“Video Game” or “Minstrelsy Goes Multimedia!”

Once upon some morning a while back, I had one of those idea-from-the-blue moments that so often serve as catalysts to artistic greatness down the road. Three words made sixteen, world: Minstrel “electronic or computerized game played by manipulating images on a video display or television screen”!

Opening Sequence: Merlin’s computer has been left unguarded, and Will Scarlet is all over the opportunity to work in some Outsider Tech playtime. Deeply involved in his game, Will fails to notice the quiet entrance of Allyn-a-Dale, who has come to half-teasingly/half-seriously remind Will that he’s not supposed to be fooling around with the wizard’s things.

Where is the fun to be had in these computer games, anyway?, Allyn wonders, observing with distaste whatever inane animated free-for-all Will is currently attempting to maneuver.

What, says Will, too good to play fill-in-the-blank, are you? Well, what manner of game would you consider minstrel-worthy, pray tell?

Allyn’s expression turns thoughtful, then inspiration shines in his eyes, blue to gray to green…

Step 1: Select Your Minstrel. Players could choose either a readymade character, like Allyn-a-Dale or Gant-o’-the-Lute, or they could make one of their own, custom-creating their minstrel’s physical appearance, signature outfit, vocal range, primary instrument – lute, lyre, hammered dulcimer, what have you – and, of course, their all-important minstrel name.

Step 2: Roam The Land. Instrument in hand, wander through town and countryside. When you come upon villagers passing by, step up to them and press X or Enter or whatever to play them a quick, automatic song. If your listener likes the song, he’ll clap, giving the player what we’ll call Applause Points. If the listener really likes it, he’ll give you a coin. Musical taste being somewhat subjective, whether or not your audience will like the song is up to the luck of the computer program’s draw. However, accumulated Applause Points will add up to Popularity Points, and the more Popularity Points you have in a kingdom, the better the odds that the locals will like your songs.

*Fun Feature: Battle of the Bards.* During your travels, you may cross paths with a fellow minstrel. Time for an aural memory game! They play a musical phrase, you repeat it (by tapping X or O or Left, Right, or Triangle… you know how video games work; for the PC version, substitute with whatever keys). They play that first phrase plus another, you echo that. Three phrases, four phrases, five, and on it goes. If you can make it through the whole song without screwing up, you win big Popularity Points.

Step 3: Discover Music. As anyone in possession of a minstrel soul knows, there is music to be found everywhere. Have your character investigate their environment – smell the roses, skip rocks in a pond, admire a city’s architecture or a vendor’s wares, play with a baby chilling in its mother’s laundry basket. Doing so may uncover snatches of Music in the form of unearthly-jewel-looking-things. Collect these.

If you really want the mother lode, keep alert for spontaneous breezes, and when the wind blows, have your minstrel stop to breathe deep. Song of Life!, the game will declare happily, and you’ll collect big.

Step 4: Land a Gig. Once you have a full store of Music from a kingdom, you’ll have access to that kingdom’s royal city. Go there. Play for the people as you’ve been doing, and someone at random will engage you to perform at some manner of grand event – a ball or a wedding, that sort of thing.

Like this, only musical to the max!

When you arrive at the party, think Tetris: All the pieces of Music you’ve collected will float across the screen, and it’s up to you to rotate the pieces so that they connect prettily into place. Music being such a flexible thing, there will often be at least two ways you can have one piece fit into another, and the choice you make there will help determine your options for the piece that follows. (Students of music theory, this part of the game will make a lot of sense to you. Everyone else… surprise, this game has pretty much tricked you into becoming a student of music theory!)

Once you’ve finished building your song, you get to sit back and listen to your minstrel play it for the crowd. Unless you managed to fail quite thoroughly, it will sound great and everyone will love it. If you did somehow manage that thorough fail, you get to watch your minstrel be humiliated. …but then you get a do-over, because the makers of the game don’t want to see the suicide rate shoot up on their account. Following the performance, you’re paid a base-rate amount of coins, plus bonus coins dependant on how epic your song was.

*Fun Feature*: In a similar vein, you may occasionally find your character approached by a group of children who want you to sing them a song. This launches a word scramble game: You’re given a bank of words and phrases, and you get to arrange them into a quick little ditty within some manner of loose framework. The song is sung, the young ones are happy, and you score Popularity Points a-a-and Creativity Points, which add up to unlock goodies like additional key signatures and fancy chords (music geeks, rejoice!).

Step 5: Grow as an Artist. Now that you’re starting to build up your purse, you can purchase additional instruments, further expanding your musical range.

For inspiration, visit Allyn-a-Dale’s home-kingdom of Carillon, where there’s a gorgeous melody playing around every corner. (Composers behind the game, don’t skimp! This is a place for the player to enjoy a seriously divine soundtrack, too, not just the character.) Listen to what the musically-gifted kingdom has to offer. Find opportunities here to free-style, without worrying about an audience, and with any collection of instruments you like – it earns Creativity Points, and it’s just straight-up fun.

How Do You Win?: When you’ve played a successful engagement in every royal city in the southern half of the Great Land continent, the game is over. All of your Popularity and Creativity Points are tallied up to determine your ranking in the Minstrel Hall of Fame. If you’re playing as Gant-o’-the-Lute, I would suggest that you come in at #1. Lute doesn’t take well to coming in second to anybody. (;

Ending Sequence: That game sounds awesome!, Will declares, wishing it existed, that he might both own and pwn it.

So ask Merlin to create it for you, says Allyn. …Right after you explain what you’re doing in his office.

A smiling Allyn slips away just as Merlin enters, and Will Scarlet is totally busted. Roll credits!

Now, as someone with very limited experience with such matters, I’m curious, readers: How do you suppose a game like this would be received by the video gaming market? Is it the sort of thing you’d like to play?

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