The Old City game studio Cipher Prime debuted in 2009 with a gorgeously minimalist light-and-sound-show puzzle game called Auditorium, which has players catch flowing streams of music in digital buckets. Co-founder and electronic musician Dain Saint will speak at the Philadelphia Science Festival’s “Gaming as Therapy” on April 19.
Rather than “a computer game company,” you call Cipher Prime “a purveyor of unusual digital experiences.”
Cipher Prime’s only reason to exist is so we can make cool things. Games are definitely our forte, but even when making them our approach is one of: “Well, what’s going to make this experience as unique and interesting as possible?” Our big directive is to never insult the player, so we always try and create something that doesn’t need instructions or tutorials, and this alone leads us down paths we wouldn’t take otherwise.
You identify yourself in your professional bio as a “Standard Human.” Why?
Lots of people tie their identity to their job, or family, or hobby—I just identify very strongly with being a human being, and all that goes with it. We’re all capable of both incredible feats and spectacular laziness; it all depends on the motivation.
You make electronic music that is awesome. Is there any geek-oriented music out there that’s been particularly meaningful to your life?
I think, without a doubt, Rush remains the prototypical “geek band,” inasmuch as they write about whatever the hell they happen to be passionate about regardless of whether it’s “cool.” Their song “Virtuality” is about the Internet in the lamest way possible, but damned if it isn’t a fun track! As far as influences, though, I just draw from whatever has a sound I want. I’m on a big Hybrid kick right now, but for a while I was listening to tons of Fanfare Ciocarlia.
What are you up to next?
Coming up immediately is our benefit event for autism on April 19th—by sheer chance, we found our games were responding well in that community and wanted to investigate the link further. As for the studio, we’ve ramped up production on Auditorium Duet, the bigger, better sequel to the game that launched our company.
Three citywide brainy festivals. One skyscraper-sized game of Pong. Infinite future possibilities. And a 70-year flashback to sci-fi history.
PW's Summer Guide 2014