Cowboy Programming Game Development and General Hacking by the Old West

March 5, 2007

Falling Sand Game from the ’80s

Filed under: Game Development — Mick West @ 6:09 pm

I just found out there is a mini casual-game genera called “Falling Sand Games“, based upon a Japanese programmer’s game from 2005 ish.

The funny thing is, I remember writing a very similar “game” back in about 1986, on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, with help from my friend John Lord. Unfortunately no trace of this original version remains. A couple of years after I converted it to the Atari ST, and eventually in about 1992 it was one of the first programs I wrote on the PC, in assembly language. The screenshot to the right is a photo of my screen today, I can’t figure out how to do a screen capture of a mode-x program.

Here’s the Executable: snow.exe (which does not work on Windows Vista, bah humbug!), it’s 45K because it contains a lot of other code because I dumped all my PC toy programs into one source file. The original PC version was about 6K of code.

Here’s the source: ALL.ASM, it’s also got the source for a load of other programs, like a simple cloth simulator, Brownian motion, and fireworks.

It runs in full screen “Mode-X”. Draw lines with the mouse, left click to draw lines, right click to erase. Press the spacebar to start the snow falling.

The earliest evidence of this on the internet is my Neversoft web page back in 1998, from


  1. I tell you, this is why I started archiving my thumbnail projects. Everyone is talking about AJAX today, when I was getting yelled at by the collective web design community for “using javascript” (apparently a hangable offense) back in 1996 with a page that used HTML FrameSets to load text data in the background.

    Comment by capn_midnight — March 12, 2007 @ 4:16 am

  2. which does not work on Windows Vista, bah humbug!

    Also doesn’t work on WXPx64 (IA64 6320). It’s a great piece of ASM though :)

    Comment by Eddy Luten — October 18, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

  3. Worked for me in Windows XP (32 bit version). Also in Dosbox!

    Comment by sam — October 22, 2007 @ 11:44 pm

  4. Yeah, it just stopped working in Vista. Not bad I suppose for some 12 year old code.

    Comment by Mick West — October 23, 2007 @ 6:10 am

  5. falling sand game is probably the best game ive ever played in my life and think of it this way, if you hadn’t made it, people wouldn’t have updated it and it wouldn’t be as popular as it is now=)
    have a holy joly one felah!!!

    Comment by spardaminion — November 30, 2007 @ 4:55 am

  6. I don’t really think there is likely a link between my falling sand game and the modern game. It’s a natural outgrown of cellular automata, etc.

    Comment by Mick West — November 30, 2007 @ 2:39 pm

  7. Dudes how do you make this type of game i know how to mod them but not how to make one email me at

    Comment by Iamadinosaur27 — December 6, 2007 @ 11:20 am

  8. I’m the developer of Pyro Sand a few other sand games based on the “original” Japanese games. It’s an incredible that such a simple concept results in such an addicting toy. I think it’s interesting that your game came 4 years before I was born and several developers are writing the same sort of thing nowadays.

    Comment by xavierenigma — December 25, 2007 @ 3:47 pm

  9. Awesome! Thanks for the exe.
    A great game..

    Comment by flashgamer — March 11, 2008 @ 3:15 am

  10. Great game. Addicting so easily.

    Comment by estetik — March 29, 2008 @ 11:29 pm

  11. Haha, excellent game, I am using xp and works fine!

    Comment by Franca Richard — April 15, 2008 @ 3:21 am

  12. Works great on Vista – what a brillint game, thanks!

    Comment by Tribal Wars — April 26, 2008 @ 3:12 pm

  13. The snows fill up pretty fast. Not the best, but it is cool to go back to old school.

    Comment by Sweet Games — April 28, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

  14. Yay Mick, bring back the sand!

    I may be able to resurrect some earlier experimental 6502 BBC Micro sand games from the 1985 era (where are those old 5″ floppies and the machine?) next time I’m back over the pond. Shame I don’t think I’ve any speccy tapes or discs left though.

    Along with basic sand there was also “wet sand” and “clingy static sand”, “setting mercury beads”, plus “snow” and “sludgy snow” experiments. Grains had lifetimes, velocity, and simple rules for following edges, whether they were based on other grains or solid obstacles. This allowed capilliary action, rattling in trays, annoying teapot spout drips, etc. Each grain’s lifetime counter, which determines when the grains set, can also be controlled from the local edge/neighbour state, so particles freeze when falling, or only count down to setting when fully surrounded, etc, etc.

    My favourite was snow/sand as constant falling terrain additive to the 2d tank shootem-up game – filling in holes and tunnels behind the tank (depending on sand set rates and creep factors).

    Coincidentally while playing around with Crayon Physics and World of Goo demos the sand thoughts came back – Time for physical modeled sand dunes in to a nice 3d tank game with sloppy shifting dunes.

    Comment by John Lord — April 30, 2008 @ 11:23 pm

  15. This is great and actually, a lot of fun! Thanks for posting….

    Comment by Leveling Guide — May 23, 2008 @ 5:44 pm

  16. cool game, very addictive!

    Comment by sangokushi-taisen — June 17, 2008 @ 4:50 am

  17. This was my favorite game from my childhood.So thank you very much for this.I am already downloading this.

    Comment by funny jokes lady — July 1, 2008 @ 6:11 pm

  18. wow, i really love this game..addictive as contra NES..;)

    Comment by Rahsia Internet — July 3, 2008 @ 10:49 pm

  19. I’d never actually even heard of this game and I was a child of the 80s and 90s growing up from the very first (wooden paneled) ataris to commodore and PC.

    How did i miss this out?

    Comment by irish gifts — September 11, 2008 @ 5:50 am

  20. This was before the internet, so only myself and my friends at university saw it. It was not a published game in any way, just a little toy.

    Comment by Mick West — September 11, 2008 @ 7:30 am

  21. Ahh I remember that one, cool game!

    Comment by Loei — September 24, 2008 @ 8:07 pm

  22. Awesome! Thanks for the exe.
    A great game..

    Comment by Sohbet — October 4, 2008 @ 12:25 pm

  23. never actually even heard of this game and I was a child of the 80s and 90s growing up from the very first (wooden paneled) ataris to commodore and PC.

    Comment by arkadaÅŸ — October 18, 2008 @ 2:12 pm

  24. I love that game! Thanks for the .exe – fortunately, I’m not running Vista!

    Comment by Unique Irish Gifts — October 18, 2008 @ 7:22 pm

  25. Thank you very much for the source code. I had been looking for similar a sample game code in asm for while. Really appreciated.

    Comment by SiberHoca — November 21, 2008 @ 6:54 pm

  26. Play long time ago a lot.. I’m glad to see it again! Tnx, and sorry for my english =)

    Comment by Meshif — January 6, 2009 @ 8:25 am

  27. I lov the sand game…

    Comment by Izzie ¢¾ — January 15, 2009 @ 7:05 am

  28. where can u down load this yo?

    Comment by i like pie alot — January 17, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

  29. I tried to run the file in Vista, even used the properties run program in windows xp compatibility and it still did not work :(

    Comment by Hvac Training — January 25, 2009 @ 2:00 pm

  30. the sand game rocked! man, those where the times…

    Comment by spiele zocken — February 13, 2009 @ 3:51 pm

  31. That game is so friggin awesome! I have actually lost sleep playing it! Thanks for the post

    Comment by WordPress Themes — February 23, 2009 @ 8:44 am

  32. Thank’s For Sharing (^_^)..he.3x

    Comment by Free Games Download — May 21, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

  33. Simply an amazing piece of software.

    Comment by cooking games — May 24, 2009 @ 2:05 am

  34. Sand game was my favorite!

    Secret Cash Blueprint

    Comment by tony — June 7, 2009 @ 9:56 pm

  35. I love that game!

    Comment by Ali — June 8, 2009 @ 10:33 am

  36. Great game. Very good.

    Comment by estetik — November 1, 2009 @ 3:45 am

  37. […] Cowboy Programming » Diminishing Sand Game fr&#959m th&#1077 ’80s Tags: bbc, shootem up, velocity […]

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