A few years back, I was reading the Baroque Cycle series by Neal Stephenson. It really made me think about the evolution of science; he really gives a great (if fictionalized) insight into the workings of the Royal Society, the beginnings of what we consider modern industry, chemistry, and finance. I was fascinated by Stephenson’s depiction of Newton’s interest in alchemy, and how it can be likened to the beginnings of chemistry. The idea of this primitive chemistry and industrialization really felt like fertile ground; when I started experimenting with game design, after rehashing some other ideas – basically, remaking games that had been made – I was really drawn to finding a way to express these concepts together in a game: alchemy, chemistry, and industrialization.
So – what is Alchementrix?
In a word, it’s a machine. Combining alchemy and chemistry and machinery, it’s a gigantic user interface for Isaac Newton. His last job was Master of the Royal Mint; during his time there, he’s discovered some other things about gold which, combined with some notions from alchemy and his inherent genius, leads to the Alchementrix.
What is the game?
In some ways, Alchementrix is a falling tile game; the game space is a grid; the tiles fall from the top of the screen in groups of 5, called a pentomino. You arrange the tiles based on groups of colors; these lead to events that remove tiles from the screen. You’re harvesting these energies when you create these groups; as you do so, you build up a resivoir of power you can leverage elsewhere, which leads to the rest of the game – puzzles and tools. Some tools in Alchementrix are passive – a simple iron box, for example – inert, stationary. Others are more complex, allowing you to sort tiles into groups or even move the entire well (game grid).
Wait, a second ago someone said puzzle? Tile puzzles?
Yes & no; yes, in that the game’s playing pieces are tiles; no, in the sense that you’re moving individual tiles around to form a picture or some such. Alchementrix has more in common with games like Bejeweled or Tetris than a sliding tile game.
But you said puzzles.
Yes indeed; puzzles which require you to leverage your knowledge of the toolset, puzzles which come with time limits, move limits, or power requirements. In addition to whatever we come up with, though, Alchementrix leverages another secret weapon: The community’s ideas. The game has a built-in editor so that anyone can create a puzzle and share it with the world. When you create a puzzle, you immediately show the game how it’s ‘solved’, and those parameters become the challenge. Whether posting them to the website for all to play, or sending them to your friends and family like a mechanical riddle, the players of Alchementrix will undoubtedly imagine better puzzles then I could ever conceive, simply by approaching it with a clean slate, a fresh eye to the game’s mechanics, and the brilliance that is crowd-sourcing. At least, that’s the plan.
Huh. So I solve a puzzle, then what?
If you’re the type that likes to know how you measure up, Alchementrix will challenge you: harvesting metrics on each tile’s fate and each game’s results, leaderboards will detail exactly how you perform compared to your friends and the world. From the basic elements to the power-ups to esoteric concepts like efficiency or reaction time, we’ll be ranking players worldwide.
Ok, so when, where, and how much?
When? As soon as I can finish enough content for the purposes of the demo. Each reaction state has been mapped out; the user interface has been built, reiterated, rebuilt, then refined. The entire C# back-end requires the most attention. At the earliest, we hope to have a demonstration product in early October. That demo would display the core gameplay (tiles, reactions, and a couple of power-ups as demonstrators).
Where? Alchementrix is being built in Unity, and the following platforms are in our short term future: PC & Mac executable, Web Plugin (demo), IOS for IPad and IPhone, and Android. Unity is slated to support export to Flash in the near future, so we may consider that as well for demo purposes.
How much? Ideally: nothing, then a little, then a little more. That is, give a way a demo. Then charge a tiny amount for an alpha; this is a tool to gauge interest and traction. Then, when completed, charger a premium for the final product – of course, I’d like to keep that very low still in comparison with many games, but also avoid the ‘race to the bottom’ effect that 99 cent games and then freemium / free-to-play games have led to. People who purchase the alpha would of course receive the final version and the intermediate builds for free.
So that’s where we stand at the moment. There’s a lot we aren’t expanding on – you can’t patent a gameplay concept or mechanic, and until we have the demo back on track and are beyond the land of semi-broken prototypes, that’s where we’ll stay – but enjoy the trailers and feel free to hit up the forums. We look forward to answering any questions!