Play any kind of sound with the Lightpad Block. Or play PAC-MAN. The totally open-ended programming possibilities for this touch-sensitive, LED-illuminated pad came into 1980s-tinged focus on a recent Hack Day at ROLI headquarters in London.

On a day when ROLI staff hack their way toward solutions to challenges big and small, two software engineers set themselves the task of writing games for the Lightpad Block that take advantage of the controller’s open API.

Chris Fonseka and Steve Baker were equipped with the new BLOCKS Software Developer Kit. The SDK encourages app developers to create apps for gaming, audiovisual projects, and many other areas in music and beyond. They also had a basic understanding of Littlefoot, the C-like programming language that BLOCKS runs.

Steve Baker coded a game based on arcade classic Space Invaders. “I sat down with the BLOCKS SDK at 9 in the morning,” he said. “The game was playable by lunchtime and finished by 4pm.”

“As a developer it’s very straightforward,” said Chris, who created PAC-MAN themed animations using Littlefoot. “Littlefoot is essentially a very stripped down version of the programming language C, so you can get to grips with the functions and syntax in a few minutes. For people who are just starting, the fact that there are so few things to contend with makes the whole experience less intimidating.”

The Lightpad Block reflects in real time any programming changes made in Littlefoot — even a single line of code. This is a big help in building apps quickly.

“It’s a good sandbox to try out some simple coding in a way with immediate feedback,” Steve said. “The real-time feedback you get from BLOCKS is something you rarely get when writing apps particularly when you’re building for a piece of hardware,” said Chris. “It definitely sped up development time.”

Chris and Steve hacked their way to PAC-MAN and Space Invaders in a few hours. With more time there would be no limits to what they could do BLOCKS and its open, totally hackable API. “The SDK makes Blocks way more than just a music creation device,” Fonseka added. “It becomes a completely customisable interface, and its limits are entirely down to your imagination.”

The BLOCKS Developer Kit A is now available from the ROLI online store priced $249.95 (£229.95). You can find out more about writing in Littlefoot here and using our SDK and API here.