‘Trombone Champ’ Is Bigger Than Anyone Could Have Predicted

Making the trombone sound good is an art, one in which “Trombone Champ” has no interest.

The rhythm game of the trombone exploded (pun intended) on social media this week as players shared videos of themselves tearing apart Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and other classic songs. Released on September 15, its mechanics are similar to games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band: players move the mouse up and down and click or press a key in sync with the notes that cascade across the screen. . Stay on the beat and the words “Perfect!” O well!” arise. If you fail, you’ll be interrupted with “Meh” or “Nasty” instead.

At the end of each song, you are graded on accuracy and combo point multipliers. You also get Toots to buy Tromgaffe cards featuring famous trombonists, baboons, and dubious facts (the trumpet is “The Coward’s Trombone,” according to one entry). Fair warning: if that’s not your sense of humor, this might not be the game for you.

Oh right, the baboons – there are a lot of them in “Trombone Champ”, probably more than you’d expect. And a good number of secrets, too.

The game’s developer, Dan Vecchitto, said that while he hoped the game would perform well, he never imagined there would be such a large audience for his goofy trombone game.

“It has flown way beyond our expectations,” he said in a video interview with The Washington Post.

Vecchitto, whose full-time job is web design, has been creating games for more than a decade in his spare time with his wife, Jackie, who works in the same field. Under the name of Holy Wow Studios, they released the Icarus Proudbottom series, typing games in the same vein of fake edutainment as “Frog Fractions”, free online. “Trombone Champ” is his first product for sale.

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Its virality has come with some headaches.

“It’s exciting, but it’s also like, oh man, it’s a lot of work,” Vecchitto said. He had naively believed that after the game was finally released, there would be less work to do: “Now, after release, I have thousands of players who want updates. So it’s actually a lot more pressure.”

He had already planned to add new songs and accessibility options to “Trombone Champ” over time after its release, but now that it’s gone viral, he’s aiming higher. He plans to develop the game’s story content and is considering several new features, such as a level editor. He was already working on a Mac port, but now he’s also looking into what it would take to bring the game to Nintendo Switch. Some fans have speculated what it would be like to play the game in virtual reality, which he said he hadn’t even been on his radar for.

Of course, being a largely one-man operation, it was covered that any future updates could take a while.

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“Trombone Champ” was initially inspired by arcade cabinets. Vecchitto built one with his wife for his two-player typing game, “Icarus Proudbottom’s Typing Party,” for an independent convention in 2016.

“It was a lot of fun, and I had kind of an arcade mentality,” he said. “I just had a mental image at some point of a gaming cabinet with a giant rubber trombone peripheral.”

Two years later, he remembered the idea and made a prototype based on the use of the mouse to emulate the slide of a trombone. He began to work hard, culminating in the decision to make it the first Holy Wow Studio game sold on Steam.

During its four-year development cycle, “Trombone Champ” developed what Vecchitto described as a “small but very devoted and rabid fan base,” many of whom they knew in real life. During an August playtest open to the public via Steam, some gamers streamed the game live on platforms like Twitch and YouTube, drawing even more attention. He hoped the game would do well, perhaps generating some word of mouth when players shared their ridiculous-sounding videos online.

Then came the moment he realized just how big the game had become: The night after gaming news site PC Gamer posted a review, “Trombone Champ” briefly surpassed “God of War” in the Steam’s list of the best-selling games on the platform.

Why the trombone? “It’s a fun instrument by nature,” Vecchitto said. I’m not sure why. … It may have to do with volume combined with imprecision. Step forward with extreme confidence, but you have no idea what you’re going to get.”

The trombone can also slide between notes, unlike other rhythm game instruments like guitar or drums, allowing for fun sounds and fluctuations as the player moves from one note to another. In practice, he said, the in-game trombone works more like a slide whistle than a trombone. At first, Vecchitto (who has no experience with the instrument) said he was nervous real-life trombonists would feel insulted by what was essentially “a parody of a trombone.” But the feedback he’s heard so far has been positive, and he added that the game has been a surprise hit with the ska community, which is already clamoring for more songs in the genre to be added. “Trombone Champ” currently features 20 songs, some in the public domain, some composed by Vecchitto, and one original track: “Long-Tail Limbo” by London musician Max Tundra, of whom Vecchitto has been a fan for over two decades.

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As for the baboons, that idea started out as a one-off joke for a feature that never actually made it into the game. Vecchitto had originally planned to include three different difficulty levels, he explained.

“I really wanted to call easy mode ‘baby’ and hard mode ‘wacko’, but I was having a hard time thinking of a good ‘b’ word for standard difficulty,” Vecchitto said. “For some reason, the word ‘baboon’ came to mind. It doesn’t make sense, but I thought it was really fun to have the standard difficulty inexplicably called ‘baboon’. ”

From then on, he began to incorporate the word “baboon” into more and more menu screens for laughs. When he started thinking about the underlying narrative and non-playable characters of “Trombone Champ”, most of which are hidden in his UI, he knew he had to commit to the part.

“I realized they had to be baboons too,” he said.

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