Crescent Loom is Kerbal Space Program crossed with the cell stage of Spore; you wire up neurons into circuits to control your little wriggling beastie and explore an alien world.
Hi! My name is Wick. I’m a neuroscientist from Portland, OR, and I study the neural circuits that move bodies. I believe that in order to eventually understand the impossibly complicated system that is the human brain, we need to start by first mastering their most basic components.
How do bodies move?
There’s so much that goes on beneath our awareness. My heart beats a steady rhythm, pumping blood through my billowing lungs down to my legs as I absentmindedly walk through the forest. The croak of a frog cracks through the air in an atonal melody. I stop to admire a dragonfly glide past, wings working in perfect coordination to dart through a cloud of gnats.
The secret to these rhythms of motion are special circuits of brain cells called central pattern generators. If you’ve played QWOP, you know how hard it would be to move without these pattern generators taking care of muscle coordination for us.
Crescent Loom is a game that lets you — in a hands-on way — discover and get an intuitive sense for how this basic component of our existence works. (with floppy, clumsy creatures)
- Creatures — Brains need bodies, so a physics-based construction tool allows players to weld bones and stitch the muscles of a creature.
- Neural Circuits — Connect neurons to coordinate muscles using an intuitive “loom” inspired by the diagrams in scientific publications on invertebrate nervous systems.
- Collaboration — Save, share, and modify creations online with a simple link.
- Learn Science — Gradually learn the concepts underlying our ability to move by solving puzzles in an alien ocean.
The first step to playing Crescent Loom will be to construct a body. Using a simple 2D editor, you must set the bones, muscles, and senses of your creature. Since your functions and movement depend on the forces exerted by these organs, their placement matters.
After your body is created, the next step is to weave the nervous system of your creature in order to control it. The inputs and outputs of this circuit correspond to the sensors and muscles of the body.
This may be as simple as connecting a eye neuron to a muscle neuron: “when you see something, pull”!
It will be easy to make a functioning circuit with the default neurons, but it will also be possible to go under-the-hood and modify more advanced properties like ion channels and membrane conductance.
EXPLORE. After your creature is created and its brain woven, it is time to explore an alien ocean. My current design (subject to change) is for an open-ended world with a steady availability of objectives, e.g. reaching a new area, retrieving an artifact, placing scientific monitoring equipment, or taking biological samples.
Completing objectives unlocks more body parts and types of neurons, which allow more elaborate creations and fulfillment of harder missions. By starting simple, this mode will serve as a fun gradual introduction to Crescent Loom.