First things first, I’ve experienced Plink when it just came out more than a year ago, coming back to it today, the only thing that has changed, is that there are no people playing it anymore.
Plink is a web based audio play space.
It has 8 instruments to choose from represented by colors, a predetermined tempo with a metronome, and a predetermined scale represented by the vertical axis, separating notes by lines.
The user controls their “character” up and down, and click to activate notes, which are arpeggiated if held down.
I would say that from a musical point of view, it’s a very limited and controlled environment, and one wouldn’t be able to make a full swing song out of it.
However the focus isn’t at all the credibility of Plink as a sound design tool, it is about it’s merits as a play space, and the experience it delivers.
having up to five users connected into the same room, and having a live collaborative sound experience with a stranger is a magical thing.
Everyone is free to choose the instrument they want (even same one as anyone else, creating chords). Given that it’s a multiplayer experience with free choice, the limitations of the play space are instantly justified – you want to create something musical together, not incoherent noise and cacophony, therefore, it is made sure that players are always in tune and always hit the rhythm.
I played the game in 3 ways – with a mouse (as intended), with a tablet, and with a touch screen (pretty much cheating).The three modes of interfacing with it brought great differences into my experience.
Using the mouse was a baseline experience.
It was unwieldy, and hard to hit multiple notes in succession accurately. It was more about rhythms and bass.
Using the stylus, was more about dance.
It was more accurate, faster, but i was “drawing” music onto the canvas, even more so, using Wacom’s distance recognition, being able to play notes in the air without touching the surface, by pressing the click button on the stylus itself.
Using the touch screen was about precision.
I was able to hit desired notes fast, with high accuracy, being able to create melodies and expressions, and repeat those in quick succession.
The greatest thing about Plink however, is that these forms of play, greatly changed not only my experience of it, but of other participants, which reflected in their responses.
When someone stood out in the way they played, everyone else followed, harmonized, and tried to play along.
I’ve even been able to communicate to other players what I wanted them to do, by hovering over their circle and moving to where I wanted their instrument to sound with limited success. (reminds me of language learning process in Journey, talking through silence, pattern, frequency and duration).
Plink is a great example of limitations used well. It creates working dynamic relationships between participants without language, based on their choices, behaviors and patterns.