Seize power as the ruler of 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. Unlike a typical RTS, you don’t have direct control over your automata monsters which move on the grid according to specific rules. Instead, you sacrifice groups of your loyal subjects to place buildings that influence their movement. Roads creates paths that units must follow, taverns act like magnets which attract friendly and enemy units within a radius, catapults launch your monsters across the map for fast expansion. You can also build walls to defend your territory and armorers/arsenals to equip your units with shields and weapons.
Since your units function as the construction resource, you have to manage your population. Expand too fast and you’ll run out of monsters. Fortunately, when two of your monsters move into the same grid cell, their numerical values add together. Once it gets to 5 or higher, they split, producing one extra monster. Taverns facilitate this process, forcing monsters to keep splitting and recombining in a small area. Or you can engineer feedback loops on the grid by funneling your units into confined spaces where they’re more likely to combine.
When your units collide with enemies, their values subtract from each other, killing the weaker unit. This makes it a challenge to keep your population stable while fending off attacks, catapulting your units around the map and establishing new bases to keep producing more monsters. These mechanics are designed to teach players about feedback loops and how certain conditions can create rapid, non-linear changes in quantity. You can find more info about the game’s relationship with feedback loops in the Background section below.
- singleplayer and online multiplayer for two to four players
- 4 difficulty levels for the AI players
- autoplay mode to watch the AIs battle
- five game modes
- 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
- in-game unlocks, Steam achievements, trading cards, and online leaderboards
- short, satisfying matches designed to be won or lost in under 15 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 (a 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.
- Automata Empires: An RTS based on Conway’s Game of Life – Eurogamer
- Fuzzy automated death comes for us all in Automata Empire – Destructoid
- featured in PC PowerPlay issue #252 (page 32)