Auditorium is a fascinating free Flash game that turns interactive music arrangement into a series of puzzles. The center of the game is what the creators call “flow” – a visual stream of particles that can be directed to audio “containers” to create sound. The user places circles with icons signifying direction in the stream to redirect the particles where desired. As the stream hits the containers, it produces musical patterns. The results aren’t entirely open-ended – that is, there is a fairly fun puzzle game here, in that you can only “clear” a level by directing the flow of particles through all the objects. But the creators do claim that:

Auditorium is about the process of discovery and play. There are no right or wrong answers; there are many ways to solve every puzzle. To get started, fill up the first audio level.

The game so far is just a “demo”; the goal is to flesh out the game and deliver a more fully-functioning version. There’s a precedent for that: games like N+ (formerly N), Crayon Physics, World of Goo (formerly Tower of Goo), fl0w, and Da Blob – even the prototype for breakout hit Portal – began their life as free games or research prototypes before becoming officially-published titles, just to name a few. In fact, a significant chunk of what’s happening in game design these days is beginning its life in research and indie projects. That’s likely because hardcore and casual gamers alike are hungry for new concepts, and A-list developers are saddled with epic projects and bone-crunchingly huge ambitions and budgets. I’m not certain Auditorium will be the next big hit, but this kind of model could generate the interactive music games that future-minded music lovers have been anticipating.

My only criticism here, as with many similar games, is that the actual music content is fairly static. It’s a good prototype, but it’d be great if these particles had more influence on music. That creates a new problem for game designers: the music itself is really part of the game mechanics. Part of the fault here is Flash, whose sonic capabilities are fairly limited without a significant investment of effort. I’d love to see a game environment in which it’s easier to prototype musical ideas, with live-generated musical materials and synthesis.

The prototype here is promising, though. Found other interactive music games out there you like? Do let us know!

(Thanks, Brent!)