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aramstudios

A Musical Adventure

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Hey everybody! This could probably be considered as my first serious post on these forums. Or atleast I think so. Anyway, that's beside the point. I'm here to share a new idea I had (although nothing in itself is trully new, but, once again, I'm rambling). This idea has to do with music in an Action/Adventure title I'm currently in the design phases of. Now, you're probably saying to yourself, "this guy's posting in the wrong forum," but I'm pretty sure I'm in the right place. This has to do with making music in a game. Not totally sure what I'm talking about? Here. Let me explain. I was sitting around one day, thinking about my simple game design, when I came upon a little idea. I've had the idea of making a game about a travelling musician in the Medieval time frame for quite some time and I started jotting down some ideas for it, almost discarding the game I had already started. I wanted to make a game where you could travel across a large area of land, visit villages, towns, and cities, and make music along the way. After I had written several ideas down, I thought, why couldn't I add this to my current game? It was slightly medieval. It had a few twists, but the idea could fit into the setting. I was set!... or was I? I had an idea. But it was vague and there was no actual reason to my rhyme. What would the gameplay be like? I had to think. Over the course of two days, I jotted down all the ideas I could as they came to me. Below are some of the ideas I had, placed in the best order I can manage. Controls: The top 3 rows of keys on the keyboard would be the notes A-G. The top row (Q-Y) being the lowest pitch of notes, the second (A-H) would be the middle pitch, and the 3rd (Z-N), the highest. If the SHIFT key was held down when the note was played, it became sharp. If CTRL was held, it would be a flat. If the player wished to have the tempo at 4/4 time, he could hit the 4 key when in play mode. If he wished to play in half-time, or "cut-time", he could hit the 2 key. If he was tired of those two, he could jump into 3/4 by pushing down the 3. So the player's able to make music... Woohoo... How is he going to use this to his advantage? Where's it gonna get him to? Answer: Well, there are a few... 1) In his quest, that player may spend quite a bit of money. How's he going to get some more to keep himself going, or to buy that little trinket he saw in the market? Simple. He can either do a task for someone, or sit on the corner of a street or in the town square and play his heart out. Passing patrons will toss him some spare change, or, if it's good enough, may even give him some real cash. He can use this extra moola to buy certain new instruments (there will most likely be an assortment. There may even be more instruments than there are weapons in the game) or accesories for them (reeds, strings, etc.) or anything else his heart may desire (like that little trinket). 2) Let's say the player needs to get to a certain person. He needs to talk to them or get get into a palace of some sort. The guards are bigger than Mr. T. himself and would never let him in on any bribe he could ever think up. While walking around, trying to find a way in, he stumbles upon a maid or other servant. They give him the hint that the king of the palace, or whomever the player is trying to reach, loves music! There's also a certain instrument that he loves to hear above all others. The mandolin, maybe? He also stands out on his balcony, to watch the sun set every night. The player must then wait 'til just before the sun is about to set and he can start playing a song on the mandolin. Doesn't have to be anything too superb. The king hears it, and invites the player in so he can hear him some more. Once inside, the player can get to the treasure or talk to the king about whatever it is he needed. "You're talking to us about playing music. Most people won't have any know-how on the subject. What are you going to do now?" If someone can't come up with anything that they think is good, there are always other musicians in the game (they're abundant in the cities!) that could teach you one of their songs, and most of them will have several. These can then be cued and the player's character will begin to play. Now, let's say we have a musical prodigy, or even someone that's slightly good, what if they don't want to have to play their song from memory everything the chance comes? They can save there compositions in the same way they would save an NPC musician's song. But they don't have to cue a song if they don't want to. They can free play at any time. But watch out! In big cities, if you play at too late of an hour, the authorities will come after you! "Most people are going to learn a song from a random musician and just play in over and over again in the streets to gain an unlimited amount of money. How do you plan on stopping that?" There will be a set number of times a song can be played. A song may not make much money on it's first time out in the public, but it may hit a nice peak the next time, or even the next, but everything that goes up must come down, and after a while, you'll start getting payed less and less for a song. Playing a song on different instruments can help keep the popularity up too. Also, the bigger the settlement, the longer the song will stay high in the crowd's ears. "Okay, but maybe they'll just change the tempo, or alter the notes just a tiny bit." The citizens of a village, town, or city will be able to tell if a player is pulling such a scam. The profit may even decrease at a faster pace at that point. Well, that's all I've got for right now. If I come up with more, I'll post it. Remember, this is only a small piece of the game, or it's atleast it's not the main point of the game. If anyone has any crits or ideas, post away! Thanks!

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Hmm...it could work. The biggest concern I have is that computer keyboards really aren't designed to play music (and I think even then you probably want the top row (Q-P) to be the high notes, not the bottom row). If you can find a way to keep the controls from interfering, then you'll have a much better chance of making the game fun.

As for artificial limits, I think it'd be best to just make it so you can only perform on the street once per fairly long unit time, then just up the rewards for doing so. Making it so you have to play many times to get all the money you can makes the game irritating, because then people will feel that they have to play as many times as they can, even if the rate at which money is demanded in the game is low. People are strange that way.

Finally, I'm a bit concerned about your ability to write a computer program that can recognize good music (or simple variations on existing music). It's not an easy task at all. You may also run into problems with people who have different ideas of what "good" music is (e.g. classical vs. jazz vs. traditional Chinese...); you'd either have to lock people to one style or add support for recognizing many styles, some of which wouldn't necessarily strike you as very aesthetically pleasing, but which the player of the game really likes.

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Well, the idea of having the top row being the highest pitch of notes was my original idea, but then I thought through it and saw that the keys go backwards (H being higher on the scale than A and such), so I made it the way I posted. It may not work well. Not entirely sure.

On your idea of putting in a limit of how many times you can play, I like it, but I think it could be that it's quite a rarity that people would give money, and they would only give money at certain times during the day if they do. There are also other ways to make money so the player isn't put into a position of being forced to play.

On your last comment, I had been pondering that one, and I see what you're talking about. It would be hard, if not impossible. Maybe the idea of having the population have taste could be dropped and the idea of playing music could still be used due to the rarity of people giving money. If that's the case, there may not even need to be an ability to save custom-made songs. They could just be free-play.

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Loom, designed by Brian Moriarty, released by 1990 through LucasArts.

http://www.quandaryland.com/jsp/dispArticle.jsp?index=43
http://lucasarts.vintagegaming.org/index.php?do=game&gameid=5
http://www.gamespot.com/gamespot/features/pc/unsung_heroes/sec2_03.html

Also _Game Design Theory and Practice_ by Richard Rouse III.

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Quote:
Original post by Derakon
Finally, I'm a bit concerned about your ability to write a computer program that can recognize good music (or simple variations on existing music). It's not an easy task at all. You may also run into problems with people who have different ideas of what "good" music is (e.g. classical vs. jazz vs. traditional Chinese...); you'd either have to lock people to one style or add support for recognizing many styles, some of which wouldn't necessarily strike you as very aesthetically pleasing, but which the player of the game really likes.

Why not make it a MUD? People can stream the music to each other.

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This is a really interesting design! I came up with a couple of ideas, not sure if they conflict too much with your vision of how this should work. Also, I'm not too much into music theory and terminology so bear with me.
I think there should be some visual indication of how much the audience is enjoying the music, to give the player cues for how to maximize the money/other benefit he/she is hoping to gain. It would be fun if the game showed people dancing. It could start with say two couple dancing, the more they like the music the faster they dance, when they reach a certain limit one more couple join and they slow down to the tempo they started at. Only each couple dance a bit differently, so you have to adjust your playing to avoid people stepping on each others toes. Maybe one couple is starting to collide with another, play a bridge, okay they slow down, but now the third couple is going too slow, try raising the tune a fifth, no they're going even slower, then we go down a fifth and change the tempo a bit, yes that did it but now a fourth couple has joined the dance and so on. Each audience is a bit different, allow anacronisms so in one street polkas or jigs are popular, the next they like jitterbug or breakdancing.
Displaying 3d-graphics of people dancing might be difficult to implement, but the display could be more abstract. Maybe theres just a static sprite for each couple, with numbers for how fast they dance etc.
About the interface, I think pressing shift or ctrl for sharps or flats is too awkward, and a lot of people (including me) has a lot of trouble figuring out where to use sharps and flats. I think it would be better if the function keys selected a scale, and then sharps/flats would be applied automatically. TAB and CAPSLOCK changes the scale a fifth up or down.
Keeping the right beat is difficult for us amateurs, and nothing sounds as sorry as music with a weak rythmn, so it would be good if the game took your notes and played them to the beat...

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Interesting, but it seems a bit to complex in how you are describeing its implamentation...

If its perfectly acceptable for a single mouse click to trigger the complex actions required for attacking with a sword, casting a magic spell, useing lockpicks to open a door, etc...then why overcomplicate one (not even required) area of the game inorder to convay some rather arbitrary sense of realisam...speaking of course about the manner in which you describe the music is to be played.

I suggest you do a google for interactive music, then come up with a simple yet abstract way for the players to play music in game...yeah the music players end up playeing will be mostly pregenerated, but it will flow and harmonize with the game better...besides people wishing to practice certain specific martial art moves are likely out of luck with your combat system, so there is no reason to force players to bend to established music production methods inorder to facilitate thier musical tastes and wishes in that area of the game...the remember the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principal, it works.

Additionaly, and this is more of a general observation...there is the potential for a truely great game set during the birth of rock-n-roll...a largely untapped timeframe of history and social change...drag raceing hot rods, 57' Chevys and 64' Mustangs, malt shops, early rock-n-roll, James Dean, sock hopps, the civil rights movement, underground rock-n-roll radio stations, the wild bunch, Cuban Missle Crisis, teen danceing taboos, drive in movie theaters....just tons of untapped story and gameplay potential if treated right could make for one cool gem of a game, maybe even tap into that large casual gamer market as well :)

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I see what you're saying about the complexity issue, MSW. I also see what Deformed Rabbit is talking about. The problem is, I just can't seem to come up with anything... I'm sure a bit more brainstorming would help. I'll be thinking.

On another note: MSW, I love that idea of the "birth or rock n' roll" kinda period of history. Maybe you could be a highschool student in a small town, looking to become a rock n' roll musician. It could have a GTA-type interface. Hm... I love this idea! Do you think you'll develop it any?

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It might help to think not in terms of music creation, but rather the effect you want the music to have on the crowd...

Just brainstorming here...lets take the paper-rock-sissors approch...you have three buttons...one is "musical attention", another "musical excitement", and the third is "musical technique"...each focuses on a particular musical movement, in terms of interactive music production...

now lets say the player is set up on a street corner...he chooses a song (each of which may have modifyers upon the crowds reaction)...then presses one of the three buttons to begin...at that point in time the passers by enguage in a behind the sceens game of rock-paper-sissors with the player...if the player wins/ties, the NPC stops to listen, giveing visual clues as to thier likely next R-P-S choice (if the NPC wins they just wonder off) the more wins...the more money the NPC contributes...catch is that players increase thier odds by hitting the buttons in general time to the music...in effect this is nothing mre then an rather abstracted crowd control...even allows for some puzzle elements and other bonuses (certain songs played before certain crowds + certain combinations of player choices result in specific bonuses, etc..)

But thats just my initial thoughts :P

I have long thought about such a "birth of rock" game...but haven't even tried developing it any farther then the general concept phase...a GTA styled game (minus much of the violence) with the appropriate nod to rock myths and legends...as well as a sort of Pied Piper approch to the storyline would work very well IMHO :D

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This could work! Hm... What would all three of those buttons stand for according to your idea? I know that you have "Musical Attention", "Musical Excitement", and "Musical Technique", but what do you mean by those? Or are they just "working titles"?

I was also thinking about playing certain styles or instruments in front of different crowds influencing them differently.

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just working titles...the core idea is just a variation on paper-rock-sissors....so:

paper is bendable, foldable, etc...maybe represent it by music fluidity, how melodies bend into one another.

Rock is hard, powerfull, unbending, etc...maybe represent it as music bombastic notes.

sissors are machines, engineered, precision...represented by musical technique, difficulty in playing certain measures, etc...

get a hold of one of those music construction programs...something like ACID, or one of the other sample basied thingies...with them you can play out the concepts, hear what they could sound like in game...you would only need about five music samples per song...a backbeat type of thing inorder to keep time with...three samples showcaseing the above musical attributes that are controlled by the player...and one or more layers of melodies mixed in while the song plays (which can additionaly give the player clues to how they are doing)

as for the effects of different instrements...I think that would overcomplicate things...better stick to different songs, that like spells produce different effects in different NPCs....For example, the theme song for one nation playied before the audience of another isn't good...while played before members of the same nation can generate perks beyond just the money donated to the player.

Remember keep it simple and abstract...you arn't asking the players to actualy swing swords, suit themselves up in armor and such...you are giveing them an abstract yet simple way to do those things...music in this context should be no different.

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I really like how this is developing. Maybe there could be 3 different versions to each song. One that is very fluid and moving (paper), one that is very bombastic, kinda poppy (rock), and one with a bunch of fillers and extra notes inside the chords or something of the like (scissors).

As to how the player sees that they are doing well, those who enjoy it may come and just watch, or maybe dance along as Deformed Rabbit first suggested.

The idea of using different instruments could actually over-complicate things as you said MSW, but I'd like to actually have a reason for having different kinds of instruments. Maybe certain songs could only be played by using a certain instrument? Most would be open to all instruments, but some may be instrument specific.

[Edited by - aramstudios on December 5, 2004 9:58:44 PM]

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Go make this game and submit it to the Independent Games Festival (www.igf.com). They have a nice $1000 prize in innovative use of audio. The due date is September 1st if you decide to attempt it. Either way, good luck.

[Edited by - vnillabrent on December 5, 2004 10:04:23 PM]

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I think different instruments could be fun! Say, you start with a Plain Drum and Ordinary Fiddle, then later you get a "Drum of Righteous Grooviness +3" and a "Stoneoak Fiddle strung with Dragongut +5". They would enable more advanced musical "moves" like nonstandard tempo or chords, thus your playing appeals to more discrimainating audiences (and would sound better or at least differently to the gameplayer).

This would tap into the Hero-dressing appeal of Diablo and the likes. This also makes the learning curve less steep; in the beginning of the game, when the player has the vanilla instruments there's not so many factors to consider when playing a tune.

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Really, what I was thinking about doing with the different instruments was just having different instruments. You could have a Mandolin (sp?), Flute, Harmonica, Guitar, Trombone, Violin, Accordian (another question of spelling), etc... not really affecting the ability to play a certain way or anything, just the sound and whether or not a certain song can be played. Also, I might attempt to come up with some strange instruments that aren't real. Not sure.

I'm also thinking about having the ability to play the instrument in a free-play mode... Not exactly any actual reason to the method of play, just that certain letters can play certain notes. This method won't be able to get the player any money anymore, it'll just allow them to have a little extra thing to try.

And on the subject of how certain song get a different reaction from certain crowds... There could be anthems for different nations or cities, etc. as MSW insinuated and if you play the WRONG song in front of a crowd (i.e.: play an enemy anthem), it could enrage members of the crowd and they may even attack you.

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I really think haveing music instruments, let alone the likes of the "Drum of Righteous Grooviness +3" and a "Stoneoak Fiddle strung with Dragongut +5" would choke the life right out of the idea...

Seriously, for the time being ignore how music is made...and simply concentrate on what effect you want it to have in the game world...

I think you will find music would relate more with magic then the physical reality of edged weapons...by playing music before a crowd you arn't physicaly forceing them to fork over thier money...no, you are enchanting them to do so.

As such the songs themselves could be considered magic spells...no, they might not shoot fire balls, and whatnot...but the proper love song could help sway the prince and princess of waring nations to marrage...the right anthem could help build morale in battle weary troops...music sooths the savage beast.

The added detail of manageing instruments atop this just mucks up the core idea...it overcomplicates it, purposely adding a uneeded layer of micromanagement to what should be simple and ellegant...With instruments you not only worry players about thier song choices...and how well they can play it...but also if they have the right instruments to get the desired effect...Thats too many variables that need to be in agreement inorder to achieve the desired effect...kinda like saying that inorder to defeat monster X players must choose the correct weapon, have the abilities to use the weapon, and make the correct choices in how they secure thier footwear...tie your shoes wrong, and the damage you inflict is minimal, no matter how correct your choice of weapon and abilities to use it.

But thats the way I see it...

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I see what you're saying, but at the same time I have a different idea. I don't have the idea (I might have had the idea earlier, but not now) that a different instrument affects the crowd differently and affects how well you play. My idea is to just have different instruments in order to jazz it up a bit. If a song cannot be played except by a single instrument, or by a certain group of instruments, then the player will know. It would be just as simple as getting ready to play any other song with any other instrument. It would be a huge rarity that a song would be exclusive to any instruments anyway.

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I didn't read the whole thread, so I'm sorry if I'm saying what someone else already has, but I do believe it would be possible to make a system that could recognise good music within an error theshold.

Music generally has to be in time, which is fairly easy to gauge, and quite a lot of music has specific 'rules' governing how notes play into each-other. Changing from major to minor chords at certain times but not too often, that sort of thing. Reading a lot of books on music theory should give you a baseline idea of what kind of things are expected from specific types of music, and you could have variables dictating what style of music a towns inhabitants like (Could also be found out without trial-and-error by talking to the citizens).

The other option, while far more complex and time consuming, would be to write a neural net and run several good songs and several intentionally crap tracks (Off beat, out of tune or just random sounds) then create a fitness function to identify the good tracks from the bad and go through the whole breeding process with the best brains amongst the bunch. However, this seems dreadfully over-complex for a game.

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Thanks for the comment Playful Puppy, but it seems as if the idea of recognizing good or bad music has lost it's life. We've decided to go down a road that will offer the player a more simple way to play the music. All of the music that the player will play will be pre-written, but there will be three options as to how they can play each song. Their choice is what affects the crowd to give money or not. It'll be like a rock-paper-scissors game.

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I have an idea on how to make playing (the music) easier for people who aren't really very musical without skipping the playing part altogether:

When you learn a song from someone, or make one yourself, you could have the option to play it with "music sheets". Then the buttons you have to press would be displayed on screen as you play, helping you with finding the right notes and timing. (Think dance-mat games but with letters running across the screen).

Also I think you should consider using the right side of the keyboard instead of the left (ie. F-L instead of A-H). This would be a slight change but would make playing a bit easier for right-handed players (the majority).

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Yeah, it would probably be easier to find the numpad keys. Although not all computers have numpads (laptops...). Plus playing with the keys more in line might feel more like playing music, kinda like playing the piano, with the numpad it could turn into just playing a dance-mat game with a computer keyboard. So, both have their advantages and disadvantages, it's just a matter of do you want it to be more like playing music or easier to learn.

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