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CodeCombat: Learn to code through dungeon crawling

Browser game CodeCombat teaches you how to code in Javascript by having you input the commands to play a game.


Looking at a bunch of code for the first time can be something of a daunting affair. All those strings and symbols can simply look like a mess to the untrained eye, and can be a bit off-putting to anyone who's toying with the idea of learning how to code. It's not nearly as difficult as it looks, however -- if only one can find the right delivery method.

Codecademy does a pretty good job, but one group of programmers wanted to make it a little more accessible. Enter CodeCombat, a browser-based game where your in-game actions are dictated by the Javascript code commands you type.

George Saines, Scott Erickson, and Nick Winter, who wrote Japanese and Chinese written-language-learning app Skritter in 2008, launched the game last year, but it recently went open-source. It was actually born of the Skritter experience: When making the app, Saines got frustrated with his inability to make his ideas come to life, and at the same time observed his housemate growing bored of Codecademy. The problem, Saines realized, was that slow, methodical lessons weren't always as effective as putting those skills into practice.

"Need to learn to code? You don't need lessons. You need to write a lot of code and have a great time doing it," the team writes on their Web page. "That's what programming is about. It's gotta be fun. Not fun like 'yay a badge,' but fun like 'NO MOM I HAVE TO FINISH THE LEVEL!' That's why CodeCombat is a multiplayer game, not a gamified lesson course. We won't stop until you can't stop -- but this time, that's a good thing."

Each of the game's levels has you coding toward a specific goal -- collecting a mushroom so you grow strong enough to beat a giant ogre, for instance, or leading soldiers to do battle, or escaping from a dungeon. Each level is also given a difficulty rating out of five stars, the hardest being the dreaded Gridmancer.

There's always more on the way. Since the game become open-source, programmers have been contributing with bug fixes, pull requests, upgrades, and patches to keep the levels ticking along. This is a good thing, as the game can get a little buggy from time to time. Not enough to interfere with functionality, but enough that it's most certainly noticeable. It seems to work best in Chrome.

The game is free to play, and anyone can jump in and have a go. Be warned, though, that it won't be holding your hand. You have to figure a fair bit out for yourself. But hey, maybe you'll learn better that way.

(Source: CNET Australia)