Pathfinder – baron m.

baron m. from thus spake a.k.

Welcome Sir R-----! Pray shed your overcoat and come dry yourself by the fire. I am told that these spring showers are of inestimable benefit to farming folk, but I fail to grasp why they can’t show the good manners to desist until noblemen have made their way indoors.

Will you join me in a warming measure and perchance a small wager?

I had no doubt sir!

I’ve a mind for a game oft played by the tribesmen of Borneo upon the cobbled floors of their homes as a means of practice for their legendary talent in forging paths through the dense forests in which they dwell.

On Pitfall – student

student from thus spake a.k.

Recall that in the Baron's latest wager, Sir R-----'s goal was to traverse a three by three checkerboard in steps determined by casts of a four sided die, each at a cost of two coins. Moving from left to right upon the first rank and advancing to the second upon its third file, thereafter from right to left and advancing upon the first file and finally from left to right again, he should have prevailed for a prize of twenty five coins had he landed upon the top right place. Frustrating his progress, however, were the rules that landing upon a black square dropped him back down to the first rank and that overshooting the last file upon the last rank required that he should move in reverse by as many places with which he had done so.

On A Day At The Races – student

student from thus spake a.k.

Most recently the Baron challenged Sir R----- to a race of knights around the perimeter of a chessboard, with the Baron starting upon the lower right hand square and Sir R----- upon the lower left. The chase proceeded anticlockwise with the Baron moving four squares at each turn and Sir R----- by the roll of a die. Costing Sir R----- one cent to play, his goal was to catch or overtake the Baron before he reached the first rank for which he would receive a prize of forty one cents for each square that the Baron still had to traverse before reaching it.

A Day At The Races – baron m.

baron m. from thus spake a.k.

Halloo Sir R-----! Pray come join me and partake of a glass of this rather excellent potation!

Might I again tempt you with a wager?


I have in mind a game that always reminds me of my victory upon the turf at Newmarket. Ordinarily I would not participate in a public sporting event such as this since I am at heart a modest man and derive no pleasure in demonstrating my substantial superiority over my fellows.

New game: Tron – frantic multiplayer retro action

Andy Balaam from Andy Balaam's Blog

My newest game is out now on Smolpxl Games – Tron:

Pixellated lines fight each other to stay alive

Play at

It’s a frantic multiplayer retro pixellated thingy playable in your browser. Try to stay alive longer than everyone else!

This version allows many players (up to 16 if you can manage it), and is quite pure in its implementation.

There are bots to play against, and you can gather your friends around a keyboard to play together.

Part of the motivation for writing this game was to test my new smolpxl-remote remote-play system, but this is not enabled yet, so watch this space…

I love playing games with other people – preferably at least 3 other people. In theory you could have 8 players around a keyboard playing this – send me a picture if you try!

One feature I worked on in the Smolpxl library for this game: saving configuration to local storage (and asking permission to do so). I ended up with a very ugly hack to do this, so a bit more work is needed before I merge it into the library.

On Triumvirate – student

student from thus spake a.k.

When last they met, the Baron invited Sir R----- to join him in a wager involving a sequence of coin tosses. At a cost of seven coins Sir R----- would receive one coin for every toss of the coin until a run of three heads or of three tails brought the game to its conclusion.

To evaluate its worth to Sir R----- we begin with his expected winnings after a single toss of the coin.

Triumvirate – baron m.

baron m. from thus spake a.k.

Welcome Sir R-----! Pray join me for a draught of cider to refresh you on this close summer's eve!

Would you be in the mood for some sporting diversion?

It pleases me to hear so Sir! It pleases me greatly!

I challenge you to a game that reflects the somewhat unique political system adopted by the three sister-queens of Thornborough; Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. Whilst ruling as a triumvirate their constitution requires all three to concur upon any decision, quite unlike any others in antiquity or modernity which, as I'm quite sure that you are aware, require but two.

Why write an entire game (including Graphics) in a single, hand-coded JavaScript file?

Andy Balaam from Andy Balaam's Blog

My new game, Rightwaves, is out now! It’s a tribute to the great classic R-Type.

A pixel-art spaceship battles aliens

The entire implementation, including all the graphics, is contained within a single ~5000-line JavaScript file. Why?

This is a terrible idea

Let me start by saying I do not recommend writing code this way. It’s a terrible idea, and some aspects of the development process have been severely hampered by doing this.

A pixellated spaceship dodges bullets and heads for a narrow passageway


One of my goals for Smolpxl is to strip coding back to the simplest possible thing it can be.

Over the last 40 years, programming has changed a huge amount: the number and variety of the tools we have to work with has increased beyond what I can take in, and almost all of these things are utterly brilliant.

I can’t imagine writing a game like Eat Apples Quick using the line-orientated editor I used on the ZX Spectrum. I thoroughly enjoyed the Rust code completion and documentation I get from running rust-language-server inside NeoVim. (I’ve even heard there are editors that work inside a windowed environment, but I am not brave enough to try one.)

A pacman-like game

I can’t imagine writing the simple physics engine for Spring in assembly language, or trying to concentrate on that while I had to unravel complex graphics rendering conventions and timings. Instead, I was able to write code that looked a bit like the maths it represented, and allow the browser to handle the graphics card.

A spring with a cheery face bounces off a platform

But, along with all these powerful tools like high-level programming languages, fully cross-platform user interface components, and libraries that make writing a game loop simple, comes a new problem: complexity.

We must choose which tools, libraries and paradigms we’re going to use, and to make that choice we need to understand them.

The Smolpxl library makes some of these choices for you, by enforcing an Elm-style model/update/view split, providing a pixellated canvas of known size, and handling a game loop with fixed framerate. This is particularly suited to writing little retro-style games, similar to what I used to write in AMOS Basic on my Amiga.

I want to make everything simple, but I want our game to work on people’s computers. The only platform we can realistically choose is the browser: the exact same code works almost everywhere.

None of this explains why I would write a game inside a single file of source code, but hopefully it begins to demonstrate where I am coming from.


Another goal for Smolpxl is to teach programming, and a huge barrier I see to getting started is the build process.

No build

You can write Smolpxl games in Rust and compile them to WASM (which is how Eat Apples Quick is done), and you could also package the JavaScript with webpack or similar, but I want the first-class way of using Smolpxl to involve no build at all: I want you to be able to copy in a standard index.html and smolpxl.js and then write your code in game.js and have it just work when you double-click on index.html.

A goal for Rightwaves is to demonstrate that you can write a full game in Smolpxl, without stepping outside that simple story: just double-click on index.html.

It’s all inside game.js

So, Rightwaves is a single* JavaScript file containing the code, the level descriptions, and, probably most unusually, the graphics.

* Note: I cheated – the “action-replay” data is in a separate file – it was much bigger than the source code, and would have made it too hard to deal with. If I wanted to stay pure, I would have had to remove the default action replay from the game, but I just liked it too much.

Level design

Many times while I was writing Rightwaves, I wished I had written a level editor. In fact, I am often quoted as saying

“A game without a level editor is only half a game.”
— Andy Balaam, quite often

But instead, the level design is code like this:

const LEVELS = [
        scenery: [
            { x:   0, y: 80, image: "machinery-20x16-01"},
            { x:  20, y: 88, image: "machinery-20x08-01"},
// ... etc.
        width: 1526,
        aliens: [
            newRedFlat(130, 20),
            newRedFlat(145, 25),
// ... etc.

The full code is at

It’s not a lot of fun to edit, but on the other hand, every time you make a change a simple refresh in the browser lets you see what it really looks like. No build process; no waiting.


I drew the graphics for Rightwaves using GIMP, exported the images as PNG files, and converted them to text using a little Rust utility I wrote.

When I wanted to change an image, it was a nightmare, and I would recommend this approach to no-one whatsoever.

The reason why Smolpxl supports creating images in the source code is so you can hand-craft them right there, using an ASCII-art style.

Here’s the spaceship: An ASCII-art spaceship

and here is the code for it:

const IMAGES = {
    "ship": {
        pixels: [
        key: {
            "w": [255, 255, 255],
            "d": [88, 88, 88],
            "b": [77, 111, 249],
            "r": [141, 0, 0],
            "l": [126, 125, 125],
            "h": [192, 192, 192],
            "c": [3, 157, 157],
            "a": [42, 42, 42]
// ... lots, and I do mean lots, more here for the other graphics ...

The full code is at

Note that I painstakingly coloured that code in for you, for this blog post. In the code there is no such luxury!


All the Smolpxl games are Free/Open Source software, of course. By avoiding a build, anyone can see the source code, just as I wrote, it in their browser. Anyone (including me) can debug problems without any extra steps. Putting everything in one file makes it easier to find the code (but probably makes it harder to understand).


Rightwaves loads really fast. On my machine, the first time you visit the page, it is playing within 1.4 seconds, after downloading 5 files at a total of 149kB (gzipped). If we exclude the included action replay, it is much smaller.

All of this, with no build process.

Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

This is a bad idea

Don’t try this.

For fun

Except, of course, if you like fun. I tried this because it was fun. I would heartily recommend trying things because they might be fun.

Also, if you like fun, try playing the games on Smolpxl games, or write your own!

A puzzle game, a cross-the-road game, a tunnel game, a snake game, a Heli game, and a game-of-life thingy