Counting in binary can make some cool patterns. I learned to count in binary on my fingers, kinda as a joke but it actually has ended up useful. It its quite handy to be able to count up to 31 on one hand and it is now my default way if I need to count. The main time it comes up is working out what number a month is as I can quickly run through the months then 'feel' what the number is. One thing I like about the pattern is that each new digit needs to run through all the previous ones before it comes out. This feels very gaming and an opportunity came up with Music Game Jam 2018.

I had an idea that it would be like a rhythm game, but working through all the digits. As you worked your way left and unlocked more the music would build up and add more instruments. I was lucky enough to be working with Aidan who is both an awesome developer and musician and pitched him the idea. He liked it and we set to work.

For the letters I used the Kenney Asset Letter Tiles. In the default typing position your pinky ends on the semicolon. I decided to move the letters across so your right hand is on GHJK which feels a bit weird but looks better than a ;. I worked on the ordering and ended up playing the game a bunch in silence while Aidan worked on the music. Once he the track he added the beat logic so you would have to restart if you were too early or late.

Since I had a lot of time I experimented with dynamic text. Each letter jiggles with the amplitude being your current score which gave it a lot of joy. I also added your highest score so far so you could see how you were doing. I also added a slight screen shake so you would feel it when you hit a key.

Once I got a build with the music in the game all came together. Aidan did a great job building up and ending with a bopping tune. Once you get to half goes in a new direction, building tension as you build towards the 128 while still fitting with the delightful theme. We ended up having mistakes kick you back to the start. This has definitely caused some frustration, especially when people are trying to get the hang of the first few notes. The sense of achievement they get from nailing the whole thing makes it worth it though. "I got to 128! that was incredibly satisfying."

The feedback from was people found it satisfyingly hard. It is an unforgiving game but also pretty short and once you get the pattern you can do it with your eyes closed. Once interesting comment was about playing on a French keyboard:

in France, the "A" key is at the "Q" key place. So, when I've had to press the A key, I was not sure of wich I really had to press : A or Q ? I've pressed "Q", ... it was "A".
This was a good insight and a reminder to make your controls accessible. If we had used a dynamic font for the keys to press instead of the image tiles it would have been much easier to let the player set their controls.

The game ended up getting ranked #1 in Music which is pretty cool for a music jam and a tribute to Aidans talents. It was a great project to work on with no frustrating physics to wrestle with and having the space to polish and tune the timing.

Lessons Learnt

Simple and polished can result in a great game.
Languages can have different keyboard layouts which can catch you out if you hard code the letters.