One of the most impressive displays at all of E3 was, sure enough, part of the IndieCade showcase. As I sat down at the first open station I could find, I was quickly attended to by one of the IndieCade volunteers. I donned the peculiar headset and grabbed a Wiimote, intent on experiencing a new type of indie game. The work of USC student Taiyoung Ryu’s Maum — who simply worked on the game as a result of his MFA Thesis Proposal — utilizes a Brain Computer Interface (BCI) device along with a Wiimote.
Simply put, the game senses your thoughts and adjusts gameplay accordingly. So if the player is tense and nervous, Maum will sense it and perhaps urge the enemies towards him/her. Likewise, in levels where you are required to use your flashlight, the strength of the light is entirely dependent on the level of mental calmness you’ve achieved. The immersive tendencies of the game outweigh its “fun” components — Maum‘s gameplay concentrates more on its innovation than its story or game-like characteristics, but that’s with good reason. The BCI headset (more specifically the Neurosky Mindset) works extremely well, and the only worry for playing this game in the future at home…is the cost of that BCI headset ($199).
It was an intensely nerve-wracking playthrough for me at the E3 floor. As if the energy of the entire place wasn’t enough to get me worked up, the idea that this game could read my thoughts scared the shit out of me — and incredibly enough, my fear was put to the test in a creepy first level within the game where your character walks through a crowd of pumpkin-headed individuals dressed in suits and trench-coats or such. And the rest of the game screws with you just as hard. In the levels where you concentrate on using your flashlight, Maum will attempt (and be successful with) scaring you. If, however, the player can manage to remain calm and collected, Ryu’s innovative masterpiece may just cut them some slack.
As for me, I barely made it past the first level — for which I was given 5 lives. Each time one of the pumpkin-headed humanoids touched me, the transparency of my character would increase until I was no more. I must have played through this level about 20 times before finally getting past it. Indeed, the BCI headset doesn’t make things easier, but it makes things more interesting.
Unfortunately, it’s unclear as to when Maum will be available for the general public. BCI headsets in general are very hard to come by and it’d be surprising to find this title on WiiWare anytime soon. But if there is one game worth mentioning above all others at the IndieCade Showcase, it’s Maum. It displayed integration with cutting-edge technology and managed to pull it off in a successful fashion. Sure, maybe the game isn’t the funnest, but it certainly carries a much bigger picture.
We’ll keep you posted as to the status of Maum. For those of you who want a glimpse of the gameplay, check out the video below. To follow Taiyoung Ryu’s work, check out his blog for USC as well as his personal blog.