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SYNTH: "Built on SIN" abstract, "intel level up 2010:finalist" (2500 words required)

This is a copy of the ABSTRACT that I had to write to be a finalist in the INTEL CORPORATION "LEVEL UP 2010" Games Contest, it's a good description of SYNTH,. I did not think I had 2500 words on it :) An abstract about an abstract game!!

Rhys Hovey, Blogger

September 30, 2010

13 Min Read

DOWLOAD newest SYNTH(tm) v1.505 64 BIT ONLY!!

Direct from INTEL CORP:






Designed and Programmed

By Rhys Paul Hovey

(C)2010 Rhys Paul Hovey

e-mail: [email protected]

e-mail: [email protected]

AKA "[email protected]" (Paul Richard)


System Specs:
nVidia geforce 260 or greater

Quad Core CPU (i7-920 recommended)4GB of RAM

SYNTH(tm) is a 64 BIT MS Windows video game in which the player is transported to a neon electric fantasy world, of “synthetic nature duality artwork” based 100% on mathematical processes. Explore pseudo-infinite 3D “fractillian” landscapes while battling the elements, as they slowly squeeze your lifeforces away. SYNTH features several gameplay mechanisms and weapons, including wind physics and weapons, “active structure emitter weapons” (for creating barricades and “soft body” like clusters ect), flight, virtual “swimming in nothingness” , jumps, and a built in 8 track dynamic sequence remixer, with 24 real time DSP effects. SYNTH's download size is only 24 megs, which is almost entirely CD quality stereo audio, for the sound-fx, and dynamically “synthesized/remixed” sound track.

SYNTH has a highly experimental design and utilizes up to date PC game hardware. SYNTH has been in development in “hobby time” for almost 3 years, and represents a massive “out of the box” work for programmer artist Rhys Paul Hovey. Rooted in conventional AAA video game engineering, computer science, and audio production, SYNTH was designed with personal “math art killer app” vanity, and was heavily influenced by ancient mathematical mysticism and history, such as the evil cult of the euclidean, all the way up to modern fractals and beyond. Through the use of “horrifyingly complex” mathematical processes, these visions come to life, in “tree bark inkblot” formations, on hillsides, platforms, and other interactive game areas. See “Phantom Surface Advertising (Moddb)”. The word SIN appears in it's “dead C++ scroll”, approx 900 times as of version 1.404

SYNTH has a full 3D environment, rendered into openGL 2.0 with GLSL. It has a complete and custom physics / collision system, and is by no means a “Mandelbrot bitmap” game, it's graphics tend to be more vectorized, volumetric, and has many interesting effects including “fur” and “execute buffer” plants. It has a 3D non-convex object collisions as well as super easy to control 3D mechanics. It currently runs 12 threads simultaneously, most doing completely different processes.

(takes almost 90 seconds to “load/generate”)

Because SYNTH is entirely mathematically generated, there are no asset files, SYNTH is one 33 MB executable file, mostly of which is audio data. On startup, SYNTH takes about 45-90 seconds to generate it's initial graphics palette, and then approx 60 seconds to generate every new level. Levels are generated from 4 letter word seeds, such as “sinx”. SYNTH's level generation process is unbelievably computationally complex compared to it's run time processes, featuring exponential complexity,  recursion, and heavy stochastic methods. SYNTH stores a large amount of precomputed data, due to this fact, and requires 4GB of RAM, and 64 Bit addressing. At present, the “level generation” and “palette creation” stages are single threaded, and the “real time” procedural section is multi-threaded. The “real time” procedural generation system, will start to further mature in future versions at 6-8 core CPU's become popular. For example in v1.404 an entire “core” is spend on one single “animated texture”, that generates several gigabytes of frames as it evolves at run time at high resolution.


Just as SYNTH generates its graphics, it also generates its soundtrack, via a 8 track sample remixing synthesizer, built on Microsoft directSound 8. SYNTH does it's own internal sound mixing, and sequence remixing tricks on top of directSound8, and uses it's real time DSP effects (24 total). With less than 30 megs of audio data, SYNTH has full sound effects and soundtrack, featuring 5 real time sequences, that can play for hours, and respond to the users actions in the game. SYNTH's soundtrack is not for the light of ear, nor for the conservative of mind, it's a loud experimental “drum and bass” like oddity. Although SYNTH is actually a “beat box” to some degree, featuring dedicated “randomizers” and “break beat” functions mapped to keys, the sound is never actually part of the game.


A lot of focus and effort went into SYNTH's procedural graphics. The artwork was heavily influenced by names like Roger Dean, Micheal Godard, Louis Royo, but at the same time, is not very reflective of their “paint based artwork”, as could be expected from pure math art. In terms of digital artwork, SYNTH was heavily influenced by “The Demo Scene”, retro gaming, vectrex, COCO2's, screen savers, and several traditional books on L-systems, Dragon curves, fractals, and other mathematical artwork. A lot of the inspiration came from the technology and experimentation itself, and could be considered unique in many cases. A lot of procedural graphics and mathematical processes can be found in nature, and this was a major creative drive behind the game, as this type of computer graphics looks inherently very unrealistic and synthetic. To further enhance the scene of nature-technology duality, a lot of elemental opposites were used visually including fire, and “wire”.


Due to it's 0 development cost, by being a “hobby work”, SYNTH writes it's own rules, and is very open to experimentation. SYNTH has a bright future, and has plans to be maintained and expanded well into 2012 or 2013. As graphical/CPU hardware advances SYNTH will be able to unlock the very many new graphical / gameplay mechanisms that are planned. Graphically the premise of SYNTH will be the absolute bombardment of the player with new and interesting procedural graphics, as well as the expansion and refinement of the core mechanics. 


Rhys Paul Hovey is a “multi-talented” person, developing art in several artforms, including video games, computer security, music, writing and voice. Rhys is also a graduate from the University of New Brunswick, computer science program. He has been working in the games industry either as a teacher, research and development engineer, or AAA game software engineer, for almost 10 years. He has worked at top studios like Ubisoft Montreal, Electronic Arts Canada, and Rockstar San Diego. His funniest story from the video games industry is burning a $20 bill in the Rockstar San Diego parking lot. It has always been a dream of Rhys' to have is own video game, as he is a firm believer in the un-tapped potential of the video game as an art form, when compared to other art forms. Rhys Paul Hovey is a holder of several other game designs, as well. Rhys Hovey is a firm believer that video game  programmers can make great designers as well, and considers SYNTH a trip back to the “golden age” of C64/Amiga where a programmer could create an entire modern artwork, such as Andrew Braybrook, or Richard Garriot.
Rhys has been interested in making his own video game since high school, where he worked on “Jake Wilson and the lost town of Bunru” which was an xmode isometric adventure game, with “adult themes” for DOS PC, in approx 1993. After this project failed due to “graphic artist” problems, Rhys put indie game development on hold for other projects. In approx 2003-2004, Rhys started another hobby project tentatively called “Epsilon Worlds”, but it's design was so “grandiose” it became an unfeasible “1 man project” and was discontinued for “work related” reasons. EW was also supposed to be procedural as well, and was supposed to have stable “mechanical lego tinkertoy” non-convex rigid body dynamics, and eventually this became the “stalling point” for this “1 man indie game”, as it turned to much into a physics research project. SYNTH was attempt #3 to make an indie game, that Rhys now considers a success. Rhys still has a lot of the code for epsilon words, and “Jake Wilson and the Lost town of Bunru”. If “Rhys could go back in time” he says he would make a “kicking TRS-80 game”.


SYNTH is a game that strongly supports the future of 3D indie games development, which is currently an almost entirely 2D driven market, especially in the “one man freeware” domain. SYNTH's roots lie in hardware based development time “compromise” and current 3D hardware and processors. SYNTH 32 BIT version was discontinued in 2010 because of memory limitations. SYNTH was designed to be scalable in many ways, and will easily take 6-8 GB of RAM to run by 2012. Rhys Paul Hovey, is very proud to be a strong supporter of 3D graphics, experimental gameplay, and “out of the box” video games.


Due to lessons learned in previous and “failed” development projects, SYNTH is not actually what most people would consider to be a reusable game “engine”. SYNTH is a highly specialized program for a 3D video game, with a custom library of mathematical art functionality, that does not generalize lower than basic C++ code. A lot of corners were cut with traditional “textbook” software engineering practices, for quick development. Although SYNTH has been very extensively tested, and well maintained. The “procedural graphics” system, is merely an openGL multi-thread render queue, and all of the procedural “scripting” and is pure C++ code. There are some pretty interesting things in the SYNTH video game “engine”, but it is not designed to be for general purpose use, it would greatly confuse 3rd parties. SYNTH's computer program will indeed spawn another video game at some point in time, as a foundation for expansion. The plan is that it will be both procedural and digitized.


Extensive thought and preparation has been given to SYNTH's online “advertising campaign” which centers around it's many many screenshots, all with humors math puns, and evil references to math satanism, and several other tag lines. SYNTH is aimed at the impulse purchase “curiosity seekers” market and most likely would sell in digital distribution for approx $10. SYNTH by nature is automatically targeted at the high end gamer machine market and customer. SYNTH is safe for all ages, but due to it's complexity and marketing, it's not meant for children, although the actual game is “ideal” for children, it contains almost no references to society or people, or words. SYNTH is ideal for “escapism” as SYNTH is very easy to play, and games can last quite long.

Tag Lines with “artwork” that currently exist for SYNTH (synth is an “artwork” generator)

“SYNTH:Soda Square root of Beer”
“SYNTH:Furn'd in Hell”
“SYNTH:Jungles of Geometry”
“SYNTH:Fibre Fantasy”


SYNTH has no publisher or distribution deals, and it's still under development, and no resources have been put into promotion outside of a very few free websites, including “Intel level up”, Gamasutra and Moddb. Moddb has been the principal author driven promotion process, and practically only download source. Moddb is where much of the SYNTH screenshot generator artwork legacy is held, and currently out of date. SYNTH has done well on Moddb for such an experimental and high end indie game. The SYNTH profile currently has over 30,000 views according to Moddb. Much of this attention has been over it's interesting screenshots and news. It ranks well compared to other Indies with custom build engines, meaning not “Unreal Mods”. As predicted hardware constraints limit the downloads, but as planned this will change with GPU releases. Interest in math art games is surprising, and the reviews on the graphics have been very positive.


Because of the name, and the built in SYNTH remixing functions, SYNTH video game takes is audio and SYNTH characteristics pretty seriously, and music enthusiasts are a significant enough portion of the market for some special attention to be paid to the music. As of SYNTH v1.404 the game has a build in 8 track sample synth with effects, and approx 30 megs of CD quality audio. This is not much, and synth is still able to deliver a continuous and horrifying soundtrack, something that could take almost a gigabyte if streamed at the same quality. The 30 Megs of audio comes from a myriad of synthesizer sources from around the world including Warldorf, Nord, Novation, EMU,Native Instruments, and many more. The author Rhys Paul Hovey has been working with audio for over 15 years. The long term plan of SYNTH is to incorporate streaming non-dynamic music from local sources, and once again try to push the envelope on what is “alternative gaming”.


Gameplay has always been an important factor to SYNTH, although it has somewhat been secondary, due to the level of experimentation and refinement in the process of developing a 100% procedural game. The design of SYNTH has remained the same in that SYNTH is a “long lifespan roaming” game, in which exploration and viewing of the graphics are an important part of the experience of SYNTH video game, but as time progresses the level of engagement with the environment must heighten, or you will run out of resources and eventually life. A lot of effort has went into SYNTH's current physics based gameplay, but a lot is yet to come. The development strategy of SYNTH video game is graphics first, gameplay second. A large list of mechanics are planned, including lots centering around game entities. The “active structure emitter” weapon is a good example of the types of gameplay to expect, as well as surprising high action moments are planned. It should be noted that SYNTH's gameplay depends on system specs as well, where the recommended hardware is necessary for the maximum experience.


Because of the “special nature” of SYNTH video game's procedural level generation, there is a very important feature that is reserved for a future “full version” of SYNTH, and that giving the user the ability to generate their own levels based on 4 letter words, and replay these letter combinations and add many new levels to SYNTH. The full version of SYNTH will also feature better sound and jukebox capabilities, and the ability to remove and adjust the FPS cap. The freeware version will remain a small download, with all features but the ability to change the levels. 


It should be noted that SYNTH's manual is extremely out of date, and the gameplay mechanics and graphics have changed significantly, enough to make the manual very misleading. Follow the onscreen instructions for the more accurate description of SYNTH's gameplay. SYNTH is more complicated than you may think when first playing it, the depth of gameplay is present in v1.404, the manual will be important and a major upgrade is planned.

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