Frequently Asked Questions

...and some info we thought you might find useful
Beta
  • Where's my invite?!
    In case you've already filled in the Beta Sign Up form, it's coming soon.

    There's 1800+ users queued and we're rolling out invites in weekly batches. If a critical bug or issue arises, it might delay the next batches until it's fixed, so it's difficult to give an exact ETA.

    In case you'd like to get access sooner, please write us a short early access request stating the email address you'd like to register with.
  • Why is it Closed Beta?
    It's Closed (we will send you a Registration invite after you Sign Up to the list) to make sure we can better handle bugs and fixes along the way. By doing incremental roll-outs we can give future users an increasingly better experience.
  • When is Open Beta coming up?
    Early 2019, depending on the feedback, issues and usage reports we get during Closed Beta. As for going out of Beta, that's a bit more difficult to tell exactly, but we plan for the 2nd half of 2019.
Pricing
  • During Closed Beta
    Free. There are no licensing fees or costs when using Machinations Closed Beta. Moreover, all of the diagrams or features you'll be using during the Closed Beta will remain freely available afterwards. However, we do plan on monetising volume features. Check out the next tab - "Future Revenue Model" - for more details.
  • Future Revenue Model
    Our goal is to have a basic Free Forever Tier. Machinations now lives in the cloud and all simulations happen on our servers. Whenever you do a simulation (Run), Quick Run or Multiple Runs, all the math and processing load is handled by our AWS infrastructure. That load is quantified as Simulation Credits - a unit of measuring CPU cycles per diagram complexity & stochastics coefficient. We'll do our best to include a generous monthly allowance of Simulation Credits in the Free Tier (similar to e.g. Unity Analytics' Raw Data Export model). However, all costs exceeding the allowance will be incurred to the user, via pre-paid or pay-as-you-go plans (similar to e.g. Mailchimp's model). Yes, sort of free2play :)
  • Custom Deployment
    Typically called an Enterprise Tier. We offer custom solutions and packages with: private cloud instances, custom security and privacy features, corporate Single Sign-On (SSO), access levels, priority support and hands-on assitance, uptime SLA, in-house branding, etc. For a custom quote, let's get in touch.
  • Premium Support
    In case your team would benefit from a kick-start and/or dedicated assistance, we offer custom training bundles and ongoing retainers as Premium Support. For a custom quote, let's get in touch.
  • Academia
    Free. There are no licensing fees for academia. If your project or institution requires custom resources, e.g. support & assistance, large volume processing power or custom modules for research, let's get in touch and see how we can make it happen.
Learning
  • Is it difficult to learn the Machinations framework?
    We get this question pretty often, along with "How long will it take for me to learn it?".

    When it comes to the framework and Unified Modelling Language (UML), the best answer is the one from original thesis: "the Machinations framework is a lot to take in at once. The framework comprises interrelated concepts that are best understood in unison."

    As for time investment, our users had various answers, from "a couple of days" to "one Christmas holiday" all the way to "I'm learning something new and getting better every time I use it", which is probably the honest answer for all of us.

    We hope we've managed to build a straightforward GUI that will help you craft systems faster and better using the basic nodes. The UX vision has been that of a Google Suite app, and all the familiar menus, options, panels, etc are what you would expect of a browser-based diagramming tool. The ability to have zoom levels (Group elements then Collapse/Expand) and save Patterns (subsystems) in your Library for later use are just a couple of the productivity features that we've already implemented; a lot more waiting in our Roadmap and we're pushing new templates, library items, tutorials and videos every week.

    Our goal is that all machinators will have a public profile ranked by their skills and progress, just like StackExchange does for developers. There's a long road ahead of us and we need your input and feedback so the Machinations platform and community can do for game design what GitHub did for coding.

    So check out the docs and join our Slack community to become an expert Machinator (yeah, we're trying to make that a thing now).
  • Documentation
    Publicy available in our Documentation repository. A constant work in progress, our Documentation will take you through the basic framework elements, pattern diagrams and common use cases. Be sure to check out and subscribe to our YouTube channel for upcoming tutorials and walkthroughs. If you feel like anything's missing or could be improved, don't hesitate to get in touch and let us know.
  • Free Support
    If you have any questions or issues, please get in touch and we'll do our best to get back to you, based on our ticket queue priority. For quicker engagements, use the live chat widget in the bottom-right of this page or ping us on our Slack workspace.
  • Custom Demo
    If your team or company would like a 1on1 walkthrough, we'll schedule a quick tour as soon a we can free up a time slot. Let's get in touch and book a remote session (yep, probably Skype).
General
  • What is Machinations?
    The Game Design Tool we always needed.

    For a quick walkthrough of the tool, watch our 1m47s explainer video.

    Machinations.io is a browser-based platform to design, balance and simulate game systems. It allows you to map any game system in an interactive diagram, set parameters that define elements and the relationship between them, and visualise the way in which these systems work. Based on that, you can simulate different outcomes, plot results and balance your game economy.

    For those of you with an engineering background, Machinations diagrams might remind you of Petri Nets or automatons like State Machines and Turing Machines. "If the limitation of finite memory is ignored", Machinations is a Turing Complete system.
  • Who should use Machinations?
    Game Designers, Game Economy Designers, Systems Designers, Envelope Designers and Monetisation Specialists. Machinations is focused on meta systems, economy flows and loops; while it can represent core mechanics and physics in an abstract manner, it's not always ideal for Level Designers who need to depict physical interactions, level maps or screen interactions.

    Game Developers, Game Analysts & Data Scientists can do balancing and get insights about systems interaction. Game Producers and stakeholders will benefit from visualisation to better communicate with their team members.

    Students, Teachers and Researchers get great value from using Machinations in their learning activities and project work. Check out the Academia section for more info.

    Machinations is suitable for every team size, from indie developers to AAA studios.
  • Why should I use Machinations?
    There's 3 main benefits that you get when using Machinations: 1. Clarity in visualisation and team communication. 2. Reduce or eliminate guesswork when setting & balancing parameters. 3. Keep the DNA of the design centralized in one onverview to sync game flows, parameters and documentation.

    Numerous other features and workflows make the job of designing, balancing and iterating game systems way better than working with just GDDs, spreadsheets and static diagrams.

    Plus, there's no more need for spreadsheet scripting, so check out the next tab.
  • Do I still need spreadsheet math or scripting?
    No. Machinations eliminates the need of dealing with spreadsheet functions, macros, scripts, VBA or hardcoded simulations in e.g. Python, or having to develop in-game modules for simulating economies.

    The most powerful feature in Machinations is Multiple Runs, basically a Monte Carlo method. If your diagram contains random elements or probabilities, running Multiple Runs will execute numerous (default 100) Quick Runs and return the Mean, Median, Mode & Standard Deviation* of your target values (nodes currently being plotted in your chart view). This was you can, for example, balance: the drop rates of a gacha box, the time it takes for a player to progress through stages based on skill and chance (progression curves), PvP interactions based on agency and transitive mechanics, the relationship between player virtual income and odds of In-App Purchase, etc. NOTE: *statistical indicators planned for release December 2018.

    Currently you can export simulations in CSV format and import them in your game configs, e.g. an exponential HP curve of enemies in an incremental clicker. Future implementations will allow for the import and export of game parameter sheets from CSV and Google Docs. For more info, check out the Roadmap tab.
  • Free2Play or Premium games?
    Both.

    Machinations works great with Free2Play systems. That's because game economy and game revenue are directly linked, e.g. player resource management directly affects monetisation via microtransactions or In-App Purchse (IAP) & In-App Advertising (IAA). By simulating the odds of IAP or IAA in placements within your core and meta loops, you can forecast the impact that the offers and prompts will have on your cash income; e.g. simulate level difficulty to predict churn rates and progression funnels, or simulate item & currency drops to prevent inflation, etc.

    And just as well with Premium games, where game pacing and flows are directly linked to player experience. By simulating randomness and emergence in non-deterministic flows you can forecast the impact it will have on player progress and challenge, e.g. how many attempts will it take a player to win the boss battle based on weapon tier, how often should legendaries drop so as to not make the blacksmith go out of business, etc.
  • Can I design an entire game?
    Yes. There's virtually no limit to how many Nodes you can place on a diagram and we're constantly pushing the edge on client-server performance with complex diagrams (typically 200+ nodes). To overcome the crowdedness that diagrams get when plotting systems in-depth, you can Group and Collapse subsystems, giving you clearer visualisation when assessing outer meta loops or communicating with team mebers.
  • Is there a case study?
    Yes. Check out the diagram called "Games: McTapper Idle Incremental Tapper" under File -> New from Template and the screencasts from the explainer video. McTapper is a functioning prototype of an idle incremental tapper (similar to Tap Titans) created by the founders of Machinations. All the art, design and systems are depicted exactly as in the actual game.

    We will constantly post new deconstructions and patterns of live popular games, to be used for study. For example, check out the Template "Games: League of Legends Hextech Chest Gacha"; while the odds of winning or getting an S are totally up to your pro-skills, the drop rates are the exact ones published by Riot Games.
  • Roadmap
    Get involved and let us know which features matter most to you and your team.

    1. Libraries: subset diagrams, patterns, preset/custom game entities

    2. Zoom in/out: choose the level of detail you want to visualise

    3. Learning: more library items, templates, documentation, videos, tutorials and the Academy Lessons

    4. UI/UX: custom node images, presenter mode, night mode

    5. Collaboration: live multi-user editing, change history, chat, comments

    6. Sharing: export view, embed live widgets, access levels

    7. Player Profiles: global variable sets, compare persona outcomes in the same chart

    8. Data Management: import/export parameter sheet, live event logs, live debugging

    9. 3rd party integrations: Unity plug-in, Slack bot, Jira/Trello/Confluence integration, Google Sheets & Docs integration, OpenAPI

    10. Analytics: player segmentation, live data mapping & comparison of different cohorts

    11. AI: automated balancing of game parameters, live iterations management.
  • About us
    Machinations S.àr.l is headquartered in Luxembourg (8 Op Bierg, 8217, Mamer) and has development offices in Brasov & Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

    The core team is comprised of Mihai Gheza (CEO), Alin Moldovan (CTO), Dana Gheza (CMO), Radu Craciun (COO), Vlad Centea (CAO) and Joris Dormans - the original creator of the framework and tool. Each of the members have senior experience (10+ years) in their field with a proven track record.

    The idea of turning Machinations into a commercial SaaS product materialized in April 2018 when the team got accepted in the Fit4Start Accelerator (Luxembourg). Having graduated the program on October 4th 2018, the team was granted a total 150k EUR in funding. In September 2018 the first Closed Beta invites were sent out to a small group of professionals. Open Beta is planned for early 2019.

    Machinations S.àr.l is the sole owner of the framework and tool that can use it for commercial purposes.
Academia
  • Foundation
    Machinations was originally developed as an academic product by Joris Dormans during his PhD at the University of Amsterdam in 2012. His thesis "Engineering emergence: applied theory for game design" is the cornerstone of the Machinations Unified Modelling Language (UML) and framework.

    Together with Ernest Adams, Joris co-authored "Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design". The book "teaches you to craft mechanics that generate challenging, enjoyable, and well-balanced gameplay" and we strongly recommend you get a copy.
  • Lessons
    We're putting together a Lesson Plan that can be used and taught in class. The first samples are prefixed "Framework:" in our Templates section (File -> New from Template). This is a collaborative effort and we're looking for help from teachers and students. We've already had input from academics at Kristiania University College in Norway, Columbia University US, PCU Brazil and many others.

    Among other institutions where Machinations is used in class are Rochester Institute of Technology US, Sweden Game Arena, Breda University of Applied Sciences and Leiden University in the Netherlands, and by researchers from Cornell, Stanford or MIT in the US all the way to Osaka Electro-Communication University in Japan. If you'd like to contribute so everyone can get better lessons, faster, then get in touch or ping us on our #academia Slack channel.
  • Published Papers
    "Engineering emergence: applied theory for game design". Jors Dormans, 2012, Universiteit van Amsterdam. "[...] examines the nature of emergence in games in order to construct applied theory to deal with emergence in games head-on. This theory will enable the designer to get more grip on the elusive process of building quality games displaying emergent behavior.

    "Game Mechanics Design: Applying Machinations to Eliosi’s Hunt". Tiago Zaidan, Daniel Zaidan & Luis Fabricio W. Goes, 2016. This paper presents the use of the Machinations Framework to design the internal economy of the game Eliosi’s Hunt currently being developed by TDZ Games. "The use of the framework allowed us to visualise the game’s internal economy’s structure and flow of resources (...) in order for the designer to improve it through fast iterative cycles."

    "Game Design Tools: Can they Improve Game Design Practice?". Katharine Neil, 2016. This paper contributes practice-led evaluation research to the question of whether game design tools can effectively support and expand game design practice. It offers insights that can be used to inform future game design tool development.

    "Gamification of Prosocial Learning for Increased Youth Inclusion". Kam Star (PLAYGEN), 2016. The prosocial skill games model - which is an abstract game model for teaching prosocial skills - is presented along with the first iteration of the prosocial world data model. The first iteration of a range of game mechanics and game systems together with rules intended to produce game play that leads to increased proficiency in prosocial skills.

    "Micro-Machinations: A DSL for Game Economies". Paul Klint & Riemer van Rozen, 2014. Micro-machinations (mm) details and formalises the meaning of a significant subset of machination’s language features and adds several new features most notably modularisation. This paper "shows that it is feasible to rapidly simulate game economies in early development stages and to separate concerns".

    "Adapting Game Mechanics with Micro-Machinations". Riemer van Rozen & Joris Dormans, 2014. An approach for designing, embedding and adapting game mechanics iteratively in games. It shows "that mm enables the adaptability needed to reduce design iteration times, consequently increasing opportunities for quality improvements and reuse".

    "Simulating Mechanics to Study Emergence in Games". Joris Dormans, 2011. This paper presents the latest version of the machinations framework that uses diagrams to represent the flow of tangible and abstract resources through a game. This flow represents the mechanics that make up a game’s internal economy and has a large impact on the emergent gameplay of most simulation games, strategy games and board games.
  • Research Projects
    We constantly get approached by researchers all across the world looking to leverage or include Machinations in their projects or make theoretical advancements to the Machinations Framework. And we're always open to helping theoretical research move forward, so get in touch and let's see if we can support your work.
Security
  • How safe are my diagrams?
    Our entire infrastructure is based on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and hence we inherit and follow their security compliance. AWS maintains multiple certifications for its data centers, including ISO 27001 compliance, PCI certification, and SOC. We use the latest security tools and measures for connectivity and remote data handling.

    When it comes to cloud reliability, we have exhaustive backup routines and disaster recovery procedures. The files you edit are auto-saved every 10s or 10 changes, to make sure your work is safe and sound.

    For more information, consult our Terms of Service.
  • How private are my diagrams?
    Nobody else but you will ever access your diagrams.

    We totally get the critical importance of keeping your diagrams and data protected. The designs and parameters you create are the DNA of your game, IP and potentially your commercial success. So we've made everything possible that nobody, including the Machinations team members, can ever get access them in any way. All server and file access is logged and auditable retroactively.

    We're working on sharing and collaboration features, and you will obviously be able to give your peers access to your diagrams, similar to Google Docs. However, nobody else can access your data without your permission.

    That said, it's obvious you should protect your user account and never share your password with anyone. If you registered via Google, then keep that account safe, as we follow their security compliance.
  • What about my personal data?
    We follow the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) EU 2016/679 compliancy specs. For more information on the kind of data we collect, please consult our Privacy Policy.
Technical
  • What browsers & OS are supported?
    Machinations was built for and tested on Google Chrome, and thus it should run smoothly regardless of the operating system (Windows, macOS or Linux). We don't have near future plans of supporting other browsers besides Chrome. Currently, Machinations can also run on Safari, but the resource transfer animations are not rendered, which takes away a lot of the visualisation value and most of the fun, so we don't recommend doing that. We will also release an iPad app at some time in the future (Machinations will be awesome on the Pro), but there's no set date for that.
  • How do I report bugs?
    Please try to include 1. steps to reproduce 2. expected behaviour 3. broken behaviour 4. a screenshot or (ideally) a screencast 5. browser & operating system, and send them to us via email or on our #bugs Slack channel.

    NOTE: if you experience any issues, please try to hard refresh your browser first (CTRL/CMD+Shift+R) and see if the issue persists; we constantly push updates, some of which may cause conflicts with the app's local cache.
  • Can I import/export diagrams?
    No. Diagrams live only in the cloud. But you will be able to share and edit them collaboratively, once we release those features (2019). If you're looking for import/export parameters, that's also a feature in our backlog.
  • Can I use Math.js functions?
    Not that anyone actually asked this very specific question, but yes, you can use Math.js functions on Resource & State Connection Labels and Register Labels. The feature is still experimental and we don't have a syntax validator yet, but you should be able to build complex math rules and resource manipulations using the math.js functions, e.g. on a Register with input State Connections labelled "a" and "b", try out a register label like "mod(a,b)*compare(a,1)"
  • What about the old desktop version?
    Sorry, it's discontinued. We've included 99% of the features from the old version to the new .io and added a lot more. There are some differences between the two, check out the difflog in our docs, but there shouldn't be any reason for you to still use the deprecated builds. In case you need to open some old files or just feel nostalgic, here's the download links to the old Windows or macOS binaries and XML samples. Use it at your own risk, it comes with no guarantees, nor support.
  • Can I import XMLs from the old version?
    Sorry, you can't. We really wanted to make that possible, as it would be an awesome way for all our veteran users to kickstart their .io work, but unfortunately it was out of scope to make everything backwards compatible. An XML converter would've been an option, but that too would've required maintenance with every update, and that's at least once a week... We really hope that putting in the effort of redoing your diagrams on .io will be rewarded.