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Category: game

Interview with Sword & Sorcery Ambient Game Creators

Over at CDM, there’s a great interview with the creators of Sword & Sorcery, an ambient music game for the iPad. The game combines minimalist gameplay with tightly integrated sound and music. It draws heavily on nostalgia, employing sounds and visuals that are very reminiscent of the original Legend of Zelda and Castlevania games.

Jim: I captured all of the music either on a PlayStation using MTV’s Music Generator and/or
[Apple] GarageBand. For example, on the song, ‘Lone Star,’ I drummed a beat onto a cassette four-track, burned that onto a CD, placed the CD into the PlayStation, sampled and looped in MTV Music Generator,
and then built a song around it using that software. THEN I brought it into GarageBand and added more layers and effects. I also used a [Casio] SK-1 peppered throughout. In terms of plug-ins and soft synths, I used a lot of the Arturia stuff, [Native Instruments] Kontakt, [XLN Audio] Addictive Drums, [Toontracks] Superior Drummer, and a [Universal Audio] UAD-2 card loaded with a bunch of their processing plug-ins. [1]

Martin Gardner (1914 – 2010)

On Saturday, we lost a man who loved mathematics. He wasn’t responsible for any specific theories or concepts. He wasn’t a great theoretician or an iconoclast. Nevertheless, Martin Gardner was responsible for popularizing the idea of recreational mathematics. In fact, his Mathematical Games column, which appeared in Scientific American from 1956 to 1981, had a great influence on popular mathematics. Particularly noteworthy is his article from October of 1970, which introduced the world to John Conway’s Game of Life, and initiated a tsunami of interest in cellular automata that has effected music as well as many other fields.

This month we consider Conway’s latest brainchild, a fantastic solitaire pastime he calls “life”. Because of its analogies with the rise, fall and alternations of a society of living organisms, it belongs to a growing class of what are called “simulation games”–games that resemble real-life processes. To play life you must have a fairly large checkerboard and a plentiful supply of flat counters of two colors…

The basic idea is to start with a simple configuration of counters (organisms), one to a cell, then observe how it changes as you apply Conway’s “genetic laws” for births, deaths, and survivals. Conway chose his rules carefully, after a long period of experimentation, to meet three desiderata:

1. There should be no initial pattern for which there is a simple proof that the population can grow without limit.
2. There should be initial patterns that apparently do grow without limit.
3. There should be simple initial patterns that grow and change for a considerable period of time before coming to end in three possible ways: fading away completely (from overcrowding or becoming too sparse), settling into a stable configuration that remains unchanged thereafter, or entering an oscillating phase in which they repeat an endless cycle of two or more periods.

In brief, the rules should be such as to make the behavior of the population unpredictable. [1]

This article spawned a massive amount of research into making cellular automata into musical automata. This notably includes work by Eduardo Reck Miranda and Peter Beyls. Less notably, it includes about a thousand youtube and vimeo videos.

I am personally grateful to Martin Gardner for showing the world that math can be fun.


[1] Martin Gardner. “Mathematical Games: The fantastic combinations of John Conway’s new solitaire game ‘life’.” Scientific American. Iss. 223 (October 1970): 120.
[2] Yam, Philip. “Profile: Martin Gardner, the Mathematical Gamester (1914-2010).” Accessed on 5/23/2010.


Enter the ambient world of Osmos: elegant, physics-based gameplay, dreamlike visuals, and a minimalist, electronic soundtrack.

Your objective is to grow by absorbing other motes. Propel yourself by ejecting matter behind you. But be wise: ejecting matter also shrinks you. Relax… good things come to those who wait.

Progress from serenely ambient levels into varied and more challenging worlds. Confront attractors, repulsors and intelligent motes with similar abilities and goals as you.