chipTuned - an arcade instrument

I would like to present a project of mine that has been far too many years in the making, but one that I am extremely pleased to finally say is finished. Truth be told I had stopped tinkering with the code a couple of years ago, shortly after I had decided what it would actually be. But life gets in the way and so… well here we are now and I present to you…

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***Two procedural compositions augmented by chance operations and synthesized in a virtual environment. Or, more succinctly, an arcade instrument.***

At its heart, chipTuned is an additive synthesizer engine. A space where you can craft an instrument and, indeed, a whole sonic experience. By playing the “game” the composition unfolds. When you “beat” the game, the instruments potential is fully unlocked, and you can play with it however you wish.

For now, it helps to know that the game experience will be a familiar one to the older gamers out there. It plays a lot like Breakout but in a 3D world. The idea is to break all of the ‘beatBoxes’ by hitting them with the ‘Tones’. Once you have tuned all of the Tones and broken all of the Beats, the game and composition is complete. The start menu is another source of chance compositions, where random game play sounds are selected and looped endlessly, much like Eno’s procedure with Music for Airports.

There are no tutorials or menus to fiddle with, so just dive in and muck about. I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. But for now, really just play.

In case you missed the two links above here it is again

chipTuned - an arcade instrument

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Origins of chipTuned

The development of chipTuned began nearly ten years ago when three factors filled me with enough despair that I decided to finally try and do something about it. The first was regarding the constantly forward march of technology that had led to the obsolescence of synthesis as a method of sound generation in video games, in favor of the cd quality samples that the new console allowed for. I was enamored with the chiptune music and sounds of the original gaming hardware and couldn’t understand why the industry would wholeheartedly give it up in favor of samples. I mean, I could, but I didn’t care for it.

Another factor was my growing unease with violence as default gaming interaction that was the basis for most games. Even when it was cute (we<3katamri) it was still violent to roll up cats and dogs and people into a giant ball. At least there it was a matter of destruction (of earth) in order to create (twinkly stars), which is really a basic fact of life. And while I don’t agree with some of the arguments out there that equate the violence of video games to a fracturing psyche, I do think there are plenty of other fascinating interactions to explore with the medium than simply bonus points for head shots.

Be that as it may, the thing that really got to me, the straw that broke the back and what have you, is the fact that people are really good at playing video games. I mean, absolutely mind blowing. But what did that even mean? While I was initially pondering this things were a little different than they are today, with the monetization of streaming platforms and the pro gamer arenas. These things were beginning to happen, but for me, I was really good at playing video games, I could hold my own in some CoD, I could tear through most games on the hardest settings on the first try, I was even capable of playing and performing games well enough to keep a room full of folks, gamers and non, enthralled with what was happening on the screen. But I really wasn’t actually "good’ at anything.

That was a thought that I found kind of depressing. So with all of that in mind I set out to create a video game that synthesized its sounds, had sound generation and manipulation as the interactive intent, and leveraged the virtuosic skills of gamers (at least FPSers and Minecrafters). After many iterations and heaps and heaps of feature creep I eventually settled into the simplified experience I am presenting here.

It was a long road learning how to synthesize sound with code, I had never programmed anything outside of a webpage before. But that journey has led me from scripting in several game engine environments, to building real life synthesizers and sound makers, and back to coding sound in more sound specific environments like PD and SC. If I were to begin this project today, I would definitely do it in puredata, but as it is, I did the synthesis code in C# in unity3D and I am still very pleased with the results.

Thank you for taking the time with this. I hope you may find some enjoyment from it and please share any creations that you come up with. I’ve rambled long enough about origins, I may make a post later that has a bit more of a tutorial tone to it. We’ll see. chip and Tune!

and a bandcamp link, it has a video and some audio recordings of playThroughs and musicsForStartScreens

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Wow, this project looks amazing. I found the origins of this project particularly interesting, thank you for all the detail you put into that. That’s quite a journey.

I can’t wait to play it, but when I try to open it on my M1 Mac running Big Sur, I get an error saying ““chipTuned.app” needs to be updated. The developer of this app needs to update it to work with this version of macOS. Contact the developer for more information.” Any ideas?

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Thanks! I’m glad you are intrigued. I just hope I’ll be able to deliver a version that you can play. To that end, I do have some ideas.

Quite simply, it seems I need to update my dev environment and cross my fingers everything works out. It looks like I’m still running a version of Unity that is a bit behind the times. In the current versions it will let me make a build that should work on M1 architectures. I had hoped new tech would be a bit more backwards compatible friendly, but that seems a bit silly now that I think about it. Never the less, I will start trying to update things right away and hopefully have something for you in the next day or two. Cheers!

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