The islander robots of State Machine prep for doomsday

When I came in to work today John was bright red with an incommunicable rage. It can only mean one thing: a new game about programming is coming out. This one is called State Machine [official site] and it’s from Terry Cavanagh of VVVVVV and Ruari O’Sullivan, aka randomnine, of Fear Is Vigilance and Beacon. Luckily, I quite like programmey games, so I calmly slipped the press release out of John’s furious, frozen grip and that is how you are learning about it.

State Machine is about being a “wandering programmer” on an island full of robots, teaching them to do industrial tasks and to earn money to build their island nation state in preparation for an apocalypse. By its own descriptions it is about “the sharp end of the robot revolution.” There’s not much else to go on, but screenshots show some little bots following commands like “move to tree” and “use axe” and “gather log” and “punch”. Good wholesome roboting. I’m sure nothing will go wrong.

This started out as an experimental jam baby back in 2015, says Terry, and he and Ruari have been working on it since. It’s also going to be in the Leftfield Collection at EGX Rezzed in London, the sordid saloon of games run by our comrades at Eurogamer at the end of March. So you can see it there, if you’re into that sort of thing.

John doesn’t like this modern rash of programming games because: “It’s like if authors only ever wrote books about how books are bound.” But he’s just being a feeble human with unstable emotions. I was an admirer of Shenzhen I/O and TIS-100 before that, not to mention the bright lights of Else Heart.Break() or the dark virtual rat cage that was Hackmud. And while you might say programmers programming about programming is as self-indulgent as writers writing about writing, some excellent books also fall into that latter category. And that’s what I think about that.

The pair hope to get State Machine out and into your wretched homosapien hands some time this year.


  1. Snowskeeper says:

    You can’t play books, though. And programming is fun, unlike writing (until it’s finished) and book-binding.

    • Robert The Rebuilder says:

      But you can print out your program and bind it in a book.

      Then make a game about it.

      Then repeat until it all becomes too meta to fathom.

    • Kolbex says:

      Spoken like a programmer.

    • SuddenSight says:

      Bookbinding is actually pretty fun.

    • Nosada says:

      “And programming is fun”

      Found the dev! Is someone missing a dev? Cause this one was just wandering about by itself. Always keep you devs in sight, people! Before you know it, they’ve changed the GUI to console again and re-written the database stack!

      • Snowskeeper says:

        B-But I can barely use Java.

        • Otterley says:

          Typical dev modesty: “B-But I can barely use Java… so I coded the backend for Twitter in Assembler”.

  2. DuncUK says:

    It’s like if authors only ever wrote books about how books are bound.

    No, it’s like if a tiny percentage of authors sometimes wrote books about how books are bound.

    link to

    Which, evidently, is the case.

    • Harlander says:

      I think it’s more like books about grammar, syntax and other functional aspects of language (of which there are a fair few). Programming isn’t the only activity involved in making a computer game, but it is the most elemental one.

  3. geldonyetich says:

    Speaking of somebody who has made a study of scenarios involving building functional villages from an individual perspective, color my interest piqued.

  4. Reejun says:

    It’s like if toy makers made toys about making things.

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    It's not me it's you says:

    Weirdly this whole hatred of programming games bugs me more than most John-isms. Probably because I quite like them and tend to loathe the kind of puzzle games he loves (the abstract ones with numbers in lines and stuff. If I wanted a logic puzzle I’d.. well.. go program something. Or play a game about programming something, I guess).