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Create games smarter than ever: “fork” and mash-up with RedWire

Posted November 26, 2015

Keen to create own video game, but the thought of where to start gets you scratching your head? Don’t worry – there’s a “killer” open source game engine right around the corner. And instead of reinventing the wheel, it allows you to start with games already out there – like the classic “Space Shooters”, for example.

red wire

The engine – RedWire – is an inventive approach to game creation, which allows to mix and mash-up of existing games with very little programming knowledge. Instead of spending hours developing your own code (which has been done over and over so many times before), you can select a game you like and “fork it”, adding and removing graphic, sound and interactive elements however you please.

Drawing inspiration from visual programming and electronics, RedWire is based on chips of code that can be dragged and dropped into your game, and even grabbed from other games! This helps to build on existing stuff, and make sure yours has just the features you need.

New way to wire code

RedWire has been developed at The Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI), as part of the Citizen Cyberlab project. As put by one of the main developers of the engine, Jesse Himmelstein:

“We’d like programming to be more like building with Legos – you want to change something, you just take the top off and stick something else onto it; you can change the color etc. – it doesn’t matter.” However, when you actually try to change something in a system, such as a game, you need to account for every complicated interaction in the code, since removing one bit might just break the whole thing.

That’s how the idea came to first break the games into “atoms” that can then be put together in a tidy manner, without overlaying the function of one piece of code with another.

In an electronics breadboard, for example, different elements can be put in, removed and measured completely independently, yet are automatically connected by a single wire as soon as you stick them in.

Interconnected breadboard was one of the inspirations for “chip”-based game engine. Screenshot from RedWire Trailer.

Interconnected breadboard was one of the inspirations for “chip”-based game engine. Screenshot from RedWire Trailer.

RedWire works just like that – you can add and remove chips wherever you want, without messing up the whole system. Each chip has pins for data coming in, and data coming out, which wire them to buffers, e.g. the memory buffer or IO buffers, which allow communication to outside world (such as keyboard or mouse. Since the chips are never connected directly to each other, they are completely independent, and can be individually manipulated as much as you want.

Another cool feature is the ability to add, modify and even temporarily mute chips on the board while the game is still going, such witnessing in real-time what happens if you make particular changes to the code. The gameplay can also be recorded and manipulated later on too, without having to replay again and again.

RedWire game mashing interface. Screenshot from RedWire Trailer.

RedWire game mashing interface. Screenshot from RedWire Trailer.

Games for education, games for research

RedWire makes game creation easy for a variety of purposes, including research and education. For example, Autism game collection hosts games aimed to collect valuable information about the abilities of autistic children in a completely non-intrusive, yet very informative way.

A bunch of games are dedicated to learning complex scientific concepts through game too – as complicated as quantum physics. RedWire is also meant for researchers who aim to make use of the power of the crowd by crowdsourcing their research, e.g. setting up citizen science games, like this one involving combining quarks into stable particles, for example.

As a completely open source solution, RedWire makes sharing of ideas and creative game elements easy between fellow game makers. This should be especially attractive for those who want to make meaningful or simply fun games, but don’t want to spend ages coding and reinventing what is already out there. Every new piece created or “forked” on RedWire also contributes to a growing library of open source games to choose from!

Written by Eglė Marija Ramanauskaitė


Jesse Himmenstein – Killer Engine for Remixing Games – Presentation of RedWire at FOSDEM 2014.

Himmelstein, J., Couzic, M., Jennett, C., Cox, A. L., Goujet, R., Lindner, A., Taddei, F. (2014). RedWire: A novel way to create and re-mix games. CHI PLAY ’14, Oct 19-22 2014, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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