Nikola’s Nightmare

Quick note on an event for you if you’re in Copenhagen and have time Thursday night:

Nikola's Nightmare, Concert: A rare, experimental, electro-acoustic experience
Flyer – click for bigger or just remember Thursday December 9, 20:00, Litteraturhaus Nørrebro. Free admission.

Anders Monrad, composer, and I (Simon Nielsen, game artist and visualist), will be presenting a game on stage at Litteraturhaus, Nørrebro.

It’s not quite a traditional, pure video game: It’s also an interactive composition. You can think of it as a sort of Guitar Hero in reverse, where the music does not dictate the gameplay, but instead is generated by playing the game. Mechanically, it’s a two-player arcade racing / shoot-em-up, though I should say that in the process of creating this thing, decisions have been made that are not guided solely by conventional game design wisdom, but rather the needs of the compositional framework. That means that in some aspects, it’s a bit of an unfair game and that some details (like, for instance, a clear win condition) have been discarded.

WIP, but getting there…

The audio and visuals will run on two separate computers, and the composition and sound is generated by – for a computer game – an unusually sophisticated synthesizing engine. The choices you make as players, and the randomness and general mayhem from the sensory overload and twitchy skill involved, shape the composition.

We hope to get people from the audience to play it through a few times, preferably someone who haven’t touched it before. Later, there will probably be a chance to play it off stage. Next to no gaming experience required. Select from a roster of characters, each with their distinct sound, including Arnold Schönberg, the sombre serialist, Stokastiko, the aleatoric entity, XV-32768, the interstellar robot, Hank Marvin, master of the solid body, and Surfer Dude.

WIP screenshot of the more destructive part.

If anyone’s interested, it’s built entirely with the Blender Game Engine on the visual side of things, and with Max/MSP on the audio side. Those two programs are then communicating via simple networking and the excellent Open Sound Control (OSC) protocol. With Blender being GPL and both programs’ ability to build redistributable applications, we’re looking at ways to make this available if you want to try it yourself. It will be a tad fidgety, but we think we can get it to a point where it can be played by the general public with just a bit of effort. We’ll probably slap some CC license on it or something.

Anyway, that’s getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll have to finish tweaking and think of a name before Thursday. Do come by if you can; admission’s free, and that price includes not only our game / composition, but five other interactive music pieces as well.


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