Trombone Champion, computer game with musicIt has had more than 20,000 downloads since it was released last week, and gameplay videos of hit songs ruined by horrific trombone playing have been making waves on social media.
The game is like Guitar Hero, but your mouse acts as a trombone. You move up and down to simulate the slide and click to sound the horn. Your goal is to play alongside trombone classics such as Beethoven’s Fifth, Hava Nagila and Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
The game’s creator, Dan Vecchitto, says he’s “surprised and happy” at the flood of enthusiasm. “I don’t know why there isn’t more comedy in the games, because games can be hilarious.”
Also very difficult. Aligning your cursor with the notation flying across the screen is harder than it sounds, especially since you can’t hold down the mouse button indefinitely – this will cause your character to gasp and gasp. The game rates you on an AF scale, and I couldn’t have done better than a C. My playing the virtual trombone was reminiscent of listening to a recital practice by third graders, with all the horns, squeaks, and out-of-tune frets ruining an otherwise perfect backing to watch. The absolute joy of the game is how silly it sounds.
It’s all framed by a Zelda-like story: When you start, you’re informed by a voice that sounds important: “One day you’re going to tear the fabric that binds these lands together…but until that day comes, . Play your trombone, brave soul, you can be the Trombone Champion again.” There’s also a mysterious “baboon” mode in the game that rewards a deeper investment – baboon is “an inherently funny word”, says Vecchitto – and “devil” legends players can summon.
Although 38-year-old Vecchitto is a musician, he is not a trombonist himself. Instead, the idea for the game came after being struck by a mental image of an arcade game cabinet containing a rubber trombone where people were “swinging around” trying to make music and “which would always sound bad.” He then decided to imitate the movements of the trombone with a mouse.
He made the game largely on his own, with his wife, Jackie Vecchitto, contributing to the arts and one of his favorite musicians. maximum tundra, adding a piece of music (most of the music is public domain material). He thought the project would take six months; instead it took four years – this included working around his day job as a UX/UI web designer, “and of course Covid is slowing that down too. Half of 2020 was a wash.”
“I was a little worried that others wouldn’t understand,” she said as she worked. It seemed to him that “selling a game would be a bit of a challenge if the concept was: you can’t do it well”.
He “absolutely did not expect” success. Prior to Trombone Champion, Vecchittos’ Holy Wow Studios had made a few games shared by avid gamers, but he says the scale is “absolutely small.” It was “super unexpected for it to really break out of that little niche.”
“I’m glad the game makes people laugh and happy.”
He hopes the success will allow him to devote more time to game development. He wants to create an arcade version of the game in keeping with his original vision; others have suggested it would work fine in VR. It also plans to add more songs and create a Mac version of the game that is currently only playable on PC.
Vechitto was initially concerned about how the game would continue with trombone players. Turns out he had no reason to be afraid: They loved him. “I didn’t know there was a live trombone flow culture. There are three different people who have been leading trombone streamers and have reached out to me, which I didn’t know was a thing.”
Indeed, Colleen Wheeler of the International Trombone Association (ITA), a community of 4,000-member trombone players in 74 countries, says: “It’s clear this is the best game ever created.” The game is “perfectly timed” for ITA’s 50th anniversary, which is hoping to use the game in its celebrations, according to executive director Magnus Nilsson.
When asked via email how similar the game is to playing the trombone, Wheeler wrote: “If it’s important to have the time of your life, it’s one and the same.
“I would recommend everyone on the planet to get the game and start practicing right away. I hope you can’t resist the siren call – and find yourself on a physical trombone too. Your best days will be about making music,” he added.
“If this game brings you joy – and it will – why not add a trombone to your life?”
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