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CodeSpells – Craft Magical Spells Using Code [video] (codespells.org)
67 points by healsdata on Sept 1, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 28 comments

This is incredibly cool although I think it would be even better if there was some sort of objective to the game. Perhaps it's just me, but I would quickly lose interest. Then again, I feel the same way about Minecraft, and that's certainly caught on.

CodeSpells team member here! Our goal is to make the environment & gameplay as rich as possible with lots of different kinds of magic & ways to interact with the world.

Man do I wish I had something like this to play when I was in high school.

That quote at the beginning of the video is fascinating to me too. With all that is happening around wearable devices, the internet of things, etc., we're not too far away from a future of people gesturing and incanting various things and having their environment respond to them.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (and of course the corollary).

Reminds me of a (somewhat cheesy but fun) fantasy book called The Wiz Biz[1] I read once.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/The-Wiz-Biz-Rick-Cook/dp/0671878468/re...

The idea that magic is a branch of maths (mixed with heavy doses of Lovecraftian horror and dour cold-war spy thrillers) is the basis for the splendid Laundry series of novels from Charlie Stross:


I really liked the magic system of the Eragon trilogy, which was based on being able to say a phrase in some ancient language that didn't allow for lying. Ok, so that is more natural language, but if you take programming as more speaking in an artificial language than doing math (as I do), then its a more apt analogy.

I forget the name of the language that the Laundry uses to program its zombies^M^M^M^M^M^M^M "Residual Human Resources".


Also, I recall there being a reference to an Enochian Metagrammar at one point or another...

Thanks, that's the one:


Thanks for the suggestion, will have to look into it!

We totally agree!! Funny side note about the quote - We asked Gabe Newell (founder of Steam) if we could quote him at the beginning of our video, and he replied "Sure!" That guy must get hundreds of e-mails a day. I don't know how he finds the time to reply to them all!

I'm going to have to check out this book.

This finally brought me from lurking HN to registering so I could post.

First of all, I just bought into the Kickstarter, go ThoughtSTEM!

I'm a coder and parent in the San Diego area and a scout den leader (2nd graders) and I've run into parents whose kids are in the ThoughtSTEM program and they all love it. ThoughtSTEM and Sarah Esper are VERY well thought of around here and have been actively branching into the community to offer more and more coding classes for kids.

I supported Robot Turtles as a gateway to programming and have a 7 and 5 year old who are now doing code.org. The 7 year old has also done Python turtle programming as well. Many of our cub scouts are on code.org and the technical parents have been very involved in furthering their STEM exposure and Codespells looks absolutely great! I'm going to email it around.

I was thinking of hitting up the ThoughtSTEM folks and seeing if I could arrange a whole class at our school next year. I know I could round up the people and computers, but now it sounds like they might be pretty busy for the next 18 months or so. I wish those folks at ThoughtSTEM the absolute best and encourage everyone to support them, parents around here consider themselves lucky if they can get their kids into the ThoughtSTEM classes!

I've also been aware of CodeSpells for a while and it is clearly a long-term passion for these folks.

I just played the alpha I downloaded from their website and it was great, has the player crafting actual code. Not sure what happened between that version and what they have now.

I realise they're trying to lower the barrier-to-entry with the blocks and whatnot but I'd expect that if I bought my kid a game called CodeSpells they'd be writing code, so I'm not sure barrier-to-entry is really much of an issue in this case.

I wish they'd have kept at their original concept.

Actually, players WILL be able to choose between typing in actual code or using Blockly! Sorry, it's not clear in that video, but we did want to show that this is a low-barrier entry into coding. If students want to code more complicated spells than in the alpha version, typed code will be difficult. Through our research, we've found students are able to make incredibly complex code using Blockly though. We think students will be able to learn with Blockly until they become comfortable typing with all the syntax.

While I love anything that encourages kids to learn basic computer science skills (since this is also my niche) this isn't the approach I would take, and I question whether such a simple "recipe" construction of primitive, limited algorithms will really provide any real skill development over what a child would learn from a chemistry or electronics set or even a cooking course.

Based on this, calling your game "CodeSpells" is a bit of a stretch. You've made your definition of "code" so vague that MineCraft may as well call itself CodeCraft and market itself as a computer science education tool.

Sorry to be harsh and I applaud the effort but where you're currently at is like saying "I'll teach people to drive and then they can become automotive engineers," which is, while somewhat true, obviously not going to be all that effective.

Now, "something" may be better than nothing but if you really want to have an impact you desperately need to broaden your concept. What you have isn't enough, from my perspective. That said, you obviously know the whole "teaching code" thing is trendy and maybe you might get something out of your Kickstarter. Best of luck with that.

This is not only harsh, but close minded. MineCraft and Legos provide tremendous values to kids in developing at least creativity, and often fire technical interests that drive kids to learn "real skills" later on in life. CodeSpells is just pushing that to the next level.

I'm not discounting that CodeSpells has a certain value, but many other things in this context do as well. If it really wants to succeed in its "vision" CodeSpells needs to become much more than what it is. Hope it does.

The blocks allows instant gratification to hook people in.

I see no problem if they want to add an advanced mode where you can drop down into an actual programming language like lua, python or scheme.

Seeing more advanced spells from other players might even encourage people to do so, just so they can have status in the game too.

I can agree with you that maybe, at this early stage of the game development, the "Code" part in the "CodeSpell" name may be a bit inaccurate. But nothing tells us it won't evolve to something RPG-like, where you'll have to actually code your spells effects with raw instructions to reach higher levels.

I totally love those games where the players bring all the value by being creative, when the conceptors have absolutely no idea of what the in-game will look like 6 months from now.

It's not about teaching raw code and basic algorithms, but using code as a tool to achieve what's in your mind, and I think that's the most important part to prepare someone for the future of programming.

Another CodeSpells team member here... What's up on our website is pretty limited right now. I hope the Kickstarter page (launching tonight) will elaborate better on what we hope to do with CodeSpells. In our experience, students learn to code through exploring. If we can make a fun way to explore coding, I think students who may not have even been interested in coding before will come away with a feeling that coding is fun, creative, and challenging. We're not going to turn every kid into a hardcore programmer, but I do want kids to feel like it's something that is possible for them to learn & is kind of cool!

Never forget Code Hero: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_Hero

We never will. That Kickstarter was a huge disappointment for the coding education community. I hope we can prove ourselves to be more communicative & reliable than "Primer Labs". I think our team has more experience following through on projects...

I'd like to see a mechanic whereby player level/experience dictated the amount of physical power players could add to their spells. Low level players could push rocks around, while super high level players with advanced spells could be capable of ripping apart planets (if they had the coding chops). That would be cool :)

Yes! We love this idea too! Leveling up will definitely be an aspect of gameplay! We're thinking players will have different "mana bars" for each kind of magic (earth, fire, water, air, life). Then, they can level up their different kinds of magic to become more powerful (more mana available).

This is based on MIT's Scratch language, right? If so, I think using it as an embedded DSL is a really good idea.

Thank you!! We're using Blockly, which is essentially an open-source version of the Scratch language!

Is it scripted in something like Unity3d/UDK or actually developed from scratch?

We're using the Unity game engine!

The code it teaches is java :(

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