What does it look like inside a synthesiser? Like ‘Fract’, I hope

by James M. Potter

Shooters and adventure games are one thing, but sometimes all you want to do is wander around inside a synthesiser solving puzzles. At least, the creators of Fract OSC have taken this view, choosing to immerse the player of their new game in a first-person, psychedelic world filled with strange sound-machines. Sort of like Fantastic Voyage, but set in the brain of Jean Michel Jarre.

The task seems to be to reawaken a number of dormant machines by solving puzzles using various generative music interfaces. That might make it sound pretty dry, but with the first-person perspective and mysterious environment, the experience looks to be quite involving. From the various trailers, it also looks like a step towards what I hoped someone would do with the recent strain of interactive music-sequencing programmes, like Otomata (and the same developer’s Circuli). There’s a huge amount of fun to be had just messing around with sequencer-visualisers like this and seeing what sonic patterns emerge (God knows I’ve spent long enough doing it; the combination of Otomata and 7.1 sound proved quite a timesink). It was only going to be a matter of time before some enterprising developer turned what were already little games into components of a larger game environment. Fract seems to be doing that with aplomb.

It remains to be seen just how integral the music will be to the functioning of the game. It looks like the musical choices you make might affect the distribution of objects in the game world, which would be cool. I’m very curious as to what kind of musical experimentation will be rewarded in game – essentially, what the ‘right’ answers will be to these musical puzzles. For example, the two generative programmes I mentioned above tend to use diatonic scales in order to be most aurally pleasing to the listener/creator – meaning that whatever you click will result in inoffensive harmonies which make the result of your dabbling pleasant but not very adventurous. At this stage, though, Fract’s engine seems designed to bear some experimentation. It’s clear that behind it are people with a deep love for synthesisers. They’ve built an audio engine that runs in realtime, so the musical parts of the game will be pleasingly adaptive to your input.

The idea of Myst-like exploration in a beautiful, eerie landscape built on elemental synth sounds is hugely alluring. I can’t wait to play with the result when it comes out (you can vote for it on Greenlight here).