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Tilt-sensitive game using Macbook / Macbook Air

This is a tiny game we made more than 2 years ago as part of Perplex City. Many people are unaware that the tilt-sensors inside the iPhone are also available (or something very similar) inside every apple laptop (all Macbooks/most Powerbooks/some iBooks); we made a game that made use of this.

Unfortunately, this feature of the laptops is undocumented, and so Apple has changed the specs a few times, so the original files no longer work. With a small bit of mangling, I’ve fixed the very simple input script, and it all works fine on my Macbook Air.



  1. Download the file “maze-inertial.zip” from the second link above, and unzip it
  2. Download the AMStracker dmg from the third link above, and open it, and put all the contents in the Maze subdirectory of wherever you just unzipped to; it will want to overwrite a file – say “yes”
  3. Make a new file in that directory using a text editor, call it e.g. “start.pl”, and copy/paste the lines below (bottom of this post)
  4. Run the file start.pl; you might be able to double click on it, you might have to go to the directory in Terminal and type “./start.pl” to make it run
  5. Wait for the java app to load, you should see a ball on a chequered background
  6. Pick up your laptop and start tilting it to make the ball roll around
  7. NB: the lack of graphics was deliberate! the idea was to close your laptop lid and play just using the sound (this requires you to disable OS X’s auto-suspend feature though)
  8. You will get cryptic messages as you complete levels; there are hundreds of levels, and no save feature (!). Read the website links above to find out why…

PS: if you read the source and think “ugh, what a brutal and inelegant way to make this work” then congratulations – this whole game was done start to finish in something like 2 weeks (part-time; if we’d all been working full-time on it it was probably more like 4 days). We had to cut a lot of corners…

Source of file start.pl – copy/paste everything below this line

#!/usr/bin/perl -w

use IO::Socket::INET;
use Getopt::Long;

$| = 1;

my $flipx = 0;my $flipy = 0;my $port = 5399;my $ams = “./amstracker”;my $maze = “./maze.jar”;my $scale = 5;

GetOptions(“flipx” => \$flipx, # –flipx flip x axis
“flipy” => \$flipy, # –flipy flip y axis
“port=i” => \$port, # –port 5399 port to talk to
“ams=s” => \$ams, # –ams ./amstracker location of amstracker
“maze=s” => \$maze, # –maze ./tiltmaze.jar location of tiltmaze.jar
“scale=f” => \$scale); # –scale 3.0 tilt scaling factor

# Needs AMStracker v0.34 or above, currently at:
# http://www.osxbook.com/software/sms/amstracker/

print STDERR “Starting amstracker ($ams)…\n”;
open AMS, “$ams -s -u 0.1 |” or die “Can’t start amstracker: $!”;
my $line = ;
print “$line”;

if ($line =~ /software/) {print STDERR “No tilt sensor found.\n”;exit 1;}

print STDERR “Starting maze ($maze)…\n”;
system “open $maze”;

print STDERR “Connecting to game…”;
my $sock;my $count = 0;

while (1){
$sock = IO::Socket::INET->new(PeerAddr => ‘localhost’,PeerPort => $port,Proto => ‘tcp’);
last if defined $sock; # success!
if ($count > 20){die “Can’t connect to game: $!”; }
print “.”;sleep 2;}
print “\n”;

while () {
my ($x,$y,$z) = split;
next unless $x =~ /\d+/;
$x = -$x unless $flipx; $z = -$z if $flipy; $x = int($x * $scale); $z = int($z * $scale);
last unless $sock->print(“[$x,$z]”); }