I got to the last level on my own and learned a TON about logic gates. Maybe it's why I'm in robotics today.
The point I want to make is to never underestimate the capacity for children to learn and never assume something's too difficult. You don't have to get far for it to be a worthwhile endeavor.
Spacechem gave me a strong feeling of nostalgia for Robot Odyssey. It was very difficult. Didn't hold your hand. And was totally open ended on how you solve problems. Which results in feeling incredibly fulfilled when you do solve a puzzle. That feeling was what hooked me. I was so proud.
What really got me was that the games encouraged something like hand-optimizing the size of your program. The levels were open-ended and the solution could be anything, but each solution has a cost, for example, least number of gates used in Robot Odyssey. In SpaceChem, it's number of symbols. In The Codex of Alchemical Engineering, cost is measured in total number of instructions, which encouraged solutions involving many different parts moving perfectly in sync. Those solutions were really difficult but rewarding to craft. However, cost in Opus Magnum is measured in total cost of parts (not instructions) used. That's less interesting to optimize, since the 'best' solution is often one part doing all the work (easy to optimize for), which in my opinion makes it a little less fun to play. Similarly, I remember the last few levels of Robot Odyssey didn't have much space in the way of optimizing (there is just one Correct Solution) which was underwhelming.
I guess my point is that the games were fun not because I had so much freedom in how I can finish each level. Rather it was the difficulty of optimizing each solution that attracted me. And it's hard to find games like that outside Zachtronics.
If you open up a least-symbol solution for Codex you'll find a lot of interesting tricks used to reduce symbols. For example, grab-left-left-release-left-left can be accomplished with just grab-left-release-wait, if you sync it so the released atom is removed by another arm at exactly the right time. It's a nice feeling to successfully shave off even one more symbol using these hacks!
In Opus Magnum, there are a lot of interesting things you can do to get more parallelism going in your solution. Except that, again, "fake" difficulty is added in the form of restricted inputs. Maybe I could build the molecule faster with two sources of water, but I only have one, and one source can't produce more than one particle per two cycles. The parts with costs are unlimited -- they just count against your cost. Source and sink parts are "free", but limited in bizarre ways. So much for the parallel approach I wanted to try. :/
Would give the game a try but, 15 year old electrical school guy would find this useful
Well. If you want a 5/5 challenge, fire up Shenzhen.io and set the language to Chinese. It seems to be beautifully translated to my limited ability to discern, but boy is it hard to learn enough Chinese to play the game! Difficulty: 5/5
Ironically, in China some gamers complained that the game is kind of unrealistic as all the datasheets are available in Chinese, it shouldn't and it has made the game less challenging... In real life, engineers in Shenzhen rarely read or write formal datasheets in Chinese, even when the IC is completely designed in China.
Doing it in English can be a bit difficult for a freshman who is unfamiliar with the terminology, which can make the game a bit more interesting. I wonder if the developers should add a "native language w/ English documentation" option for those who want a more authentic experience.
Heh, I'd count it unrealistic if all the datasheets were available in any language. As much as I rag on Google sometimes, Google Translate has been very useful from time to time.
Opus Magnum > TIS-100 > Exapunks > SpaceChem > Infinifactory > Shenzen I/O
Opus magnum has an unlimited space, unlimited instructions, and unlimited parallel operations.
The similarity is just that they're both about linking elements to form shapes.
I know this because I used to work at a private school! I did that for two years, then left all of it for a tech job so that I could climb out of student loan debt and actually have a decent life. (The basic issue is that parents can't afford to pay more because they pay twice for education: first they pay taxes to send other kids to school, and then they pay private school tuition on top of that for their own kids. The result is tens of thousands of dollars in lower pay for private school teachers.)
Anyway, the point of this isn't to dump on anyone's school. I just want to help correct the idea that private schools are somehow less worthy of care and attention than public schools are. The truth is that private schools are often in financially precarious circumstances!
We didn't take any charter money because it comes with strings. We were doing our own curriculum development. (Everyone there had a healthy distaste for the standard curriculum that gets taught in most places.)
And before you start, we were secular. Most of us, including myself, were/are atheists!
Maybe I did work at an edge case, but I still think that this is an edge case the world needs more of.
But yeah, an entity's ability to draw a net positive profit doesn't change their for-profit status, obviously. As for why Zachtronics is limiting this to non-profit schools, my guess would be for tax purposes. There's a good chance there's a benefit from providing something like this for non-profit institutions, but not for for-profit ones, although it's been 7 years since law school for me and my tax law is rusty.
Although there's always the chance that he just didn't know for-profit grade schools exist, because I sure as heck didn't.
"Private and/or for-profit schools are not included. However, if you email us with the information listed above we can put together a quote that includes an educational discount (usually 25% - 75% off depending on the number of licenses)."
It's interesting that SpaceChem apparently isn't included? Maybe because the kinda fake chemistry would drive science teachers mad?
A fun anecdote from a GDC talk (https://archive.org/details/GDC2013Barth at 21:57):
U.K. schools: We want to use SpaceChem to teach programming familiarity.
Eastern European schools: We want to use SpaceChem to teach problem solving.
U.S. schools: We want to use SpaceChem to teach chemistry.
Schools generally don’t purchase solutions that don’t have content that fills their entire curriculum’s needs (eg. think a product that covers all of a subject from grades 1-8)
This way, schools act as a great marketing channel for these educational products which are downloaded at the discretion of individual teachers for their particular one-off introductions/lesson plans. Then parents purchase paid versions for their kids at home.
This model can be seen (and has found success) with educational apps Prodigy, Codespark Academy (Foos), and more.
This is not to say it’s purely a marketing ploy- there’s plenty of social good too to being able to expand your content’s reach for educational purposes to many many more players and students than you may have otherwise without a free for schools model.
Especially games that teach something as fundamental to the future, and lacking in good course work, as programming. These are probably one of the best collection of tools for such content.
It's the perfect mesh between "fake" and a real skillset.
I could also definitely see having a school leaderboard (to optimize for the best solutions against class mates) being very fun.
we have no computers - no laptops, no desktops. All of India is on mobile phones (usually Android). It would be awesome if future educational content is developed mobile only.
Toolkits like Flutter, AWS Lumberyard and React Native allow for ios+android games being built.
The only reason that mobile based education games for children are not as popular as they could be in the US ..is because of the fundamental concern around "smartphones==bad". I think Steam can do a lot here by allowing parental+time based locks around games.
A problem worth solving.
Shenzhen I/O is the only Zachademics game I bought on Steam and is actually an addictive card game, with a programming game as an Easter egg.
Also, these games work great with Steam Link from elsewhere in the house—no beefy GPU required.
All of our students are required to purchase their own laptops so we aren’t eligible.