My daughter loves LEGO, maybe their creative toolbox will encourage her to code

I am hoping the LEGO Boost creative toolbox will pair one hobby my kid loves with another she doesn't yet have.

My child builds LEGO as if she were Zach the maniac of old. We have a very large collection of Star Wars and some Ninjago LEGO sets. Slowly she has taken over every bookshelf I'll let her. She loves to build LEGO. Maybe this set will also teach her to code.

I used to play with Mindstorms. I just saw my two OG sets with a few expansion packs, as I cleaned out a basement and packed things into storage. This I hope this set brings her as much fun as those did for me back in the 90s. Boost seems to be the modern evolution of Mindstorms.

My friends and I used to build LEGO Mindstorms robots and pitch them against one another on a conference room table, late at night at our Dotcom-era start-up. The idea was to throw the other person's robot off the table. We'd devise all manner of sticking ourselves to the table, or prying, bashing, smashing and disassembling the opposing Mindstorm. People got frustrated after a few sessions as the robots took hours of assembly and moments to become LEGO pieces once again.

This set is more structured than I remember Mindstorms as being. This 847 piece set has instructions to make Vinnie, a dancing and guitar playing robot, Frankie the robo-cat, a working guitar and some other things I can't quite identify. Coding occurs via an IOS, Android and Windows app. Read the rest

The most popular engines for indie games

A new page at Itch.io, the top platform for publishing and selling indie games, reveals the most popular game development engines and apps there.

Unity is way out in the lead, accounting for almost half the projects published at Itch. Construct, an app requiring no coding skills, and GameMaker, a general-purpose creative suite with powerful scripting tools and optional modules, together account for about a quarter of the projects.

Then come engines designed for specific genres: Twine, for interactive fiction, in fourth, and RPG Maker, for Japanese-style computer role playing games, in fifth. PICO-8, a "fantasy console" that imposes strict limitations on developers in imitation of a 1980s' 8-bit box, is in sixth. Bitsy and Puzzlescript, which produce simple tile-based games, are the seventh- and twelfth-most popular engines. Ren'Py, for making visual novels, is in ninth. Unreal Engine and the beloved free 2D engine Löve round out the top 10.

Of the rest, only the fast-growing Godot engine has more than 500 projects.

Note that software frameworks—HTML games—are excluded from the tally. Only Phaser, with 1,173 projects, would rank in the top 10, between Bitsy and Unreal Engine. Read the rest

Cool HOWTO on creating an AI to play 2048

The always entertaining and inspiring YouTuber Code Bullet decided to build a 2048-playing AI from scratch. It's really interesting to see him also build 2048 as part of the process. Read the rest

Programmer demonstrates his "perfect" Minesweeper AI

Code Bullet claims in this demo video, "I was able to create what I believe to be a perfect minesweeper player." Read the rest

Check out Frederik Vanhoutte's experiments in generative graphics

Frederik Vanhoutte describes himself as a creative coder who works in the field of generative art. His site W:BLUT has lots of cool little experiments. Above, Big Red I, a longer fractal experiment that evokes FRank Lloyd Wright. Read the rest

The coded gaze: biased and understudied facial recognition technology

Rod McCullom at Undark has a terrific overview of the perpetual "virtual lineup," where half of all American adults "are enrolled in unregulated facial recognition networks used by state and local law enforcement agencies." Read the rest

Nintendo programmer coded Game Boy classic without using a keyboard

Nintendo programmer Masahiro Sakura coded the Game Boy classic Kirby's Dream Land on a cartridge-based Famicom console and Disk System that lacked a hardware keyboard. According to a recent presentation given by Sakura, "values had to be input using a trackball and an on-screen keyboard."

Sakura, who was 20-years-old at the time, said he just thought that was "the way it was done."

From Game Watch's report in Japanese, translated by Source Gaming:

At the time, the development tool that HAL Laboratory was using was the Twin Famicom, a console that combined the Famicom and the Famicom Disk System. A trackball made specifically for the Twin Famicom was used with the machine, which read and wrote data to a floppy disk and uploaded data to the floppy disks [during development].

Essentially, they were using a Famicom to make Famicom games. Sakurai told the crowd, “It’s like using a lunchbox to make lunch”. However, because of that, they were able to create a functional test product before the project plan was even completed.

(via Ars Technica) Read the rest

Meet the self-taught coder exposing California politics to the sunlight

Watch this inspiring summary of Rob Pyers' journey from laid-off grocery bagger to major player in following the money in California politics. Read the rest

Help your kids learn to code with "The Official ScratchJr Book"

ScratchJr is a simple, free, tablet based programming language kids can use to make simple games and animations. The Official ScratchJr Book has been a great guide for my daughter and I.

I first heard about Scratch, when one of our attendees gave a brief show-and-tell on it at Boing Boing's Weekend of Wonder. It sounded pretty accessible. It came to mind again when recently, in an attempt to get my daughter to use the iPad for more than watching Bratayley, I decided to try and interest her in creating something. She loves art, but Minecraft was far too confusing for her and I was looking for another kid-friendly programming option. ScratchJr is a tablet based, even simpler version of Scratch, installing was as easy as any other app.

The Official ScratchJr Book does a great job, with friendly illustrations, of walking us through the basics. My daughter prefers the painting and drawing of characters, and backgrounds, to the organization of blocks, but the book did a great job of walking us through it all. Having gone through the book together, once, she can now refer to it one her own, if she runs into a problem. Generally, her problem is me grabbing the tablet and adding things.

I am not going to tell you we've made high art, but I think I could throw together a decent 1980's King's Quest parody.

The Official ScratchJr Book: Help Your Kids Learn to Code via Amazon Read the rest

Upvote this: Teach kids in underserved communities how to code with Minecraft

LA Makerspace co-founder Tara Tiger Brown shares a project that her kid-friendly maker workshop is trying to make a reality. Read the rest

Most popular programming languages shift at Github

Driven by the web and Android, Javascript and Java reign. Ruby and C lose ground. PHP lumbers on, impervious. Somewhere in the distance, a Perl script barks mournfully.

Between 2008 and 2015 GitHub gained the most traction in the Java community, which changed in rank from 7th to 2nd. Possible contributing factors to this growth could be the growing popularity of Android and the increasing demand for version control platforms at businesses and enterprises.

Read the rest

How hip hop can teach you to code

The artist may change, but the template remains the same

Wrong notes and syntax errors: The joy of improv in music and code

What can thinking like musicians teach us about game-making?

Indie games made with Unity

Make Games! published a huge list of indie titles, many of them free or trivially inexpensive, made using the wildly popular game-making software Unity—I know what I'll be doing next weekend! If you're feeling inspired, Make Games!' getting started page links to essential articles and Unity alternatives for developers of any skill level. Read the rest

How to be an indie game developer

So you've got a yearning to code games, you've got a killer idea, and you want to work for yourself. What next? [Derek Yu] Read the rest

What schools should really teach

Why learning to program is about more than a job, it's a way to make your whole life better.

Microsoft text adventure game!

"Microsoft has jumped onto the free-to-play bandwagon with its latest game, a text-driven adventure called Visual Studio 2010. The innovative new game marries the traditional interactive fiction text adventure with its arcane commands and exploration with the free-form, open-ended gaming" [Ars Technica, following the introduction of gamification and "achievements" to the coding app] Read the rest