Gravity-swapping platformer VVVVVV is 10 years old as of today. For this big birthday, creator Terry Cavanagh is releasing its source code for free. You can dig into the guts of a breakout indie game from the booming years of the 4:3 aspect ratio which might actually be a more interesting prospect than it sounds.
Over the years, VVVVVV’s challenging platforming has inspired other similar challenges like MMMMMM. It has had quality of life updates and a mobile port. It appeared in the speedrunning marathon AGDQ earlier today. Folks seem to still love it, 10 years on.
Cavanagh wanted to do something special for such a big anniversary, and has chosen to open up its source code. By Cavanagh’s own words in his blog post, VVVVVV “is not a technically sophisticated game.” In fact, he goes so far as to say “even by the standards of self taught indie devs, it’s kind of a mess.”
So why the source code for a 10 year old game then? It’s a sort of relic—historic along the relatively short timeline of video game history—worth a bit of study if game development interests you. VVVVVV bears the signs of a game first developed in Flash and then later ported with all of its oddities intact, Cavanagh explains.
“Maybe the best thing about VVVVVV’s source code is that is stands as proof of what you can hack together even if you’re not much of a programmer,” he says. Despite the slow death of Flash, where VVVVVV was originally made, games like it now have more ways than ever to be birthed into existence.
The non-programmers of today have tools like GameMaker Studio, Bitsy, GB Studio, and so many others to build games with visual editors that can be expanded on with knowledge of actual programming languages.
VVVVVV’s source code may serve as lesson in what’s possible, or maybe a cautionary tale on how not to program things, for folks learning to make games for the first time a decade later. Additionally, you can tinker with the source code yourself and redistribute your experiments provided you follow the rules in its license.
As another birthday present, fans and other developers have organized a celebration game jam “eVVVVVVent” encouraging others to make their own levels for VVVVVV.
If you never tried VVVVVV last decade, you can find it on Steam, Itch, and Humble these days. You can download and take a peek at its source code over on GitHub. As Cavanagh explains on Twitter, access to the source code means that you’re also welcome to download and compile a version of VVVVVV on your machine to play entirely free.