Boot Up: TIS-100 Dev’s SHENZEN I/O Hits Early Access

The creator of SpaceChem, TIS-100, and Infinifactory is back with another making-things-work puzzle game. Zachtronics last night launched SHENZHEN I/O [official site] onto Steam Early Access, letting people have a crack at building circuits from electronic components then program them by writing in an assembly language. Easy peasy! Zachtronics say Shenzhen I/O is already “highly polished and would be perfectly acceptable to release in a traditional fashion” but they’re again turning to early access for feedback to make it even better – maybe from you?

So! There you are, starting a new job at Shenzhen Longteng Electronics Co., Ltd. in China’s electronics heart, having to build circuits – with components from logic gates to LCD screens – and write code to power them. No problem. That can’t be difficult. Especially when you can refer to your thirty-page manual full of helpful diagrams and… wait, is that page in Chinese? Ah. And as there pleasingly often are in Zachlikes, there’s a story running through it, this time with e-mails and whatnot from your co-workers.

As well as a story campaign, it has a sandbox mode to tinker in.

If this is your bag, do also check out programmer Matt Sayer’s thoughts on program-o-games.

Zachtronics have previously taken Infinifactory and TIS-100 through early access, so they do know what they’re doing here. Like those two, they say SHENZEN I/O is basically done as it hits early access, with everything they’d planned intact, but they’re hoping player feedback can mega-polish it. They suggest they might add new puzzles, new parts, new tools, maybe even Steam Workshop support – it depends on what people think it needs.

If you want in now, it’s £9.89/13,49€/$13.49 through Steam Early Access for Windows, Mac, and Linux. If you’d rather wait, Zachtronics say the full release will likely come in a month or two.


  1. Ushao says:

    Been looking forward to this, but of course now I can’t spare the money for it.

  2. pauleyc says:

    I will definitely get this at some point in the future. So far I have immensely enjoyed both Spacechem and Infinifactory; they evoke a special sense of satisfaction for every solved puzzle (only to destroy any new-found faith in my own intelligence and problem-solving abilities with the next challenge).

  3. KDR_11k says:

    Well, I guess it’s cheaper than an FPGA plus software and simulators to program it with…

    • sp0q says:

      I have access to all that at work. I don’t know why I even consider this game ;)

  4. FrancoBegby says:

    I’ve already spent 10 hrs with it – it’s brilliant.

    • invitro says:

      I have a few hours in now, and I think it’s great. It doesn’t seem much different from TIS-100 so far though. For people who think this is too much like their job, well I wish I had a job like Zach’s games :(.

  5. gwop_the_derailer says:

    Is he trying to see just how niche he can go before total audience rejection?

    Looks great, by the way, and the manual looks lovely.

    • Shammah says:

      I sort of agree; this is starting to look too much like my real job. It’s almost like that one internet comic where a German forklift driver comes home from a hard day of work, only to launch and play Forklift Simulator 2012. I suppose it’s fun if you’re a student, though.

      • Kolbex says:

        Well, we don’t all work in the electronics industry or program for a living!

    • BrickedKeyboard says:

      Well it’s less niche than TIS-100 but more niche than Infinifactory…

      You know, at $7 a copy and with 650k copies sold according to steamspy, he made $750,000 from TIS-100. TIS-100 is a very simplistic project that probably took maybe a man-year total to develop…(as in, probably 8 months of work to code and design the puzzles and maybe 4 months for the artwork, sound, and the PDF instruction manual)

      So Zach is smugly sleeping on a big pile of money from that niche game…

      • invitro says:

        Good for him. It’s one of the best games of the last few years.

      • Otterley says:

        And I can’t wait to throw more money at him for this beauty :)

    • Chuckaluphagus says:

      I think it’s the opposite – he’s found a niche, and that audience is enough to support him at the level that these games continue to be profitable to make. Even if that audience doesn’t grow, it’s large enough as it is.

  6. HeavyStorm says:

    I simply love SpaceChem, but must admit I haven’t tried any of the others titles. I’ve been curious about TIS, and Infini-something-factory is sitting at my steam wishlist for ages.

    So, now, one more game to create time for

  7. mollemannen says:

    Imagine this combined with hackmud.

  8. Hobbes says:

    This game is a lot more “approachable” than TIS-100, however, the problems scale up fast and turn into the horrific mind bending monstrosities of late game SpaceChem in short order.

    I’ve already become a scarecrow staring at the screen with sleep deprived eyes and fuzz on my tongue from drinking day old coffee trying to untangle the cryptic brain melters that Zach has once again dared us to solve.


    For reference, this game is catnip to the tech crowd. Anyone who gets annoyed at the stupidity that they have to put up with in their daily drudge can come home and decompress with this. It’s bliss, no idiots demanding holes in firewalls where holes should not be, no requests to get rid of the DMZ “Because it’s complicated”, no root passwords of “1234” (I wish I joked) because the MD didn’t think it was important to set a strong password on his own computer. Nope, just you, the computer and the bliss that comes from diving into actual, tricky problems, and solving them, one step at a time.

  9. Ergates_Antius says:

    This is my bag.

  10. StAUG says:

    Having zero knowledge of real world coding, how accessible will this be to me?

    • modzero says:

      Quite, though it taps into things we’re conditioned to fear, kinda. So it’s a simple assembly language, but it’s pretty easy to learn. And a few simple rules about connecting things together. All very transparent.

      Of course the puzzles themselves are hard, but that’s another matter.

  11. MajorLag says:

    Zach’s games are pretty much the only ones longer than a half hour that I’ll actually go out of my way to find time to play anymore.

  12. Halfzipp says:

    This is really a great ‘game’. Tough to call it a game though. Definitely have a love hate relationship with it. At times I want to throw my computer out the window and at other times its incredibly rewarding.