Meltdown – Gameplay from Varun Nair on Vimeo.

Crack – that snapping wood might just be something about to eat you!

There is likely some evolutionary need for human hearing to be good at localizing sound in space. Whatever the reason, human perception is exceptionally precise when it comes to working out the position from which a sound originates. Conventional stereo sound just doesn’t do much with it. Using binaural sound, by contrast, you can position sound more accurately.

And then you can play a game with your ears instead of just your eyes.

“Meltdown” applies that idea to gameplay, mixing together ambient sounds from the environment with cues that tell you where monsters lie. Invading “creeptures” from another dimension reveal themselves sonically, and it’s up to you to zap them. You wander around your environment, armed only with your trusty iPhone, listening for danger via headphones and stabbing invisible baddies with gestural kills. The game is the work of Abesh Thakur, Orfeas Boteas, Richard Robinson and Varun Nair at the University of Edinburgh.

For a similar idea, see also:
Music as Gameplay: Johann Sebastian Joust, Played With Only Sound and Gesture

This game is a bit lonelier than that one – it’s single-player horror to Johann Sebastian Joust’s merry collaboration. But it’s fun watching more people play with the idea. The tools:

For now, it’s clearly all a prototype – though as the creator notes, that’s a strength of Max. The next step would be making a native game. The creator is looking for feedback, though, so consider this a first draft and let us (and him) know what you think.

  • http://www.timrobertssound.com.au/ Tim Roberts

    The number of things for iOS but not Android , must just be starting to get to me lol.  I may need to ‘borrow’ a friend’s iThing to play it.  Glad that there are people experimenting with things like this.

    • http://twitter.com/ntkeep Varun Nair

      Ha! We were thinking of the same thing as we designed it as two of us are android-ers. Its easier with iOS simply because there are so many prototype tools available and the devices are standard – unlike Android where there is so much fragmentation. For an app/game/project like this which relies only on the sensors in the phone, it gets tough to make it compatible across a range of devices. It is possible (by setting up a calibration system and writing more tools), but requires more work and time, which might be worth it if it is released as a complete app on the market/app store.

  • Warrior Bob

    My college radio show once did a special about ‘videogames’ for the blind. At the time, the most interesting one we’d found was “In the Pit” by Studio Hunty (
    http://www.studiohunty.com/itp/ ), where you played a blind pit monster who had to find and eat people who fell in using the sound of their heartbeat, which would move around in stereo.  

    It was a simple one-off concept, not refined at all, but it showed that you could have a basic action game using only stereo audio. I had been hoping someone would run with this idea  someday, as I thought it was pretty cool :)

  • Veronica Pejril

    Orientate?

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.grahame James Grahame

       Yes, orientate in the UK. Orient is the usual term in the US. 

  • papernoise

    Sound like a great concept. Actually the fact that gaming has started to “invade” new territories is a sign that there is a lot of potential in games. More than we think maybe. I’d even stretch so far as to say that games have to potential to close a big gap between interaction, narrative, technology, art and music. Something that is already happening to a certain degree.

    I remember when I was studying in Berlin I was in this project about interactive narration, and we were working with a self-made tool that let you load video clips add keywords and add them to a database which you could then use to create interfaces for the clips. But in the end it all boiled down to delegating the editing to the user, letting them decide the sequence in which to see the clips.

    I found the project quite pointless at that time and thought: videogames are doing interactive narration already, and to a much higher level.

  • Pierlu

    not a new concept tho
    I cannot find a link on the internet, but there was a game by mattel inc that was based on the same plot. you had this violet device, which was long and slim, with a simple 4 digit display. the device would beep while you scanned the room, and the beep would increase in frequency when a “monser” was nearby. When the monster was locate the display would show the strenght of the monster so that you could mantain fire so that it would die. If you’d shoot too much, you would end with no energy left and the game would end.
    I had so much fun in my 10′s with that game, very imaginative.

  • Jim

    I found a great free music app from Zya that allows you to easily share and create professional quality music.