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 high-velocity catapults to launch your minions directly into battle.  Balance expansion and consolidation carefully to grow your empire into enemy territory and gain dominance over the toroid.  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


When I was a kid, I played a version of Conway’s Game of Life on my first Windows 95 computer. It was nothing like the other games I’d played; I was perplexed by its lack of stated objectives or win conditions. With each attempt to achieve some greater understanding of the game, I was confronted by the lack of any metrics to tell me if I was doing better or worse than I had before. This was very troubling to me as a child, watching the cellular populations burble around the grid only to suffer yet another extinction.

When I was challenged to make a “growth”-themed game for the Indie Game Maker Contest 2015 game jam, I rediscovered those frustrating memories and set out to make an objective-based cellular automata game. While I ultimately 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.

In the process, I discovered a new gameplay mechanic: feedback loops. With the cellular reproduction tied to the automata’s numerical values, the challenge becomes herding the automata into positive feedback loops where each +1 increase in population feeds back into further increases in population. In the right conditions, this process is no longer a linear increase but an explosive growth.

Feedback loops are important to understand because many of the global threats to our species today 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 of these outcomes contribute to rising surface temperatures, thereby increasing the rate at which the ice melts (the positive feedback loop), which again causes an acceleration of warming.

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 seeing this process in action in Automata Empire inspires people to learn more about the underlying principles of positive and negative feedback loops and how they affect our daily lives and our future.

The Team

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