“Opera is when a guy gets stabbed and instead of bleeding, he sings.”
-- Ed Gardner

Oh, it is Thanksgiving, NO ONE IS READING. I am going to go play Peggle. In the meantime, here are some notes about Nachtmusik, our karaoke survival horror game released last Spring, and how it came to be. Ha ha, notes, musik, ha ha.


Lothar (our art director) is a big fan of the Japanese horror genre (The Ring, Dark Water, Silent Hill games, etc). He is a big fan of anything Japanese. It is always "kawaii" this and "desu desu desu" that. And he never stops trying to get me to watch something called Bubblegum Crisis.

Perhaps he would be more at home over at Kotaku.

On the other hand, I am a big fan of opera, particularly Wagner. But I had the idea, could not these two interests be combined in a game? I had never heard of a karaoke horror game. I’d certainly heard some karaoke horrors – Bruno, our CTO, singing America’s “Horse With No Name”, for one.

But why not? Operas, like video games, have always had a high body count.

I am now embarrassed to have a little valkyrie girl in the game, since that character (a yūrei, or Japanese ghost, as Lothar tells me) is so horribly overdone. It seems that every game must now contain a little scary girl in her pyjamas. Perhaps we could make a game with nothing but these spooky girls and call it Slumber Party Of The Damned.

Oh, I am sure such a thing it is already coming out for the Nintendo DS.

So now we had this premise, a karaoke game set in a haunted opera house, and we had two challenges -- to make a game driven by opera singing, and to also make it truly frightening.
sing for your life

We went overboard with the darkness at first. It was too dark in the game, and you could not see where you were going. To counter this, Otto (our lead programmer) made a small modification – every time your character bumped into something, there was a drum sound, with different intensity and instruments (timpani, cymbals, etc) depending on what and how hard you hit.

I thought it was an interesting idea, but it really played havoc with the score (both the musical score and the player's numeric score). Also, when testing, I fell down the stairs on one level and it sounded like a Citroën Acadiane full of ottomans and saucepan lids driving off a cliff and landing on an Alexander Calder sculpture. I was wearing headphones at the time and was deaf for three days.

Some things are clever ideas but do not make it into the final game.

Otto also designed a high-level weapon called the Pitchfork, but it was too violent. In Germany, we are not allowed to have very violent games, and apparently singing opera while running down a hallway pitchforking mutant swans was too much for the Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (our game ratings board). The Tannhauwitzer, thankfully, remained in. I think much of the violence in this game was made it past them, due to the game's opera theme and supposed educational nature.

If only Clive Barker's Jericho let you sing Strauss and Wagner, perhaps it would not have been banned here.

In the end, I think our Nachtmusik turned out well. There are not many opera fans who are also gamers, but even if you do not know your Aida from your Zauberflöte, you must agree it is still fun to kill things with classical music. Computerspiele ohn Strategie magazine called it "A terrifying combination of Loom, Karaoke Revolution, and Resident Evil." I could not be more proud.

Well, perhaps I would be more proud if I won a Nobel Prize or the Eurovision Song Contest. Or maybe if I went into outer space...but I will leave that to Richard Garriott.

-- Karsden