Visuals and Graphics – Organic Programming

Organic Programming

The past month I was quite busy with other projects, so I didn’t make any further progress on PENTAPUZZLE. I did however put some thought into the graphical design of the game.

A few weeks ago I posted a request for feedback to reddit and received some very useful feedback from a friendly gentleman. It very much offered a confirmation of thoughts I already had regarding where to take the game.

My interests and skills are definitely more centered on programming and creative algorithms than “conventional” aesthetic game design. I have therefore come to realize that the central identifying phrase for PENTAPUZZLE will be “Organic Programming”.

Organic Programming

By Organic Programming I’m referring to algorithms that somehow reflect the physical laws in nature – or a manipulated variations of those laws.

PENTAPUZZLE in the current version 0.0.5 already shows some organic traits. Each of the twelve puzzle pieces are controlled by a custom gravitation that drags them towards a specific place in the three dimensional space. The gravitational forces are manipulated to keep the puzzle pieces from (easily) going into never ending orbits, which would kind of halt the gameplay.

Another component of the game that shows organic traits is the music which develops very slowly according to game progress. With every puzzle piece that’s placed or removed I do very subtle changes to the volume levels of the awesome audio loops created by Matthew Herbert and Sam Beste. The careful listener will also discover that certain parts of the audio are slowly travelling from side to side in the stereo field.

Coding Adventures

Looking for inspiration for the PENTAPUZZLE visuals I found two great sources. One of them was the YouTube channel of the very talented Sebastian Lague. This “kid” in his early twenties are doing some amazing videos of which a few are dealing with, what I’m referring to as, Organic Programming.

Perhaps my favorite video on his channel is the one about boids. In this video Sebastian tries to make objects resemble the formation patterns of schools of fish. He may not be the first to take this up but he does it very well. His algorithmic approach is quite simple and the results are really enchanting.

Coding Adventures

Another video of his is dealing with ants and slime/fungus spreading patterns. If you don’t know his channel already please check it out. Very entertaining stuff that’s both funny and carries great educational value. I love to watch his videos with my kids!

Tetris Effect

A second inspiration I stumbled upon was Tetris Effect, available on the Oculus Store. I had seen this title on App Store but never payed much attention. A few months ago I saw an interview with Tetsuya Mizuguchi and was fairly impressed by the huge effort undertaken to develop this game.

PENTAPUZZLE shares a few ideas with Tetris Effect, e.g. the music reacts to the game play. I don’t have to be ashamed by this, as PENTAPUZZLE was launched for iPhone in 2012 with the exact same audio settings.

I was however a little bit disturbed to see the opening screen of Tetris Effect. It looked exactly like what I had planned long term for PENTAPUZZLE. Before seeing Tetris Effect I had already set my game in outer space and was even planning to add a planet close by. After seeing Tetris Effect I’m no longer sure if I’ll do this…

I found the use of particles in the game to be very creative. I’ll definitely introduce particles in PENTAPUZZLE at some point but will not be using them to make real life objects like dolphins or manta rays. I’m much more into abstract figures – my main focus will be to create something that looks like it’s alive – but doesn’t necessarily resemble known earthly life forms.

I played through Tetris Effect and had a reasonably great time. The graphics and the sound is truly awesome! But I have to say there are two things I don’t like too much about this game.

One thing is that I feel a huge “self-contradiction” in the game: There’s no time to fully enjoy all the beautiful graphics in the game due to the time aspect of the Tetris game. If you don’t put all of your attention into the falling tetraminos you’re gonna die! And that’s a darn shame, since the graphics are sooo cool. It’s very frustrating you don’t have the time to fully take it in.

The second big problem with this game (in my opinion at least) is that you control the gameplay purely by clicking buttons. This doesn’t leverage the VR experience at all. I feel like I’m playing a Game Boy game and my arms and shoulders are completely messed up when I’m done. I’m just staring at this beautiful three dimensional game – but there’s no physical interaction at all.


It will be fun to read this post six months down the road to see if any of my ideas have manifested and to see if the inspiration from Coding Adventures and Tetris Effect are visible (and hopefully not too visible).

Although PENTAPUZZLE is not going to be able to compete with an A+ game like Tetris Effect at least I hope PENTAPUZZLE will end up offering a truly enjoyable experience for the player.

Relative to Tetris Effect you’ll definitively have the time to look around and enjoy the scenery. And you’ll be moving your hands around in three dimensions in a meaningful way.