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A collection of games (with source code) to use for example programming lessons.

Project description

PythonStdioGames

A collection of games (with source code) to use for example programming lessons. Written in Python 3. Click on the src folder to view all of the programs.

Some of them may require additional modules to run. You can use pip on Windows or pip3 on macOS/Linux to install them:

  • pip install bext
  • pip install pyperclip
  • pip install pyrect
  • pip install pybresenham

NOTE: Currently I'm not accepting pull requests at this time, but feel free to leave comments or send suggestions to al@inventwithpython.com

(Other nifty modules are pyttsx3 (for text-to-speech) and playsound (for playing wav and mp3 files).)

About this Collection

After beginners learn the syntax of Python and basic programming concepts (loops, branching, functions, etc.) they often hit a dead-end: "How do I become better at programming?" At this point, people will tell them to work on their own practice projects (which leaves them without guidance on what to make and how to make it) or to contribute to open source projects (which can be difficult to find, understand its code base, and get guidance on how to contribute).

What helped me learn to code was finding small projects whose source code I copied and then made small adjustments to. This gave me insight on how loops, branching, and functions combined together into actual programs.

To help others down the same path, I'm creating a collection of example programs aimed at being easy to copy and understand by beginners. These programs (mostly games) have the following constraints:

  • They're short, with a limit of 256 lines of code. This makes them easy to read and understand in one sitting. The shorter the better. The "256" number was arbitrarily selected, but this also means programs will fit on 4 or 5 printed pages.
  • They fit into a single source code file and have no installer. This makes these games trivial to share by copy/pasting code to a pastebin site. Data/image/save files can be used, but the source should link to some examples in their comments.
  • They only use the Python standard library. Fewer things to install means wider compatibility and less chance of failing during environment setup.
  • They only use stdio text; print() and input() in Python. The output being in the same text medium as the text source code makes it less abstract, and easier to see the cause-effect relationship between code and output. This means there's no graphics or mouse input, but makes it simple to port these programs to other languages since they all support stdio text.
  • They're necessarily turn-based. Relying on input() means the program must wait for the user to enter text, but this means we can't have real-time programs that respond to single key-presses.
  • They're well commented. Comments should be aimed at beginners and will be more verbose. The 256-line limit includes comments and whitespace. If the program is too long to include abundant comments and sensible whitespace, the program should be simplified, not the comments.
  • They use as few programming concepts as possible. If classes, list comprehensions, recursion, aren't necessary for the program, then they are't used.
  • Elegant and efficient code is worthless next to code that is easy to understand and readable. These programs are for education, not production. Standard best practices, like not using global variables, can be ignored to make it easier to understand.
  • They do input validation and are bug free. It should be impossible to crash a program with bad input or an edge case.
  • All functions have docstrings. This is good documentation practice, but also enables the help() function to work in the interactive shell.

Additional Guidelines

Additional guidelines include:

  • Some of these programs use the bext module, which adds curses-like features like color, clearing the screen, and moving the cursor
  • Include a link to a run-through of the program on https://pythontutor.com so that the student can see how the program runs.
  • Longer, more descriptive variable names are better than shorter ones. Avoid using single-letter variable names except for i and j, or x and y.
  • Have comments marked as # EXPERIMENT! that describe minor changes that they can make (increasing health, changing difficulty, etc.)
  • Use jsdifflib to create online diffs. This is an easy way for students to find their own typos when copying the code. An example is here: https://inventwithpython.com/invent4thed/diff/
  • Use assert statements to catch common typos the student makes when typing in the code, especially for constants that they may modify.
  • Use Python 3. The only time Python 2 is appropriate to use is when there's a large existing codebase. But this is for new programmers working on greenfield projects.
  • Stick to characters in CP437 "extended ASCII" encoding. Windows' command line is the limiting factor here; it can't display all UTF-8 characters.
  • The source code must be typeable. Don't put box-drawing or extended ascii characters directly into the source code, but rather make chr() calls instead to acquire these characters.
  • Time can be a factor, even if the programs aren't real-time. You can check for time or add pauses in between calls to input(), but note that you'll never be able to interrupt when the user is typing.
  • The pyperclip module can be used to interact with the clipboard. Large amounts of text can be input-ed into or output-ed from the program using the clipboard.
  • I use %s string interpolation instead of f-strings. I love f-strings, but they were only introduced in Python 3.6 and I don't want to limit the versions that these programs are compatible with.
  • For all dictionaries, I have a short comment explaining what types the keys and values are. For example, # Keys=places, values=strings of the suspect & item there.
  • Use the "DOS box-drawing" characters to draw complicated board games. Though sticking to +, -, and | for lines is good too since it's simpler.
  • Player vs player games can often be simpler and shorter than player vs computer games. This necessarily means that multiplayer games must be "perfect information" games since both players can view the screen.
  • Don't modify mutable objects (e.g. lists) in functions to pass information into/out of the function; only use parameters and return values. This can make your program seem magical to someone not familiar with the Python Data Model.
  • Avoid insulting the player when they lose. This is something I learned from instructing programming classes for kids. They respond poorly to messages like, "Game Over, Dummy!" even if they seem innocuous to adults.

After making several of these programs, I've notice various "categories" of program complexity. Programs can be of zero or more of these categories:

  • Absolute beginner level. No functions, no nested data structures, avoid nested loops. Just uses simple branching and loops.
  • Choose-your-own-adventure level. Programs don't model things with data structures, but rather mostly use flow control.
  • STDIO-only. You can't undo things that have been previously printed (aside from "printing" backspace characters to erase characters on the current line). The output is like an append-only log file.
  • Curses-like. Requires the bext module, but can clear/refresh the screen, draw at arbitrary places on the screen in color, etc.
  • Modify source code to run. Instead of getting input from input(), the user edits variables at the top of the file to change the settings in the program.

Additional modules I recommend using:

  • bext for colorful text and controlling the positioning of the text cursor.
  • pyperclip for copying/psating text with the clipboard.
  • playsound for playing sound files.
  • pyttsx3 for text to speech.
  • pytextcavas for 2D strings you can draw on
  • pyrect for rectangle data structure
  • pybresenham for various line-drawing functions

Completed Programs in This Collection

Bagels - A mastermind-like deduction game. Blackjack - The card game of 21. Chance Checkers - Checkers, with a random luck element. Chase - A daeleks clone where you make robots crash into each other. Checkers - The classic board game. Coin Flip Simulator - Simulate coin flips and get statistics on streaks. Connect Four - The classic board game. Conways Game of Life - A cellular automata demo. Countdown - A digital seven-segment display egg timer. Diagonal Maze - A classic BASIC program that creates an interesting pattern. Dice Roller - A program for rolling dice according to Dungeons and Dragons syntax. Digital Clock - A digital seven-segment display clock. DNA - A double-helix animation. Eeny Meeny - A game based on the Josephus Problem. Fireflies - An animation showing swirling fireflies. Fizz Buzz - A time-based number game. Floodfill - A demonstration of the floodfill algorithm. Game 2048 - The classic game 2048. Guess - A guess-the-number game. Hacking - A clone of the hacking minigame from Fallout. Hammurabi - A clone of the old-school city management game originally programmed in BASIC. Hamsburger - A silly word program. Hangman - The classic pencil-and-paper game. Idiot - A silly and simple program. J'accuse - A logical deduction game based on the Homestar Runner game, "Where's an Egg?" Leetspeak - An English-to-Leetspeak program. Mancala - The classic seed-sowing game. Maze Maker - A program that generates mazes using the recursive backtracking algorithm. Maze Runner - A maze game that uses the mazes from Maze Maker. Million Dice Stats - A program that shows the statistics from rolling one million six-sided dice. Monty Hall - An interactive demo of the Monty Hall problem. Morse Code - An English/Morse Code translator. Multiplicative Persistence - A math riddle. Peg Solitaire - The classic board game. Periodic Table - A periodic table of elements. Pig Latin - An English-to-Pig Latin translator. Rail Fence Cipher - A simple cryptography program. Reversi Rock Paper Scissors Rock Paper Scissors (Always Win) Rot 13 Rotating Cube Rush Hour Shell Game Sliding Puzzle Sokoban Sonar Soroban Spiral Spongetext Three Card Monte Tic Tac Toe Tic Tac Toe (Object-Oriented Version) Towers of Hanoi Analog Clock Bouncing Dots Bouncing Lines Fish Tank Floodit Forest Fire Simulation Hour Glass Langton's Ant Lawn Mower Mondrian Rainbow Rainbow 2 Random Walk Sandfall

TODO NOTES

(The rest of these are placeholder ideas and not officially a part of this README)

TODO - explain why I don't use cls/clear if it isn't necessary (it's to make programs compatible with non terminal environemnts, like idle or vscode or pycharm)

Games should:

  • Have unit tests, which show how you can call the individual functions and see what they do with their input.
  • Should I include type hints?
  • Maybe include a barebones version of games, with stub functions that specify what their input/output, and hint at what other functions in the program they'll call? And the data structures used?
  • I should focus on games that don't require data structures (this removes most board games).
  • Games should have logging messages that can be enabled?

TODO polishing process

  • Create unit tests for each game.
  • Test inputs. It should be impossible to crash a game with user input.
  • Add comments liberally.
  • Add assert statements. These should never arise during the game. (Test!)
  • Create the "skeletons" of each game, which has just the function stubs and docstring, plus list of functions that this function calls. Unit tests can help them with filling out their skeletons.
  • Write up a description for each game, which includes a sample play session text.
  • Description should have a link to pythontutor.com.
  • Describe data structures used, including examples.

Game Ideas:

Class protocol:

  • Copy the source code by typing it.
  • Run the program and test it.
  • Run it under a debugger, answer questions about variable values.
  • Make the changes suggested for this project.
  • Try to remake the game without looking at the source, read the list of objectives.

TODO entry outline (what a single program looks like on its page or book)

  • Name
  • Brief description and credits (This plus name and link should be able to fit into a tweet.)
  • Three screenshots. (To include in the tweet)
  • Longer description.
  • Sample play text.
  • Data structure examples.
  • Pythontutor link
  • SKIP THIS: Skeleton source code
  • SKIP THIS: Unit tests (not utterly comprehensive or 100 % code coverage, but enough to convey the idea of the game's functions)
  • Full source code (and github link)
  • List of questions that probe if the reader knows how the code works.
  • List of experiments to try out.

Note: Remind readers that they can hit Ctrl-C to quit a program. Also remind them to run the programs under a debugger.

Note: I think we should avoid the "stub/skeleton" code format. The reader is put into a position of trying to read the original programmer's mind, instead of just creating a game they want to play. So this means we don't need extensive docstrings, unit tests, or assertions at the top of each function.

TODO tweet format: Python programming tutorial for text-based games: <NAME> <DESC> <LINK>

Copyright 2019, Al Sweigart. All rights reserved.

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