The Circle Maze is a multi-user interactive musical game that encourages team building and collaboration. By combining novel input devices with real-time computer graphics on an integrated tabletop surface, the Circle Maze brings together a group of players to participate in group gaming and music-making. Each player has a Lazy-Susan-like input device with which they control visual and aural facets of the game.
The high-level objective for the players of this experience is to collect all of the Circle Maze's pieces in the middle of the game board. Each of the three rings is filled with maze-like paths, some providing the pieces a route from one ring to another, some looping the pieces back into the ring from which they came. Each of the players is in control of the rotation of one ring. Players turn their ring by turning a wooden disk attached to the side of the Jam-O-Drum. The rings affect one of the musical tracks through their absolute rotation - as a player turns their ring, they mix their track from among several complementary loops.
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At the beginning of the experience, a number of pieces are distributed throughout the outer ring of the maze. Each of the many pieces moves blindly through the maze, pulsing to the rhythm of the music. If the paths from one ring to another align, a piece will cross into the new ring; however, if a piece hits a wall, it will simply reverse its direction. When pieces enter the center circle, they cease moving but continue to pulse to the beat.
Goals of the Project
The primary goal for the Circle Maze was to design a game that furthered communication and collaboration among its players. The task for the players is to guide all of the game's pieces to the middle of the maze. Because the maze is divided into concentric rings, the pieces must pass through each ring in turn; thus, all the players must work together to achieve this goal. Movement of the pieces and rings produces changes in the musical score - as a player turns their ring, they alter their contribution to the ensemble. Players of the Circle Maze are involved not only in a goal-oriented game, but also in a collaborative music-making experience.
The most important requirement of the players is that they are able to work together as a team. No musical experience is required because any movement of the rings produces a complementary musical effect. Many individuals who will normally not participate in a musical activity because of their fears of public performance may approach the Circle Maze because of its game-like interaction and appearance. Only afterwards might a participant realize they have been playing an unusual instrument.
The Circle Maze is viewed as a single step in the continuing research into communal music-making experiences. There are several larger research questions the developers hope to address, such as "How does one encourage spontaneous, non-self-conscious music making?" "How does one facilitate real time collective experiences among strangers?" and "How does one best introduce a novice musician to the world of music-making?" The team continue to explore interaction designs and input devices that integrate a variety of approaches to combining elements of motion in music and graphics.