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Experimental Gameplay : Organicraft

October 26, 2012

When I heard that the Experimental Gameplay theme for October was ‘Vegetation‘, I instantly knew what concept I wanted to explore. I did my dissertation on fractal generated plants, and they’re something which have fascinated me ever since.

To play Organicraft, it will help if you have at least a working knowledge of L-System / Turtle graphics theory, and how they can be combined to fractal plants. They’re not hard concepts to grasp, and there’s a wonderful paper on it here, but I’ll give you the basics…

Trust me, if I can understand it, you definitely will too.

Or if you prefer, you can just skip to the end and play it now.

Turtle Graphics

In school, you might have used something called LOGO. It’s a very simple graphics programming language which involves telling a wee virtual ‘pen’ to move around, leaving a trail behind it, to make pictures.

It accepts simple commands (Move Forward, Turn Left etc…), but using loops, it can be made to draw some quite impressive spirograph style images.


Hungarian Botanist Aristid Lindenmayer devised a system whereby rules could be applied to a string of characters, iteratively, to make longer more complex strings. For example, If I start with ‘A’ (The starting point is called the ‘Axiom), and apply the rule ‘Turn all ‘A’ into ‘AB’, then I’ll get the following result…

Axiom : A

Apply Rule Once : AB

Apply Rule Again on resultant string: ABB

Apply Rule Again : ABBB

Now… we  if we imagine that each character in the string is a command to be followed, we can see that we can create a long list by repeatedly applying the rules. I think you can probably see where this is going…

Combining the Theories

If we assign a turtle graphics command to each character in our string, we can create a complex path for it to follow. These are as follows…

F : Move Forward

– : Turn Left

+ : Turn Right

So, to make something called a ‘Koch Snowflake’, you use the following Axiom and rules (With an angle of turning at 60 degrees)

Axiom : F++F++F

Production rules: F → F−F++F−F

Which after each iteration starts to look like this…

If we add in two more commands;

[ : Push (remember) the turtles current location

] : Pop (Go back to where you last remembered the turtles position)

We can make ‘branching’ L-Systems, which might look like this…

And you can instantly see the resemblance to plant life beginning to form.


The aim of the game in Organicraft is to work out which rules you need to apply to the L-System in order to create the target plant. The rules are represented as having been graphically rendered instead of as strings in order to make things a little easier. But I think that you’ll probably end up coming to the same conclusion as me about this concept…

That it’s beyond the scope of the human mind to predict what fractals will look like after around 4 iterations! I kinda knew it would be the case before I started, but hey, that’s the point of Experimental Gameplay!

Nonetheless, if nothing else, I hope the game makes you fall in love with L-Systems the same way I have.

Play Online Here 

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul permalink
    October 30, 2012 7:01 pm

    Once you get the hang of it, even Stage 7 isn’t too tricky. You just need to look for ubiquitous patterns and work backwards to create them. Identifying nodes where the pattern changes helps a lot, and this gives you another starting point. You can also try to identify unique patterns and work forwards. Knowing the total number of steps required is a serious help as it lays down a limit on how complex and nested the transformations can become.

    By taking this approach, I’d say 9 steps deep is probably about the “this is enjoyable” limit for a very complex Organicraft game problem (4 from each approach, and a trial-and-error/modelling approach for the 9th because this just makes sense from a time-management perspective).

    I’d love to see more difficult levels added.

    • October 30, 2012 7:41 pm

      Thanks for that. I might throw a few more together on Thursday.


  2. Rangasoup permalink
    November 10, 2012 11:53 pm

    Did level 7 with with practically no trial and error. Not sure if I should be proud or that it was easier than described.

  3. November 12, 2012 9:55 pm

    I Solved level 7!!! I’m so proud right now… I love this game!

    You put me on the spot there. I knew I had a high IQ before, so when you put that message up saying that if you solve the puzzle you should contact menza, I really had to solve it, just to prove it to myself.

    I love the idea behind the game, and you’ve introduced me to a new concept, so thanks!
    Oh, fantastic, there’s a sandbox mode! I love you

    • November 12, 2012 10:49 pm

      People like you, and comments like this, are the reason I do this!

  4. Kintar permalink
    December 5, 2012 10:54 am

    Just solved level 7. It seems, for me it would be much easier if had been writen in numbers or letters, then graphical.. Had troubles with translation, so did it in graphics, but, yeah.. growth process is really intriguing:)

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