So, electronic musicians and dance music makers just push buttons, huh?

Actually… why not? There are certain parallels between the synchronized, quantized grids of computer music and video games. Rhythms, aesthetics, and even interface have evolved in tandem. Early games even hard-coded synthesizers and scores into the same circuitry that made the music, and each has made its impact on the other.

Game designers keep toying with this concept in game design. I gave a talk on interactive music in gaming last week at Berlin’s A MAZE Indie Connect. But here’s one person at that same festival who did one better. In a matter of hours, Simon Cubasch coded up an arcade game that synchronizes sound effects with a beat grid, making a shooter that’s also a kind of music interface. It’s reminiscent of titles like Jonathan Mak’s ground-breaking Everyday Shooter, which notably used guitar riffs instead of the ubiquitous dance music. But I think each experiment in pulling this off is a learning experience. Description below.

And I post it again partly as we’re working on more with music and gaming, using libpd, I’m coding up examples, and other workshops and game jams are possible. So – who’s interested? Who’s made stuff like this? What other games (ancient, recent, or upcoming) have you seen that play with music and gaming? I’d love to hear.

More on this jam — remember, be gentle, this is just hours of work which is the whole point:

Since the theme of Ludum Dare was minimalism and I wanted to experiment with sound I was looking into minimal techno and a shooter marriage where the gameplay was generating the music. Every object has a sound on a certain step of the 16 sequencer steps. Bullets, missile, enemies etc. There is no real gameplay yet and in order to make the game more interesting the gameplay also would have to be more tied to the music it generates. There could be a battle between the enemies music/sounds and the players own. Sequences of evade and catch could make the game more diverse. I also like the notion of powerups making the player sound different (instruments) just as now the players missiles and lasers (red and black) firing rythm make up the players beat/music. This was meant as a prototype to figure out if the sound resulting from the interactions could be interesting enough -as a basis to work more on gameplay and develop a game. I would also need a musician to produce good minimal techno samples. What do you think?

  • Ken Adams

    Super! Just a quick playability thing: just a little inertia for the player. I’ve coded things like this in the past , simple “Defender”-esque games. Defender actually had some nice sounds too… But I’ve always started with C/C++ and OpenGL without any audio help. Only recently did I start to add .wav files for player “shots” and collisions and stuff. Having libpd at your disposal really helps there huh? :)

  • Maxxx_Orbison

    Other musical games: Frequency (ps2), Vib-Ribbon (ps1), Rez (ps2), Child of Eden (ps3), Mad Maestro (ps2), and Audio Surf (PC).

  • Dave O Mahony

    Modular synths and video game worlds!

  • firepunch

    not to forget bit trip beat and bit trip runner. But all those games – and I really like them – do not generate music but let you experience it in an interactive manner. I think there is some potential for generative music in the gamespace, stuff that could actually be playable not just some sort of awe inspiring installation. The timing tightness is a problem in unity3d which could probably be fixed with some external package but it made the shooter audio lag when increasing object numbers.
    I would also be very interested in interactive visuals for electronic music. There are already lots of very cool visuals from artists/designers that are realtime and react on music but it would be great if there would be an option for the audience to participate. Or even better to engage with the musician on some level. Both being able to manipulate the visuals, to battle it out.

  • husk

    Hey, nice post

    at ArsGames we are working on this concept of audio based gameplay since a bit. Take a look to if you wish. Respect to old games I remember had very good time with Bit generations games line for GBA

  • Dave O Mahony