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Agence France-Presse
September 20, 2013
Ten game designers got together over the weekend and made "Doom Piano," mashing the foundational shooter "Doom" with a musical instrument. Relaxnews spoke to two of its creators to find out more.
"Doom Piano" was put together for London's Virgin Media Game Space (VMGS), after curator David Hayward invited nine other designers, including Simon Bachelier of Parisian collective One Life Remains, to join him for a weekend of game creation.

Since its September 16 completion, "Doom Piano" has become a viral hit, featured on prominent tech blogs and game sites such as Engadget, Geek, Kotaku and Gamasutra.

"The main purpose of the jam was to make the most amazing, craziest, most innovative and funniest arcade cabinet with a limited amount of time and money," Bachelier told Relaxnews. "Making it work was a serious challenge -- but it was amusing to think that such a noble object could be used to play a world-famous game like 'Doom.'"

Hayward explained the project's origins further. "'Doom Piano' was one of the earlier concepts that came up when we were proposing ideas, and was quickly rejected. It would be cumbersome to move, technically challenging, and time-consuming to construct, but we kept on coming back to it. Before long we were scouring a secondhand listings site for cheap pianos."

Poland's creator of indie fave "McPixel," Sos Sosowski, spent six hours reprogramming 1993's genre-defining game to work with long piano key presses rather than customary computer stabs, while other members of the team got to grips with wiring, soldering and joinery, some for the first time.

As a result, players can sit themselves at the upright piano, whose full-size keyboard has been divided into distinct subsections, pressing white keys to control their character's movement and black keys to fire.

Each of the keyboard's functioning 86 hammers are now wired up to special input boards, but in its current form, "Doom Piano" is not exactly tuneful: it's a toddler's discordant tumblings over a newly discovered instrument.

"We've actually been talking about this a lot, and yes, it would be possible to compose for it," said Hayward. "One approach would be to commission a soundtrack that matched the game's levels. Something that's a bit improvisational, in the style of [ambient musician] David Kanaga, could work really well. Another approach would be to create custom levels for use with existing compositions, such as someone's suggestion of the more exuberant Rachmaninoff pieces."

What if they could make it again, but with unlimited resources? Well, it would still be "Doom Piano," maintained Bachelier, but perhaps with better wiring. Hayward, meanwhile, fancies remaking it with a grand piano, while the ten-person team had joked about a sequel involving hi-spec shooter "Crysis" and an accordion.

But these ideas don't come out of nowhere. When asked, Hayward cited "Gigantomachie" from One Life Remains as one of his own inspirations. Each side in the giant-fighting game has an oversized, ten-foot controller, with buttons spread far apart for optimum mischief-making.

Similarly, the free Android and iOS app "Spaceteam" (by "Mass Effect 3" and "Dragon Age" programmer Henry Smith) is another that "can very quickly instigate teams of strangers to shout complete nonsense at each other in public."

And one of the VGMS's own exhibits has a definite connection to the other two. "Sam Billingham's 'Command Control' is almost a physical version of 'Space Team,' with real control boxes for its buttons and switches, repurposing old Android phones acting as displays," Hayward enthused.

The Virgin Media Game Space (vgms.com) will accommodate "Doom Piano" until September 21. Website visitors can vote for it and three other projects, the victor destined for an appearance at the Eurogamer Expo, September 26-29.