SYNTH: Maths In Action

By Alec Meer on March 30th, 2009 at 7:41 pm.

I would be telling a big, fat, dirty lie if I claimed to have much idea what was going on in this psychedelic, deeply experimental one-man indie, er, thing. What I do know is there is no artwork in it per se. No textures or model files or what have you. There is only maths – maths which, via the magic of procedural generation, becomes the graphics of SYNTH‘s weird, quasi-wireframe, quasi-hallucinatory world. Of the game’s 30Mb filesize, some 99% is uncompressed sound-samples; the rest is a sprawling, randomly-generated alien terrain made of pure code.

Of course, that code needs to be transformed into something visual and interactable, which is why you’ll see SYNTH chewing up over a gig of memory while it’s running. Clever stuff, and several steps beyond the teeny-filesize likes of .kkrieger.

As for the game itself… well, you got me. Darwinia-esque in its appearance and somewhere between RTS and platformer in its execution, it’s a mindstorm of curious icons, abstract shapes and even more abstract goals that will, I suspect, take quite some time to decipher and master. It is, nonetheless, a fascinating sight: graphics rendered as a bizarre, mesmerising cross between the deeply archaic and the thoroughly high-tech.

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16 Comments »

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  1. Yfel says:

    It’s unfortunate the only ones really advancing the field of procedural game content are one-man inie developers, and computer graphics scientists. Many games have such limited replay value, and could really benefit from this technology.

  2. Inanimotion says:

    I tried to alt+tab out of that game to leave a comment here and my computer got boned for a good 5 minutes.

    Still havn’t gotten a chance to play it. Looks interesting though.

    Maybe including some real text might have been worth the extra space, that stuff is hard to read.

  3. DMJ says:

    Its procedural punk-Tron styling makes me want to love it. It makes for a rather unusual scenic tour through pure mathematics.

    Hearty thumbs up for innovation, now go build a game that mere humans can understand.

  4. Rhys Hovey says:

    Hey,. this is the author of SYNTH here,. and I just want to thank you for the great review,. and say you got it spot on, when you said,. “er,. game,. thing,.” this game was meant to be maximum strange :) a 64 bit version is now available as well.

  5. Levictus says:

    Cool ‘game’!

  6. Markoff Chaney says:

    I absolutely loved your Easter Egg text. Good to see there are still intelligent life forms on this seemingly devolving sphere. The game played well on my box (meaning I stayed in Double Digits most, if not all, of the time) but I feel I need to spend more time with it and stop flailing with the keys. I hit F7 too often. :)

  7. Jay says:

    @ Yfel

    You’re not counting Fuel?

  8. grmnf says:

    I really wanted to play it, but I only got 1-2 fps with the 64 bit version. And yes, my machine should be more than fast enough :|

  9. Rhys_Hovey_72364923648 says:

    grmnf: Hey,. Rhys Here

    About frame rates: I’m very interested in people’s frame rate issues,. the 64 bit version (on 64 bit XP) is 45% slower on my machine (5-6 fps on open). Vista 64 is about 20% slower,. if you are interested,. I would like to e-mail you a copy of the game directly (30 MB) as weird as it sounds ,. that may fix your frame rate,.. I may have picked up some “sabotage ware” along the way,.

    My machine is a XP32 ,
    Intel Mobo
    core 2 2.33 (4 mb cache)
    2GB
    geforce 2800 GTX+
    dual ported 667 DDR2

    ** Solid 10 FPS on opening screen ** averages about 9-10 depending on view frustum “fullness” / camera angle (F3/F4) “down camera” is faster

    If you would like a “fresh” copy of this game that has not touched the internet,. just e-mail me at:

    rhyshovey@gmail.com

    anti-spam: efujehf9ewyufew98fy4irtu43hfoerwijfref
    erfi4u7yrf943fy43ifuh4fij4f4k3jfh98yf94o3f43f
    43f43f9437yf943fh34h43iofuh439f7y439f43f

  10. jph wacheski says:

    well i can sorta see it, 3-9 fps here,. gf7600, duelcore 2.3ghz,. 2gig..,
    I can move about and shoot stuff, and jump,. wheeee,. . and pick up tokens or something,. . some of your art is very sweet! come visit us at zgameeditor.org,. to chat about procedural ideas,. the sounds are also very nice,. but why o’ why not SYNTHesize them????! would just make sense to me! the whole d/l could then be <128kb!!! also why not add some sort of setting for level of graphic detail so more ppl can PLAY the thing??

  11. Rhys_Hovey_72364923648 says:

    I’m thinking about a future internal “modular synthesizer” for it, someday,. a 128k version with no sound would be pretty easy for here,. for sound,. Since the game was called “SYNTH” I guess I chose to go with the experts at Clavia, Roland, Waldorf, Novation, EMU, for the synths,.. it has it’s own loop remix sequencer thingie,. some crazzy algorithms,. some granular synthesis is probly what I will go to first for some real time generated audio.

  12. jph wacheski says:

    ah grains are nice to mess with,. I have done some stuffin BUZZ with th eganular synths in there,. (the current ZGE synth may do them inadvertantly,. I need to try some tests,. .)
    I am an old analog synthhead myself,. someone ripped off my 202 (and 606, damn them!),. that was a sweet LITTLE box,. but they left me my CS-15 (yamaha full of knobs,. must have been to bulky to run off with,. lol) but the point is if you can SYNTH all that graphic content it is a trivial matter to do the same for .wav stuff,. then run your algory on the results! anyway I will email you,. as we should surely chat some,. . peace.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Hey guys,. there was a HUGE online “scap” between Intel and SYNTH the video game on “level up 2009″ becuase the author of the game tried to use the games contest as a way to get terrorist tip information to the FBI, becuase he cannot get to their web page,. he begged them for help, and they kicked him out of the contest, and took down the game.

  14. FBI_GUY says:

    Message to Rhys Hovey: WOW,.. from SOLARIS,. the IP address of http://www.fbi.gov is different from WINDOWS,.. huh? bad news eh? Route has to pass through AKAMAI tech from Windows,. then along comes “DLINK” the wireless network with the same evil property!

  15. Rhys Paul Hovey says:

    Hey,. the brand new version of SYNTH is out now,. it’s a much better version,. 8-10 months work,. lots of new procedural goodies,. much more detail,. pseudo-infinte landscapes,… check it out,.

    http://www.moddb.com/games/synthtm

  16. Rhys Paul Hovey says:

    AHH,.. the newest version of SYNTH video game is over at,. much has been done,. check it out :) 64 bit version is much better,. many bug fixes.

    SYNTH v1.303 with GLSL

    http://software.intel.com/file/27772

    Thanks!
    Rhys