How did a young student with almost no programming experience and little hardware knowledge win Game of the year and Best Technical Achievement at the Norwegian Game Awards? Perhaps most importantly, how did the title claim victory without a traditional “playscreen?”
Quite simply, Mosquito Mania isn`t really a video game in the classic sense and can probably best be defined as an audio game.
Mosquito Mania started out as a student project at Music Technology at NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology), with students asked to determine ”how to best use sound in terms of interaction with people.”
Although most of the class chose a musical approach, Sigurd Gran-Jansen adopted a different tact. Essentially, Mosquito Mania is a game where the player is surrounded by invisible mosquito swarms whose buzz is outputted by 8 speakers. The mission? To take out as many mosquitos as you can in 60 seconds, only armed with sensors that are attached to a plastic rifle.
”My programming skills where extremely limited when I started the project, but I had a teacher who was into Arduino, and he really supported me,” Sigurd Gran-Jansen explained. “Sometimes he even sat down and helped me after working hours, and his drive was really inspirational for me to achieve this.”
The hardware setup on the gun side consists of a magnometer and an accelerometer attached to an Atmel-based Arduino board. The signal is subsequently transferred to a computer (via XBee) which in turn executes all calculations on the sound spatialization while running game algorithms. C is used to program the microcontroller, with Java, cSound, JS and MAX/MSP chosen for the software side of the project.
“I spent about 2.5 months on the project and the last two weeks I worked from 8 in the morning until 2 a night. The last four days before the Game Awards, I slept at the university, so I didn’t have to waste time traveling between my apartment and the university,” Sigurd Gran-Jansen added. “I had so much lack of sleep that I started to hallucinate. It is not cool when you see a Lion attacking a Zebra in the office at 9 p.m. Stuff like that shouldn’t happen before 1 a.m., and there should definitely be a Seal involved.”
But as probably most of us have experienced, not everything goes as planned.
“The first time I ever tested the system with actually surround sound, was the nigh before it was going to be presented and evaluated by the professors. Nothing worked,” he said. “There was no sound and the sensors went haywire! I spent the whole night, and the following day troubleshooting and do some last minute hacks, and 5 minutes before it was my turn to present the game, it worked! ‘Luck favors the prepared’ some says, and that night I felt that saying suited me.”
Clearly, one can come a long way with a great amount of creativity, the will to learn, an inspirational teacher and some easy to understand hardware.
Will you be in Trondheim August 29 – 30? Be sure to visit us at Maker Faire Trondheim and see how many mosquitos you can take down in 60 seconds!