I got a treat for you people today, a genuine treasure of the internet, a collection of forty computer-generated puzzles of wide-ranging types, from Sudoku (called “Solo” because of trademarks) to Minesweeper. And they’re not only all open source and free, they’re free for many platforms. Not all the puzzles are yet available for all platforms, but it’s continually being worked on, with new puzzles added from time to time. It has been for nineteen years; when it got started it only had five puzzle types. It’s one of the best things out there, and I’m amazed it’s not better known generally.
I can’t overstate what a wonder this collection is. All the puzzles are their own executable, if you don’t just play them on the web anyway. Each one of these puzzles offers many hours of happy puzzling. My own favorites are Loopy, Slant, Bridges, Dominosa, Galaxies, Net and Untangle. Most of the puzzles are of a type that should be familiar to fans of the Japanese puzzle magazine Nikoli, but they’re all randomly generated, and playable on multiple difficulty levels.
If the name Simon Tatham sounds familiar, he’s the guy who also created and maintains the popular networking tool PuTTY.
Sometimes I feel that we lean on the Retro portion of our remit a little too heavily. Josh Bycer (Website! Twitter! Youtube! Discord!) helps by providing much of the Indie.
That leaves Niche. The romhack scene, which we’ve started covering regularly on Thursdays, fills out that in that area a bit, but there’s still a lot of subcultures out there that could use a better look.
One of them is that around internet board games, and the biggest of those is, of course, the game of chess. The basis of chess is subtly different from that of video games, or even most other board games. Chess is deep enough that there’s a sense of mathematical purity to it. Petty human considerations seem to be disregarded in favor of finding the objectively best moves to make given a situation.
This is the road that has led us to the phenomenon of the chess engine, a computer program that plays chess. For a few years now computers have been known to beat the best human players, but far from ruining the game, the best human grandmasters now use computer programs to train. And far from requiring a supercomputer like Deep Blue, now ultra-high-level computer chess is in the reach of the ordinary user (who happens to be handy with a command prompt), in the form of the open-source engine Stockfish.
Stockfish is only a chess engine; it has no UI. Instead, graphic chess playing programs include it, interfacing with it through the Universal Chess Interface.
By the way! Did you know there’s a such an object as a Universal Chess Interface? Truly, as my pal the King of All Cosmos says, Earth has a lot of things.
Stockfish is thought to be the strongest chess-playing engine in the world, and you can use it yourself on your own computer! Maybe it is the future after all.