jtnimoy - Alchemy Hack

Alchemy Hack

"Forced collaboration" w. Andrey "Zed" Zaikin: Cheat sheet produced by reverse engineering an Android game found on Google Play. App is disassembled and analyzed into a visualization of all game possibilities.

Permission from game author not obtained.


This was a piece begun in 2011 and finished then published at Art Hack Day in San Francisco, GAFFTA on December 13-15, 2012. Alchemy was my favorite game on Android. It asks the user to combine basic elements to produce more complex ones, beginning with earth, wind, fire, and water. Eventually, you can produce celebrities, individuals, nations, and abstract concepts. I saw cheat sheets online, but noticed none of them were exhaustive, and were probably being collected from individual trial and error. Knowing there would probably be a small percentage of connections not yet discovered, I set out to decompile the app and see what people had missed. Note, this version of the alchemy game is several versions of the software into the past. It's not a visualization of the one you can get from the Google Play store. This project is also not an attempt to steal intellectual property from its rightful owner. If you enjoy this game as much as I do, I encourage you to purchase a copy, and play it normally ;)

For Art Hack Day, I produced a moving sculpture that highlights a node and moves the network around it to give the audience glimpses of a single idea, and its neighbors.

Initially, the android APK was decompiled with android-apktool, and the Java classes were disassembled into SMALI code. Here is a screenshot of my python script, using complicated regular expressions to fish the game content from the code.

Download the dot file to visualize the associations yourself, but I did auto-generate some graphs which I thought were fascinating.

Here is a close up of the above image.

Here is another visualization method of the same dot file.

SVG script of the above image

Here is the python script that picks out the game rules.

The final cheat sheet is many pages long, and shows the great sense of humor that the author has. I'm thinking that perhaps, he did not intend anyone besides himself to make such connections. I feel like I'm seeing some philosophical secrets not meant for my eyes.

Download the PDF of the cheat sheet.

Sometimes, this is how I like to play video games.