Composing our First Prototype

Week 2 Updates
  • brainstorming our first prototype
  • introduction of a design madlib used to inform prototypes
  • development of first prototype
Brainstorming our First Prototype

In week 1, we were able to apply the transformational framework to our project in order to achieve a more compelling and coherent design structure. We clearly now know:

  • Who we are making our product for –> university students with little music theory knowledge.
  • Our player transformations –> knowledge, disposition, identity, belief
  • We have several high level purposes floating around, so it will be crucial that we pick one in the next week.
With a clear structure in place and strong sense of team alignment, we are now ready to begin brainstorming our first prototype. During brainstorming, we used the limiter of scope to constrain our ideation. Our quarterly meetings with faculty are fast-approaching, so it is important that we have something testable and playable by Wednesday, 9/15. It would be ideal to have a playtest or two before quarters, so that we can share how user testing will influence our iterations. 
We came up with several ideas, and there was one concept in particular that compelled us all by shedding a new light onto our project – applying gamification to make our prototypes more engaging and accessible. 
Design Madlib to Inform our Prototypes

Back in April 2021, during the construction of our pitch, we were having difficulties conveying what each prototype would be doing, and how they were unique. So we came up with a design madlib to help create structure between our prototypes and give a sense of what each prototype will do. Essentially this is a logline with four unique categories. 

  • Theory –> the theoretical concept we are conveying
  • Verb –> the means of interacting with said theory
  • Effect –> the feedback that communicates interactions and responses
  • Genre –> the template used to help generate a container or frame to shape the experience. 

This framework is not a crutch, but rather an igniter to help generate interesting ideas that have consistency throughout the semester. The madlib is as follows:

An exploration of Theory where guests Verb musical notes, with Effect as feedback, in the style of Genre.
  • Rhythm
  • Pitch
  • Harmony
  • Chord Progressions
  • Intervals
  • Chord Structures
  • Song Structures
  • Feel
  • Pull
  • Hold
  • Match
  • Cut
  • Weave
  • Smear
  • Lighting
  • Atmosphere
  • Character
  • Object
  • Environment
  • Speed / Time
  • Harmony
  • Professor Layton [Puzzle Platformer]
  • Virtual Virtual Reality [Simulator Games]
  • Archery Defense [Tower Defense Games]
  • Pokemon [Turn Based Combat]
  • Beat Saber [Rhythm Based Gameplay]

With the madlib, we then pick one element from each pillar. For this prototype, our madlib is:

An exploration of Chord Structures where guests Pull musical notes, with Harmony and Visuals as feedback, in the style of a Tower Defense.
Learning about chord structures through a tower defense-like experience

In our first prototype, guests will use a slingshot-like mechanism to fire pitches at discordant chords in order to resolve them. There will be three different enemies, with each one representing a chord inversion. Guests will hopefully emerge from this experience with a better understanding of chord structures, harmony vs dissonance and pitch relationships.

Enemy Type 1

Enemy Type 2

Enemy Type 3

Enemies will either be root positions, 1st inversions, or 2nd inversions. Each enemy will have a root [or first] scale degree, a third scale degree, and a fifth scale degree. One of these notes will be dissonant, and the player must pull-back and release the missing note to sooth the dissonance and resolve the chord. Enemies will vocalize their chord in an arpeggiating manner, which will allow for guests to detect the difference between discord and harmony.

Behind the theory

Essentially, a scale degree is a note within a scale. Its number indicates its position in relation to the first note [or tonic] within the key. 

For example the Key of C Major includes the scale degrees of:

  • C – the first, or the tonic
  • D – the second, or the supertonic
  • E – the third, or the mediant
  • F – the fourth, or the subdominant
  • G – the fifth, or the dominant
  • A – the sixth, or the submediant
  • B – the seventh, if flat = the subtonic, if natural = the leading tone

A chord is essentially a combination of different scale degrees. The most common chord structures involve using the root, the third, and the fifth. For example, within the key of C Major:

  • C Major Triad: Root + Third + Fifth = C + E + G
  • C Major 1st Inversion: Third + Fifth + Root = E + G + C
  • C Major 2nd Inversion: Fifth + Root + Third = G + C + E
Moment to Moment Gameplay

The player story will consist of the guest spawning in the world. Our team talked lore and settled on the concept of the guest as this guardian of a portal/door that separates the world where music originates, to the world where it manifests and sounds [our world]. Aesthetically, we were inspired by places such as The Great Before in Soul and the spirit world in The Legend of Korra, and characters such as the Kodama in Princess Mononoke. 

The Legend of Korra
Princess Mononoke

Enemies will approach the player, outcrying/feedbacking/singing their chord. They will do so in an arpeggiated fashion, with space between each note so the guest has the time and space to identify a) the individual notes of the chord and b) where the discord occurs. When the discordant part of the chord plays, there will be a glitch/cacapnahous sound that outputs. The player must then shoot the correct note degree to resolve the chord. This consecutively alleviates and heals the chord, allowing it to to then produce its natural, harmonious sound.

The guest will fire via a pull-back motion with a slingshot. They will be able to create pitches based on how far they pull back. If they pull back just a little bit they will make a 1st degree note. If they pull back a little bit farther they will make a 3rd degree note. If they pull back even farther they will make a 5th degree note. Visual overlays and sonic feedback will be used to inform the player of what note degree they are on.

A potent affordance of VR, is the ability to use kinesthetic motions and gestures as an input or medium for interacting. In this prototype, we will map the notes of the scale [for the sake of starting simple, this prototype will be in the key of C major, but we could iterate in the future by adding different keys] to the pullback distance of the slingshot. Through this mechanism, guests will develop a spatial awareness and recognition of the distance between pitches. By mapping an ostensibly complex and abstract concept to a motion that feels intuitive and native to our bodies, we believe that this mechanic will be both successful and satisfying.


We began the development phase of our prototype by requesting a Perforce server for our project. Wish and Wizard built a scene and began working on the pull-back mechanism. Jack began designing concept art and creating an environment. Noah and Yuiji made an audio asset list to keep track of all of the sounds that are needed for the prototype. 

While configuring the slingshot mechanism, we found that the lack of concrete surface to map pitches to resulted in ambiguity. How would guests have a visual understanding of the distance between pitches? As a result, we decided to use a harp-like crossbow, whose fretboard allowed for easy mapping of pitches. 

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