March 22, 2004


by Michael Mateas · , 10:57 am

The Flash game Grow has been sweeping through the blogosphere for a couple of months now – it recently hit the IDT program at Tech, distracting people for a week of addictive play. When you first start playing, the placement of objects on the sphere and their transformations seem random – there’s no reason to prefer placing one object before another. Discovering the internal logic that governs the transformations of the initially abstract elements is the primary addictive pull of the game.

16 Responses to “Grow”

  1. nick Says:

    I managed 11,200 on my fourth game – do I get to be on the escape person list?

  2. michael Says:

    Well, the winning score is 20,000.

  3. michael Says:

    Brandon, in the trackbacks, offers a nice analysis of Grow as a logic puzzle. I like his musing at the end about building a machine to generate such puzzle games. I’ve thought a little bit about game generation and game playing systems – definitely interesting work to explore there.

  4. nick Says:

    Nice analysis. Hanna has a post in reply also, although the trackback didn’t seem to take. Well, no escape person list for me as yet…

    I’d be interested to see what an isomorphic puzzle, framed differently, would play like. I suspect that the growth metaphors and the visible signs of the “logic” of the system help many people to figure it out. Other methods of presenting the same system might prove unpleasantly difficult.

  5. hanna Says:

    Ah, the trackback is now working—thanks for pointing that out Nick. (Although for some reason the “blog_name” part got ignored.)

  6. Jose Zagal Says:

    A friend described this as “the game that makes sorting kinda fun”. After all, its about finding the optimal “order” to grow all the things..

    I couldn’t help laughing at the geeky (and correct) way of looking at it.

    I think I got 18.000 or so…

  7. www antimodal com Says:
    Looking at “Grow”
    Grow, damn you!

  8. Anonymous Says:

  9. michael Says:

    Released in mid-September, there’s a new member of the Grow family, Grow Cube. Grow RPG was released back in July.

  10. Fox Harrell Says:

    Nick wrote:
    I’d be interested to see what an isomorphic puzzle, framed differently, would play like. I suspect that the growth metaphors and the visible signs of the “logic” of the system help many people to figure it out. Other methods of presenting the same system might prove unpleasantly difficult.

    Actually, this aspect frustrated a colleague of mine regarding this game. She wanted the growth “metaphors” and “logic” of the system to play out in a coherent way that informed selection of the order of objects. In fact, the metaphor informs the reward structure, a coherent narrative — especially in the case of grow rpg and cube — plays out. However the order of selecting objects does not correspond to a logic outside of that reward structure, i.e. it is not possible to reason outside of the gameworld regarding the order of objects. For example, reasoning like “water should come first to support life” does not work, reasoning such as “water should come early so that the tower that develops does not collapse” does work.

    If the metaphors played out in a coherent way it might be more compelling in a way, though it might be easier in the end. Part of the game is to figure out the quirky sense of reasoning required within the gameworld, as opposed to in the “real world.” I imagine that such a game would be effective as well and would appeal to a slightly different audience. Of course an isomorphic game without a compelling reward system would not function well. Think of fully deterministic games like Candyland. The reward system and metaphor (compelling art and locations in the gameworld) are all there is. Imagine Candyland without the candy!

    I think this is a fun aspect, but several people I showed the game to (who perhaps were not willing to put in the time to learn the system without a clear set of rules — though rules do appear in the html!) did not enjoy the game exactly for this reason.

    Now, for the braggadocio: I completed all three of these games ;) .

  11. michael Says:

    I agree with Fox that the external metaphor system makes a huge difference in the enjoyment of the game. Stripped to their bare bones, these games are garden-variety logic puzzles – setting the logic puzzle in a world with a lush visual logic that resonates with knowledge outside of the pure constraints of the puzzle makes all the difference. Fox notes that reasoning like “water should come first to support life” doesn’t work. However, for Grow Cube this does work. If you plant the seeds before you’ve opened the canal on top of the cube, the seeds won’t level up until the canal is open. I think the author has connected consistently to knowledge outside of the game, though multiple plays are needed in order to see failure paths; the failure paths actually help the player to forge the connections with the out-of-game knowledge systems.

    Fox’s braggadocio encouraged me to spend a bit of time with the games – I completed Grow RPG last night and Grow Cube just a few minutes ago :). The Grow puzzles are extremely fair; unlike “bad” puzzles (e.g. some of the more frustrating puzzles in some IF I’ve played), where, when you finally look at the hints, you think “I would have never thought of that in a million years”, the Grow puzzles really are solvable in a relatively small number of tries, just by thinking about the levels achieved by the various objects at the end of the game, and leveraging the metaphors invoked by the game imagery.

  12. Water Cooler Games Says:

    Grow Ornament

    A little Christmas distraction for this week. Those of you who have been puzzled by Grow, Grow RPG, and Grow Cube may like the special edition Happy X-mas miniGrow just released by Eyezmaze. It has two fewer objects than the…

  13. HI Says:

    ERRRRRRRR HI im so bored and ive beating all the Grow games they get boring after you beat them.
    Soooooooooo yeah im kinda bored now……

  14. Ian Bogost Says:

    Grow v2 has been released. It is the previously non-public predecessor to Grow v3, which most of us know as the first incarnation.

    Grow v2 felt much simpler to solve for me, but maybe that’s because I’ve grown accustomed (as it were) to how to think about these games.

  15. Fox Harrell Says:

    Chronon is a much more challenging game (at least it took me much longer to solve). Part of it is because the interface is not intuitive at all (the game’s author admits as much in his blog). But after making sense of the interface, the game is quite nice and uses time in a very interesting way. In a way the logical sequence of the game solution is more compelling than in the Grow games.

  16. Fox Harrell Says:

    Do note that there is a delightful new little rpg/puzzler on the Eyezmaze website now.

    Lineage 2

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