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William Stallwood, creative director
Dain Saint/William Stallwood, developers
Dain Saint, technology director/sound designer
Cipher Prime, project design and development

"A beautiful and meditative abstract game. I appreciate the fact that nothing is explained, yet it's intuitive enough to figure out through exploration." —juror Jay Zasa

"This addictive site offers an alluring visual and auditory experience. The freedom to solve every puzzle in a unique way offers every user a personalized experience." —juror Edward J. Heinz Jr.

Overview: This debut project from Chicago-based Cipher Prime introduced the creative group to a Web audience. Designed to take people back to a child-like style of play, it's a puzzle that couples simple objectives with visual and audible feedback. With no wrong way to play—each puzzle can be solved in multiple ways—the objective is to orchestrate a harmony of music and light by layering visual and audio components. Each level is solved by manipulating light flow to create balance with the music; when the flow is optimal, corresponding audio containers fill with color to create a symphony of light and sound.

• The game was developed in ActionScript 3.0 using a custom-built MVC framework called Tricycle, similar in concept to Ruby On Rails in Flash, that enabled rapid prototype.
• Completing the online demo took three months; the final game took an additional four months.
• The demo became viral after just a few weeks of being online. Within a month it had logged well over one million game plays.

Comments William Stallwood and Dain Saint:
What were some of your primary concerns during development? "The navigation of the site was extremely important because every area had to be navigable without taking away from the gaming experience. Every page had to be navigable by AJAX; since SEO was also very important to us, all AJAX requests had to have the option to be generated from standard URLs. Content hierarchy played a huge role in the navigation process. We spent a lot of time weeding out any unneeded content so that a simple navigation structure could be used. At any point in time, all top-level functions can be accessed via the left navigation menu displayed in large, easy-to-read buttons.

"Ultimately, it was the downloading of game content that was key. Levels are cached as XML files so they can be delivered as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, audio is actively loaded during play time. In order to increase efficiency, the game loads audio as needed. We also cache audio requests in the game so no audio content is ever loaded twice during one sitting."

Did you meet with any out-of-the-ordinary obstacles during development? "This was the first project for our company Cipher Prime and was just meant to spread the word of our existence. In that regard, the project worked extremely well and has done way more than we had ever hoped. But when we first started Auditorium, we didn't even have an office. We worked out of our apartments and did what we could. There was no funding at all and all development was done on our own time, while handling clients during the day, with whatever hardware we could manage to scrape together. Every part of the development process was affected by this; we created Auditorium, because we loved it and I think it shows.

"One of the very first obstacles we were met with was finding a way to quickly prototype gameplay in Flash. At that point in time, there were no good rapid development frameworks available that didn't have a lot of overhead. We created our own framework, Tricycle, that works on the open source Flex SDK and allowed us to rebuild Auditorium from scratch five times in six months."



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