Shenzhen I/O

Is your biggest dream to move to china and program cheap electronic devices? Mine is not. However you now get the chance to play a video game where you do just that. Shenzhen I/O is a programming puzzle game created by Zachatronics where you solve puzzles through programming and designing embedded electronic circuits. I got hooked on it when I saw my favorite youtuber Scott Manley play it. You should go watch him some time, he is excellent both at making fun Kerbal Space Program videos, but also his scientific explanations are awesome.

Let us be honest, if you don’t already know some programming this game is not for you. But for those that do like it, it seems that there is a concensus that it is an awesome game. It gets overwhelmingly positive as the over all rating. One of the best reviews on Steam about the game says

When I come home from work I always wanted to do more work. Now I can

Buying the game

You can buy the game on Steam pretty cheaply, and in that case it comes with a PDF manual. I can only recommend printing it. The manual is about 30 pages worth pf technical documentation for all sorts of hardware components that you can find in game. Most of them are exactly as poorly written as they would be in real life. One of them is even in Chinese.  It also comes with a suggestion for how to assemble the documentation in a folder.

I can only recommend doing it and reading it, just to enhance the feeling of realism and frustration.

The puzzle solving

You will need to design a circuit board and programming to make the output match the test cases. The programming is done in a kind of assembly language. It is not too different from other assembly languages I have seen, but it is completely made up. But it will teach you enough to get a grasp of what you need to do in real life.

Once you have solved the puzzle you will see a score board that tells you how well you did on three parameters. Price, energy and lines of code. The price comes from the number of components used in the solution. The energy comes from how much each component had to do. The lines of code should be self explanatory.

The score board makes it fun not just to find a solution, but to try to optimize the solution if you can see you spend more energy or significantly more lines of code than the average solution among all the players.

Whats next?

It seemed like somewhere between work and fun, and a lot of head scratching. It really looked the kind of game you have to visit this blog to find fun. So here we are. I will spend some time going forward to walk you through some possible solutions.

Posted by Kristian

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