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Discussion on: Games that teach you to program (without you realizing it)

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Kasey Speakman • Edited

In addition to Zachtronics games and Factorio mentioned in comments, here are a few others, most of which are only slightly related to programming.

Mobile games

Cargo Bot - procedural programming a cargo crane, iPad only tho
Trainyard - more of a puzzle/simulation game but definitely has planning and problem solving aspects.

PC Games

I find that tower defense games have somewhat an element of programming with planning your tactics to accomplish the goal. Perhaps they are more like Ops since there is a live element after the initial setup. Along those lines, one of my favorite games -- considered "FPS tower defense" -- is called "Orcs Must Die!" (here it is on Steam).

Another, but maybe a slightly different dimension of "programming".

X3:Terran Conflict or its successor X3:Albion Prelude. This game seems impossible / terrible to start, and still has outstanding bugs. But it has such rich and deep gameplay if you push past that. The part I really like is the economy simulation aspect, where you can build space factory complexes and vast trading networks between them and the rest of the universe. You can "script" your supply/delivery fleet to run automatically -- the in game "ship software" to do this are called CLS (Commodity Logistics Software) and CAG (Commercial Agent). The first hour I played X3:TC I thought buying the game was a mistake. But rather than stop playing, I wanted to find the fun that people were talking about. I ended up playing it for 6 months solid -- as in multiple times a week, hours at a time where possible. I still go back and play it now and again to try to get the last 2 achievements.

Design games

Design / UX is an integral part of good products.

Empyrion - Galactic Survival. The core mechanic is to survive with food, water, heat, oxygen, health on potentially inhospitable and hostile planets (first person style). However, one of the real gems of this game is that you build your space craft and bases (space or terrestrial) out of blocks. They have some pre-mades you can spawn and use, but I have had a lot of fun making my own in creative mode. It has really showed me how terrible I am at designing things. I have a couple of things on the workshop that I do think look decent and are very functional (after a lot of iteration). Like this.

I've heard that Space Engineers is similar to Empyrion in the way you design things. Not sure beyond that.

Eh, I like games. I really want to build a game that combines the best aspects of some of these.

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Brian Greig Author

Those are some heavy games. Nice choices.