I recently learned about Cyber, a very new scripting language written in Zig. Intrigued, I decided to try to write a tic-tac-toe game with it.

I’ve written this same little tic-tac-toe game before in Go, Rust and Zig.

Cyber resources

Cyber only had its first commit last month! For such a young langauge, it has a nice number of resources:

Why I wanted to try a new scripting language

Cyber is a scripting language. This means different things to different people, but I think it basically means it doesn’t compile to a binary and it likely is not strongly typed.

Cyber’s “Who’s it for” section reads:

Cyber wants to provide fast and delightful scripting. You can embed Cyber into your applications, games, and engines on desktop or the web. Cyber also comes with a CLI so you can do scripting on your computer.

As someone who’s been writing Rust for the past few years, Cyber feels very different. In fact, I realize how much I’ve come to accept Rust and its philosophy as programming and programming philosophy in general. I miss strong types!

All that said, I thought it’d be interesting to try out a very new scripting language. And I loved that Cyber is written in Zig, is fast, promises concurrency in the future, and is memory-safe.

The Cyber I wrote

Here’s my 2-human-player tic-tac-toe CLI game in Cyber. (I might add a “computer” opponent soon…)

To be honest there’s nothing really to highlight at this point that is much different from my Go or Zig implementations (which is good!). Perhaps the most exotic aspect is that comments start with a --, which I don’t hate?

I did have trouble getting a for loop to work in the check_for_winner function (I opted for a while instead), and not knowing how to print text to the terminal without a newline at the end made for some awkwardness in the present_board function, but I’m sure that functionality will be added soon.


As I alluded to above, I’ve been writing Rust almost exclusively since this past summer. So Cyber’s lack of strong typing felt a bit like running on ice in tap-dancing shoes. But again, scripting languages are for quick tasks, not slowly built-up complex systems (Rust!). Choose the right tool for the task! And after all, part of why I’m looking at new languages in the first place is because I think Rust is ultimately too low-level for me…

Handling local variables and scope

I was a bit alarmed to read this issue describing some local variable leakage issues in an early version of Cyber. It seems to resolved now, but I was then on my guard for other related weirdness with regard to local variables and scope.

Finding and reporting bugs in Cyber v 0.1

Cyber is not even three months old as of this writing(!), so I expected bugs.

I was proud to find and report a few. Not only that, but the lead developer replied with open questions about the future of language, questions that I could ostensibly reply to and affect the outcome! This potential for early influence over a new language was exciting for me, and made dealing with the bugs more than worth it. And I think, perhaps surprising even myself, I hold some pretty strong opinions about language syntax, especially for a language aimed at beginners. I tried to let them out in the GitHub Issues slowly.

I’ll also note here that the existence of an online playground helped this bug-reporting process more than I might have guessed, since all users had access to a shared runtime.

Dealing with a lack of syntax highlighting

Actually, one of my biggest issues writing Cyber at this point is that I didn’t have any syntax highlighting in my code editor (Neovim). I hadn’t realized how dependent I was on syntax highlighting until I didn’t have it!

The best I could do was to make Vim get out of my way by not using any other languages’ (incorrect) highlighting:

autocmd BufRead,BufNewFile *.cy call SetCyberOptions()
function SetCyberOptions()
  setlocal syntax=off
  setlocal nospell
  setlocal tabstop=4
  setlocal shiftwidth=4
  set filetype=cyber
  " If you have tpope/vim-commentary installed, this line gives you easy commenting
  setlocal commentstring=--\ %s

If anyone comes across a vim plugin for Cyber, let me know on Mastodon or open an Issue!

Wrapping up

I’ll keep an eye on Cyber, as well as potential use-cases for it, going forward. In general, I think it’s exciting to see new languages written in new languages (Zig, in this case)!

Give it a try! I’d be particularly interest in how well Python/Ruby devs can get started with it…

Appendix: More of my notes on using Cyber

Building Cyber v0.1 from source (with Zig)

Following this guide:


You need Zig version 0.11+ installed. Check with zig version.

If you need to install or upgrade Zig, see Zig installation wiki for how to do this on your machine.

Building Cyber from source

git clone https://github.com/fubark/cyber.git
cd cyber/
zig version # => Verify that you have 0.11 or higher
zig build test # => Hopefully all tests pass! 
zig build cli -Drelease-fast
./zig-out/cyber/cyber help
cp ./zig-out/cyber/cyber ~/.local/bin/

Now test your install with cyber --help

Hello world

touch hello_word.cy

-- This is a comment
-- Put this code in hello_world.cy
worlds = ['World', 'Mundo']
for worlds each w:
    print 'Hello, {w}!'

cyber hello_word.cy

Run with: cyber run.cy