Screeps Is An MMO RTS For Programmers

Most programming games aim to abstract or simplify the process of writing code such that it becomes accessible to laymen. Not so Screeps [official site], which bills itself explicitly as an MMO RTS for programmers. That’s because all your units – called creeps – are directed via actual JavaScript code you write yourself. It’s currently available in early access and it’s quite fascinating.

Your JavaScript tells the creeps to do everything from move to attack to trade to build. Because it’s an MMO, it takes place on a single server populated by every other player and their army of creeps, and when you log off, your population continues buzzing away with whatever task you set them.

The result is a game where you’re pitting your programming prowess head-to-head with other people, seeing who can think of the most efficient methods of completing tasks or imagine new ways to defeat enemies.

A good way to get a sense of this is via the monthly “World Review” posts by its developers, which breaks down current progress into charts, leaderboards and baffling replays. There’s also plenty of documentation designed to help you play if your JavaScript is rusty, and ‘novice areas’ in game where you’ll be protected from some of the more dastardly and complex abilities.

Here’s a trailer of it in motion:

From this site

23 Comments

  1. Jeroen D Stout says:

    That is a surprisingly clever concept.

    • Ethaor says:

      Indeed. Although not a first. I quite enjoyed playing through Colobot in the early 2000.

    • DeepFried says:

      Doomed to failure. There’s no way to stop people sharing their code.
      As a single player game i’d be interested in something like this.

      • Don Reba says:

        What’s wrong with people sharing their code?

        • Reapy says:

          Because you won’t be able to go in and write something on your own, you will be going up against bots that are already perfect and tried or true or just too complicated without spending significant time researching. Maybe fun for a few people, but you won’t be just picking it up and doing well at all. See robocode for an example.

      • nearly says:

        Early access page says they’re trying to add server hosting and singleplayer options for 1.0 release.

  2. Don Reba says:

    Sounds like a good idea!

  3. Victor A Yorke says:

    I’d offer this up as the ‘most RPS game concept imaginable’, but I don’t see any grappling hooks…

  4. LimEJET says:

    I’ve tried it before, but I’m always put off by the fact that the code hinting functionality isn’t screeps-specific when it comes to game objects. Like, I know that the creep prototype has a string method, I don’t need it to run the game. It just becomes needlessly cluttered.

    • Don Reba says:

      I wonder, do creeps have a persistent memory or are they limited to reacting to their environment?

      • Cipherpunk says:

        Each player is limited to 2 MB of memory. You can allocate it however you wish.

  5. Crafter says:

    I have no interest in javascript, which is too bad, because this looks like an interesting concept.

    • Vacuity729 says:

      Agreed.

      Fascinating concept, but essentially unplayable for me. I think it’s great something like this is being made, but I also can’t help but wonder whether their sales will ever reach high triple-digits without being put in a bundle.

  6. DanMan says:

    So…. I can program the game to play itself? What’s not to like?

  7. Somerled says:

    An MMO populated entirely by bots. Interesting.

    • ersetzen says:

      It is called Gladiabots and I am not entirely sure how I screwed the link up quite that badly.

  8. PseudoKnight says:

    To be a true RTS for programmers, each race would be a different programming language. That would be a good way to fire up a programming war.

  9. Cinek says:

    As a professional programmer – the last thing I want to do is programming in games. Don’t get me wrong – I still code after work be it for some random jobs or doing some scripts/other shit for clans/orgs I’m in, but… fuck that, when I game – I do it because I want to escape programming.

    That said though – it’s an interesting concept, far more than these faux hacking game that force you to write some commands (it still blows my mind how did they came up with that dumb idea. Should have learnt from the best hacking game ever, Uplink, which you could play with mouse, and mouse alone).

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      Also a coder, and while I know all-too-well the need to just get away from it after enough hours, I find I do get into some programming games – mostly for the lack of deadline.

      I can spend months hacking away on a TIS-100 level or shaping a beautiful Spacechem machine if I want to, and make it *just so*. Nobody is going to be getting worried about how many hours they’re paying me for, or whether the deliverables are ever going to be delivered.

      I do work on my own projects too, but even with them I am generally motivated by something other than the code – scratching the proverbial itch, but in a game it is just code for code’s sake. (Although I suppose if you’re a completionist gamer you might still feel self-enforced time pressure.)

      Having said all of which, probably the competitive nature of this particular title would mean it isn’t ideal for such navel-gazing codegamery.