Soundscape is the audiogame I made for Ludum Dare 26 to fit the theme “minimalism”. In the game you must navigate by sound through a maze and to find the source of a beating sound. If you win, or press escape because you are too frustrated, the game will zoom out and visually reveal the true nature of the maze to you; superimposing your route on top to produce what could be generously described at minimalism inspired art.
The game is not a pure audio game. There is a poem that appears in text on the screen at the beginning, and obviously the zoom out at the end isn’t rendered in audio. More significantly, if you are using mouse or keyboard then you need to look at the visuals to know your orientation, and there are also visual cues for movement though they aren’t particularly helpful.
It’s an interesting novelty, but as a real audiogame it doesn’t really work. It fails to present the enough of the right kind of information to make the maze navigable. You are dropped in maze where every position in space is almost indistinguishable from any other; a maze of twisty passages, all alike.
Can you reconstruct in your head the layout of a room just by knowing the distances of the walls as you look around? Could you even decode those distances reliably from the pitch of a sound? Probably not. Even if you could, you would find it extremely difficult to localise yourself within that mental map after moving; you need better information that this!
I added static to tell you when a wall was very close and you were likely to be stuck. I also wrote the collision code such that you would slide along walls if you walked into them; that is a bad combination! There’s no way to determine in which direction you are moving, or how quickly, and that really makes localisation difficult within whatever crude mental map you were able to construct from the opaque audio output.
The goal emits a beating sound that uses positional audio and grows louder and you close in on it, but the changes in volume and position are difficult to perceive over short distances; especially as you cannot silence the shrieking pitch-based distance feeler.
Despite these problems, and much to my surprise, many people found the game comparable (albeit painful to listen to). I have only watched a few people play, and seen a few more of the rendered paths, but I suspect that their success is down to a combination of lucky map generation and use of a simple strategy:
- move in the direction of the goal, sliding along walls
- if you suspect you are making no progress, look around for the nearest discontinuity in pitch and walk through that
The game works, but not in the way I intended; the pitch feeler is most often a red herring and attempting to form a working navigational model of the maze in your head may be impossible.
What could I have done to make it work? I have some ideas that I’ll discuss in a later post. Suffice to say, I learned a lot from watching people play soundscape, and I’m working on something that can hopefully form a component of the type of game I wanted soundscape to be.
(Some will say this is not the time. I disagree. This is the time when every mixed emotion needs to find voice.)
Since his arresting the early morning of January 11, 2011 — two years to the day before Aaron Swartz ended his life — I have known more about the events that began this…
04: “some characters racing to climb a tower made of blocks” - suggestion from Mark Wonnacott
Sonic ‘06 is now firgiven