Role: Producer / Musician / Designer
Team: Seth Batty, Melissa Fuss, Benjamin Kalb, Chelsea Howe, Jay O’Leary, Shushan Xu
Dev Summary: A complete PC game created with XNA over six months from Fall 2009 – Spring 2010
Concept: A single voice can change the world in this abstract, meditative real time strategy experience. Guide a lone id carrying your song through the bleak, sidling alongside neutral ids until they flash to your color and carry your melody in increasing numbers. Gain consensus against all odds, turning silence in symphony.
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Design Notes: Influence has a long and colorful design history that originated in a flocking algorithm demo in Processing. The design process is detailed on the Influence blog at www.playinfluence.com. For now, here is an excerpt from Influence’s submission to the Experimental Gameplay Session (GDC2010).
Influence is a meditative, musical, real-time strategy game based on natural algorithms, universal themes, and generative soundscapes. Abstract in its design, Influence aims to unlock innate human empathy about collective action, being alone, working together, and living for what you believe in – all through its mechanic. In the abstraction, players see what they want to see. In the core flocking algorithm people have seen fish, birds, rats, comets, viruses, amoebas, even the origins of life. Gathering solo ‘ids’, (the name for abstract game characters in Influence), from the void and expanding your flock becomes a metaphor for connecting with the world, or perhaps a dark reflection on the normalization of a digital world. Others see it as controlling the randomness of the untamed algorithm, bringing order to chaos, creating a community.
Influence also harnesses generative sound as a means of sharing and remembering content. Using the open, universally recognizable pentatonic scale, the flocks generate scores that tell the story of the game. Assimilation is expressed through note density and frequency, each flock singing with a unique timbre to create an orchestra of woodwinds and violins, bass strums and glockenspiel hums. As flocks fold into one another, voices fade to silence, until, ultimately, only one melody remains. Each individual game is unique, a product of the algorithms, but the song that stays behind can be understood by anyone familiar with the game’s auditory lexicon. Like mythological bards, these songs can travel between players, tales of epic victory or forlorn defeat.
Between its serene soundscape and enchanting physics mechanic, Influence aims to allure and captivate. With the power to create song and an environment they can paint with their own story, players dive into the brief, dream-like sessions, together or alone, influencing and influenced.