FRACT is a musical exploration game. You arrive in a forgotten place and explore the vast and unfamiliar landscape to discover the secrets of an abandoned world that was once built on sound. As you start to make sense of this strange new environment, you work to rebuild its machinery by solving puzzles and bring the world back to life by shaping sound and creating music within the game. FRACT features a beautiful open world to explore and decipher with music-based puzzles, stunning visuals, and an amazing score that evolves as you play. As you progress through the game, you unlock tools to make your own music in the FRACT studio, where you can also export and share your creations with others.
Phosfiend Systems is a small Montreal-based indie studio that husband-wife team Richard Flanagan and Quynh Nguyen started in 2011 after Richard won the IGF Award for Best Student Game for his prototype FRACT. They've been developing their first game, FRACT OSC, ever since, along with their programmer Henk Boom, which they released this April.
We developed a custom sound engine for FRACT that allows players to manipulate sound in real-time within the game, forming the basis for gameplay and mechanics based on shaping sound and creating melodies, while simultaneously affecting other parameters in the game. As an example, players work to reorient melody-emitting cubes in space to restore a broken piece of machinery, exploring the 3D environment to access the control platforms that allow them to manipulate cubes throughout the course of the puzzle. As they move each cube, they are simultaneously manipulating parameters of the synth that is playing (eg. changing pitch). Each cube emits a piece of the melody in quarter tempo, and as a cube is put into its final solve position, that piece of the melody is sped up to the final tempo.
Different layers of accompanying music come in depending on whether objectives in the puzzle have been fulfilled. Since the path taken to this final state will vary, the result is an evolving, unique score mediated by player actions. In a subsequent puzzle, players use the synth shaped in the previous puzzle to sequence notes and play around with the sequencer to discern the correct sequence that will "fix" the machine. The overall result is a progression which moves towards increasing degrees of musical expression and creative freedom, leading to an area in the game called the Studio where players can create, perform, and even export and share their musical compositions. The structure of the game and its puzzles, and how solutions carry over to later parts of the game, was inspired by musical composition, from sound-shaping in earlier puzzles, to writing small passages or sequences, to arranging those sequences into a composition, and then finally bringing all components together in the Studio.