3 min read

Taking SoundSelf to Burning Man.

On the unique challenges of integrating a game with temporary architecture.


SoundSelf takes much of its inspiration from the incredible scope of interactive art at the Burning Man festival. As part of our Kickstarter, we set a stretch goal to bring a unique architectural vision of SoundSelf to the Deep Playa - I can't tell you how excited I am to "pay it forward" to this festival which has inspired me so much.

Every major event focuses our development of the software - for E3 it was 3D, and for Burning Man we've been intensely playtesting for accessibility and multiplayer. I'm happy to share that our Rift-compatible latest build1 crosses a design milestone for us. We've reached a threshold where it just works. There's still a lot more work to do, but the core of the game has taken shape. And it's just magical.

Preparing the Burning Man structure takes a lot of work and a lot of expertise that Evan Balster and I don't have. Our two-person development team is expanded to eight for designing, operating, and then burning the deep-playa structure, and followers of this blog have not yet seen the incredible work these six folks are doing.

Our Architect, Heather Ray, describes her work:

Heather Ray with a scale model.

This is enormous.

Robin asked me to design the structure that will house SoundSelf at Burning Man. I was so excited about SoundSelf (...and Burning Man!) that I didn't even hesitate. I had already done some sketches for his initial concept, on an early proposal. So, in essence I had already started. 

Robin had said he wanted people to be able to gather (ok, he said "snuggle") in the center of this space, and play SoundSelf as a group, and that he wanted the game to fill the participants view so that it could be an engulfing experience. I needed to know how to take full advantage of the technology we are using to project the visuals, and how to make the space both easy for any participant to use  and comfortable for them to do so. Also, there's the Playa, which is a unique challenge in itself. 

Essentially, I boiled it down to making the correct angles, and keeping the right parts "open" and the right parts "closed." Interestingly, the resulting plan shape echos the plan of Black Rock City, and the volume is somewhat toroidal. Its a huge open air pavilion with three 8' x 10' permeable stretch fabric screens, and a continuous arcing central bench. Snuggly stuff TBD.

We're still a phase away from a working section, but that will be in glorious full scale. You can expect a peek at it if you attend August 16 Indiecade Annex in Austin, TX.

1 It's freely available for Windows now - a Mac and Linux build are coming like really really really really really really soon, like really soon, after which we'll be locking updates to Kickstarter backers and early-alpha supporters.


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