan-ball.jp/en/?

The game runs in modern browsers now: https://dan-ball.jp/en/javagame/dust2/

How are y'all getting the applet running? Doesn't work in my browser, and $ appletviewer sand7.jar isn't doing the trick.

I followed these instructuions: https://www.reddit.com/r/sysadmin/comments/69m2ol/running_le...

If you have the jdk installed (https://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/downloads/jdk...) you can simply run:

  $ appletviewer http://chir.ag/stuff/sand/

I tend to run old crusty applets with http://eclipse.org?

This usually solves for weird, deprecations, and routes around profoundly unfriendly browser barriers, which, sadly and admittedly are required from a security standpoint for most clueless users.

I prefer using Eclipse over IntelliJ CE, because Eclipse settings for static libraries that aren't handled by source control are a bit more concrete. IntelliJ CE is well-suited for many professional coding activities, but buries some commonly used, yet clunky settings that are right on the surface with Eclipse. Namely JRE/JDK choices, and build path settings for static jar files.

On the other hand, you might need to know a bit about Java, to do this. For most HN users, and even many gamers, this is generally not too much of a problem.

Wow, what a great look into internet history. Do you still have the original forum post? I wonder who the original author was.

Just found these:

[1] Original Fark thread: https://www.fark.com/comments/1826196/Draw-lines-to-alter-fl...

[2] My attempt to show others how to run this offline: https://www.fark.com/comments/1826196/17784666#c17784666

[3] My comment about the rehosted/recompiled 960x640 version: https://www.fark.com/comments/1826196/17784943#c17784943

[4] I'm smiling at Finger51's comment: Works great in FF1.5!

[5] My original blog entry a few days later: http://chir.ag/200512302250

[6] It's a bit sad that all the links to Digg, Reddit, and MSNBC are broken now. And I totally forgot about the traffic behemoth that delicious was! Here's a fixed version of the Reddit link, at least the page is up, even if the URL changed: https://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/21509/

Maybe this is the original author? World of Sand by DOFI (2005)


can anyone find an earlier falling sand type game?

edit: Found this after some googling: http://cowboyprogramming.com/2007/03/05/falling-sand-game-fr...

very interesting! (includes assembly source code)

There was a similar Archimedes program printed in Acorn user in the March 1992 issue.

Atari ST game, in the same genre, from the Jan 1993 issue of ST Format: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHZB9nIzZ64

Fantastic! For those wondering how such a program was printed (and then had to be typed by hand from the magazine), here's a scan cap of the page in question https://imgur.com/a/Mng21o3

And here you can find the full issue: http://8bs.com/aumags.htm

Just seeing the chir.ag domain brought back pleasant memories :)

I also spent an unreasonable amount of time in that era at dofi blog playing many other variants.

Thank you for commenting this!

I was playing Sandspiel and it was bringing back vaguely positive memories of a similar game but I couldn't remember what it was or when I played it, then I saw your comment, opened falling sand game and instantly remembered the game. I must have spent so much time playing this when I was younger, it's great to have a working version again.

Wow, what a blast from the past, had completely forgotten about this.

Found this when I was in grade school and I remember spending HOURS on it.

Thank you very much.

A nice bit of web programming. The smoke effects look cool. Pity solids don't conduct heat - the first thing I always try and do in these is boil a pot of water.

If you've never seen this kind of thing before, the canonical PC example is The Powder Toy, which is so amazing I wish there a 3D Minecraft-like version. But it's really CPU-heavy even in 2d.

Select Wall. Draw "bowl". Select Water. Drop water into bowl. Select Cloner. Click beneath bowl. Select Fire. Click beneath Cloner.

Observe boiling water.

Interesting, I can boil water with fire directly.

But when I put oil (in a separate compartment) beneath the bowl of water, and light it on fire, the oil burns off, but doesn't boil any water.

> Observe boiling water

What should happen? All I see is the surface 'sparkle' effect that is the same as still water.

This is what should happen: https://youtu.be/hW6_iA_YAOo

The water eventually disappears.

Are you sure? I tried watching a few different setups for a while and the water level never seemed to change. Even applying fire directly to water doesn't have an effect.

I did a ton of research because I was looking into creating a VR falling sand game (which someone actually made about a year ago https://www.oculus.com/experiences/rift/1337446473017832/).

There are a couple of other 3D falling sand games (http://csiuo.com/Sand3d/, https://github.com/TheTomster/sandish, https://powdertoy.co.uk/Discussions/Thread/View.html%3FThrea...) but none of them are very good due to the factors you mentioned. UX is also a pretty big problem, as traditional mouse or touch controls don't work well in 3D, which is why I wanted to go the VR route, but something like a very dynamic Minecraft as you mentioned could work as well.

Most falling sand game implementations are sequential, so parallelizing the simulation using a margolus neighborhood (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block_cellular_automaton) or double buffer could greatly improve performance. Most falling sand games tend to not be pure cellular automata, and some are implemented as particle systems with particle in cell grid collision instead of CA, but particle and fluid sims are easy to parallelize. I haven't seen a falling sand game (2D or 3D) that runs entirely on the GPU, and my goal was to do that, eventually ending up with some complex Claybook (https://www.claybookgame.com/) style engine.

Fork it!

I think the CPU load is just inherent to the type of program it is. It's running a fluid dynamics simulation, a thermal dynamics simulation, Newtonian gravity simulation, and discrete particle simulation all at once. If you made all that in 3D, you would have made an incredibly amazing game engine that no computer could possibly run.

Oh, I meant to get solids conducting heat ;p

also.. mites don't reproduce..

They do eat wood though.

They also can't be drowned, or killed by lava or acid.

Try feeding them dust.

and water doesn't pool

and the water turns into plants as fast as fire burns the plants.

And the water seem spectacularly incapable of putting out fires.

There's no way to put out a fire burning on top of the cloner.

I mean - if you already managed to put plants in the cloner.

dissolve the cloner in acid

boiling some water was pretty much the first thing I tried too! was disappointed.

still great though.

This is great, I love falling sand games.

The only downfall is that the Pythagorean Cup didn't work?



Are there any falling sand games where it does work?

The Powder Toy with water equalization

The Powder Toy wouldn't simulate the vacuum required for it to work. It'd get closer than most other falling sand games if you turn on water equalisation though.

Several years ago I wrote a falling sand game for the Parallax Propeller chip, which is an 8-core microcontroller. One core was needed to drive the video output, and I had up to 7 other cores running a simple ruleset:

1. If a sand pixel had an empty pixel below it, exchange them. 2. If more than two sand pixels are stacked but there's space to the side, kick one sand grain out to that side.

These rules were enough to make the sand form simple hill shapes. All of the cores bash on the same shared memory array; rather than use locks or synchronization I just had each core start in a different column of the screen and all move left to right by columns - in theory there should be enough separation that they'd never conflict.

However - and this is the part I thought interesting to post about - somehow after a few seconds or minutes the 7 cores would catch up with each other and start running in lockstep (effectively reducing the speed of the simulation to equivalent of 1 core).

Barring a bug that was simply crashing cores, what I think was happening was that not every control flow path took the same number of cycles, so a core processing a column with a complex sand pattern might slow down and allow another core to catch up to it. Once two cores were operating on exactly the same data, they'd be doing the same deterministic logic on the same inputs and writing out the same result, effectively just duplicating the work in lockstep.

I wasted hours on these types of games back in the flash era, people were constantly releasing new ones with more types of sand and various effects and combinations, its a shame that whole segment of internet history was deprecated along with flash, good times.

Check this out http://bluemaxima.org/flashpoint/

As long as we have the internet archive and a few awesome humans we will be fine =)

This is amazing, thank you so much.

It's not gone yet. One of my favorite places of this sort, andkon is still going strong after all these years. The toy category still has some of the sandbox stuff: http://andkon.com/arcade/other/toy.list

Well... castle crusher "became" angry birds... so we've got that going for us...

I think you mean Crush the Castle :) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crush_the_Castle

What's the performance difference from a pure JavaScript version?

Recently, I made a particle game which originally planned to be implemented with WASM. However, I decided to implement it with pure JS firstly. The result is some surprising that the JS version runs so smoothly that I think a WASM version is not essential any more.

I'm interested in this too. The dev would probably have a good answer since they previously made a pure JS sand game too: https://github.com/MaxBittker/dust

This brings to mind a game that many people here might enjoy once it gets released – Noita: a magical action roguelite where every pixel is physically simulated.


(Disclosure: it's being developed by a bunch of my old co-workers.)

My big hope for this game is that it does not go the Spelunky way in terms of game design. In Spelunky you have all these toys that are fun to use, but the punishment for using them "wrong" just takes all the fun out of the game.

I hope they can find a balance that allows you to take risks with the physics interactions without loosing your entire run.

Fun feature: on mobile, if you drop a bunch of lava on a bunch of fireworks, your phone gets hot.

Nice work.

Brings me back some good old memories from this game:


Got tired of all the phalic-volcanoes so I made something nice for you https://sandspiel.club/#2scDpZpyMACGp65FrkPT

What I enjoy about this one is that it's a beautiful scene... that immediately ignites when you press play :)

This very strongly reminds me of a game called "Hydroxis" (or at least I think so) for the Amiga. You started with water pooling in some cavity in an otherwise static level and had to move it to a target location by means of enabling and disabling some blocking segments in the level. That was fun!

I had remembered that one a decade or so ago and it turned out to be the single hardest thing I tried to find for my WinUAE collection :-(

This must be it; Hydrocis: http://www.lemonamiga.com/?game_id=4277


Funny how one misremembered character can make an internet search that hard. :-)

You most certainly made my day! Thank you very much!

Grow some plants. Light a fire. Frantically try to put it out with water and watch helplessly as the plants grow due to water, providing more and more fuel for the growing flames, until you have an unstoppable conflagration on your hands. There must be some moral lesson to learn from this.

People in flammable houses shouldn't complete the fire triangle?

Make a lake of oil, set it aflame and then pour water on it. A small amount of water causes the burning oil to flare and spread. A large amount of water extinguishes the fire. Very cool!

A small amount of water causes the burning oil to flare and spread. A large amount of water extinguishes the fire.

Interestingly enough, while we've all been taught "never use water on an oil fire", this is actually pretty similar to real life. Generally speaking, using water on a flammable liquids fire will just spread the fire and make it worse. But if the fire is small enough and the application rate of the water is sufficient, you can sometimes extinguish such a fire with water.

Note: do NOT take this as advice to ever try to extinguish a kitchen fire or something like that with water. When I talk about "application rate" above, I'm thinking of the 100+ gallons per minute you get from a 1-3/4" (or larger) handline from a fire engine. If your frying pan catches on fire, call 911 and then use a class B rated fire extinguisher, or smother the fire by putting a lid on the container. If you have any doubts whatsoever about your ability to extinguish the fire, exit the structure and let the fire department handle it.

For an oil fire in the kitchen, use baking soda.

Baking soda can work, but it can take quite a lot of it. Depending on how big the fire is, you might not have enough in your kitchen. It may also be packed away in a cabinet somewhere out of reach. Of course the same might be true of the fire extinguisher as well... :-(

Also try using dust instead of water!

I wish fire or lava would make steam out of water, but I love the smoke effect. It was a really nice surprise when the rest of it was so low resolution, great combo.

My wish is always to create a self-sustaining environment with clouds and rainfall but it never works...

Have you tried the "cloner" type ? I managed clouds that rain, using a cloner with ice above a cloner with fire. The cloner with fire make the ice melt which release some water which reduce the fire and help the plant grow. Once the plant below grow enough to reach the fire almost all the plant burn and the cycle begins again. You can then add mites which will eat the plants and reproduce and be almost destroyed by the cycling catastrophe yet survive thanks to the wanderers. Mites usually eat the bottom plants so sometimes for plants to start again from the ground you need to accumulate enough water to form a lake which will reach the preserved from the mites plants. Once the lake reach the plants it is consumed by them, and allow mites to have close to the ground food.

Here's my take on this idea:


Has anyone made a self-sustaining system w/out using the cloner?

Wind turns stone into sand though! Either make a tornado with your mouse, or a large dust explosion next to a mountain :P

If you like this game, you might find this project interesting:



It's a bit similar, but uses GPU and spawns millions of particles. On the other hand, it's less of a sandbox and more of a demo. You can write your own code in the browser too, but it's a bit tricky to program, because it compiles to shader language and it has some weird limitations.

This is awesome! A few years ago I built a more rudimentary version of a falling sand game with just Javascript and WebGL: http://ericleong.me/sand.js/

I tried to embed the "scripting" language as a texture in WebGL to keep the implementation very fast (note that every pixel is a cell), but I think I worked myself into a corner.

Source code here: https://github.com/ericleong/sand.js

Any source code for this? I'm learning rust right now and it would be really cool to see how this was made

It's in the about section. Can't post the direct link from my phone, sorry!

Once I realized that pausing the FSG was a thing...


This is a perfect example of why I'm still in Chrome. At least for me this runs at 60fps in Chrome on my Mac but 30-45 in Firefox. I see this often in animated sites.

Another data point: on Windows I get 60 fps on both Chrome and FF

That would arguably mean your machine is fast enough to get 60fps since the browser basically throttles to 60. So a slower machine would show the difference but an even faster machine would still show 60

In my experience, FF performance is much better in Windows than in Mac or Linux, unfortunately.

I get the exact opposite, interestingly enough.

Thousands of particles and the worst frame rate I saw on my iPhone 6 was 25fps. Impressive.

Not seeing vaporizing water when lava was put into it was a bit of a bummer, otherwise it's great

Love the performance, no trouble with 60fps. The swirly wind, fire, and smoke effects are beautiful! It’s also the only part here with which I would not know how to get started building, could anyone share their thoughts on the implementation?

I was interested in this too so I took a dive in.

The smoke effects are based on another project about Fluid simulation https://github.com/PavelDoGreat/WebGL-Fluid-Simulation

It also has a working demo with controls (it's collapsed by default I think, and kind of hard to see if you're not looking for it in the upper right hand corner). It's pretty astonishing how beautiful it is.

As far as I can tell, the filters and the code isn't too complicated. I am just wondering how they got those values to begin with because that's where the real magic is. There are some references there as well. One of them links to a gpu gems page that I am pretty sure I've seen before that looks really similar to this. So it's really just incremental improvements from previous works. But this version looks a lot more polished.

This feels wayyy smoother than I remember this game being.

Because this is in Rust and WebGL, not flash.

No, it's because computers are many times faster.

Actually, both.

A question to the creator: is the fungus growing respecting the rules of Conway's Game of Life? It seems very much like that. Very nice app!

My current map set up, paused. https://imgur.com/71p1H8W

Try setting a gas cloner on fire.

Holy shit, I remember playing something very similar to this for hours on end in the early 90s as a kid; it might have even been an early version of the powder toy (another user mentioned it), not entirely sure, but regardless this thread is making me go back down memory lane and now I'd love to get into the insides of a game like this one and understand how it works!

You might have played one of Burning sand II, WXSand, or danbal. There's a fairly rich history of these games, but The Powder Toy basically ate everyones lunch at this point.

You can get some interesting effects if you put a grid of one-pixel cloners, make them clone gas and put some lava at the bottom.

Literally unplayable, exploding gas goes through thick solid walls without even damaging the wall.

Awesome game, I love the options :)

There's an off by one error on sides, fire and it's effects can go along the sides.

You can create a little self-sustaining motion with a cloner covered in something that falls over a lake of acid.


This is great. I'm almost tempted to redo this with believable thermodynamics.

lol the arrogance of your phrasing is weird. Just stick with the compliment, and then maybe: I think we could improve thermodynamics, not "I'm almost tempted", which sounds like "I'm a god, and could really outdo this but I'm not sure I have time since I'm SO important and busy".

Doesn't really come across as arrogance to me, just interest in the project.


Working in Safari on iOS 12

Reminds me of The Powder Toy, which is great by the way, lots of fun!

Drop oil on lava.

The effect is worth it.

large size brush + seeds + flame + water is also interesting

have you tried dust yet?

Dust is volatile, and too much fun: https://sandspiel.club/#l9z7gueXwwTAHj6hI0Zh

Dust and any kind of fire results in a pretty impressive explosion.

I remember watching Confetti Factory on After Dark, which I think of as a primitive precursor to this. Must have been very early 1990s. Any earlier examples?

I love fungus. It makes the plant grow. Pour some acid on it, it will regrow! On the other hand, fire is pretty destructive.

You know what feature I miss? Fast-forwarding!

Does this game have any objective? I didn't get it.

no, it doesn't have an objective. It's a sandbox game.

This was mesmerizing. Well done, thoroughly enjoyed it.

Wind effect is beautiful and looks like a Julia set.

Really liked lava and fire. I don’t know why gravity doesn’t affect the blue stuff. Can you disable page swipe gestures on mobile chrome?

I've always been fascinated by these simulations. Can anybody give a rough overview of how these (I guess?) fluid simulations work?

Great ! Was just looking for something like this for a snow effect. I used to do something with falling snow on text for Christmas.

It's weird, but I can't share the link on Twitter, and goo.gl shortlink doesn't work either.

Does anyone have the same problem?

Weird, I was just looking at this today. Very cool project! I have a feature idea on my stack of ideas I hope to get to

Site is got down of big HN hug I guess

This is excellent fun. I'm kind of curious though as to why blowing wind at the dust ignites it?

Check for dust explosion. Pretty dangerous event in silo storages etc.

That's usually caused by a spark or something though, not just air movement. I understand why fire/lava ignites the dust, but not why the wind does.

The smoke and explosion effects are amazing, better than any other FSG I've tried. Very cool.

I had fun with this. Great effects. Lava, lol.

I got a lot going, 25fps Samsung Note 8, Power Saving Mode

32 fps Performance Mode

Will activating WebRender improve framerates?

Not that it needs improving anyway... just curious.

WebRender is a mapping from CSS (and perhaps SVG and Canvas 2D in the future) to the GPU. But this game is already built on the GPU, so there's nothing for WR to do. :)

WebRender is used for rendering DOM. However, as games use WebGL primarily it's unlikely WebRender will help in this case.

Fun little game! 42FPS on my iPhone X, too. And best of all no excessive heat

Weird, I am getting almost all 60fps on iphone8.

remove some sand and it will be 60 fps. Other types of particles are less demanding.

Lava cannot melt ice? :D

Ice can hold lava?

btw, adding oil over lava produces a very cool smoke effect.

This is incredible. Runs flawlessly and surprisingly smooth

Reminds me of Clonk!

I get 1-2 FPS running this in Chrome on macOS Mojave.

I'm getting good speeds but it seems terribly inefficient. Taking 60% CPU and now it's busy spinning up my fan. I have an i7 MBP.

Hmmm, I get 60 in Chrome on MacOS Mojave. I wonder what the difference is. Here's my about:gpu https://pastebin.com/kuf9bZjr

Lava should make water turn to gas and blow up!

I like the smoke when you burn the fungus.

This is fun

nothing happens on mobile

Firefox on iOS checking in, all systems nominal.

Working fine in Firefox Android

Not for me (android firefox). If webGL uses facilities not available on your GPU, it well doesn't work. That's likely it, and we've just not seeing the error message.

e.g. my phone lacks float textures (i.e, to render-to-texture to output floating point calculations), so this fluid simulation doesn't work http://jamie-wong.com/2016/08/05/webgl-fluid-simulation/ (not a guess; I've been through the source, reimplemented some in java)

Fun, but a bit blurry.

create some plants, and drop some seed on it

This is fun!

Is it really a "game" if there's no goal or "win" condition? Or is it a "webtoy" or "simulation" (or... "sandbox". Think it's a sandbox).

It is unfortunate that you're downvoted. At one point, there was an article on HN discussing games, including what made a "game" a "game" — and one of the article's requirements was that there must exist some risk of losing. Otherwise, you're just messing around or following predefined steps towards an end, but there is no challenge. Not that that can't entertain, but plenty of things entertain that aren't games. (E.g., a movie.)

The article also discussed some weird things that existed outside of the definition that the article arrived at, such as ClickerHeros and similar "grinding" "games".

(I wish I could find a link to it. Perhaps someone else here remembers and can find it…)

Not unfortunate at all; arguing definitions is rarely useful or interesting, and "game" has dozens of worthy contenders that disagree with GP and with the article you read.

E g.: Sid Meier's famous definition: "a series of interesting decisions". (But what would he know?)

Says "arguing definitions is rarely useful"; argues a definition usefully. :-)

FWIW I asked the question because I'm designing a simulation "game" without explicit win-conditions, but I'm concerned it won't be very engaging without them. e.g. Minecraft added monsters (to survive the night), and the enderverse.

Don't get me wrong, the question of whether this or that game is better with or without win conditions is perfectly interesting. It's just the raw "is it a game or not?" that's not useful. It's like asking whether comic books are books - the answer is "yes under some definitions, no under others", simple as that.

For the case of your game[0] specifically, one option is to expose game stats that the player can form their own challenges around. E.g. if the game UI shows how many times you've jumped, that implicitly lets the player form "do X without jumping more than Y times" sorts of challenges, etc. Or the more formal way to do it is like e.g. Minecraft achievements - there's no "win condition" for putting a saddle on a pig or whatever, but the mere fact that there's a piece of UI tracking whether you've done it or not, creates a challenge by itself.

[0] yeah I said it! ;)

I've thought about that - and it's not that big a jump to have a GUI that allows a user to specify a win condition (and locations to traverse, other conditions etc). Then, the user can share it online. I haven't played GTA V online, but I think it does something like that.

But actually, I don't want those sort of win-conditions for this particular game, not even DIY stats. It's just an immersive simulation. Guess I'm just not too sure it WILL be immersive or engaging - even for me to play! Just have to see, I guess.

Taking your lead, I suppose if a movie can be immersive, why not a "game" which has no win-condition? But the moment I say that, I immediately realize that movies do have "win-conditions" - just of the protagonist, not the viewer/player. Goals, stakes, motivation, obstacles are all important narrative components.

Can you have an immersive movie without narrative? Sort of maybe, some experimental/arthouse, but they aren't very popular (and arguably do have some kind of narrative).

You're probably right about definitions, but they do inevitably lead to the components of a game/non-game, and whether they are engaging, and what makes them engaging... and they're easy to ask.

You might mean “family resemblance” that Wittgenstein talks about.

Many games don't have win states or shouldn't have win states. More people need to listen to what Sid Meier has said on this. That HN article was written by someone who did not know what they were talking about.


There can be a challenge even without an explicit win condition or chance of losing. It is the challenge of discovery.

Is a discovery a "win"? Sure, it's user-defined.

"Challenge" implies an objective or purpose.

There is purpose in discovery.

That's my point: discovery is a win-condition.

Fair enough :)

It's a sandbox game indeed [1]. This is standard terminology.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_video_game_terms#S...

Funny thing is, it's literally a sandbox.

I see this as a simulator, because I learned something from it when I simulated oil, lava and wood.

My point of view is that a game is something where you play within some parameters or structure.

Yes, rules are needed for a game. But is it enough?

e.g. there are rules to writing a syntactically correct program; ways to drive a car; use a GUI. Does that make them games?

If a user can make a game out of them, what do they add, to make it into a "game"? Is the thing added an objective of some kind (i.e. a win condition)?

That's why I added that a game is something you "play".

I'd suggest that in order to make something into a game, the user is adding "playfulness", which is pretty subjective and may or may not include a simple goal.

In an open game or fun simulation, the player is going to be coming up with their own goals or roles of play. Or maybe they will just be going with a simple open ended goal of curious exploration.

>Yes, rules are needed for a game. But is it enough?

No, it should also not be tied to some productive outcome, which this does not.


Games like SimCity, Animal Crossing, and Minecraft are good examples where the experience of "playing" isn't necessarily about translating the game from an "initial" state to "end" or "win" one.

I think the parent comment makes a good point that if you do define games as the mentioned, this and a few other things certainly doesn't necessarily fit with the definition. Still, games are often a fill-in word for many interactive things that use a computer.

Where it especially blurs the line is when the sandbox/toy is sufficiently advanced that one can invent their own games. For example, Garry's Mod is not a "game", but millions of hours have been spent playing games in it. Does the game need to impose the rules, or is it sufficient to allow the players to impose their own? If the former, then what of games that normally impose rules strictly, but include cheat codes that allow players to flexibly circumvent the rules and invent their own games? In practice, nearly every video game is all of a toy and a game and a toolkit for games and even a sport (any game can be speedrun!) simultaneously.

I guess it's all just semantic but by that logic anything is a game. I can make a game from dinner. "who finishes first", "who can balance the most peas on their fork". "how many bites can you eat while balancing your chair on 2 legs" But that doesn't make "dinner" itself a game.

But whatever, people use words the way they use them. For example RPG, based on the logic of how the word is used, has almost meaning. Zelda is often called an RPG but it's got almost zero in common with say FF7 and more in common with Ratchet and Clack. And the word Role Playing Game. Well, by that logic any racing game is an RPG. I'm playing the role of a race car driver. Or FPS, I'm playing the role of a soilder. Or flight sim, I'm playing the role of a pilot. Or God Sim, playing the role of a god. RPG in actual use seems to mean "game about character with sword" at best.

The latest atrocity is "roguelike" which is applied to any game that has randomly generated levels. For example Galax-Z is called "roguelike" even though it's basically Asteroids.

The word "game" people use it interchangeably with anything you can fiddle with interactively on a computer and see some graphics change even though that describes photoshop and ms paint as well.

If a user imposes their own rules, to make their own game, that would be a "game", just a user-defined one.

Will this user-defined game need to have an objective (i.e. a win condition) to be a "game"?

Or, is just making up rules, without any direction, purpose, objective or "win-condition", enough to make it a "game"?

If Animal Crossing and The Sims are games, then so is a doll house or a bit of play dough.

I subscribe to Chris Crawford's definition. Games are competitions between multiple players and they must be able to interfere with each other. A painting, a toy, a puzzle, a race, are all not games. The difference between taking a stroll while carrying a ball and playing a game is keeping score.

The most controversial result of that is that God of War and Dark Souls are actually puzzles, and not games, and although it's unintuitive upon reflection it rings true to me.


erase the thingy to the right, and the planets on the left grow upwards again.

I've never played Powder Toy, but I do remember playing something called Powder Game. Are they related in some way?

This is the most satisfying thing I've ever seen on HN!

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