Electron-ic Gaming: Sokobond Trailer Has Chemistry

By John Walker on January 31st, 2013 at 3:00 pm.

Chemistry is basically a puzzle game, right? A puzzle game I was so utterly terrible at that I got an N for my A Level in the dastardly subject. Fortunately, Alan Hazelden and Harry Lee’s forthcoming Sokobond is a chemistry puzzle that I can at least start playing without hideous memories sending me trembling into a corner.

The trailer for the game is deliberately ambiguous. See:

That’s because a part of the game – of which I’ve had a quick go – is about discovering the aims. Aims you’ll have seen are based around the bonding of chemicals. One of the few elements of chemistry I could get my head around, unlike how I’m supposed to know the reagents of changing benzene molecules, or mole-based calculations. (For one chemistry A level paper, after realising I couldn’t answer a single question, I plotted a graph on my graphic calculator that rendered a train on the screen, with smoke coming out of the chimney at the end. This was not marked.) There are elements of Sokoban, mixed up with SCIENCE, creating what I think would make just about the best imaginable tool for teaching year 8/9 chemistry students the complexities of covalent bonding.

It’s in the Greenlight dungeon at the moment, and success there will likely determine a release date.

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21 Comments »

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  1. HilariousCow says:

    It’s great! Does neat things with the Sokuban premise, while using concepts of valency in chemistry, without devaluing either side. Absolutely perfect poising for an educational game (which is really hard to get right).

    And it does it seemingly effortlessly. I wish I made this game.

  2. Tomsik says:

    This looks awully similar to katomic, which has been around for ages.

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    Zunt says:

    Hm. While I love SpaceChem and think this game looks interesting, as a chemist I have to say that neither offers much in the way of actual chemistry. It provides the backdrop and a few details that might be enough to tweak someone’s interest, in the same way a series of jigsaws of famous paintings might interest someone in art.

    Also, sad to see comments on Greenlight have already devolved to incivility and baseness.

    • John Walker says:

      I think it’s slightly more. Here you bond a chemical based on how many electrons each atom has, and the paired electrons of other atoms. Once you’ve created a molecule, it tells you which it is. I think it does a good job of teaching the premise.

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        Zunt says:

        OK, I think I agree. It’s quite basic (no) chemistry, but perhaps that’s all that’s needed. If it could gently frame some more questions as one played it (like why is nitrogen bonding to 3 things when it has 5 valence electrons, and does it ever try to bond to more than 3 things, etc) then even better. As long as it doesn’t turn into edutainment.

        SpaceChem is definitely much more a game about computer programming than chemistry though.

        • Alan Hazelden says:

          Hi, one of the devs here.

          It’s a puzzle game first and a chemistry simulation second, and that means the chemistry is necessarily simplified. I.e. nitrogen always has exactly 3 bonds because that’s a simple rule that people can learn and remember.

          But within those constraints there are still educational aspects; and hopefully it can encourage people to study more and learn how all the chemistry in it is totally wrong. :)

          • sinister agent says:

            Ah, the old “everything we taught you last year was wrong” routine. That brings back some memories, alright.

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            Lambchops says:

            Still happens. All it takes is talking to someone super smart and you realise that despite 7 years of university education and counting you still don’t really understand the most basic of concepts!

          • Mr. Mister says:

            As long as the game doesn’t confuse covalent with ionic bonds, I’m interested.

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          Lambchops says:

          I think the fact that Spacechem was more a game about logic and programing than chemistry was one reason why I could actually enjoy playing it for hours (if I spent my gaming time as well as my day time trying and failing to get chemistry to do what I wanted I’d have probably gone insane!).

          Yeah, looks like a cute little puzzle game for youngsters (or older non science types!) and could hopefully pique their interest in chemistry. As a chemist and someone who likes a little bit more challenge to their puzzle games I’m probably not the target market for this!

          • Alan Hazelden says:

            Ha! As someone who also likes a bit of challenge to my puzzle games, I guarantee it is not as cute and friendly as it appears! (You will still need to look past the “chemistry” though…)

          • vanarbulax says:

            I do computational chemistry (don’t ask orbitals just clicked for me in 2nd year for some reason), and I have to say this looks like a really neat tool to demonstrate things which fit inside the octet rule. Could reveal much more chemistry than SpaceChem (though I loved SpaceChem). As long as it also includes a bit of knowledge about intermolecular forces, it should be enough to get your head around most basic chemistry.

            Subscribed! And I know a ‘Chemistry Educator’ in my faculty who I am sure would be interested in this.

    • The First Door says:

      I’ve not read many Greenlight pages, but I really hope they aren’t all like that. It was barely a step over YouTube commens.

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        Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        No, your mother wears combat boots!

        • The First Door says:

          Lies! I wear the boots! Plus, I’m relatively sure I’m not my own mother…

  4. Godsmith says:

    It’s just Atomix in a new package.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomix_(computer_game)

    • Ricc says:

      According to the Greenlight page, Sokobond is inspired by a game called Sokoban. Admittedly, I never played it, but the concept is pretty ubiquitous.

      • Godsmith says:

        True, the movement seem more like Sokoban than Atomix. But the trailer is really really bad so it is hard to tell.

      • Somerled says:

        I played a lot of these as a kid and never knew they had a name: Sokoban. Thank you.

        And the wiki page you link points to Kwirk, of all things, another game I played a lot of and couldn’t remember the name. Thank you very much.

  5. iainl says:

    If this is the game I tried an early version of at GameCamp, and I think it is, then I recommend it – really hits that thing many of the best puzzle games have where you figure out how to solve them well after you put the thing down and walk away.

  6. Josh W says:

    There’s a bit of chemistry I wished space chem had in it, but it did not; I wished that when doing bonding with the bonding pads, it would choose the element surrounding it who would bond most effectively, choosing fluorine over hydrogen etc.

    It’d be nice for this game to do something like having one molecule pass by another, and basically swap atoms if that arrangement of bonds gives a lower energy. Possibly adding this level of detail could mess up your game entirely, difficult to say from this level of info, but I do like the idea of having the game represent roughly a-level chemistry in both covalent and ionic bonding, electronegativity etc.

    And as such changes would be irreversible, it’d fit nicely into the sokoban framework.