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Math Snacks: Gate is back!

All eight Math Snacks games – Game Over Gopher, Gate, Ratio Rumble, Pearl Diver, Monster Schoolbus, Agrinautica, Curse Reverse, and Creature Caverns – are now online! In 2020–2021, five of our Math Snacks games went offline, along with all other Adobe Flash content on the web, when browsers stopped supporting the Flash plugin. For the past two years, the Innovative Media, Research and Extension team has been hard at work reprogramming the games for the modern web, including updating accessibility features. Gate, the last to be re-programmed, was re-released this month.

For those unfamiliar with the original, here’s what to expect: In Gate, players are tasked with using the keyboard to build numbers that match those of approaching monsters. A correct match will result in a colorful explosion of fireworks and a vanquished foe. Challenges increase in later levels as new monster types are introduced and number place values change.

The hero stands in front of a +1 rune watching a many-headed monster approach. Each head is labeled with a different number. Flying monsters above are also labeled with numbers.
A swarm of monsters approaches. Utilizing the rune stones will help you build numbers faster.

This Gate rebuild was no small task. Built from the ground up in a new engine, it features new gameplay mechanics, an alternate control scheme, and an updated user interface. Our main goal was to increase accessibility while maintaining the style, charm, and mathematical challenges of the original.

One might ask, "Why remake Gate in the first place?” Well, there was no way to easily port the original version into a new format out of Adobe Flash. Plus, accessibility standards and software capabilities have changed over the years.

Personal avatar stands on left hand side of screen and a mysterious man floats on the right hand side. Top right hand corner reads: level 5. Text bubble reads: Freedom. Once again I can taste the air, and my power is greater than ever.
A defeated boss transforms back into a less monstrous form, and thanks you for liberating them from the shadows. Good job, champion!

One of the issues with the original game was that the challenge was time-based with no way to scale the difficulty. We addressed this by giving players the ability to change the gameplay speed at any time. Of course, we had concerns that allowing the speed to be slowed could eliminate the challenge….so we added new challenges! Bosses now attack based on the number of keystrokes pressed, encouraging players to thoughtfully construct numbers. The speed can also be ramped up for a more frenetic experience, if that’s that you’re into. But don’t worry, there’s no penalty for taking your time and playing it slow.

I mentioned earlier an alternate control scheme. Originally, the game could only be played using the QWERTY keys. Now, numbers can also be built with the arrow keys. The left and right keys change the place value, and the up and down keys add and subtract. Having two different ways to play means players can find the style that works most comfortably for them.

Other big changes include:

Numbers 1-13 are displayed across the screen in a zig-zag pattern. bottom right hand text reads: Teacher mode
The level select screen shows stars earned for each level.
  • An updated level select screen and tutorial.

  • A 3-star ranking system that encourages replaying levels for a higher score.

  • A “teacher mode” that allows players to place addition, subtraction, and multiplication stones and play without fear of losing the level.

  • Full keyboard support. All buttons can be selected and pressed without the use of a mouse.

As a developer, I honestly believe that the design, programming, and art challenges our team had to overcome for this rebuild were well worth the effort. We’ve created something here that is just as fun as the original while being more accessible than ever.

Written By: David Abraham, Software Developer, Innovative Media Research & Extension


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