Automata marching to destroy a castle

Seize power and build an empire of fuzzy cellular automata monsters!

Inspired by Conway’s Game of Life, Automata Empire challenges you to herd hundreds of mindless automata to smash your rivals’ castles and steal their territory.   While your loyal subjects lack individual intelligence, you can sacrifice them to build chains of taverns and roads to impose order on chaos.

Ready to invade?  Build some catapults to launch your minions directly into battle.  Balance expansion and consolidation carefully to grow your empire into enemy territory.  Or cleverly engineer feedback loops to surprise your opponents with overwhelming force.

The Features

  • singleplayer and online multiplayer for two to four players
  • autoplay mode to watch the AIs battle
  • five game modes to establish your empire
    • Siegecraft – lay siege to foreign strongholds while surrounding your own castle with a maze of defenses
    • Migration – battle for the last habitable land as you flee from an unstoppable horde of undead
    • Capture the Flag – sneak troops into the enemy base to steal their flag… but herding it back to your base is harder than it looks
    • King of the Plateau – secure your sovereign right to territory by flooding it with as many of your subjects as possible
    • WAAAAAR! – wage plain old deathmatch warfare
  • Steam achievements and trading cards
  • over 40,000 randomly generated titles for your monstrous ruler from Magnanimous Monarch to Most Excellent Emperor to Sinister Senator to Invincible Imperatrix; unlock more by completing challenges of benevolence, cunning, and malice
  • short, satisfying matches designed to be won or lost in under 12 minutes, or turn on Lightning Mode and play the game at 2x speed

Four automata empires battling to control diminishing habitable land as an exponential threat consumes the map


I played a version of Conway’s Game of Life on my first Windows 95 computer at a young age. It was nothing like other games I’d played. I was perplexed by its lack of objectives or win conditions. Watching the cellular populations burble around the grid only to suffer another extinction troubled me.

When challenged to make a “growth”-themed game for a game jam, I used those memories to make an objective-based cellular automata game. While I abandoned Conway’s binary alive/dead cellular rules in favor of additive numerical values, the themes of struggling to engineer sustainable populations and useful oscillators remain.

a stable automata oscillator generating population

Feedback Loops

In the process, I discovered a new gameplay mechanic: feedback loops. With cellular reproduction tied to the automata’s numerical values, herding the automata into dense environments where each +1 combines with its neighbors will produce explosive, non-linear growth.

Many global threats to our species are driven by feedback loops. For instance, melting arctic ice both releases pockets of methane gas trapped under the ice (which contributes to the greenhouse effect) and exposes darker ground that absorbs more heat (raising the surface albedo). Both these outcomes contribute to rising surface temperatures.  Higher surface temperatures make the ice melt faster, which accelerates the warming: the positive feedback loop!

Feedback loops are inherent not just to climate change, but also the migration of invasive species, ecosystem collapse, and the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. I hope witnessing this process in Automata Empire inspires people to learn more about how positive and negative feedback loops affect our daily lives and our future.

a feedback loop producing exponential zombies

The Team

Automata Empire originally developed over a 2 week period for Indie Game Maker 2015’s “growth”-themed competition in July 2015. The prototype was so much fun that we decided to expand it into a full game. Made with code from @Nonadecimal, art from @metkis, and music from @tonetales.