Courtesy of OneBigGame
A screenshot of the Philip Glass level from the video game
A screenshot of the Philip Glass level from the video game Chime. Courtesy of OneBigGame
During a month in which the biggest video game releases include such ultraviolent titles as Bioshock 2 and Dante's Inferno, one small, beautiful puzzle game has managed to capture much of the spotlight.
It's called Chime, and it's a puzzle game that integrates the music of artists like Philip Glass and Moby.
The game is the first release for the video game industry charity project OneBigGame. When you download the game, about 60 percent of the purchase price goes to Save the Children and the Starlight Children's Foundation.
Video game developer Martin de Ronde hatched the idea a few years ago.
"I was actually watching a documentary on the 20th anniversary of Band Aid and Live Aid — the music industry initiative where famous musicians get together to organize a concert for charity — and I actually wondered if something like that would be possible in the video games industry," he says.
If you think about it, de Ronde says, the video game industry is always bragging about how it's making more money than music and movies.
"At the same time, I was seeing all these charitable efforts from within the music industry and the movie industry, but I wasn't seeing a lot happening from within the games industry," he says.
So along came Ciaran Walsh, audio director for the U.K. video game developer Zoe Mode. He'd been tossing around an idea where the player can remix songs by playing a puzzle game. Walsh says Zoe Mode decided it would be a good fit for the OneBigGame project.
Chime's integration of music and game play is similar to the games Rez and Lumines, but gives the player greater control over remixing the music.
The object is to arrange Tetris-like blocks into rectangles on a grid; depending on where you place the blocks, different sounds are triggered.
"We figure out where is that in time, what is the height of the block on the grid, and we decide on a note to play. Higher on the grid means higher pitch, lower on the grid means lower pitch," Walsh says.
All of the samples are pulled from the original works of music.
"The main challenge was that there wasn't money on the table — that isn't normally how you go about getting music into a video game, calling people up and asking, 'Hey, can you give us something for nothing?' " he says.
The artists donated their tracks to the game, and everyone who worked to put it together did so pro bono. But de Ronde says video game developers at OneBigGame still retain the rights to their games.
Chime is a hit, selling about a copy a minute on Xbox Live, according to de Ronde. That means Zoe Mode has the option of creating a different version of the game and selling it commercially.