NANO: A relaxing ambient music game
for iPhone and iPod touch
I enjoy watching fish. I tend to work too much, and watching fish when I have the chance helps me unwind. There's something meditative about moving one's hand in front of the aquarium and getting the fish to school with you.
In NANO the gameplay mechanic is akin to moving your hand in front of the aquarium glass. One manipulates the flow of particles by changing the electromagnetic field depicted by the gray lines. Different particle types have different masses and interact with the field at different speeds.
Ultimately one wants to activate the spherical Assembler nodes by guiding benign particles to them and keeping malign particles from them. When all nodes are activated, the level is completed. In each level there are either two or three nodes.
The six particle types are introduced over the course of the first six levels. During level seven and beyond, the game grows gradually more difficult, and continues to level 255.
Benign particles types are MATTER, CATALYST, and FLORA. Malign particles are ANTI-MATTER, ANTI-CATALYST, and VIRUS.
MATTER particles are stored in each node until they can be converted to energy.
CATALYST particles allow the node to convert MATTER to energy. The more CATALYST present in a node, the faster the conversion occurs.
Once a node has sufficient energy, it is activated and its core glows.
Nodes can generate additional energy and gain a shield. A shield will destroy all ANTI-MATTER, ANTI-CATALYST, and VIRUS particles that come into contact with it, while allowing benign particles to pass through it.
ANTI-MATTER particles destroy all the unconverted MATTER stored in the node.
ANTI-CATALYST particles destroy all the CATALYST stored in the node.
VIRUS particles destroy both the MATTER and CATALYST in a node, and also de-activate the node.
FLORA particles replenish a node with enough MATTER and CATALYST for it to quickly generate energy, become active, and create a shield.
On each level some flow lines will remain FIXED while other AUTOMATA flow lines will move automatically. AUTOMATA lines can be disruptive, but also provide the key to altering the FIXED flow lines. The FIXED flow lines also provide a binary level meter, so you can anticipate which flow lines will be immobilized in the next level.
The bright green FLORA particle takes a bit of patience to use since it moves contrary to the rest of the particles, and using it may mean disturbing a carefully arranged field. However, it can also be a life-saver when the stream of particles has many VIRUSes and one needs a shield to filter malign items.
It's difficult to react to every particle, but by arranging the field the benign and malign particles can be separated more easily. While guiding the particles directly to the nodes may work on early levels, that approach doesn't work on more advanced levels. The player needs to explore centrifugation to extract the benign particles from the chaff.
One can hoard the particles in a tight cluster (a maximum of 42 appear on the field at any given time) and then attempt to stream all the benign particles to a particular node since the benign particles will outpace the malign particles.
Another good strategy is to focus on creating one shielded node, then using that shield to filter out malign particles in order to make activating the other nodes easier.
Good luck, take time to relax, and please do send me a note if you have questions or suggestions.
"The simple ability to meditate, while in a crowded city bus, showed me how much Nano was truly worth. Due to that, as well as how much I actually liked the game, I am giving Nano five-out-of-five stars."
"Adrian has differentiated himself by bridging two talents to create an experience that few artists can compete with or even conceive of."
"Fade Away and Radiate: Nano Relaxes You with Sight, Sound, Touch."
"Ever since I downloaded NANO, I have found myself playing it after a hard day of class. It has really become a sort of an electronic stress ball for me... 7.5/10 - Very good."
"One of the most interesting features is the fact that this game is relaxing in all senses of the word. The particle colors are soothing and the sound track is phenomenal."
"What is wonderful about this game, if it can be called such, is that it is completely open to your interpretation and understanding of the process....the path is more about the experience rather than the actual achievement. The game is playable without the instructions by pure desire to guide particles to nodes and by doing so generate visual effects and sound."
NANO is very resource intensive. Please restart your device prior to playing. Over time, various apps can tie up system memory in the background, even if it seems like the apps have been quit. This low-memory situation may cause apps to crash. If you've ever had Safari quit while browsing a web site, you've seen another symptom of this known memory issue.
At the root of NANO is a collection of tones which respond to the state of the Assembler nodes. The tones are all notes which were played on an electric 5-string violin, cello, viola, or acoustic violin - either bowed or plucked. NANO is as much an interactive ambient composition as a game. Like the fluid game animation, the soundtrack is meant to be peaceful.
Each node emits an audible pulse at regular intervals. These tones are pizzicato (plucked) notes from my violin. Activating a node or enabling a shield causes a change in the pulse timing for that node. As nodes become active and gain shields the pulse tones change. These pulses create a sparse melody. Depending on the game level, one of two sets of pulse tones is used. Each node has a different triad of pulse tones.
As the nodes accumulate energy, they emit continuous arco (bowed) tones at increasingly louder volumes. An additional high tone in the mix grows louder as shields are activated. These arco tones vary in duration and are modulated so that as they loop, they ebb and flow in relation to each other. The arco tones also create chords together. Depending on the game level, one of six chords is used, with the different notes of the chord assigned to each of the nodes.
The six sets of arco chords complement the two sets of pizzicato chords as the player ascends levels. The variety in harmonies and pulse timing help the music to be subtlely changing rather than repetitive, and the music volume conveys how far the player has progressed in the current level.
I'll have a song based on the NANO tones on the upcoming Workaholics Autonomous album.
I'm working on another interactive soundtrack for a FORMation game called HEXXIS. Visit FORMationAlliance for more info. Jason Franzen - the designer of HEXXIS and several other FORMation games - and I are very excited about this upcoming title, we hope you'll check it out. Let us know if you'd like an update when we release this game.
|FUTURE WORK AND INSTALLATION ART
app is is a miniaturization of an installation work I'm creating. The installation version will be used in standalone mode in a gallery and will be triggered by the motion of people as seen by a ceiling-mounted camera, and will behave very much like this iPhone/iPod app, but using a 42" LCD for display and high quality speakers for the music. It will be somewhat of an experiment to see if gallery visitors can cooperatively explore and "play" NANO in such a setting without any instruction.
One aspect of installation work that has been challenging is the inability to sell a derivative work which adequately captures the experience of the installation. I've seen single frames extracted from a video-based work and then painted upon, DVD documentaries of a work, and other objects, but typically not interactive items. I'm hoping the iPhone/iPod platform can allow this circumstance to change. It will help enable artists to earn more from their installation concepts, and also allow budding artists to take home something that provides inspiration. Interactive installation art involves a broad range of technical and creative skills, and the genre provides a venue for sparking collaborations.