a video game by Jason Rohrer

Transcend can best be described as retro-style, abstract, 2D shooter. The graphics are geometrical, and the pace is sometimes frenzied.

Two features set Transcend apart from other games. First, its dynamic graphical engine, which can smoothly morph from one complex shape to another, produces striking displays. Combining these dynamic shapes with subtle randomizations makes each play through a Transcend level visually different from the last. The second novel feature is Transcend's musical power-up system. As you play through a level, you are simultaneously assembling an abstract visual collage and arranging a unique piece of music. Transcend merges video games with pure art---it can be viewed either as a game or as a multimedia sculpture.

Though I first read it after developing Transcend, the Scratchware Manifesto captures the spirit that motivated me to develop a game.


  • Stereo headphones or speakers
  • OpenGL
  • Keyboard
  • 3D card that can render OpenGL
  • 400 MHz or faster processor
Development and testing took place on a 250 MHz PPC computer without a 3D accelerator card (in other words, using software OpenGL rendering). Transcend is actually playable on a meager system like this, though it runs a lot smoother on a faster computer with a 3D card.

The Transcend window defaults to being rather small at startup (300x300) to accommodate slower systems. Please resize the window before playing according to your monitor size and system speed (if you have a reasonable 3D card, window size will not affect frame rate, so bigger windows are generally better).

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Version 0.3 released on August 30, 2005. This version includes three levels. (change log)

Clicking a download link below will lead you a list of download mirrors---pick the server that is closest to your geographical location.

MacOS X -- (tested on 10.2).

Windows 95/98/2000/XP -- Includes the GLUT library.

Unix Source Code -- Compile yourself. Requires the GLUT development library [GLUT source] [GLUT RPMs].

Transcend is free software (released under the GNU GPL)


Keep in mind that Transcend's dynamic, morphing graphics cannot be captured in still pictures.

Destroying a minor anti-glyph near the collage (level1).

Shooting a stream of projectiles past the major anti-glyph.

Damaging the major anti-glyph.

Destroying the major anti-glyph.

Destroying a minor anti-glyph near the collage (level2).

Attacking the major anti-glyph with a stream of projectiles.


Development is managed through the SourceForge Project Page. On that page, you can submit bug reports and feature requests. You can also browse the source code in CVS or checkout the latest source to compile a bleeding-edge version for yourself.

I have posted some rough instructions about how to edit Transcend levels. More information about this topic will be added in the future.
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