Category Archives: Scribbles

Concept Statement as of Feb. 2010

My thesis is a music rhythm game, centered on the adventure of a drummer in a fictional Oriental world. A common aspect of music games is how the game informs the users the timing for when they have to perform a certain action. In this game, I want to explore how beatmap data of such can be implemented and incorporated into the theatrical aspects of the game (such as the character animation, narrative, and the music).

My motivation for this thesis stems from the different ways various music games handles theatrical elements. When beatmap data are represented, either as visuals or audio, they may either combine with one of these theatrical elements or compete for attention against them. For this game, I attempt for the first approach, which leads to several design questions, including:

  • What are some of the conventional and unconventional ways beatmap data have been represented in music games?
  • How much beatmap data can be represented yet still allow the users to pay attention to the theatrical elements of the game?
  • If beatmap data are to be merge with the theatrical elements of the game, how can it still present information clearly to the user?

The prototype I’m currently working on, tentatively named Divine Beats – Night in the Monastery, is inspired by the NDS game Rhythm Heaven and the Playstation franchise PaRappa the Rapper. It builds upon a call-and-response game mechanic, where the player has to repeat a previously performed rhythm. In this game, the drummer works with a Taoist Monk to evict malicious spirits from their possessed victims, whom stream in based on the rhythm of the background music. Having the enemies representing the beatmap data introduces challenges covered by the mentioned design questions.

The intended audience for this thesis mainly focuses on gamers who may have varying exposure to music games. The narrative context and music choice may also appeal to people familiar to Asian pop culture.

Why DJ Hero Can’t Save Music Games

An article about DJ Hero compared to Guitar Hero and Rockband. The articles, as well as many of the comments on it, provides some interesting insight as to what makes one want to pick up a music game.

Opinion: Why DJ Hero Can’t Save Music Games
by Leigh Alexander

Kokoromi One-Button Game Contest

Marking this on my calender. The One-Button Game contest sponsored by Gamma.

So now I have to get a prototype done by Jan. 30. The joy~

We have to use an Xbox controller for this, though. Hope it’s as easy to hook up as the Universal USB controller.

Some references on using the Xbox Controllers on PC:

Some Articles on Interactive Music Videos

“Hell Is For Interactive Music Video” on Blogeristics

I’m interested in how it mentioned that other than the web, interactive TV utilizing setup-boxs is another option.

“Red or Dead” by Owen Gibson

How to Create an Interactive Music Video by Thomas Baekdal
A list of things that isn’t commonly found in interactive music videos these days.

Idea Bash – 10/09/2009

So far, I feel like I’m biting too much for myself. Some of the stuff I want to do will involve branching into other areas that requires more research, more exploration, and more possibilities.

I want this thesis to be something I am willing to continue to work on after I get out of Parsons. I also can imagine the sort of stuff I want to do with it. However, there are some more fundemental questions which I have to resolve first, so I’m going to do exactly that: going back to the basics.

So, I want to explore the different elements that constitutes a music rhythm game.

I want to explore how performing an action (pressing a button, moving the joystick, etc) along a rhythm can relate to the sound, visuals, and narrative of the game. I also want to see how that will change the game experience.

Finally, I will want to play around with the concept of remixing these elements, and explore whether it’s possible to reconstruct rhythm games into an interactive music videa or an alternative form of performance piece.

Idea Bash – 2009/10/05

After doing some reading on fandom creation, I came to realize that fan creation is anchored on how the fans are both consumers and creators. Many activities in the fandom has something to do with exploring and expressing the self, some of which can be rather private and less likely to be shared willingly by the creator. Some education theorist argued that youth involved in fan creation can in fact have an accute understanding on design concepts, artistic techniques, and collaborating with other artists.

There are also some essays written for fan videos, including Anime Music Videos (AMVs). There are two key points that draws my attention.

  1. Copyright is always an issue within the fandom community. However, as long as the fan creators don’t gain profit from their work or detriment the commercial distributor’s business, distributors, for the majority of the time, won’t press charges for these fan creation. Given how Anime started off as a cult product in the US, such fan work even serves as free advertisement.
  2. For AMV, what happens a lot is the original clips from the original show becomes “decontextualized”, where the video clips are given new  meanings, and are compiled to create a narrative that is either different from the original or has different emphasis.

Given these, and the fact that I like music rhythm games, I decided to put less emphasis on fandom creation, but keep the underlying idea of disembling and recontructing context. Meanwhile, Paul Robertson’s work also invited my thoughts in blurring the line between animation and game machinima.

So here’s the deal:

This thesis is about a music rhythm game which plays with the idea of mash-up, remixing, and using game as a form of expression and performance. Two elements will be used for that purpose: the sound/audio elements, and the character animation. For the gameplay, the game consists of Mini-games where rhythms functions to serve different purposes. These mini-games will also host some of the elementary audio and performance elements which can later be used for remixing.

The stage setup follows how Rhythm Heaven sets up its stages: for each stage (other than the Remix stages), player plays the game with one or two input methods, which is each associated with a different character actions. For example, in a stage where the player plays a rallying fanclub member in a concert, a tap will be a clap, and flicking after that will be jumping up. Parappa the Rapper has something similar when the player gets to play in free-style mode. Different buttons are associated with different word phrases and actions.

So there are two parts in this game: The games of rhythm puzzles, and the remixing of the sound and performances from these stages.

Each stage should utilize one or two simple input mechanisms, each evoking different animation or character performance. The player has to play a given rhythm pattern  well enough to clear the stage. After that, the performance in this stage, which includes the sound and character animation, will be available in the remix mode.

Each stage will have its own narrative. There will also be “remix” stage where elements of more than one stage will coming into play. In essence, the stage layout is similar with Divine Beats, except now I’m not constricting the narrative and gameplay interactions to drums and Chinese culture anymore.


Since part of the impetus behind this game is remixing game elements as a form of creative expression, audiences for this game can belong to one or both of the following: players interested in playing a music rhythm game, and/or players who are interested in creating machinima with games.


Given the internet is where most  machinima and fan creators distribute their work, this game should either be playable online, or be downloadable online as a playable executable on personal computer.


I’m tempted to experiment with the Wii controllers (Wiimote, Nunchuk, etc) for the wide possibilities of interactions. However, since not all gamers online might have such, I will have to make the game playable by mouse, keyboard, or a joystick game controller for the least.

Thus, the core mechanic for the gameplay will involve one or more of the following actions which the player has to do according to rhythm:

  • Pressing/Holding down a button
  • Moving the joystick
  • Clicking/Dragging with the Mouse
  • Pressing/Holding down a key on the keyboard


Examples and Ideas for the stages include:

1. Boat Race Marathon

The aim of this stage is to have players listen to a rhythm and beat along with it in harmonic sync.

The player is part of a boat/kayak crew who helps pacing the crew’s paddling by drumming. The faster the drumming, the faster the paddling, and thus the faster the boat goes. Of course, the crew’s stamina dimishes as they paddle.

During the gameplay, the boat travels along a river with varying current speeds. For the race, they have to travel towards the river’s source, meaning they are traveling against the river’s current as well. While some parts of the river is tranquil and easy to travel upon, there are also sections of the river that are faster; in these areas, the crew have to paddle faster to sustain moving speed. The player can choose to have the crew paddle fast in areas where the current is slow, but this might also drain the crew’s energy before they reach the fast-flowing area.

For the aim of the stage, the river’s speed current at different sections should be determined/layout according to the background music.

2. Basket Ball Drill

As a new member of the basket ball club, one of your training is on dribbling. As the captain dribbles by a rhythm, you are to repeat that rhythm as well.

3. Whistle Drill

The context could either be the player being 1) a marching band/cheer team member who ques the other members performance with different whistling patterns, or 2) a canine trainer who gives commands to his dog using different whistling patterns.

Either way, the idea here is about rhythm patterns.

4. Maracas Drill

This stage will emphasize on beating a rhythm in corrdance to left and right. This is similar to practicing sticking for drumming, where the same drum pattern have to be played out by different sticks – left or right.

Impetus – free write

My thesis is a music rhythm game which plays with the idea of mash-up, remixing, and game as a medium of expression and performance. The game consists of two sides: the game stages of music/rhythm puzzles, and the remix studio. The stages are mini-games that serves as experimental grounds for the types of input that can be connected to character performance or environmental animations. Each stage should be mini-games that appeal to causual gamer and take less than 3 minutes to complete. Stages that are cleared will have its sound and animation elements available in the remix studio. In the remix studio, users can remix a song with the sound and animation from cleared stages.

I would like to start by making this game that utilizes the Wii controllers on a PC.

That took a long time. Time to enter the fast lane.

I worked as a computer software programmer for nearly 3 years. I deal mostly with the computer graphics aspects. I also have worked for an online company for awhile, during which time I am also introduced to a lot of board games.

When I’m not working, I doodle. A lot of them are fan art, though sometimes original characters appears as well. I post them online, and I look for other fanarts that I like as well. I go to a lot of the doujinshi conventions in Taiwan, and even met others at work who are also into this sort of activities. Recently, I’m also starting to pay attention to fan vids, especially those handdrawn by the creators themselves. Even though the techniques can be really rustic, the works of an amateur are still interesting for me to observe what works in animation and what doesn’t.

I have also been a gamer for a long time. Up until recently, I mostly play role playing games (particularly JRPG) and simulation games (The Sims, as one example). Recently, I’m also got into music rhythm games such as Ouendan and Taiko no Tatsujin. After that, I started looking into Rockband, Guitar Hero, and Rhythm Heaven, as well as Flash games of the rhythm genre.

I wanted to do something related to fandom at first, but some research papers also informed me that fandom creation can sometimes be a private matter and relies heavily on user content. An interesting idea that keeps on popping up in a lot of fandom studies, however, is the idea of decontextualizing snippets of the original work into something new.

I came to Parsons because the work of being an in-house software engineer is starting to get dreary with no relevant challenges for me as a programmer, not to mention I also have other non-programming projects I wanted to do, too. Hopefully it will get me a job where I don’t have to feel ashamed or guilty for being an Otaku.

Drum Circle

I went to the drumming circle today – with my Chinese waist drum~ Yay~

The drumming circle is led by Amir Alan Vahab, who was interviewed by a Turkish TV Show today as well.

The group emphasize on drum healing and spirituality. I at first wasn’t sure how I’d fit into this, since I realized on arrival that the group’s emphasis is on music from the Middle East.

By the end, I’d have to say I did have fun. There are people of different levels of expertise in the group. What we do is having one person choose a song or rhythm, and the others join in. The leader specifically told us not to worry about technicalities. I, for one, mainly follow other people’s drumming, though later on I eventually took on my own beating pattern.

The others seemed excited to see my waist drum (which I got in Chengdu, China. The Pearl store in Chinatown also sell these in a much higher price). They even played around with it and came up with new ways to perform with it; that includes different ways of sticking and playing with hand, like a Djembe. It was also then when I learnt that the two sides of this drum have different tunes (takes a pro to find that out).

New Thoughts

Isabel Samaras and R. Sikoryak had a talk last Thursday on mutating and adapting elements of pop culture to create new work. The former is a painter who inserts pop icons into classical painters. The latter drew comics where classical literature is retold with the aesthetics of Little Lulu, Garfield, Tales of the Crypts, and Batman.

I didn’t get to attend the lecture, but I managed to stop by and get their books. After going through some of their stuff and looking up some stuff on the Lowbrows and Pop Surrealism, I couldn’t help but feel that, “Man, I wish I could do something like that.” Previously I’ve considered making a drumming game for teaching or recreating the experience of drum performance, but now I really want to give the “fan culture and parody” concept some serious thoughts.

In one way, I could turn this into something very personal. Currently, I’m having an obsession over the Anime and game fanwork subculture, to a point where it’s becoming somewhat unhealthy. On the other hand, I want to explore drumming, percussion instruments, and music games, because these are the stuff that has a positive effects on my mind and concentration.

Nonetheless, I don’t want to just put my obsession for fandom into box; truth be told, that has been one of my motivations to come to an art school like Parsons….

The best option I have so far seems to be to make this thesis about my struggle to balance this obsession and channel that energy to create something. I still want to work with the drumming game, since that has been an interesting medium of expression for me as well. (And truth be told, I’ve put too much energy on this already to quit.)

So, the main objective for my thesis now is to explore the relationship between virtual content and physical medium. The physical medium I choose now is the drum triggers and other New Interface for Music Expressions with percussion instruments. The virtual content will be the things I’m more familiar with, such as Japanese Anime and Manga, TV shows, music videos, games, and internet content; to be more general, anything that makes you sit in front of a screen.

For the audience, I’m moving away from the general, commercialized consumers to the cult audiences of gamers, particularly those who is familiar with games at its earlier stages, the 70’s and 80’s generation. The final product will be placed in a setting for game shows, conventions, and exhibitions.

Questions to ask for this thesis:
– Can there be a Lowbrow movement for games?
– How different will the player experience be if a classical game with preconceived gameplay adapts a new gameplay? Directions for this can be:

  • Using controllers other than existing game controllers. For example, using a drum trigger board instead of a game controller with buttons.
  • Adapting one gameplay into another genre with a completely different context. Existing examples will be how House of the Dead is turned from a first-person-shooting game into a typing game with Typing of the Dead.
  • Presenting a digital game into analog form. For example, make a Final Fantasy version of Order of the Sticks.

– Board game (Using existing video game characters)
– Exploit drum as a medium of game control and have it merge with games that are not music-based. (Donkey Konga is an example of such.) Make it so that a percussion instrument can be used to play one of the following:

  • First-Person-Shooter
  • Role Playing Games
  • Pinball
  • Blockbuster

– Gameplay Meshup
Re-invent screenshots from games, so that characters from one genre enters the realm of another game, ideally the aesthetic style between the two games are drastically different. Example: EBA & Ouendan gameplay with characters of other series.

Idea #2 – Fan Creation and Parody

I currently have an obsession over the fan culture over certain series, which I felt I need to deal with in this thesis.

For this idea, I wanted to do a parody piece that serve as a commentary to popular media and current events. Ideally, I’d like to work on comics, shows, and games which I know; that will mostly be Japanese Anime, role-playing games, and old cartoons in the US.

Currently, there are many forms in which this idea can be realized. Here are some rough ideas and precedance:

  • Parody Video – A lot of examples on Youtube. It could be a fanwork or just simple satire. The subject can range from shows, comics, games, movies, politics, sports, and entertainment.
  • Lowbrows/Pop Surrealism – The two terms generally means the underground art movement. There are some artists, such as Isabel Samaras, who did paintings where pop icons portrayed in classic masterpiece paintings.
  • Doujinshi – Similar to the Lowbrow movement, this term refers to the subculture of underground art creations that originated in Japan. Amoungst those are works that are based on mainstream comics, animation, and games. A majority of these works are comics, novels, and illustrations that are either on print or online. These works may also take the form of music, games, dolls, stationaries, and daily accessorites.

If I can make a game that is a parody of an existing piece, such as a wacked version of Rockband? Or maybe introduce a new gameplay for a genre with preconcieved gameplay, like Typing of the Dead has done?

It will be even better if I can merge this idea with Divine Beats somehow….

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