Game: Colobot

Colobot is a nifty real-time strategy game that combines programming elements into its gameplay. In this game, you control an astronaut that must complete several missions in each planet he arrives. To help him, he can build bots that can do specific things, like fly or move through the ground and pick objects.

Bots are built much like how you would build stuff in games like Age Of Empires, where you need to gather resources (in this case, energy cells and titanium blocks) and build the corresponding structures that will allow you to create your units (in this case, your bots). Colobot has a super simplified resource management system so you don't have to worry about it too much (you need 1 block of titanium to build stuff, your bots use 1 energy cell to power themselves, etc.) so you can focus on the programming part.

The cool thing about this game is that you can choose not to program anything and control all your bots by yourself, but this proves harder and harder as you progress in the game, so, just like in real life, you can use programming to avoid having to perform everything yourself. And because of this, you will also feel the joy of watching your program work, just like when your code works in real life!

The game has some faults though. The levels introduce new topics quite nicely, but trying to see which is your next objective is a chore. Instead of having an "objective complete! Next objective is...." on the GUI, you have to press F1 to see the objective list. The game won't even cross out the ones that you have completed. Also, it would be nice if the game introduced easy programming concepts right from the first level instead of presenting you with example programs. Still, this is an interesting game and one of the few if it's type that will let you to program your units OR control them yourself in real time.

What I liked about the game:
  • Program OR control your units (yay!).
  • Simplified Real Time Strategy style won't boggle your head.
  • The programming language used in the is similar to a real life programming language.
  • The games is really entertaining once you get the hang of it.

What I didn't like about the game:
  • The game really needs mission status updates.
  • The help system is like reading a .chm file.
  • The programming language could be introduced from the start to make it easier to create your own programs.

Check out the game's main page.
Download the demo here.
Epistec Games (2001). ColoBot

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