Game Concept: The Last Muse

 

Introduction

The Last Muse is a 2D isometric “music adventure” game for PC, in which players play the last Muse, who’s been kidnaped by some alien music creatures to a strange music realm. They want to imprison Muse so as to eliminate all music on Earth. To break up the scheme, players have to escape the alien music realm, and defeat enemies and traps along the way by “performing music” to unleash various abilities according to the rhythm and melody of the music that’s playing.

Key Features

The Last Muse features a music thematic adventure. In The Last Muse, almost every part of the gameplay is connected with music, from the pace of the game, to attack/defence and music abilities. In brief, the game replaces the conventional gameplay elements in adventure games with music-related ones.

Each level features a different piece of music and each platform/passage features a different section of the piece. As the game progresses, the music becomes increasingly complex in melody and rhythm.

The player’s goal is to escape the alien music realm and try to keep Muse as well as possible. So the score starts with 10000 and every time Muse (the player) takes damage, the artistry decrease.

Music thematic adventure

The adventure of the game will be set across environments (platforms and passages) of music themes, so does the light comic story. The game offers option for an unparalleled game experience of high integration of music and action adventure game.

Pace following the music

The pace of the player and enemies’ movement and actions are in accordance with the tempo of the music. So when in a platform with music of slow tempo, both the player and the enemy move and act at a relative slow pace along the music. The music’s pace also affects the pace of the story and the overall flow of the game.

Act along the music

Apart from receiving the passive effect on pace, the player and the enemy also have to act along the music’s melody and rhythm. For the player, the music actions include restoring inspiration and texture, basic and combo attack/defence and music abilities. For the enemy, they attack, defend and use abilities according to the music as well. Meanwhile, there are music puzzles, such as lock picking, trap disarming, etc. involving similar music actions. The detailed actions will be explained in Gameplay section.

Terminology and Content

General

Term Description
Pace The overall pace of the game, similar to the playing speed setting of a multimedia player
Platform The basic game world structure and gameplay loop
Passage
Artistry The overall score of the player, starts with 10000 and decreases when taking damage (texture decreases)

Can be negative

Normal state The state when the player is not engaged in combat with enemies or in other gameplay activities (e.g. lock picking)
Combat state The state when the player is engaged in combat with enemies
Inspiration The energy/mana of the player

Can be restored by completing melody combos in normal state

Texture The health/HP of the player

Can be restored by completing rhythm combos in normal state

Melody combo 2 or more consecutive input commands that fit the melody of the music that’s playing (sometimes the melody also contains the same rhythm to the bass rhythm, but the input of melody cannot replace the input of rhythm: difference between monophonic and homophonic music)

The number of the input commands determine the effectiveness of the combo

Monophonic music A single melody and the rhythm is contained in the melody
Homophonic music A melody with bass rhythm as accompaniment and the melody and rhythm are separated
Rhythm combo 2 or more consecutive input commands that fit the rhythm of the music that’s playing

The number of the input commands determine the effectiveness of the combo

Basic attack In combat state input a basic attack command that fits the rhythm of the music that’s playing

Need to target enemy

Cost inspiration

Combo attack In combat state complete a melody combo

Can be attached with an offensive ability

Range attack

Cost inspiration

Combo defence In combat state complete a rhythm combo

Can be attached with a defensive ability

Cost inspiration

Offensive ability Passive music ability, needs to be used with combo attack/combo defence
Defensive ability
Special ability Active music ability, cost inspiration to use
Collectables Items that can be collected in the game levels, has an instant effect or can be used with special abilities
Losing condition The texture reaches 0

The player will respawn at the nearest checking point

Winning condition The player reaches the end of the last level
Podium The leader board

Music Abilities (later in development)

Category Ability Description
Offensive ability Forte Enhance the player’s attack damage
Fermata Cause lingering damage
Staccato Add special attack effect, extra effective to certain enemies
Legato Add special attack effect, extra effective to certain enemies
Harmony Add special attack effect, extra effective to certain enemies
Defensive ability Piano Weaken enemy’s attack damage
Counterpoint Reflect enemy’s attack
Special ability Cadenza Change the current music to the pre-selected one form the collected masterpieces
Rest Pause the music for a while during which both the player and the enemy cannot take combat actions

Collectables (later in development)

Category Item Description
Instant consumable Score Restore some texture

Add some artistry

Idea Restore some inspiration

Add some artistry

Storable Masterpiece Music pieces that can be collected to use with the cadenza ability

Add some artistry

Enemies (to be designed)

Puzzles (to be designed)

Gameplay

Small Loop: The platform/passage

The platform/passage is the basic game world structure and gameplay loop. It is the location where the main actions take place. In each platform/passage, a section of a piece of music is playing and looping, which directs the pace and all combat actions.

When in normal state, the player can choose to restore inspiration/texture and explore the platform/passage and solve music-related puzzles.

When in combat state, the player can choose to defeat the enemy. In some cases, the player is not required to defeat the enemy in order to proceed to the next location. The enemy has a certain target range.

Note there are two situations of music when considering implementing the music and its input commands i.e. the monophonic and homophonic music. However, the separated input for melody combo and rhythm combo is always needed.

Examples of music actions & input commands:

At the moment, the music that’s playing is a homophonic piece:

Music

x: input for basic attack

o: input for rhythm combo

1 2 3 4 5 6 7: input for melody combo

Action Input commands
Basic attack Any x that fits the bass rhythm
Rhythm combo Any two or more o that fit the bass rhythm

e.g. oo, ooo, oooo etc.

Melody combo Any two or more melody combo inputs that fit the melody(and its rhythm)

e.g. 35, 352, 3523 etc.

Each combo has a certain maximum number of inputs.

At certain locations, plots will be triggered.

Medium Loop: The Level

A level consists of 10-30+ platforms/passages. Each level has a piece of music as the theme of the settings (both for the music-related gameplay and the visuals).

At the beginning & end of each level, cut-scenes are played to narrate the story as transitions. And the current artistry will be displayed.

Large Loop: The game

The whole game consists of 5-15 levels (depending on the practical development).

The losing condition is that the player’s texture is decreased to 0, but the player with respawn at the nearest checking point. So there is no real losing condition.

The winning condition is that the player reaches the end of the last level. The final artistry will be displayed and the player may enter the podium if a high artistry is created.

Aesthetics

Settings

The game world is set in a strange alien music realm in ether which consists of many platforms and passages connected to each other. In some cases there are boundaries between them, so before certain objectives are achieved in the current location (e.g. defeating the enemy, unlocking the boundary). A platform/passage may contain certain number/combination of enemies, traps, locked boundaries, interactive objects (portals, etc.) and collectables. Two platforms are connected by a portal or by one or more passages.

An example for the layout of a level:

Level layout example

Reference for the settings:

Game world setting_Chinese Paladin V

(The well of daemons from Chinese Paladin V)

Game world setting_Audiosurf

(Music track from Audiosurf)

Visual

Perspective

The game is presented is a 2D isometric perspective

Reference

Perspective_Bastion

(Bastion)

Perspective_Might and Migic Clash of Heroes

(Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes)

Visual style

The visual style is set to be a compound of cartoon and surrealism.

The main character Muse and the enemies are cartoon figures, while the game environments should be depicted in surrealist style.

The main character Muse is a white robed figure and as he/she grows in power, the apparel becomes increasingly rich in details. Muse wilds a floating golden treble clef as the weapon.

Interface (to be designed)

mocklevel sketch

(mock-up GUI  by Nathan)

Music ability menu

(the music ability menu I can think of now)

Music ability menu: 3-level radial menu

Visual clues:

For players who are not comfortable with playing the music based on hearing, visual clues are displayed by default to hint the inputs of melody and rhythm. The visual clues will be displayed on the top centre of screen as a constantly scrolling timeline, where melody hints are displayed on the timeline and the rhythm hints are displayed beneath the timeline.

Audio

Music

The music should progress from easy to hard. Most of the music will be composed by us. The masterpieces should feature real masterpieces of different genres so players can choose their most familiar and favourite ones.

Sounds

All sounds should be as instrumental as possible to be consistent with the music theme of the game.

Story

Muse is captured by some alien music creatures to a strange music realm. They want to imprison Muse so as to eliminate all music on Earth…

Let’s develop this into a light comedy…

Controls

Two sets of control schemes are available.

On PC:

Control scheme 1 (complex) Control scheme 2 (easy)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 keys for melody combo

Left mouse button for basic attack

Right mouse button for rhythm combo

1, 2, 3, 4 for melody combo

Left mouse button for basic attack

Right mouse button for rhythm combo

Target Audience

12+ casual game players who like music games and action adventure games

music lovers who do not play many games but would like to have a different music experience through a game.

Target Platform

PC (or any more?)port to iPad if game has good response.

A “Diegetic” Attempt to Improve the Puzzle

Puzzles can be ludic as they are meant to be. But to convey a consistent gameplay experience, being ludic is not enough. A good puzzle in a adventure should be in the adventure, that is to be “diegetic”.

In the design of the original puzzle 2 (shown below), the tracks may not be well explained from a player’s view — what’s the point of setting up tracks in Tesla’s laboratory  even in a half-fictional game context?  In addition, it doesn’t contain adequate ludic elements of electricity.

a2 tracks puzzle

An attempt of improvement was made to make it more “diegetic”.

First, the whole track system has been redefined as a AC/DC power dissipation simulation experiment left by Tesla.

In the room there are some high-resistance circular plates which can be rotated to form a circuit to conduct both AC & DC power form generators to motors. Both AC and DC motors are connected to an elevator through the power transmission.

Notice that a plate in the centre is missing, only the DC circuit can be established to partially power the elevator though the DC motor. Notes around the room indicate that DC power loses current easily over long distances (simulated by the high-resistance environment in this situation).
The elevator can only take the player down to a storeroom where the missing plate is located when powered by the weak DC current.

Now the player has to figure out a way out since they are now trapped in the storeroom, for the DC current is too weak to pull
the elevator back upstairs. Then other puzzles involving ladder assembly and trapdoor lock picking can kick in. After the player successfully get back to the upper room with the plate found, the AC circuit can be completed and then leads to the AC motor puzzle. Finally after it is solved, the elevator is powered by the AC motor, which runs on the strong AC power, it can take the player up to the next puzzle room.

a2 tracks puzzle _2

Puzzle Designs (for Chapter 1)

Chapter 1 takes place in Edward Dean Adams Power Plant at Niagara Falls. The puzzles in this chapter feature Tesla’s inventions of AC power systems. A room puzzle consists of several contraption puzzles of different types. In order to solve room puzzles and proceed, players sometimes have to solve certain contraption puzzles first. Environment investigation is needed as players can find required puzzle items e.g. cables and Tesla’s written notes as clues in rooms. Audio cues are played in some contraption puzzles to indicate whether the attempt is correct or how close the attempt is to the solution.

Types of contraption puzzles:

1. Electric frequency/potential matching:

This type of puzzles requires players to manipulate (using mouse/keyboard combinations or touchscreen flicks) Tesla’s special cables in horizontal and vertical directions to adjust (position and shape) and produce current patterns of the correct electric frequency (horizontal) and potential (vertical) that match the current patterns shown to players. The match rule can vary in different puzzles. This type of puzzle can also be incorporated in larger Device repairing/operating puzzles.

2. Device repairing/operating:

This type of puzzles requires players to repair or operate devices/machines in some simple and simulated ways. The procedures vary in different puzzles.

3. Wiring:

This type of puzzles requires players to manipulate switches in the wiring system to achieve different purposes. By powering Lamps, parts of the room will be lit up so more environmental clues can be discovered easily.

4. Miscellaneous:

Other environmental and contraption puzzles.

Puzzle items that player can interact with in the scenes are listed below:

Item Description
General Control Panel Serve different functions
AC Generator Power AC Wiring and TransformerNeed mechanical power
DC Generator Power DC WiringNeed mechanical power
AC Motor Power Track Control and Power TransmissionNeed AC power
DC Motor Power Track Control and Power TransmissionNeed DC power
AC Socket Provide and receive AC powerNeed connection to AC Wiring
DC Socket Provide and receive DC powerNeed connection to DC Wiring
AC Wiring Transmit AC power
DC Wiring Transmit DC power
Track Controller Control the formation of TracksNeed power from AC/DC Motor
Tracks Made of 3×3 rotatable track blocks and allow AC/DC Motor to move around
Power Transmission (mechanics) Transmit mechanical power provided by AC/DC Motor and power Exit Gate
Regulator Regulate the power output of AC MotorNeed AC power
Transformer Transform AC powerNeed AC power
Tesla Coil Prototype Discharge at a sharp point

In the design sketches:

Colour Grey represents completed contraption parts and screen clues;

Colour Red represents uncompleted contraption parts and player controls;

Colour Blue represents DC system;

Colour Purple represents AC system;

Colour Yellow represents dull DC lamp light;

Colour White represents bright AC lamp light.

The default states in all Device operation and Wiring puzzles are as shown in the sketches.

Room Puzzle A1:

The room puzzle is the tutorial of the game and players are encouraged by Tesla’s notes found in the room to solve the puzzles.

The cables (with limited lengths) needed in solving the puzzles are hidden in cabinets and drawers across the room, and some extra ones may be taken to the next rooms.

The Sluice in the room can provide additional water to drive the AC Generator, which can generate more power which is needed in the Diorama puzzle.

One ideal solution:

1. Solve the DC Generator puzzle;

2. Connect the cable from the DC Generator to a nearby DC Socket;

3. Solve the DC Wring puzzle (light Lamp 1);

4. Solve the AC Generator puzzle;

5. Connect the two cables from the AC Generator to a nearby AC Socket.

6. Solve the AC Wring puzzle (form a route from AC Socket to the Sluice);

7. Solve the Diorama puzzle.

Clues: Tesla’s notes

Rewards:

1. The whole diorama is powered and starts to work, demonstrating the general workflow of hydroelectric power generation;

2. Key to the exit door is revealed.

Contraption Puzzle 1: DC Generator

Type: Electric potential/frequency matching

Prerequisite of solving: None

Description:

This puzzle serves as a tutorial of this type of puzzles and thus manipulation of cable in horizontal direction is disabled. Match the blue pattern using a cable connected to the red terminal on the DC Generator. The match rule is vertical inversion.

Audio cue: Yes

Solution:

The current pattern shown in the Player Screen in the sketch

Clues: Tesla’s note

Reward:

Contraption Puzzle 2: AC Generator

Type: Electric potential/frequency matching

Prerequisite of solving: None

Description:

This puzzle serves as a tutorial of this type of puzzles and this time manipulation of cable in horizontal direction is enabled. Match the purple pattern using cables connected to the red terminals on the AC Generator. The match rule is horizontal inversion.

Audio cue: Yes

Solution:

The current pattern shown in the Player Screen in the sketch

Clues: Tesla’s note

Reward:

Intelligence about Tesla’s inventions of AC generators

Contraption Puzzle 3: AC/DC Wiring

Type: Wiring

Prerequisite of solving: None

Description: N/A

Audio cue: Yes

Clues: Tesla’s note

Reward: None

Contraption Puzzle 4: Diorama

Type: Device repairing/operating

Prerequisite of solving: The Sluice is opened

Description:

This puzzle requires players to power the diorama by connecting cables from AC/DC Sockets to its three terminals. Players may refer to the patterns on the AC and DC Generators.

Audio cue: Yes

Solution:

Left: cable with power from grey terminal of the AC Generator

Middle: cable with power from the DC Generator

Right: cable with power from red terminal of the AC Generator

Clues:

Reward: Key to the exit door is revealed.

Room Puzzle A2:

The room puzzle requires players to power the Power Transmission at the Elevator to exit the room.

Trick: Through careful investigation players will find out that there is no DC Socket near the Power Transmission so this puzzle can be solved only when the AC Motor puzzle is solved and the AC Motor is used at the Power Transmission.

One ideal solution:

1. Connect the DC Motor to Track Controller and turn the motor on;

2. Solve the Tracks puzzle (operate Track Controller to form a route from the AC Motor to Power Transmission);

3. Solve the AC Wiring puzzle (form a route from AC Power Source to the AC Socket near Power Transmission);

4. Move the AC Motor to the track next to Power Transmission;

5. Connect the AC Motor to Power Transmission;

6. Solve the AC Motor puzzle (connect it with three AC power sources);

7. Turn on Power Transmission and the Exit Gate opens.

Clues:

“This room looks not so symmetric.” (When walking through the room)

“What’s on the ground?” (When walking on the Tracks)

“The gate feels heavy!” (When investigating the Exit Gate)

“This seems to drive the gate.” (When investigating Power Transmission)

Rewards:

1. The Elevator is powered to transport players to the next room.

Contraption Puzzle 1: AC Motor

Type: Electric potential/frequency matching

Prerequisite of solving: None

Description:

This puzzle features Tesla’s early and most applied invention, AC motor (three-phase). This time the puzzle solving slightly differentiates from the ones of generators, which requires players to memorise the patterns on the motor and match the patterns using cables at an AC Socket without looking at the original patterns. Finally players need to connect the cables to the corresponding terminals on the AC Motor. The match rule is vertical inversion.

Audio cue: No

Solution:

The current patterns shown in the Player Screen in the sketch, from left to right each matches 1-3

Clues:

The match of pattern no.1 is already given.

Reward:

Intelligence about Tesla’s inventions of AC motors

Contraption Puzzle 2: Tracks

Type: Device repairing/operating

Prerequisite of solving: Track controller is connected to working AC or DC Motor

Description:

The puzzle requires the player to rearrange the tracks by rotating each track by operating the Track Controller.

Audio cue: Yes

One ideal solution:

Form a route from the AC Motor to Power Transmission. One possible route is shown in the sketch.

Clues: None

Reward: None

Contraption Puzzle 3: Wiring

Type: Wiring

Prerequisite of solving: None

Description:

Audio cue: Yes

One ideal solution:

Form a route From AC Power Source to the AC Socket near Power Transmission.

Clues: None

Reward: None

Room Puzzle A3:

In this room, players have to gain two accesses to proceed. One is the Tesla Coil Prototype discharging electricity at the Exit Gate, which is already powered by a relative low voltage AC power (this power cannot be cut and is running through a Transformer) that needs to be transformed to a much higher voltage in order to be passed safely. The other is the Exit Gate itself which is already connected with the AC Motor (it needs AC power from the AC Generator), which is not enough because the power output of the AC Motor is too high that the Exit Gate will open and close repeatedly at a very fast speed for players to pass. Thus players have to consider the usage of the Regulator.

There are no Lamps in this room so players can only explore the room environment using their flashlights.

One ideal solution:

Solve the two contraption puzzles in any order.

Clues: Tesla’s notes

Rewards:

1. The Exit Gate is clear and open and close at a slow speed so players can pass.

Contraption Puzzle 1: AC Power

Type: Device repairing/operating

Prerequisite of solving: None

Description:

The puzzle incorporates Electric potential/frequency matching puzzle element and at this time, player can choose to use their own original pattern at the AC Generator and match rule. But still they have to consider how to connect the cables in order to both power and regulate the AC Motor. After the puzzle is solved, the power output level of the AC Motor can be adjusted using the Regulator’s handle.

Audio cue: Yes

Solution: One possible solution is shown in the sketch.

Clues: Tesla’s Note

Reward:

Intelligence about Tesla’s invention of regulator for AC motors

Contraption Puzzle 2: Transformer

Type: Device repairing/operating

Prerequisite of solving: None

Description:

The puzzle requires players to adjust the number of turns of the primary and secondary coils. Tesla’s note explains the basic principles of transformers and implies how high the voltage is needed in order to pass the Tesla Coil Prototype safely.

Audio cue: No

Solution: One possible solution is shown in the sketch.

Clues: Tesla’s Note

Reward:

Intelligence about Tesla’s invention of electrical transformer

Source:

http://www.teslauniverse.com/nikola-tesla-patents-381,968-electro-magnetic-motor

http://www.teslauniverse.com/nikola-tesla-patents-382,280-transmission-of-power

http://www.teslauniverse.com/nikola-tesla-patents-390,820-alternate-current-regulator

http://www.teslauniverse.com/nikola-tesla-patents-433,702-electrical-transformer