The vocal interaction music game Celestia is a charming experience where players sing various tones to guide a newborn star in order for it to survive and grow.
"When you start in the first level you are small," creator Cheng Yang told Polygon. "She's orbiting a huge star in the first level and she wants to grow and the second level is to get away from the mother star and the third one is to form its own universe and become the first one. So it's a cycle. I just want to make a connection between the power and the voice, and a direct interaction with the character, which is my original vision."
As the star travels along its path dictated by a spline in between larger stars, players sing or hum a specific tone to collect mass by absorbing small planets surrounding other stars. A higher tone protects the celestial body from comets and nebulae, while another pitch accelerates its movement. Thankfully, it is easy to jump into a lobby of sorts before or during a level to practice hitting the right tone in order to proceed through the levels.
"There are a lot of games that are controlled by keyboard and controllers," Yang said, explaining that she wanted to create a game with simplified input. "When humans make sounds, they have different frequencies and I wanted it to use the simplest way to communicate, which is different pitch and different frequencies powered by voice. So I made this game as a proof of concept to show that games can be played in this way."
A conceptual build of Celestia shown at E3 sounded fantastically rhythmic when a more experienced player was hitting the right notes. The game's ethereal, yet simplistic visual style intuitively conveyed and instantly reflected the player's input. Even someone as tone deaf as myself found it enjoyable to try, and often fail, to grow and protect the little star using my voice, with fun overriding the worry of embarrassing myself on the E3 show floor. Our time with the game eventually turned into a hilarious co-op session as we tried to progress through the levels together.
Celestia is currently available to download in concept form from the official website for Windows PC and Mac, which also allows players to play the game with instruments rather than vocal input. Yang plans to expand the game with more tonal controls and add to the storyline. The developer also intends to integrate online multiplayer for any laptop and mobile platform so players can collaborate on hitting the same notes in the game or share the load by alternating tones.