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.