Mongo rides again!

I’ve been hinting at a new project. Here it is:

Today, it’s an incredibly modest little game. I think, and hope, that it can grow into something more.

Go play it now. It’s goofy, but kinda fun. It was certainly fun to code.

I’ve talked about this before, so it might be worth reading that to see why I think this is important.

I love gcompris, but it’s not going to run on an iPad without a ton of work. I love TurtleArt for the OLPC, but it’s not going to run on an Android device without a ton of work. I love open source educational games, but it’s time to stop optimizing them for the Linux desktop or for the OLPC. It’s time to move beyond that.  HTML5 is the future. What, are you going to bet against Google?

I’ve been looking for a simple, easy-to-understand, open source, 2d gaming engine for HTML5 for a while now. Last summer I thought I’d found an interesting codebase to start from, but it just wasn’t adequate to write a cool game quickly, and I didn’t have time to fool much with it as my new responsibilities ramped up.

Last month, I found Akihabara — and Kesiev, thank you for Akihabara. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for — well written, well documented, extensible, and completely badass. I wrote Dungeons of Mongo in probably about 20 hours, all told, and a big chunk of that time was spent googling for Javascript syntax.

So. Still thinking about how to make more out of this, but release early release often, right?

(open source) + (curriculum aligned) + (crossplatform) + (immersive)
= [[ making educational games live up to their promise ]]

Mongo rides again!

14 thoughts on “Mongo rides again!

  1. This is great! I have been playing my way through the Phantom Hourglass and reading Javascript the good parts this weekend and was thinking about how interesting it would be to create a language learning tool (Hindi in my case) that used an adventure game format. I was inspired by the “Slate” in Phatom Hourglass but a lot of puzzles could be adapted to language learning.

    Have you tried any other JS game engines? Any opinions?

    1. This is the first one I’ve found that had all of the hooks I needed and was *definitively* open source. That last piece is non-negotiable. 🙂

      I don’t doubt that there will be many HTML5 production tools, including various game engines, that could be suitable for games like Mongo. This is the one I’m betting on for now. My short-term goals are to get as many levels written as I can that illustrate Akihabara’s various features.

      I also exchanged very kind emails with the creator of Akihabara, Kesiev, who wrote a nice blog post about Mongo:

  2. Smooge,

    I’ll be checking the code into github sometime this weekend, with some basic documentation for installation and how my five little files fit into Akihabara itself.

    It really is dead simple. My goal is to put together new, simple levels that demonstrate various features, and then let other folks make the gigantic maps and fun stuff.

  3. Ruth says:

    That’s pretty cool, especially that the engine exists. I wonder how far 8-bit appeals to current kids? It’s nostalgia to us, but to them might be more like if our parents had given us a Victrola for Christmas instead of a CD player.

    1. Stephen Smoogen says:

      It worked well with my son, but he is pretty sheltered :). The main thing with 8 bit graphics will be that they are small in memory/download.. however it should be pretty easy to change out with higher ones later.

    2. I think it’ll work well enough, considering that the alternatives in the educational game space are comparatively woeful. Ask Robyn, for instance, about her daughter’s “Study Island” experience.

      And besides, look at the quality of graphics / complexity of gameplay in Farmville. Not complicated, and it rules the freaking world.

  4. FWIW, none of the Akibara “press A to start” stuff works on my freedom-hating Mac (Firefox, Chrome, and Safari all tried), so I’m seemingly unable to check this out. Darn. Though I very much like the idea for this — I haven’t seen a fun gaming toolkit in 10 years that I could actually tolerate.

    The last being Allegro for DJGPP and before that QBasic graphics mode.
    OpenGL is way too much work.

    1. Stephen Smoogen says:

      A is meant for A button. Turns out those are locked on a keyboard to:

      A == z
      B == x
      C == c

      Man kids these days, not knowing to press every key on the keyboard because the Japanese game they just got isn’t translated well.. 🙂

      1. Ahah! The keyboard confusion is a pain I’ve introduced since the first version. Emulators played a very decisive role on keeping the history of games alive so I decided to keep their typical configuration. Moreover, the ZXC mapping is typical for Japanese indie games – that is another important piece of videogames history. Third reason is for touch-screen displays: o iPad/iPhone, a touchpad with actual A B C buttons is shown!
        Obviously is possible to change any of the messages in games (like what in TDOM), customize the keyboard settings (there is a settings panel bundled with Akihabara for helping players on setup keyboard and more – for the demo games on my site is here – and eventually use higher resolution graphic.
        The “nostalgia” effect was introduced for “sentimental” reasons and technical reasons too: the iPhone display width is perfect for arcade games and – for keeping the same graphics and code on the desktop browsers version – the “pixelated” effect was introduced in order to enlarge the virtual display.
        But, if you want, you can make a game with larger screen and better graphics – cross device compatibility is harder but doable!
        kType is another simple game made with Akihabara from scratch by Kilian ( and uses not pixelated graphics.
        You can choose to support the old school and forget display size issues or make your graphics better 🙂

        About pixelated GFX for modern generation: pixelated game are gaming history lessons too. Is that educative too? 😉

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