Tdiamond champion, the music computer gameit has received over 20,000 downloads since it launched last week, and videos of the game have spread across social media, with beloved songs ruined by a terrible trombone playing.
The game is like Guitar Hero, but with the mouse acting as a trombone. You move it up and down to simulate the slide and click to sound the horn. Your goal is to play along with trombone classics like Beethoven’s Fifth, Hava Nagila and Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
The game is very much into the joke; in fact, “it’s a joke first and a game later,” says its creator, Dan Vecchitto, who is “surprised and happy” at the outpouring of enthusiasm. “I don’t know why there isn’t more comedy in games, because games can be so much fun.”
It is also very difficult. It’s harder than it looks to line up your cursor with the notation flying across the screen, especially since you can’t hold down the mouse button indefinitely; that will make your character huff and puff, gasping for breath. The game grades you on an AF scale, and I couldn’t do better than a C. My virtual trombone playing reminded me of listening to a third grader practice for a recital, all squawks and squawks and off-key tones ruining an accompaniment. impeccable. clue. The absolute joy of the game is in how silly it sounds.
It’s all framed in a Zelda-esque story: as you start, an important-sounding voice informs you, “One day you will tear the very fabric that binds this land together… but until that day comes, you must play.” . Play your trombone, brave soul, and you may yet become the champion trombone player.” There’s also a mysterious “baboon” mode that rewards further investment in the game (baboon is a “naturally fun word,” Vecchitto says) and legends of a “demon” that players can summon.
Vecchitto, 38, is not a trombonist, although he is a musician. Instead, the idea for the game came after a mental image occurred to him of an arcade cabinet with a rubber trombone, where people “wobbled” trying to make music, “and it always sounded wrong”. Later, he decided to emulate the movements of the trombone with a mouse.
He made the game largely alone, with his wife, Jackie Vecchitto, contributing art and one of his favorite musicians, max tundra, adding a music track (most of the music is public domain material). He thought the project would take six months; instead he took four years, although that included working on his day job as a UX/UI web designer, “and then of course Covid slows it down as well. Half of 2020 was a washout.”
As he worked, “I was a little worried that other people wouldn’t get it,” he said. He felt that “it would be a bit difficult to sell a game if the concept is: you can’t do it right”.
He “definitely wasn’t expecting a big hit.” Before Trombone Champ, Vecchittos’ Holy Wow studios had made a few games that were shared by enthusiastic players, but the scale was “decidedly small,” he says. It was “super unexpected that he really stepped out of that little niche.”
“I’m glad the game made people laugh and made them happy.”
He hopes that success will allow him to spend more time developing the game. He would like to create an arcade version of the game, in line with the original vision of it; others have suggested that it would work well in virtual reality. He also plans to add more songs and create a Mac version of the game, which is currently only playable on PC.
Vecchitto was initially concerned about what the game would be like with the trombonists. It turns out that he had nothing to fear: he has charmed them. “I didn’t realize there is such a vibrant culture of trombone broadcasting. There’s like three different people who came up to me who are prominent trombone streamers, which I didn’t know was a thing.”
In fact, Colleen Wheeler of the International Trombone Association (ITA), a community of 4,000-member trombonists in 74 countries, says, “It’s very clear that this is the best game ever made.” The game, she notes, is “flawlessly timed” for the 50th anniversary of the ITA, which hopes to use the game in its celebrations, according to its chief executive, Magnus Nilsson.
When asked via email how similar the game was to playing the trombone, Wheeler wrote, “If having the time of your life counts, it’s the same thing.
“I recommend that everyone on the planet buy the game and start practicing right away. Hopefully, you won’t be able to resist the siren’s song, and you’ll also find yourself securing a physical trombone. Your best days will be making music,” she added.
“If this game brings you joy, and it will, why not add a trombone to your life?”