Game Fea­tures

Main Menu

If you’re read­ing this, then you’re prob­a­bly the type that likes to know as many details as you can before you start. So let’s dig in!

When you first fire up I.O. Sil­ver, you’ll see the Main Menu, as shown below.

main menu smallThe I.O. Sil­ver Main Menu

main menu annotated smallAnno­tated Main Menu

Tap­ping the Arcade Work­shop but­ton will start the ver­sion of the game in which bugs pur­sue you and try to delay the professor’s progress. This is the high stress version.

Select­ing Strat­egy Lab will start the ver­sion of the game in which you can stop and think a bit. Quite frankly, it won’t help much. But you can get used to how the game works with­out the anx­i­ety of the pur­su­ing bugs.

The Tuto­r­ial but­ton will open a quick review of the game rules and gen­eral game play.

Saved Lev­els will present you with a list of games you have saved (shown below). Select­ing a saved game from this list will enable you to pick up right where you left off. Your saved games will have dif­fer­ent dates and lev­els – and we all hope you can get past level 3.

saved gamesSaved Lev­els

The Resume but­ton resumes your paused game (assum­ing you have one).

The High Scores screen shows the high scores on your par­tic­u­lar device. If you want to see the high scores for every­one world­wide, you will need to go to JEM Software’s IO Sil­ver web site.


Options, or more specif­i­cally, stock options, are doc­u­ments made from toi­let tis­sue used to entice oth­er­wise intel­li­gent engi­neers into work­ing 80 hours weeks for 40% less pay than they could get else­where. There are many myths sur­round­ing said toi­let tis­sue turn­ing to gold, but it empir­i­cal evi­dence sug­gests that lot­tery tick­ets pay bet­ter in the long run.

I.O. Silver’s options, how­ever, are much more con­crete and valu­able. The Options screen allows you to tweak a few things about the game, namely the mode (Retro or Mod­ern), music (back­ground while you play), and Sound FX (var­i­ous splats and explo­sions when cer­tain things hap­pen). Here’s what the Options screen looks like:

OptionsI.O. Sil­ver Options

The Cred­its Screen: The About Box

You might be ask­ing your­self, “Self, why is this guy doc­u­ment­ing the dern About screen?” The answer is com­plex, and has to do with the following:

1. Because it is there (like Mt. Everest)

2. Because this game is designed to take you into the mind of a soft­ware devel­oper at a start-​up. The “about” box is the begin­ning of every soft­ware project that has ever been writ­ten. The rea­son is that, once the about box is done, at least some­thing works. Devel­op­ers cling to that like a silk self-​soothing blankie when every­thing else is blow­ing to smithereens.

The About (or Info) but­ton in the Main Menu takes you to our About win­dow, oth­er­wise known as the pro­gram cred­its. We have so many peo­ple to thank and credit that ours has to scroll. Even so, it is shorter than any Acad­emy Award accep­tance speech you’ll ever hear.

AboutAbout (before scrolling)

Play­ing the Game

I. O. Sil­ver is played on advanc­ing “lev­els” num­bered from 1 to 26. Soft­ware devel­op­ers toil­ing under the “Agile” method­ol­ogy will rec­og­nize the total num­ber of lev­els as enough two week sprints to fit into a year – with no vaca­tion time fac­tored into the sched­ule, of course – as usual. In the arcade work­shop ver­sion shown below, you have a one year time limit on each level, indi­cated by the cal­en­dar at the top of the screen. If time runs out, it costs you one Pro­fes­sor. You are given three Pro­fes­sors to start the game. Of course, you only play with one at a time.

AboutArcade Work­shop with Calendar

In the Strat­egy Lab ver­sion it is all about the Ben­jamins: You just want to rack up as much money as pos­si­ble before you die. Maybe this will help us all re-​evaluate the futil­ity of such an exis­tence. Or not.

The Strat­egy Lab is iden­ti­cal to the Arcade Work­shop except that there is no cal­en­dar and no bugs. We’ll dis­cuss more about the bugs shortly.

Why You’re Alive: Com­bin­ing Chips to Earn Money

Mov­ing the pro­fes­sor in any direc­tion starts the game (just swipe). Once the pro­fes­sor is mov­ing, you direct him by swip­ing in the direc­tion in which you want him to go. Your goal is to lead him to bump into a chip and stop. Another swipe in the direc­tion of the chip and he pushes it for­ward. If you have thought fur­ther ahead than I usu­ally do, such an event will cause the chip you pushed to crash into another chip of the same color.

This crash is the rea­son for it all: The col­lid­ing chips will com­bine into a sin­gle chip, even­tu­ally of a new and more valu­able type. All such com­bi­na­tions earn you money.

And money is what high tech start-​ups are all about. The Almighty Dol­lar. Mam­mon. Filthy lucre. Noth­ing more and noth­ing less.

Mov­ing right along… As men­tioned pre­vi­ously, the Arcade Work­shop is iden­ti­cal to the Strat­egy Lab except for no cal­en­dar and one dia­bol­i­cal twist: You are being chased by bugs. If they run into you it costs time on your cal­en­dar. This is a metaphor for life at a soft­ware or inter­net start-​up: Pro­gram­mers since the time of Admi­ral Grace Hop­per have called soft­ware defects “bugs”. As the story goes, engi­neers found that a fried moth in the elec­tri­cal work­ings of one of the ear­li­est com­put­ers shorted out a relay. Defects have been known as “bugs” ever since.

Move the Pro­fes­sor by swip­ing left, right, up, or down, while also dodg­ing the bugs as much as pos­si­ble, at least in the Arcade Work­shop ver­sion. Push the chips to com­bine as many of the same color as you can. When all the chips of one color are com­bined, they become a “cir­cuit board”, which may be com­bined to cre­ate other parts, which ulti­mately, if you’re good enough, com­bine to become one object-​the Super Com­puter, earn­ing you a well-​deserved medal and the biggest prize money.

Com­bin­ing Parts: Parts is Parts

When a level starts, the object is to com­bine as many same-​color chips as pos­si­ble, even­tu­ally mak­ing other “advanced parts”. Every part other than a chip is referred to as an “advanced part”, not unlike the mod­ern edu­ca­tional usage of the term “gifted”.

Back at the branch, advanced parts can all com­bine with each other, but they can­not com­bine with chips. This is a key point.

Ulti­mately, when there is only one part left, you’ve got the Super Computer.

Time and Money, or Time is Money?

Each chip com­bi­na­tion and new object cre­ated (like a cir­cuit board) earns you money. You may also trap bugs between chips to earn more money and get them off the screen, at least tem­porar­ily. Cre­at­ing any new part (like a cir­cuit board) gains you one or more “exe­cu­tion points”. If the num­ber of exe­cu­tion points equals or exceeds the cur­rent level num­ber, the Skip but­ton will appear. Press it and you will advance to the next level where you will start over with a new batch of chips…OR you may con­tinue earn­ing money by build­ing on the cur­rent level.

If time runs out (on Dec 31), the level will end and you will get to replay the same level (unless you have used all three of your Pro­fes­sors; then the game is over).

Exe­cu­tion points are earned by turn­ing one or more types of parts into another. For exam­ple, if you push the last two black chips together to make a cir­cuit board, you will earn one exe­cu­tion point, enough to com­plete level one. If you build two cir­cuit boards, you get two exe­cu­tion points, enough to com­plete Level 2. Cre­at­ing other types of parts is worth even more (c.f. Chip Val­ues). All of these accom­plish­ments also earn you big bucks, but money is not directly a fac­tor in com­plet­ing a level (although mak­ing the most money is how you win, futile as that might be).

When the num­ber of exe­cu­tion points totals the cur­rent level num­ber, the two num­bers after “Level” at the top of the screen will match, a spe­cial sound will play, and you will (undoubt­edly) feel a warm glow of sat­is­fac­tion. But the level does not auto­mat­i­cally end at this point. You can press the menu but­ton in the upper left and move on the next level, or keep play­ing to build more of the Super Computer.

Some Free Advice: Push two cir­cuit boards together when­ever pos­si­ble. Apart they are worth 2 exe­cu­tion points, but pushed together (mak­ing a cal­cu­la­tor), they are worth 4 points, enough to com­plete Level 4. This is much eas­ier than try­ing to make 4 cir­cuit boards.

Fail­ing to Com­plete a Level: If the cal­en­dar hits DEC.31 before you have enough exe­cu­tion points, you will lose one of your 3 Pro­fes­sors and have to replay that level. IF you have any Pro­fes­sors left, that is. If you don’t, the game ends.

If there are no pos­si­ble moves left, i.e. if there are no chips in line with each other and no chips can be pushed, the level ends.

The worst way to end a level is by push­ing a chip which is not in line with any other. The chip will wrap around the screen AND CRUSH YOU, forc­ing you to play that level again, regard­less of the num­ber of exe­cu­tion points earned so far in that level. Any Time Bonus or De– Bug­ging Bonus you earned will be lost. You will also lose one Pro­fes­sor. And you will become depressed.

Your earn­ings and the num­ber of Pro­fes­sors remain­ing will be reported between lev­els in an “annual report”.

High scores and in-​progress games may be saved by press­ing the menu but­ton in the upper left:

menu buttonThe Menu Button

Press­ing the menu but­ton will pop up this window:

pause menuPause Menu

Left to right, the Game Paused floaty thing menu above lets you resume your game, save your cur­rent game, quickly tweak audio and other options (music and sound effects), select or pur­chase Super­To­kens, and jump to the Lev­els selec­tor. FYI, Super­To­kens are an out­ra­geously cool addi­tion to this ver­sion of I.O. Sil­ver. Some purists – namely the who­ever cre­ated the text in the game itself – call it cheat­ing, although with some tongue-​in-​cheek. I call them enhanced enjoyment.

Chip Val­ues

The table below illus­trates the mon­e­tary value of com­bin­ing com­puter chips. All val­ues expressed in U.S. Dol­lars. If you would like a bid on hav­ing us trans­late IO Sil­ver to your native lan­guage and cur­rency, please con­tact JEM Soft­ware. Hey, surely some­body wants this in Bei­jing, right?

YellowChip $1,000 RedChip $2,500
GreenChip $1,500
BlueChip $3,000
PurpleChip $2,000 WhiteChip $3,500

Once you have com­bined enough chips of the same color, the real fun begins and you can start build­ing these:



Made From

Cir­cuit Board

1 Exe­cu­tion Point

All chips of the same color


2 Exe­cu­tion Points

2 Cir­cuit Boards


3 Exe­cu­tion Points

A Cir­cuit Board and a Calculator


4 Exe­cu­tion Points

A Micro­com­puter and a Cir­cuit Board
or 2 Calculators


5 Exe­cu­tion Points

A Mini­com­puter and a Cir­cuit Board
or a Cal­cu­la­tor and a Microcomputer

Super Computer

6 Exe­cu­tion Points

A Main­frame com­puter and a Cir­cuit Board
or a Mini­com­puter and a Cal­cu­la­tor
or 2 Microcomputers

Debug­ging Bonus: $2,500

The “De-​Bugging Bonus” is the amount earned if you can end a level with no bugs.

Time Bonus: $250 per day

The “Time Bonus” is the amount you will earn for each day remain­ing on the cal­en­dar when you end a level. In the game, as in life, effi­ciency mat­ters. Note that this is where the game diverges with start-​up real­ity: At a real start-​up, if you fin­ish early you just get more work to do.

Bug Val­ues

Trap­ping bugs is a valu­able skill in both I.O. Sil­ver the game and soft­ware devel­op­ment in gen­eral. The game pays bet­ter, how­ever. The val­ues to right of the four bugs below are the amounts earned for trap­ping each one. You can also see how much it will hurt your sched­ule if they zap you.

Bug Name

Trap Bonus

Time Lost When Zapped

surge modern
The Surge


One Month

overflow modern


Three Weeks

infinite loop modern
Infi­nite Loop


Two Weeks

softfail modern


One Week

The Games: Yes, there are two

In case you’ve been asleep at the wheel, there are two ways to play I.O. Sil­ver: The Strat­egy Lab (with­out bugs) is shown in below. The Arcade Work­shop (with bugs) is shown in below that. As men­tioned else­where, the arcade ver­sion has the added – but real­is­tic – stress of bugs mess­ing with your plans and goals and cost­ing you time and money. The Strat­egy Lab was orig­i­nally a sort of “prac­tice” arena for get­ting good at mov­ing the pieces around, but it turned out to be an inter­est­ing game in and of itself.

strategy labStrat­egy Lab Board

arcade workshopArcade Work­shop Board

Board Ele­ments

At the top of the screen there are four indi­ca­tors of the progress of the game at the cur­rent level:

arcade workshop annotated

1. Cal­en­dar (Arcade Work­shop only): On the left is the cal­en­dar. It begins at JAN.Ol. When it reaches DEC.31, the level ends. When you are zapped by a bug, the date will increase by a num­ber of days, depend­ing on which bug was the cul­prit (c.f Bug Values).

Bert Kersey’s orig­i­nal doc­u­men­ta­tion skipped the vaca­tion points indi­ca­tor. As the owner of a start-​up, I’m pretty sure he didn’t fully appre­ci­ate how impor­tant the vaca­tions were to the devel­op­ers: Vaca­tions were (and still are) those rare oppor­tu­ni­ties for get­ting caught up on your work.

Back to the point, there is a lit­tle white block for each remain­ing vaca­tion. Now back to Bert’s outline,…

2. Level: To the right of the cal­en­dar is the cur­rent level number

3. Exe­cu­tion Points: Shown with an E colon and the num­ber of exe­cu­tion points earned so far. Remem­ber, you can’t advance to the next level until you’ve earned the same num­ber of exe­cu­tion points as your cur­rent level number.

4. Money Earned: At the far right is the amount of money earned so far on the cur­rent level. It is not the total score for the whole game. That will be printed as “Career Earn­ings” in each annual report.

Below the score­board is the lab­o­ra­tory itself, a field of com­puter chips ready to be pushed and assem­bled by the Pro­fes­sor. There are three main things you must know about this imag­i­nary workshop:

1. The Pro­fes­sor is not strong enough to get two chips mov­ing at the same time. There­fore, you can­not push a chip when there is another chip (of a dif­fer­ent color) block­ing it.

2. Every­thing “wraps around” in every direc­tion –the move­ment of the bugs, the chips and the Pro­fes­sor. Think of the screen as a flattened-​out “sphere” if you want. This means that if you’re near the bot­tom of the screen, the fastest way to the top is down. The fastest way from far left to far right is left. And so on.

3. Last but not least, YOU MUST BE CARE­FUL when you push a chip to make sure there is another one in its path to stop it. If there isn’t, the pushed chip will keep going, wrap around the screen and CRUSH YOUR BODY, forc­ing an early retire­ment and end­ing the cur­rent level with one Pro­fes­sor down the drain. This is painful and embarrassing.

In real life, soft­ware bugs crush your soul, which is infi­nitely more painful but not nearly so embarassing.

Mov­ing the Pro­fes­sor and the chips: Prac­tice makes perfect.

Or so they say. You will prob­a­bly learn more by mess­ing around with the game than by read­ing this page.

Nev­er­the­less… You can just swipe with your fin­ger to send the pro­fes­sor up, down, left, or right. No diag­o­nal swipes, please. The pro­fes­sor will move if you do, but you might find him some­where you don’t want him to be.

Once in motion, he will walk (or at least turn) in the direc­tion selected until he runs into a chip, or until you swipe in a dif­fer­ent direc­tion. Sorry, no stop­ping between chips. This game is a metaphor for work at a high tech start-​up: Stop­ping to think is not usu­ally part of the deal.

Once the Pro­fes­sor has stopped at a chip, you just swipe again in the same direc­tion to push the chip, or in any other direc­tion to move away. All moves in this game, inten­tional or not, are irre­versible. This, too, is very much like a start-​up: There are no do-​overs!

The Grand Finale: Super Stuff

I saved the best for last as a reward for the most faith­ful read­ers: The SuperTokens

As men­tioned else­where, purists pre­fer to play with­out the Super Tokens. But just as our mobile phones have more com­put­ing power than the $2,500 desk­top com­puter sys­tems we bought back in the Apple /​/​era, so, too, I.O. Sil­ver now has some mas­sively more pow­er­ful tools for the pro­fes­sor than the orig­i­nal game.

These tools are the Super Tokens.

If you click the Super Token Shelf (cf. the anno­tated Arcade Work­shop image above), the Super Token dia­log will open:


The Super Tokens win­dow allows you to select any avail­able Undo, Mag­net, or Woz­Kick tokens. You can also buy new tokens if you’re out; just click on the lit­tle shop­ping cart but­ton in the middle.

  • Undo does what it sounds like: What­ever just hap­pened can be made to unhap­pen. This can be a real life­saver, no pun intended.

  • The Mag­net token merges all tokens of a given color: Once you’ve cho­sen it, just have the Pro­fes­sor push a chip. All chips of that color will merge together.

  • Glue causes the next chip you push to “stick” to the glue. This is really handy for re-​aligning stray chips into a more use­ful position.

  • The Woz­Kick blows up any chip you use it on – which is very use­ful for a stranded solo chip.

The truth of the mat­ter is that I.O. Sil­ver is a tough game. Only the strong sur­vive. Use Super Tokens.