Emergent gameplay and spin paintings

When we design and build game systems, we’re often interested in exploring emergent behaviour, or more specifically emergent gameplay. Even simple rules can give complex outcomes and part of the process of designing a game is to discover what the possibilities of its system might be. A classic example of emergence in computer simulations, for example, is flocking algorithms, where extremely lifelike group movement can be created with a small number of rules.

In games, emergence might equally appear in 3D physics, dynamic meshes, puzzle design or artificial intelligence (AI) opponents. Emergence is what is happening when a developer sees a non-player character (NPC) do something unexpectedly clever, or by equal measure something unexpectedly stupid. This is what a puzzle designer is harnessing when they use a minimal set of puzzle elements to create a mind boggling array of clever levels.

Art can help us to visualise these processes. Ryan Fox’s video Avant-Garde (R.P.M. 2) is a fun example of unexpected emergence created by combining two seemingly well-understood systems: a car and a GoPro camera.

Spin Painting
Damien Hirst – Beautiful sunburst of cowardly yellows and shocking pinks painting (detail), 2001

The work brings to mind the outcome of similar experiments, whether it be the large-scale mechanical systems of Damien Hirst’s spin paintings, the wild abandon of Cy Twombly’s Bacchus paintings or the organic cycles of Hans Haacke’s Condensation Cube.

Cy Twombly
Cy Twombly – Untitled (Bacchus), 2005

By thinking like these artists when we make games, we can conduct unusual experiments, invent new systems and find different ways to play.

Also covered in the Guardian.

Cat On Yer Head

Announcing: Cat On Yer Head Storybook

We’ve been working with talented cartoonist and illustrator Jerry Carpenter to make an illustrated How-To guide for our live game for crowds, Cat On Yer Head. The storybook explains how to get started with the game, a couple of basic extensions to the rules and variations created by players at parties and conferences around the world.

Cat On Yer Head sketch

Watch our Twitter feed and sign up to the Cat On Yer Head mailing list for more info about the release soon.


Floto+Warner’s mid-air paintings

When making games, we often think about colour, movement and texture, so it’s refreshing to see the approach taken by artists Floto+Warner. Their amazing paint images were shot in Nevada using high-speed cameras and demonstrate how a still image can capture the feel of movement, much like the techniques pioneered by Jackson Pollock in the 1950s.

We love the chaos and randomness of these artworks, as well as the challenges they effortlessly evoke for game makers who want to make elegant, liquid systems with digitally simulated physics.


Also covered in the Guardian.


Three new game projects

We have been working on three game projects with New York-based educational game publisher Amplify. Our team has been enjoying the process of developing and iterating game concepts, paper prototypes and digital prototypes; with one game now in full production and another soon ready for it’s first digital prototype outing.

DSC00447 copy
Paper prototype playthrough

We can’t say much about the games yet, but watch this space for more info soon…


Announcing Insane Robots

We’ve been prototyping a brand new card game, Insane Robots, which we plan to launch next year. We debuted the game in early Oct at IndieCade 2013, Los Angeles and were honoured to play test it with a stellar array of game makers who were in town for the festival. Thanks everyone for your generous feedback!

Insane Robot Battle at IndieCade
Playing the prototype at Culver City Hotel during IndieCade 2013, Los Angeles

Insane Robots’ first public UK appearance will be at GameCity 8 Open Arcade on 25th and 26th Oct 2013 and you can read about how we are making the game and sign up for early access at You can also follow the game on Facebook and Twitter, where we’ll be posting occasionally.


Cat On Yer Head at IndieCade 2013

We’re delighted that our games are being featured at IndieCade for the second year running! This time our live game for crowds Cat On Yer Head is an IndieCade 2013 Official Selection in the Big Games category.

We will be performing Cat On Year Head at the IndieCade Red Carpet Awards event at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles on the evening of 3rd Oct. After several appearances in London earlier this year, this will be the first time the game has been run in the US.

You can still attend IndieCade’s events, festival and conference running from 3rd to 6th Oct in Culver City. Find the full schedule and registration info here.

IndieCade 2013 flyer


International Racing Squirrels at IndieCade East

We’re looking forward to showcasing IndieCade-finalist International Racing Squirrels as part of IndieCade East at the Museum of the Moving Image, New York from 15th to 17th Feb. There’s a flyer below, a full list of the showcased games here and ticket and event info here. Come say hello if you are in town, and if you would like to give us a hand showing the game drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter.

IndieCade East flyer


Playniac wins place on Nesta’s Creative Business Mentor Network

STOP PRESS: Playniac and Mike Hayes featured in Nesta case study.

We’re very excited to have won a place as one of 25 companies on Nesta’s Creative Business Mentor Network, which is “designed to nurture the UK’s most exciting creative businesses with an appetite for growth”.

We’re also delighted that our mentor will be none other than Mike Hayes, former President and CEO of SEGA Europe and SEGA USA. We’re really looking forward to working with him and having his input over the next 6-12 months.

Events International Racing Squirrels

Roundup: Playniac TV interviews

We’ve just had some TV interviews posted. First up, Ashton Kutcher’s channel Thrash Lab made a documentary about IndieCade featuring many of the finalists and none other than industry legend John Romero, creator of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake. Our segment starts at 1:04 mins.

US TV channel G4TV interviews Rob outside IndieCade about how we developed the characters and world of International Racing Squirrels. The piece also covers several fellow finalists including Hidden In Plain Sight, Open Source, Qasir al-Wasat and Vornheim. The bit about our game starts at 2:35 mins.

Next Lisa and Josh from The Game Station and IndieStatik interview Rob and Matt at IndieCade, discovering how International Racing Squirrels got its name and that not one, but two IndieCade finalists’ games were invented in bars! They also talk about Open Source, Tengami, Blindside and Bloop. Our segment starts at 5:45 mins.

Indie Game Reviewer talked to Rob about the design of International Racing Squirrels, how he got started making games and the exciting future for indie games and the work of indie game makers.

Finally, Sky TV’s PLAYR show interviews Rob at the Develop Indie Showcase in July, covering some of the financial aspects of the game. It’s a long show, so we jump to the International Racing Squirrels segment.

So does this mean we can now say “as seen on TV”?

International Racing Squirrels

International Racing Squirrels out on iPad!

To coincide with IndieCade, we’re excited to announce the release of International Racing Squirrels for iPad 2 and 3. It’s available now to download on the App Store!*