My interactive project is to play with time by creating some “ends” in an endless game in order to make time feel shorter than actual. I explored the characteristics of music and apply them in the endless game to create some “ends”.
I am indeed not a good game player, especially in complicated games like Dota or LOL, etc. Therefore games that have simple rules like endless running games, like Temple Run, are always my favorite. When I played Temple Run, it is true that the game is easy to master and also nervous. Within the first 5-10 minutes, it is an interesting game. However, after playing about 15-20 minutes, even if I have died at some point and restarted, the game became gradually more boring, because I have experience all the scenes for several times, and there’s not much to expect. The only thing that keeps me playing, is to break the record. But during the playing time, time seems to be longer than actual.
I did a small survey among my family and friends who all have experience in endless games. The majority of them also told me that they quit an endless game mainly because the record is so high that they can expect a long boring journey before breaking the score. Therefore, I am really interested in how I can make the process of playing an endless game more interesting so that time feels shorter.
My inspiration is a gradual process. I start from how I can make time feel shorter. We know that when we have a long way to go, milestones makes things better. In an endless game, theoretically, the game never ends. So I am curious what if I add some “ends”, setting up some “milestones” in an endless game to make the game more dynamic, and to make time feel shorter.
Then I looked for possible solutions to this question. I realized that I have also played a game called rhythm master, in which the player taps on the color zone according to the music rhythm, which is shown below. Because there are numerous music in the world, the game is always different. So if I also introduce such a big music library into an endless game, the time could be separated according to music length, in other words, set up the “milestones”.
Since there are more features of music than its length, I also dig into the music to see if other music features can also be used in my project.
Research on works:
After getting a first sense of what I can do, I began to find what other endless games aside from Temple Run vary from each other. The first game I dug into was Subway Surfer.
In order to add more iterations in the game, Subway Surfer introduced different scenes and different running tracks (i.e. flying on the sky, jumping on the train, and normal road). This potentially increased the degree of variation, but the game still lack of new stuff after a longer time.
Similar problem existed in Temple Run 2, which introduced river, tunnel and small train. The game has nothing new after the first, say, 10 minutes.
I also looked for other games that uses music, such as Boost 2, which is a endless game that emphasized on visual. This game has more variation than the past two, partly because it was much harder, and also because the it gives more visual iteration. There is a background music that makes the game feel nervous, but the music itself is also kind of endless. So I wondered if adding different music one after another would improve it since I reduced the dependence on visual in my game.
To be honest, I have changed my project a lot during the making process due to idea iteration,technical issues and time constraint.
First, in terms of idea iteration, initially I only have a vague sense of what I want to do. I simply want to add features in Rhythm Master to Temple Run to make the endless game more interesting, but I am not sure what exactly such application would bring to me. Since there are so many different features in Rhythm Master and Temple Run, I spent a lot of time figuring out what features to keep and what to abandon. In fact I have been struggled with this for several weeks, though at the same time, I did started to make some technical progress.
During a meeting with Prof. Greenspan, she pointed out that what matters in my game is “TIME”. When I reconsider her words, I found that the music feature in Rhythm Master is the most important one to be used. So I dig into the music features and choose the ones that I can use. And finally I came up with a clear idea of what to do.
Then, in terms of the actual making process, I chose to use Unity from the very beginning, because Unity is the game engine of Temple Run, as well as a lot of other famous games, which indicated that the engine is mature enough. Also, I have some basic knowledge of Unity from my previous class. So I thought it may be easier for me to learn more about Unity. I decided to make 2D game, because I did not want to spend too much time on building up a 3D model for my game, which is not the central idea of my project. I would prefer having the structure of the game first, and add other stuff to improve it later.
The full game experience can be found at the beginning of the documentation. The details of the game can be found here:
I chose the background and character from Google image, because I failed to draw my own character. Therefore, I photoshopped some pictures from Google, and change the front of the character to the back of it. Some of the pictures (rabbit and wood) are also used in my previous game, because I really liked the style and wanted to keep it.
The songs I chose this time are the songs that have a strong rhythm so that the concept would be much clearer.
The names of the songs are as follows:
- Loveless – Tomohisa Yamashita
- Freedom Fly – Stancovich
- Justice and Freedom – Gundam SEED BGM
- Endless Game – Arashi
- Song of Pi – Hatsune Miku
Besides these songs, I also tried a lot of other sons, including “Snow Rain”, “Pull the turnip”, “A-Ra-Shi”, etc. However, due to lack of delicacy in the game, these music does not work as good as the one I finally chose. But eventually the game aim to fit all kinds of music.
User Testing: I invited some friends to player test. After they played the game, they suggested that the game is a bit too simple with only three tracks. Therefore, I tried the simplest way to improve it: adding two more tracks to the game. It turns out that although the method is simple, it actually works! The users are getting into the game this time.
Lastly, due to time constraint, I was not able to finish everything I expected. This is mainly because I did not fully develop my idea in the first several weeks. So when I finalize my game, I did not have enough time to add more external stuff. Although I have studied a lot on technical problems like how I can generate in a 2D game a similar idea to “turning left and right” in a 3D game, I did not have enough time to apply it to my game. In addition, for the pictures I used the ones from Google, because I was not able to make my own due to time constraint.
The game aims to eat as many candies as possible and avoid the wooden sticks. If you fail to eat one candy, the music as well as wooden sticks speed up. If you eat the medical box, you can speed down the music and the wooden stick.
Here are my applications of music in the game:
- I used music of different length from 18 seconds to 4 minutes. This is to give the players a basic sense of the game. Later the length of the music would be the same as the actual music length. My idea is to make the music length move as a hill, that is, short musics at the beginning, long ones in the middle, and short ones later, and then long ones, and so on. This is to avoid fatigue.
- I also changed the pitch in the music. When you miss a candy, music pitch goes up as well as the obstacles. So when the player hear the music suddenly faster, they would be more nervous accordingly.
- I chose 2-4 musics of different music styles to avoid auditory fatigue. Between each two styles, I added a skippable 10 second break to 1. give the player some time to rest, and 2. prepare for such a change.
- Because of the big music library, it is easy to avoid hearing the same song again in one round, which makes the game more dynamic. Also, the game still keeps the simple rules, but have more difference brought by music as time goes.
- This time I did not use songs with human voice because of technical issues. I am not able to have time to change only the speed, not the pitch. But it would be better to have songs with human voice to allow the player get more interested in the game.
Evaluation and Improvements:
Overall the game is quite successful in using music as a tool to play with time by adding ends in the endless game. However, currently the quality of the music output is not quite successful. The disability to change only speed has brought the music to strange sound effect when pitch goes up. This has decrease the overall user experience of the game.
Compared to my initial goal, I think the core idea has been presented in the game. But I still need to have more features in the game, as my initial goal is to have a game that has the core of both Temple Run and Rhythm Master. I think one improvement would be letting the obstacle drop according to the music rhythm. Another approach would be adding more different obstacles and rewards in the game.
My very next step is to create a scene that looks much better. Currently the scene is simple and not so attractive. This could reduce the fineness of user experience.
In my interaction project I only used 4 songs to show the core concept of the game. However, eventually the game needs to get access to the whole music library.
Takeaways from the Interaction Project:
From doing this interaction project, I think the most important thing I learned is new idea development. Previously in my work I somehow neglected the importance of the concept in my work, but only I emphasized on how I can make the project look better or technically harder. Although these two factors are also crucial to a successful project, the concept is indeed the CORE! Although this time I was not able to fulfill both new concept and technical delicacy of the project, I would think about more on how I could have a creative delicate project.
The other thing I think is important is that one concept can indeed lead us to a lot of “actual ideas”, or “iterations”. Therefore, it is essential to choose to use some of the “ideas” and get rid of some others. Having all the ideas may not necessarily be good to the project. It is always useful to keep simple. In addition, the unlimited number of “actual ideas” also means an infinite exploration. Just like in my interaction project, there are always a lot of ways to create ends in an endless game, and even numerous ways to use music to create such ends. The IP project is just a start.
Thank you to Professor Greenspan and Shirky for their help in developing the concept. Thank you to Professor Grewell for his help in music pitch. Thank you to Professor Pudasaini for leading the capstone session.
Thank you to all the engine, game, photo and music credits.