CodeSpells Casts Its Magic Eye On Early Access

Wizards are cool. ThoughtSTEM, a San Diego development team that began life as a handful of PhD students from the University of California, know this and believe that they’re cool enough that they might help sneakily teach people to code. As such, they have brought their successfully Kickstarted former PhD research project Codespells [official site] to Steam Early Access.

As their Kickstarter video outlined, the guys at ThoughtSTEM have always felt a bit shortchanged by video games’ interpretation of the arcane arts. Historically, there’s been too many restrictions and too few options afforded to players when it comes to spell-casting. CodeSpells hopes to change this as it draws from the team’s Tolkien-esque childhood fantasies, aiming to create a thriving open world playground for would-be wizards to hone and refine their own spells through code, whilst simultaneously bestowing the virtues of coding upon its players in the process.

I’ve not had the chance to test CodeSpells yet, but it does sound like a very promising idea, one John was taken by when he discovered it last year. The simple colour-coded multi-window interface looks welcoming, even to an absolute coding cretin like myself. Should you wish to simply blag other players’ spells, because coding seems initially too intimidating, then that’s fine too. It’s nice to know that the game will ease in players facing an otherwise alien concept.

At this early stage I can’t help but picture Garry’s Mod, but with lightning bolts and fire balls which, in all honesty, blows my mind. Creative Mode is the stage the team are developing now, which is essentially single player, and once that’s complete, ThoughtSTEM have their eyes on multiplayer.

Although successfully Kickstarted, ThoughtSTEM has steered CodeSpells towards Early Access as it seeks continual community feedback which. Given one of the goals of the project is to teach, that makes sense. Long-term, if CodeSpells can deliver what it suggests is possible, this could be something quite special.

CodeSpells is available now on Steam Early Access for £14.99.


  1. Flatley says:

    Just a pedantic quibble – there isn’t really a “University of California” because, unlike other states, CA doesn’t really have a flagship; you couldn’t really pick one out from UCLA, UCSD, and UC-Berkeley. This team is from UC – San Diego.

    Also, the link to their page is broken, extra “w” in front of the HTTP.

    Also, the game looks cool. Good concept.

  2. marak830 says:

    Oh ive been wanting to try this out! Of course im moving house today and only have tethered internet for 2 weeks -.- (although Neuro 2GB coming so yay!).

  3. Rotekian says:

    At the moment the game is pretty buggy. For example I stuck an ‘if-else’ in and the spell refused to execute either possible result.

  4. Menthalion says:

    Did you have enough mana for the effects in the if loop ? Remember, an orb itself also costs mana.

    • Rotekian says:

      I’ve tested it with 200 mana. The else result stops the orb. The if result creates child orbs and turns the parent orb. Without the if the loop creates about 5 orbs and then the parent orb spins for eternity.
      With the if the orb just moves off in a straight line until it hits something.

  5. Geebs says:

    I backed this because it seemed like a good idea, but unfortunately I haven’t had time to give it a go because I’ve had a lot of code to write :-(

  6. hajimeowari says:

    Your first link to ThoughtSTEM has a preceding “w” in it.


  7. Crafter says:

    Hmm I wonder if :
    -it works as a game, not just a curiosity
    -the code part is not too slow for somebody whom already writes code for a living. I already tried this kind of visual coding games and it can be frustrating to have to navigate through an interface while you could just write the same code 10 times faster.

    • Senthir says:

      This is ultimately my concern as well. These are(I think) the same guys who do link to, which uses their Blockly system to teach you Javascript while you make Minecraft mods.

      I went into Learntomod knowing the very basics, but not much more, and Blockly was already VASTLY below my skill level. I could have coded by hand much more quickly. The thing is, you CAN code by hand and just use basic javascript, but there were so many things that are not part of coding proper, but part of the plugin that makes Javascript mods work in Minecraft that I wasn’t aware of to where I was more or less forced to use Blockly anyway.

      It’s kind of restricting in teaching you how to code, but I was hoping to see that Codespells steered away from that problem due to the fact that it’s a standalone game. Minecraft requires some finangling due to the fact that it doesn’t natively support Javascript mods, but since this is its own thing it should be better. Right?