Results from Game Design Challenge: Favorite Song

By staff [04.19.11]

 In its latest Game Design Challenge, Game Career Guide asked its readers to create a game based on a favorite song:

"Inspired by music, create a design for a game that is in some way inspired by the song you choose.

"Pick a song that moves you. Pick a song that shakes your butt or moves your heart. Pick a song that's weird or crazy -- or sublimely beautiful. Don't pick a simple pop song; pick a complicated mess. Or do pick a simple pop song and then make a simple pop game that could rise to the top of the App Store charts.

"Think about what about the song provokes your emotions. Is it the lyrics? Is it the mood the song puts you in? Does the rhythm imply pacing? Does the compositional technique imply a philosophy that can be applied to game design?

"We're asking you not to make a rhythm game. Instead, pick a song you like a lot and just sit and listen to it... and come up with the game design that the song itself inspires you to create."

What follows are the best and most original entries we received. Here are our top picks.

Best Entries

Michael Kofman, Full Sail Alumni, Mystikal: "Bouncing Back" (see page 2)

Emily Greenquist, Student at Tribeca Flashpoint, De La Soul: "A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays'" (see page 3)

Nick Johnson, Columbia College of Chicago Alumni, Frank Zappa: "Cruisin' for Burgers" (see page 4)

Honorable Mentions

Jasper Wuts, Freelancer, John Lennon: "Imagine" (see page 5)
Josef Locastro, Jefferson Airplane: "White Rabbit" (see page 6)
Aaron Bertinetti, Walkabout, Red Hot Chili Peppers: "Walkabout" (see page 7)
Reed Marvine, Alumni of Columbia College Chicago, Doctor P: "Sweet Shop" (see page 8)
Erlend Sogge Heggen, jMonkeyEngine Core Member, Andrew Bird: "Darkmatter" (see page 9)
Stephen Miller Student at Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, Daft Punk: "Technologic" (see page 10)

Michael Kofman, Full Sail Alumni, Mystikal: "Bouncing Back"

Mystikal - Bouncing Back induces an uncontrollable feeling to get off your seat and just groove and jive. Fishapalooza is about that, starting a bored Party Fish named Frank that stumbles upon a party belt. The game puts a spin on Katamari style gameplay where Frank, carefree and willing to face the deep sea dangers head on, proceeds by enticing other fish to join his entourage in his aim is to get the whole sea into a giant Mardi Gra like celebration.

At first the ocean is mundane, peaceful, saturated, and life like (in a boring kind of way). When Frank approaches other fish or ocean creatures they begin to become brightly colored and eccentric. What is essentially happening in Fishapalooza is the building up of a parade that as the party grows larger the camera begins to pan out and the party covers a larger radius. The goal is, similar to Katamari, to get the party large enough in a short period of time.


See above for an example of a boring tuna being transformed into a party fish as it joins up with Frank

As more fish join the party, the fish transform from boring old tuna into a top hat wearing, trumpet playing, moon walking hipster. Fishapalooza will have costumes, various instruments that add to the build up by starting with simple acapella, adding melody, and percussion as certain tiers are met. The game adheres largely to a multi-layered 2D sidescroller perspective with platforming elements that aren't used so much as to defeat the opponent but to steer him down various paths of play. With occasional stops along the way which involve impressing other fish to join your group or defeating party poopers like sharks and squid. When this occurs a series of button presses will determine a win or a loss. Winning adds that fish/creature to your party. Losing to a party pooper will have them take or scare some fish away.

See above for an example of the sidescrolling parade and intended perspective (very simplified).

Towards the end we should see whales dancing on their feet. Sexy cheerleader fish. Color changing jellyfish. Octopus playing the piano. Sharks on the saxophone. Cool puffer fish on the trumpet. Small schools of fish expanding in and out in almost a fireworks pattern that is controlled procedurally by the music which is generated by the game progression and the size of the party.

Emily Greenquist, Student at Tribeca Flashpoint, De La Soul: "A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays'"

Inspired by De La Soul's 1991 anthem "A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays'," the game of equally long title (replace the "jam" with "game") centers on the enthusiasm, freedom, camaraderie, and child-like giddiness that is the event of Saturdays.

The game itself is an event, occurring online only on Saturdays. It is a weekly, 24 hour MMORPG in an expansive and glitzed out roller skating rink that honors the time-honored tradition of letting loose on a Saturday. Like the song says:

Now is the time to act a fool tonight.

Forget about your worries, and you will be alright.

It's Saturday.

- De La Soul

Using the XBox 360 Kinect, players of all ages dance, roller skate, compete in the rink, play in the arcade, make friends, and dress to impress. Teams and individuals can make up dance/skate routines and customize threads for judgment every hour. Free skate is available the whole 24 hours, and players can toggle the option of chatting with new and old friends.

Game play is full body motion. Dancing is entirely free form, which allows for completely personalized moves. Once in the rink, the player's avatar is automatically propelled forward, and while maintaining the freedom of stylized movement, speed is determined by how quickly the player shifts their weight from side to side. Rink competitions are also available - i.e. racing, the limbo, red light / green light. If the player wants to take a break (or they don't have a partner for "couples skate"), they can sit and chat in the snack bar or hang out in the arcade. Single and multiply player classics (like air hockey, skee ball, whack-a-mole, pool, table tennis, and hundreds of arcade gameswith high scores to beat), all come to life in the extensive game room.

"A Roller Skating Game Named ‘Saturdays'" is open and safe for everyone - there are family rooms, under 18 only areas, and strict monitoring of player actions and language usage.

The music is streamed through Pandora, and players have the option of using the "A Roller Skating Game Named ‘Saturdays'" playlist or one of their own. In the game's playlist, De La Soul's "Saturdays" plays in random intervals (about once every two hours), and players are encouraged to dance along together with a routine of simple steps. This act is similar to everyone at the club getting up to Do The Hustleor Jump Around at a game.

Like the song that inspired it, "A Roller Skating Game Named ‘Saturdays,'" honors the special excitement of this single day of the week. Regardless of one's social or economic status, players from all over the country have plans on Saturday; they are joining together for a full day of roller skating, camaraderie, active play, personal expression, and great music.

Nick Johnson, Columbia College of Chicago Alumni, Frank Zappa: "Cruisin' for Burgers"

Cruisin' for Burgers is a masterpiece by Frank Zappa. The Music is inspired by the groove that overtakes you on the quest for good eats in a nice car. The Melody starts with a strong rumble of an engine sputtering out flames as the tune rolls around each beat, seeking the goal. When that goal is reached, the rhythm changes and turns into pure bliss.

Cruisin' for Burgers "the game" is about a car leaning through high speed traffic and sticking to walls as you grab for the best burgers mortal man can achieve.

The player's goal is to eat 10 burgers in under 10 minutes. They will drive a hot rod capable of "hopping up" onto other cars and performing "barrel rolls".

You control an indestructible Car that can shift balance and do wheelies using its left or right side. This allows the car to hop up on other cars as you squeeze through traffic and use them to bank tighter corners and leap across entire lanes.

The Controls are simple. An analog stick to aim your car, a button for gas, another button for breaking, and two shoulder (L + R) buttons for shifting wheelies from left to right. The longer both shoulder buttons are held down the faster the car goes, but it will lose the ability to hop up on other cars until both L and R are released. All traffic has wheelie accommodating angled collision boxes (shown above) that will allow for the player to get a "leg up" on cars they hop a side onto. Double tapping ether L or R will make your car "Barrel Roll" in ether direction but not hop up on any car you collide with.

The levels include smaller urban streets, highways, and cluttered main streets. Large Hamburgers loom on the horizon showing which streets and what directions Hamburgers await you. The burgers are hoisted up in front of the Burger Joints by larger then life Mascots requiring you to hop up on them to grab and start consuming the Burger. Once you start consuming the Burger its the same as the bliss of the crescendo of the song. The pace evens out as your car goes into Bliss mode.

In Bliss mode your car glows for 10 seconds as your driver avatar eats the handheld meat masterpiece. Bliss mode will increase the speed and responsiveness of your car and leap over any car you rear end. If the player manages to eat 10 burgers in under 10 minutes they will have high scores posted on the high score page. You can post your High scores Online and show who truly is the master of a game inspired by the late great Frank Zappa.

Jasper Wuts, Freelancer, John Lennon: "Imagine"

John Lennon's Imagine, one of the most influential songs of the last century, offers a unique opportunity for videogame adaptation. Based on a solid experiential framework analysis, an ‘imagine' open source videogame concept is developed and presented below.


Imagine an open source MMOG; it's easy if you try. A virtual world in which people can live together and that they can construct by themselves. I will discuss the model for this world as I see it, but as any open source system, it can evolve into something else. Player's involvement in its evolution stimulates moral exploration of societal constructs. By providing a model society to optimize together in a virtual world, this game gives people faith in the unifying abilities of real world societies.

What I see as a starting point for this videogame is virtual territory similar to the earth's natural environment. A clear interface guides people through both the world itself as well as the editing of the world. There can be a natural variety of people and environments that are all visualized in a simplistic and serene style. There are possibilities to communicate with each other and interact with the environment but no systems of ownership (private room or clothing), empowerment (weapons and other items) or discernment (rankings, status or level ups).

What happens next is up to the players. Players can chat with each other and come up with games, using the environment. The system could work like this but might be a bit boring. Some users will want to edit the world. When they notice it gets messy when they all edit separately, they will discuss a system of governance. This is when the game becomes a moral playground and people start to imagine.

Josef Locastro, Jefferson Airplane: "White Rabbit"

Jolene Jones was a flower child. She stood for love and peace, and flowers in your hair, and a world where no one knew war or suffering. Jolene stood there on the field in August, hot sweat on his skin and fire in her heart as thousands gathered to celebrate a life in music and laughter. She sang, she danced, she kissed, she smiled and when the clouds rolled in, when the ground shook and the air cracked with thunder she finally stopped. The monsters were awful, impossible to comprehend...anyone unprepared was driven mad, swept up in their jaws and crushed. But Jolene soon found she was prepared, as the fire in her heart burst into an inferno. She reached out to take destiny into her strong hands the day the music died...

White Rabbit is an action game, developed for Xbox 360 and PS3. Based off the Jefferson Airplane hit song of the same name, White Rabbit tells the story of an epic battle against chaos. The heroine of the story, Jolene Jones, is thrown into the middle of the fight, forced to stand as a champion of humanity. A twist of fate reveals her brothers, formerly soldiers fighting in war-torn Vietnam, were chosen as avatars for the powers of chaos...and only Jolene can stop them.

The battle system would feel very familiar to fans of fast-paced action games like Bayonetta, Dante's Inferno and Devil May Cry. Jolene has the ability to equip large, two-handed swords of various styles, as well as partner with and command different spirits and demons she meets on her journey. By using a careful strategy of switching teammates, battles become frantic melees with spine-shattering hits, explosive effects and engrossing visuals. The unique "Trip" system allows Jolene to submit to the spirit of battle, adding damage to each attack as long as she can maintain a combo. However, if her "trip meter" maxes out without the player "Coming Down" (pressing the Right Bumper/R1), Jolene suffers from a "Bad Trip" (halved movement for 5 seconds, empties Trip meter) and must recover.

The reason I chose to call the game White Rabbit was to capture the spirit of a specific time in American history, and mix it with what appeals to us in action video games. 1969 was one of the most turbulent and amazing years in American history. Drawing from that, enemies could be towering evil mushrooms, mutated cartoon characters and mascots, the Red Menace or Demon Cosmonauts. By preying off the real stresses and fears that were present in its setting the game finds a deep identity in the struggle of Jolene Jones. Systems like the "Trip" system add to the flavor and support it, the music would be licensed 60's classics (Stones, Dylan, Osbourne...),and the art style would be inspired by 60s and 70s concert posters. White Rabbit is a testament to the ability of the human race to make it through even the darkest hour, and look great doing it.

Aaron Bertinetti, Walkabout, Red Hot Chili Peppers: "Walkabout"

The song "Walkabout" by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers has always put me into a trance-like melodic groove that inspires dreaming, exploration and self discovery.

"The didgeridoo original Man with the dream, I believe the Aborigine"

A Walkabout also refers to a rite of passage during which male Australian Aborigines embark on a spiritual journey into the wilderness for an extended period, in which they followed songlines, paths that their ceremonial ancestors took, and relived their mythological stories.

Songlines mark the route of the creators across the landscape and sky during the world's creation, known as the Dreaming. However, the Dreaming is told differently by each Aboriginal tribe with the songlines each holding different story elements with different values and beliefs. These songlines are also the subject matter of much of the highly colourful and pattern based paintings of Aboriginal art.

"A walk could cure almost all my blues"

In the game "Walkabout", the player is a modern day Aboriginal man consumed by modernity in the late 20st Century. Following his grandfather's funeral and a series of unfortunate events he finds himself stranded in the Australian outback with only a few traditional items left to him by his grandfather. A didgeridoo, a boomerang and a handed weapon called a nulla nulla.

What begins as a quest home becomes a quest to discover the songlines of the landscape and rediscover the stories of his ancestors.

"You could do it with a shuffle... stroll... stride... the unknown"

The gameplay is a hybrid of mechanics from Fallout New Vegas, Oregon Trail and Ocarina of Time, albeit without guns or dysentery, and has a subtle dreamlike aesthetic to the world inspired by Aboriginal art.

In other words, a vibrant open-world survival adventure!

The player must survive the harsh Australian outback through the mastery of equipment such as the nulla nulla and boomerang and the development of skills including hunting, crafting and rationing.

The player is encouraged to explore the world in search of the songlines, which may be uncovered via exploration, astronomy, communication with spirits or NPCs and completion of various tasks. Upon collecting these songlines the player must master them in the correct sequence using his didgeridoo to create songs. These songs tell stories about the player's ancestors (Dreaming Quests) in which the player encounters the spirits of his ancestors and their foes. Completing a Dreaming Quest allows the player to access new areas across the vast Australian continent.

"I think I'll go on a walkabout and find out what it's all about"

Initially these songs are simple with only one correct sequence of songlines, but as they discover different songlines of the Dreaming, they must choose which songlines to play in sequence and ultimately the songs to play.

Each song not only determines the Dreaming the player creates but will also shape the world around him, until ultimately the player finds something far greater than the modernity he left behind.

Reed Marvine, Alumni of Columbia College Chicago, Doctor P: "Sweet Shop"

The Song

One of my Favorite songs at the moment is Doctor P's "Sweet Shop". It is a high intensity drum and bass tune with heavy dubstep elements. I love listening to this type of music while I play twitch action games. I start the song and as it builds I want to bust out guns blazing.

Designing a game around a song like this was obvious for me. It needs to be a fast paced action game with over the top effects. Being fast paced I felt the game should be relatively short but repayable, like the song. The player will want to beat his/her score. The player needs a way to prolong the game with increasing difficulty as they go to keep it exiting. The player needs to balance between risky moves to earn points and survivability to prolong the time in game. Drop It, Rock It is what I came up with.

The Concept

Drop it, Rock it is a 3rd person brawler in which the electrified robot codenamed Amp drops into an apocalyptic city and has to battle as many robotic foes as he can before his electrical charge meter depletes or before Amp is destroyed by the robotic hordes. The game is based on short fast paced rounds and designed to be played on portable devices.


The player has to keep track of his armor and charge levels. Electrical Charge Level is decreased at a constant rate, slow at first and faster as the round goes on. It is also decreased when Amp uses its Powerful abilities. However, Charge level is increased by moving near defeated robots. These robots give off all their residual energy all at once and do not give any more after that. Armor is decreased by taking damage. Armor can be repaired by Amp using the Weld ability. Weld costs Energy per second and heals per second.

In addition to Amp's defensive abilities it also has Offensive abilities. Some of them affect single targets with basic attacks such as quick punches and slow heavy kicks. Some affect multiple targets such as, Arc which sends lightning out forward which then arcs between all of the enemies nearby. Static Charge which lunges Amp forward and gains speed for every robot smashed through. Finally, Electro Magnet which pulls all nearby enemies close leaving them highly vulnerable to area damage abilities.

Basic attacks do no drain Energy but the special attacks do. If Amp is drained of energy completely it shuts down and the round is over. The player must balance energy gained from defeated enemies with energy output used to defeat them.

These enemies are no pushovers. They are armed with laser cannons, sound wave blasters, and heavy metal fists. They are programmed to destroy anything that tries to stop them from destroying the city. The player is rewarded with points for every enemy robot that is destroyed. The player is scored after each round and uploaded to a leaderboard list

Erlend Sogge Heggen, jMonkeyEngine Core Member, Andrew Bird: "Darkmatter"

A song about curiosity, contrast, unscrupulous scrutiny, dark matter and finding the self.


Navigate through levels of various twisted physics properties. Balance your ability with your endurance to stay in one [half & half] piece.


Black's father is the smartest man in the world, known only as The Scientist. In an attempt to save his pregnant wive from an bizarre disease, The Scientist subjected her to experimental science. Only the child survived, albeit with dubious side effects. Half human, half dark matter, his life is defined by what, not of who he is.

Black grew up in a lab, now a teenager. One day everything goes wrong; with the laws of physics in turmoil, Black must use his abilities to restore order in the chaotic facilities.


Play from a third-person 3D perspective, in a largely black and white environment.

Rough example of visual style, thanks Roy. Not a level example.


Being half dark matter comes with its good and bad. On the plus side your negative side can:

Yet it has its limitations:

The challenge lies in maneuvering through chaotic levels (individual departments) without depleting your energy.


Levels will usually have one or more scientists that needs to be saved as a "bonus" for highly optimized routes. Every level will be based on whatever the Head of Department was researching, e.g. Astronomy, Electromagnetism, Crystallography etc. The idea is to represent science from its most beautiful and ugly sides.


Could be adapted to most platforms, but the Kinect offers unparallelled immersion for this game. Particularly draining moves could require moderately-to-extremely demanding real-life stances, depending on difficulty setting. Imagine, on Hard, having to stand on one leg with the other extended forwards in a 90 degree angle in order to perform a special long-step move. If the player gets an ever so small taste of the character's exhaustion at the end of a strenuous feat, immersion takes new meaning.

Stephen Miller Student at Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, Daft Punk: "Technologic"

Work sucks, especially when your boss is a sadistic robot looking to turn you into scrap metal. Uniforge is a competitive puzzle game where you must fight to keep your job--and stay alive. You play as the Assembler, a robot laborer who's worked his entire career combining parts into bizarre contraptions. Despite your years of tireless service, your boss seems all too eager to introduce you to your replacement, a next-gen assembler. With a diabolical twinkle in his eye, your boss explains that he's going to have a contest to determine who says onboard. Whoever can destroy the other with his construction skills can keep his CPU and his paycheck. Are you up for the challenge, or are you obsolete?

Uniforge takes place in a gritty sci-fi factory, viewed from the top-down perspective. You can maneuver your robot between conveyor belts at the top of the screen, with your opponent in a similar setup at the bottom. One conveyor belt flows left, the other right. Both carry a steady stream of random parts between you from an enclosure on the left-hand side called the universal constructor.

An overview of the factory floor. Arrows indicate flow of parts across the conveyor belts.

You can turn and grab the parts as they pass by and use them instantly for a minor effect (such as zapping your opponent with a weak laser or powering up a personal force field) or combine them with other passing parts for more exotic effects (such as magnetizing your opponent in place or short-circuiting him with bolts of electricity). The round ends once one of you has been blasted into a heap of spare parts.

There are many possible strategies in Uniforge but all involve the constant, frantic combination of parts. Much like the relentless beat of technical commands in "Technologic", you must not break your stride or risk being outpaced by your opponent. You can focus on attack by combining warm-colored parts, defense by combining cool-colored parts, but combining both in the same use cancels out. This discourages you from randomly grabbing unrelated parts. Successfully grabbing a larger number of related parts before using them will yield the strongest result. You will also be tempted to deny your opponent powerful parts by grabbing them before they can loop around the conveyor belt to his side of the factory. You'll have to ask yourself if it's worth breaking your flow of combos to snatch that part and use it quick.

Throughout the duel, your boss will watch from a dais and provide condescending commentary, turning to single you out for humiliation after powerful attacks land home.

Your boss. How have you managed to put up with it for all these years?

Based on the creepy robot from the "Technologic" music video, your boss will speak in an inhuman, synthesized voice. After you defeat your first opponent, your boss will introduce the next in a series of upgraded assembler bots, each with its own unique advantage. Some of your would-be replacements are bulky industrial robots resistant to certain damage types, or sleek hyper-advanced robots who can gracefully zip along their conveyor belt at increased speed. Finally, in an act of frustration, your boss will step down from the dais to duel you himself. If you can survive his denigrating insults, you might just beat him and wind up as the factory's new owner!

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