In Escape Darkness, fight to stave off the rapid darkening of the sky, follow a path created by sound and blend beautiful colours.
Escape Darkness is a java/Processing based laptop game where players use a cursor to dodge various dangers and touch objectives. Bars continuously move down the screen in pairs and their length is generated using microphone sound input.
The player must move in between bars or the game background will get darker- to the point when the game ends. Another way that the game will end is if the player hits one too many black dots. These cause the “walls” around the player to slowly close in, making the path they must navigate twisty-er.
The objective for the player is to replicate a colour, which is shown to them in a circle in the corner of the screen. To do so, they must touch the moving dots of red, green and blue, which will add a little bit of the corresponding RGB value to a palette on the screen.
The path between the walls (which the player follows) responds to the sound environment that the laptop is exposed to. The game can be played simultaneously with music or even when the player is talking at the computer. Depending on the smoothness of pitch transitions, the path will be easy or harder to follow.
Process Work/Future Versions
We started the project wanting to use the sensor card and the element of sound. This itself was probably the biggest challenge of making the game, because getting a sound input to interact meaningfully with the game was quite difficult.
We tried using different microphone input feeds, through a Processing library called Minim. One thing that helped to smooth/round the signal was mixing some of the previous signals into the next ones, before translating this into the horizontal positions of walls in the game.
The difficulty of the game varied greatly depending on what kind of sound the laptop microphone was exposed to. For example, in a quiet environment with a single instrument song playing out of the laptop speakers, the path created in the game would be curvy. In a noisy environment, or with pop music playing, the path created in the game would be jagged and sometimes impossible to follow.
During play-testing sessions, we brought the laptop out into the hall and the game quality improved significantly. In a future development of the game, an external microphone could be plugged into the laptop. There could also be a more complicated smoothing algorithm preformed on the sound input.
To balance the fact that hitting walls was inevitable, we added little coins that the player could hit to counter-act the rapid darkening of the background (the darkening would ultimately lead to the game ending).
Both of us were learning how to make our first game in Processing. To tackle this, we started with a simple game and then tweaked and built onto it for a game with more interesting mechanics and aesthetics. This type of exploration really gave us a lot of ideas for future games- especially ways we could incorporate sound as more than just a game output. In future game developments, it would be interesting to use sound input in the generation of a dynamic game environment, in a way that the player can understand and possibly even control.
During play testing, players found it difficult to get into the game at first. Yifat suggested that the game start more slowly and then increase in speed over time. This is something that could be easily implemented in a future version of the game so that players could have a learning session without being bombarded with “Game Over” screens. It would also make the game more interesting for players who have become accustomed to how the game works and who have gained skill in playing it.
Another comment was that the overlaid display (that showed the player what colour they needed to mix and what colour they had mixed) was causing the player to have to dart their eyes back and forth between the cursor and the corner of the screen. A solution to this would be to constantly move the display up to the vertical location of the cursor. Another would be to make the cursor a little bigger and actually display the colour that is being mixed on the cursor.
The game was created by Karina Kurmanbayeva and Sophia Niergarth. Many thanks go to the play testers from Thursday’s class.