Created: December 1st, 2015
Our idea is to make a sound maze; the player with be presented with a grid (though in higher levels this will disappear) and they need to find the correct path in the grid. Stepping on a correct tile will produce a good sounding note, while stepping on an incorrect tile will produce a bad sounding note.
The user can complete the maze by stepping on bad tiles, as long as they step on all the good tiles on the way. This way people will want to go back and try to get them all right, playing the level multiple times to get the path perfectly.
We wanted to do multiple levels of increasing difficulty. The first two levels would introduce the player to the game by showing a small grid. In the first level, the path is clearly highlighted and in the second level the path isn't shown but once the player moves over a correct block the block is highlighted. The other levels would have increasing grid size to make the game harder for the player.
Average maze games have walls. At first we considered having walls, or places you couldn't move to, but we ended up wanting more of a challenge. In this way, we came up with the maze that you could move off the track of, but just for less points.
We also wanted to create a maze where it wasn't obvious what the path is initially so that the user would be forced to explore and to fail before completing.
Follow Your Harp
Janine Louie, Emilio Rodriguez, Sienna Stritter, Sophia Wilhelmi
This exhibition is based on the idea that childlike play often doesn’t come with instructions and even more often those instructions thrown aside. This work forces the perspective of a child who just wants to play and explore and doesn’t need to play by the rules. Using the arrow keys, anyone old or young will be forced into the heart of the game with only sound as a guide. There are hints along the way as well as aspects of the game that are not hinted to or revealed. This work also plays on the idea that for children all part of their day is play. The color scheme of our work implies morning, noon, evening and night to capture this idea. The work is minimalist in nature to make a lot of a little, like how children are able to use their imagination to create new worlds and stories from whatever is at their disposal.
Basically, our project is a sound maze. However, we break rules by not informing the player that they're in a maze, by not giving instructions even though its a game, and by not including walls in our game. Thus, the player is presented with a blank grid, and has to figure out the objective is to follow a path and to find the path to advance to the next level. Each tile produces a sound; the path tiles produce harp notes and non-path tiles produce organ notes. The player uses the sounds to determine where the path is so they can proceed to the next level. After the game is finished, the player unlocks a free-play level where they can compose their own pieces using the sounds from previous levels.
We used MuseScore to compose the different songs used in each level and to create the "bad notes" that were used to indicate whether you were on the path or not. We took the music from MuseScore and cut it in audacity to separate each note so that each tile would play a separate note to eventually create the composed piece of music. Additionally, we used Photoshop to extract the colors associated with sunrise, noon, sunset, and night from various images to create the color scheme for the levels. Finally, we used Eclipse as our integrated development environment to create a java application that creates a JFrame where we paint a grid that takes key presses and repaints itself every time a key is pressed.
Folder of All Music Scores (Finished Product and Previous Iterations):
Folder of Music Wav Files (Finished Product):
We made our project so that we could focus on sound. We wanted to slowly back away from the visual throughout the product We kept it minimalist from the start, and then make sound the main point of the project, until all you rely on is the sounds to progress. We decided not to give instructions so that the audience would be forced into the perspective of a child playing after tossing the instructions aside, as we often did as children.
We gave a tutorial without words, that gave hints as to the goal, but we also wanted a product that you could play with, with no concern for goals and objectives. The goals of the product therefore were to make a multifaceted game where the goals were based on the user's wishes. We included a game, with levels of increasing difficulty and a "you win!" screen. This is for the competitive and intuitive that want to figure it out. But we also made sure that not reaching the goals was also a fun adventure, for those who are or want to be creative.
The audience is able to make their own music just using arrow keys, and there is a secret free play level where the same instrument (but different notes/chords) is played on each tile. The catch is that you don't know about the free play level until you complete the levels. This way, it represents the limitations of not reading the directions. It also influences interaction between people, as someone who has beat it would be able to tell you about the free play level, which is secretly accessible throughout the game. This was inspired by Sophia's memories of asking her older brother how to play so she didn't have to read the instructions.
This game was set up on a monitor so that others could hear and watch alongside the person playing. We wanted to create an environment where people cheered on the person playing, or got to hear the person create their own song. Our motivation was to create an interesting game that drew people in, and made people want to come back and play it over and over.
21 Swings is a Canadian interactive installation that uses participant's movements on a swing set to generate music. We were inspired by this piece to create a project that integrates sound with another activity to create original music.
Poème Mécanique is a sound sculpture within a cultural hub in Montreal. It's intention was to "create a moment of intimacy and contemplation in a vibrant, noisy public space". The piece challenges its audience to block out all ambient noise in a noisy space and just focus on the quiet sounds in order to calm them. Emilio was inspired by this to incorporate sound into the final project, in a way that challenges its audience adjust their focus.
With our penultimate project, the performance piece, one of the constraints was being "unspoken with words". We thought about this in relation to the theme of playground, and thought that while children are presented with instructions with toys, they very rarely go through them and instead just make up their own rules. Thus, we decided to be intentionally vague on the directions and allow the player to decide how to interact with the piece themselves.
The Dixon reading, Performing Interactivity, ranked the levels of media interactivity: Navigation, Participation, Conversation, Collaboration. The group decided we wanted to make a project that was particularly interactive, where the audience was directly involved in the result of the project, something that was at least Conversation and ideally Collaboration.
NO_THING is media installation where the audience interacts 3-D, which affect a visual display. The audience is able to manipulate what the light displays by moving the object. Sophia was inspired by the piece to create a project that highly interactive on multiple levels, where the audience affects one element and that has a downstream effect on another element. For our final project, this ended up being moving the marker creating specific music notes.
The above photo is of NetHack, a downloadable html game where the map is completely blank until you walk through it, and that can cause you to run into things that attack you, and you need to find the path you will be taking. This was part of the inspiration for the "blind maze" where you couldn't see where you were going.
This gave us the main rule that we broke: create a maze without seeing it, only by hearing it.
The above photo is of Blendoku, an app that asks you to match colors to create a gradient, that will blend into neighboring gradients. This was part of our inspiration for the tiles as well as for the color schemes that we used.
Here's a link to our daily records: https://docs.google.com/a/andrew.cmu.edu/document/d/1gQRPwmHLbKrje8gBqC7HeWJLNR0bwZMmKjBCZdY_ZOo/edit?usp=sharing
As a group, we decided early on that we wanted to incorporate sounds into some type of game. We decided to make a maze. The player is presented with a grid. We made a lot of decisions along the way about the details of the game. Below is a picture of one of our earliest iterations. The green squares outline the "good" path and the red squares are "bad.” The user is supposed to use the arrow keys to trace the path.
We spent a long time discussing what should happen when you hit a bad note. Maybe if you hit move onto a bad square, you are immediately sent back to the starting square and forced to start over completely. Or maybe attempting to hit a bad square plays the bad sound but automatically bounces you back onto the square you just tried to leave, so you never truly leave the path. In this situation, the “walls” of the maze would be real barriers. We ultimately rejected both of these ideas because we wanted to allow the user to play around with the bad sounds. Even if a user is not following the path and playing the intended sound, they can make music by combining both good and bad notes in their own way. Although this makes it harder for the user to complete the objective of following the path and hitting all the good squares, it allows for much more creative freedom and interaction by the user!
When we made this decision, we also decided to make the “bad” notes clearly differentiable from the “good” notes but not necessarily horrible sounding so that a sequence of both good and bad squares would still sound reasonably pleasant to the ear. So, while we started with accordions and pianos as the instruments for the bad notes, they were very abrasive and we felt that they hindered our idea of being able to go anywhere without the sound being too discordant. So the bad notes were re-composed using the organ.
Once we had the basic rules of the game down, we came up with a progression of levels. We wanted our final product to be pretty minimalist, without explicit instructions. We came up with two tutorials that slowly introduce the idea of a maze that must be navigated with sound feedback. Then we wanted to have three levels of increasing difficulty, plus a super challenging bonus level. After all of this was implemented, we also decided to add a free play mode, where there is a grid with not specified path where the user can just move around to play random notes and compose a piece that way.
Next we had to design each level, which involved making a decision about the intended path and the number of good notes. Once Emilio drafted a path, Sophia would create a clip of music with the correct number of good notes. Then Janine would cut it into individual sound files for each note. Then these could be incorporated into the code so that the appropriate sound played for each square.
Then we discussed the aesthetics of the game. We wanted it to be really pretty, and we took inspiration for the rounded boxes and the color schemes from existing games and images online, like the ones shown below.
Here are thumbnail images of each level in our final product:
All of the members started off by developing ideas and presenting them to the team. We all went through each idea and revised it, thinking about how it could be made into a final project. We all agreed on the sound maze idea, and from that point we dived into designing and creating the final product.
Emilio designed all the maze's grids, decided the colors to use, and helped with level design. Sophia picked the instruments to use, composed all the pieces used for the paths in every level, and designed the bad notes used in the levels. These were also used to make the free play level. Janine cut the music in audacity and helped implement, design, and debug the code. Sienna created the prototype, coded all the grids, mechanics, and sounds as well as polished the visuals and the final project.
The collaboration worked really well with each person contributing ideas and helping to polish and create the game. Most of the major decisions were made through compromise and discussion between every member of the group.
Emilio is very satisfied with the finished project. He likes the minimalist look of the mazes and how it's not distracting to the overall point of the piece. The lack of any real instructions allows for the player to interact with piece however they like; the nonpath tiles being organ noises instead of an intentionally unpleasant noise encourages play as opposed to herding the player to the next level. He learned the benefits of minimizing design. If done again, he would like to add alternative levels that incorporate different styles of music.
I think this project turned out extremely well. Besides an unavoidable screen flicker from the software, there were no bugs in the execution of the product. I think that the minimalist design makes for a very simplistic and widely liked design, and that the color combinations used are well-thought out and aesthetically pleasing. I'm satisfied with how the maze sounds as well. I think it's clear telling between the path notes and non-path notes, without necessarily knowing which one is "good" and which is "bad". One of the players liked the "bad"/non-path notes more, which I appreciated. I think the songs reflect the time of day for levels 3-6, though it is very subtle, and is probably not recognizable to the audience. I think the drawback is that the audience must be patient, both while figuring out the maze game aspect, and while waiting to use it. It did take some time to get through it all, but I think the non-participating audience still enjoyed watching the gameplay. I learned a lot about what it means to make multiple iterations, and how to better refine songs. With such specific direction for each level, I was able to create multiple things, knowing when I was closer in the direction I was heading in each piece. Something I would do differently, would to make it more interactive, by adding a Dance Dance Revolution mat that the participator had to step on to move. Additionally, I would encourage the use of rhythm in one way or another, by showing the tempo of the song. One suggestion from a participator during the gallery was that we should play back the rhythm or the song that the user created, instead of the less rhythmic path song.
Sienna: I'm really pleased with how the project turned out. I think it's very pretty and our final product was really well received during the presentation. Our viewers were engaged and seemed to have fun. Although the code works, it's really ugly. A lot of it consists of hardcoded values and it would be a little tedious to abstract or generalize for more levels. Also, I wish I had the chance to make it a little more robust. The using key presses to switch between pages is a little clunky and I feel like I could have done a better job making seamless transitions using buttons or something.
Janine: I liked how the piece turned out. I think it was very polished and really liked how it looked. Besides the slight flashing due to the grid being re-painted, my only issue with it is that I didn't take into account it being in a gallery setting. Since only one person could play at a time and since the game takes a while to finish, there was a line and I think some people felt pressured to end early rather than try to reach the end of the game. I think watching people interact with it was really fun to see people figure out it was a maze and how to play and the few people who aimed to get three stars rather than finish the game. If I were to continue this project as a gallery project I would like to condense the game to the first two tutorials level to be sunrise and day themed then have the sunset level and then the night level. If I were to continue the project as a game, I'd like to add a lot more levels and to make it into a mobile app. I think the design is really good and I really enjoyed how the project came out and that people enjoyed the game.
Reference any sources or materials used in the documentation or composition.
Context sources and Images:
We took color values from the following images:
Definitely intrigued by the sound maze idea! And of course, Undertale vid. I now have half an hour to look forward to.
I think the success of the idea would depend a lot on the underlying logic for hitting a good note versus a bad mode. And after that, the fun in the idea would come from balancing the challenge of the game. I wonder if you might consider timing-based logic for the game. Somehow the game reminds of Crypt of the NecroDancer, which although I've never played, looks incredibly fun to. Maybe there could be a challenge mode or something. I think adding music to the mechanics could really.. /jazz/ it up.