In 1981 Brodie Lockard, a Stanford University student, developed a computer game just two years after a serious gymnastics accident had almost taken his life and left him paralyzed from the neck down. Unable to use his hands to type on a keyboard, Lockard made a special request during his long recovery in hospital: He asked for a PLATO terminal. PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) was the first generalized computer-assisted instruction system designed and built by the University of Illinois.

The computer game Lockard started coding on his PLATO terminal was a puzzle game displaying Chinese «Mah-Jongg» tiles, pieces used for the Chinese game that had become increasingly popular in the United States. Lockard accordingly called his game «Mah-Jongg solitaire». In 1986 Activision released the game under the name of «Shanghai» (see screenshot), and when Microsoft decided to add the game to their Windows Entertainment Pack für Win 3.x in 1990 (named «Taipei» for legal reasons) Mah-Jongg Solitaire became one of the world's most popular computer games ever.

«Letterjongg» aims at translating the ancient far-east Mah-Jongg imagery into late medieval typography. 570 years ago the invention of the modern printing technology by Johannes Gutenberg in Germany (and, two decades later, by William Caxton in England) was massively disruptive. Books, carefully bound manuscripts written and copied by scribes in weeks, if not months, could all of a sudden be mass-produced in a breeze. The invention of moveable types as such, along with other basic book printing technologies, had a huge impact on science and society.

Yet, 15th century typographers were not only businessmen, they were artists as well. Early printing fonts reflect their artistic past. The design of 15th/16th century fonts is still influenced by their calligraphic predecessors. A new book, although produced by means of a new technology, was meant to be what it had been for centuries: a precious document, often decorated with magnificent illustrations. (Incunables – books printed before 1500 – often have a blank space in the upper left corner of a page so that illustrators could manually add artful initials after the printing process.)

Letterjongg comes with 144 typographic tiles (hence 36 tile faces). The letters have been taken and isolated from a high resolution scan (2,576 × 4,840 pixels, file size: 35.69 MB, MIME type: image/tiff) of Aldus Pius Manutius, Horatius Flaccus, Opera (font design by Francesco Griffo, Venice, 1501). «Letterjongg» has been slightly simplified. Nevertheless it is not easy to play as the games are set up at random (actually not every game can be finished) and the player's visual orientation is constrained by the sheer number and resemblance of the tiles.

Letterjongg, Screenshot

The game is coded in dynamic HTML (HTML 5, CSS 3, Javascript); no external frameworks or libraries were used.

Starting from the sides, or from the central tile at the top of the pile, remove tiles by clicking on two equal letters. If the tiles are identical, they will disappear, and your score will rise. Removeable tiles always must be free on their left or right side. If a tile sits between two tiles on the same level, it cannot be selected.

2018/10/26 v0.1: Basic game engine, prototype
2018/10/27 v0.11: Moves counter, about
2018/10/30 v0.2: Matches counter
2018/11/06 v0.21: Animations

  • project/letterjongg.txt
  • Last modified: 2019/07/26 21:28
  • by weibelth