A while back I discovered this free game called Screeps: an RTS colony-simulation game specifically directed AI programmers. I was immediately intrigued by the concept, but it took me a while to find the time and courage to play. When I finally got to playing though, I lost myself in the game for several days on end.

Screeps means “scripting creeps.”

It’s an open-source sandbox MMO RTS game for programmers, wherein the core mechanic is programming your units’ AI. You control your colony by writing JavaScript which operate 24/7 in the single persistent real-time world filled by other players on par with you.

https://screeps.com/

Basically, screeps is very little game. You start with in a randomly generated canyon of some 400 by 400 pixels, with nothing more than some basic resources and your base. Nothing fun will happen. Even better, nothing at all will happen. Unless you program it yourself.

As a player, it is your job to “script” your own creeps’ AI. And your buildings AI for that matter. You will need to write a program that makes your base spawn workers. And next those workers will need to be programmed to actually work. You need to direct them to go to the resources, explain them how to mine the resources, when to stop mining, and how to return the mined resources to your base. You will probably also want some soldiers and some other defenses, so those need to be spawned with their own special instructions as well.

Everything needs to be scripted well, as the game (and thus your screeps) runs on special servers, 24/7, so also when you are not playing yourself. Truly your personal, virtual, mini-AI colony.

The programming mostly occurs in JavaScript. This can be difficult for those like myself who do not know JavaScript, but even I managed to have some basic workers running up and down my screen in a matter of hours. Step by step, you will learn (be forced) to create different worker types (harvestersbuildersrepairmen, and even some stupid soldiers) and even some basic colony management scripts (spawning workers, spending resourcesupgrading stuff). In the mean time, you will silently learn some JavaScript while playing. As I put in more and more hours, I could even see how to improve on my earlier scripts. This makes screeps a fun and rewarding gaming and learning experience.

Do expect to run into frustrations though! If you’re no JavaScript expert you will personally create a lot of bugs. Of which the game by default send you messages, as your colony will get stuck overnight. Moreover, you will likely need to Google every single thing you want to do at the start. I found great help in this YouTube tutorial to get me started. Finally, you are only under nooby-protection for the first so-many hours, after which you will quickly get slaughtered by all the advanced multi-CPU players on the servers.

Heck, it was fun while it lasted : )

PS. I read here that, using WebAssembly, one could also compile code written in different languages and run it in Screeps: C/C++ or Rust code, as well as other supported languages.