Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Rap battling via PTT (idea #100)

Once upon a time I designed a mobile game for an urban culture company in London. The concept was to allow users to challenge each other to "rap battles", which are where contestants ad-lib a rap song, taking turns to outwit the opponent with stinging lyrics (watch the DVD extras on 8 Mile if you want to see this in action). A rap battle needs a crowd to judge the winner, which at the time seemed a bit tricky to include in the game. Therefore it was combined with an element of measurable skill, which was texting speed. The idea was for each opponent to send a line and then when the rap was finished, both contestants were challenged with the same lines (in random order) and the first to text the line into the phone scored a point. This blended the creative aspect of rap battling but added a new way of judging the winner. Whilst texting speed bears little resemblance to artistic merit of a rapper, the game would still appeal to the target text-fanatical audience.

The first pass of the game was in fact a single-player game that challenged texters to input lyrics from their favourite songs, which fell down from the sky one word at a time, like Tetris blocks.

I now think that the original rap battling concept could be implemented, but using push-to-talk (PTT, or PoC). Opponents would find each other via a rap battle buddy list where presence could be used to indicate willingness and readiness to battle. A contestant throws down the gauntlet by sending a challenge message to their chosen opponent. If accepted, the challenger is given a period of time (e.g. 20 seconds) to rap their first line, which they do via PTT. The opponent hears the line on their handset and has a similar interval in which to respond, or else automatically lose the contest. Contestants continue until they reach a set number of lines each, or until a contestant fails to respond.

Now for the judging. Just like with an actual rap battle, we need an audience, or crowd. Fortunately, this is exactly what we have with the subscribers to the game. After any battle concludes, a number of other rappers in the "crowd" are sent a link to click and hear the battle. They are then asked to vote for the winner. This is the basic gaming principle. Using a score table, battlers could challenge winners and climb up a score ladder just like any other multiplayer game. Location could be added to allow "battles in my area" and so on. Clans could be formed to add a team element to the competition. Various other elements from the urban genre could be included, such as tags and so on.

There's no need to confine the game to rap. The same infrastructure (new word = ecosystem or platform) could be used to run live poetry competitions.

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