I have recently gotten into doing music for video games. I was tossing around ideas earlier for a game (maybe a platformer or side scroller) that is based heavily on music and art as a story telling piece.
The idea is a character who finds themselves in a cavern of crystals. The crystals resonate to a specific frequency producing notes and aurora-like colors. These are calming and melodic. The character will soon discovers all forms of life, including a humanoid form, bugs, and large creatures. All of these creatures contain some crystalline element (for example, the bugs' wings may be coated in it) and it's discovered that they react to the vibrations in the cave. As the cave vibrates harmoniously, so does their society and way of life. If things don't work, and dissonance (a clashing of two notes is created) it throws them off and can lead to instability, anger, and violence. Think something similar to a rash of hormones.
Naturally, the problem comes when something is off. I am thinking each level will be about a key signature. For non musicians, a key signature is a guideline as to the center of a piece of music. It dictates what notes, chords, and scales are used. We will start the first level, C, which has no sharps or flats in the key signature and is the introduction level. As the problem is exposed (dissonance in the world), the character will have two options: sharps or flats. They will follow a progression of keys so that one sharp or flat is added for every level. For example, if I took the sharp path, I would enter the key of G, which has one sharp. The dissonance happens when the sharp is not applied to the G, so the G and G# are clashing against each other. Some object must be achieved (perhaps simply traversing the angry enemies) to fix the crystals (maybe at an alter) to raise this G to the G# and create consonance.
As the levels increase, each one will add a sharp or a flat. Level 2 in the sharp path would be D, which has two sharps. In this case, the sharp is missing in the F# and C# of the key signature, so these crystals must also be fixed. However, because there are two cases of dissonance, the world is more hectic. Colors flash at weirder intervals and with angrier colors such as red instead of blue. Enemies become more agitated, so they are more powerful and more likely to attack.
The emphasis would be on the art of the crystals and the music achieved. I am thinking a song would be written for each level, played the right way and the wrong way on top of each other so the dissonance can be heard by the player. As each crystal is righted, so is that note in the melody, so that it slowly falls into place in the player's ear.
Other challenges, of course, may be added. For instance, say you get to a level with 5 sharps and 5 crystals must be fixed. A new enemy is introduced which thrives off of dissonance and will attempt to increase it. After you fix 3 crystals, these enemies will impede your path and can even potentially return a crystal to its dissonant state, giving multiple things to juggle. The music and scenery would react accordingly, becoming more frantic as the enemies achieve their dissonance.
I know that was a bit long winded, and obviously, a lot of thought will have to go into explaining all of these musical terms in a way that a non-musician would come to understand them. Introducing the concept of sharps and flats one note at a time will help this, I believe. As they react to dissonance and consonance, NPC's within the game can introduce these as concepts of "magic" or "power" that actually exist.
I'm working on a project now and will be for a while. I only do music and writing, so I haven't the faintest idea how to pull together a project like this. However, I figured while I had it, I'd throw it out to gamedev to see what anybody had to say.
Also, I wasn't sure if this should go under "Game Design" or "Writing for Games" but figured it could benefit from either.
I. ( C )
I awoke suddenly in the cavern, uncertain of where I was or what circumstance would bring me to this place. The ground pressed tightly to my skin, hard and smooth, so that my body protested movement after the indeterminable length of my curious slumber.
I sat up slowly now to get a look at my surroundings. I felt a sudden spark of exhilaration that should have turned to fear, but would not allow itself. I should have been terrified, alone in this strange place with no sense of area or direction, but no fear could find its way into my consciousness. The source of this strange calm, I imagine, was the faint melody of which I was now acutely aware. This music seemed to come from no single origin, but resonated tirelessly throughout the length of the cavern.
The entirety of my enclosure, I observed, was made entirely of some sort of crystal, save for the rocky floor. This crystal was illuminated with a soft purple glow that seemed to come from nowhere, but exist in any direction it pleased instantaneously. It danced and flickered with the rise and fall of the melody playing through the air.
Subtly, almost imperceptibly at first, the melody grew louder, and more numerous in tone until the first chord was struck, igniting a purple flash in the crystalline walls. The notes rang out, louder still, each time growing more complex, until full chords of every octave (and, I fancy, those imperceptible to me) were playing through the cave, rich and sonorous. The lights in the walls of the caves flashed and shifted, dancing their delicate dance, writhing to the beat of this ethereal song.
I watched this strange procession as it carried on for what I judged to be roughly half an hour, until the final chords rang out in a frenzied crescendo, igniting the walls with an almost blinding light. Then, as the sweet fundamental note held its song, the rest faded into obscurity. Through the course of this, I had felt myself hypnotized, and now I felt as though awakening from a trance, although feeling refreshed of mind and soul.
Picking myself off the ground, I realized that I was not entirely satisfied. Although feeling quicker and stronger, I burned with an extreme thirst. Without any conscious thought, I felt guided to follow the twisting hallway that seemed to be the only exit from this apartment. After a short walk, I found myself in a much larger room, where I could see the reflections of water swirling across the ceiling. I drank enough to satisfy my first, and found a softer plot of land that afforded me a more comfortable place to sleep. That room is also the first place I saw signs of life.