Trombone Champ developer thinks more games need to focus on comedy


A screenshot from the game Trombone Champ.  The player missed a note, so there is a message on the screen that says, NASTY!
The bad guy!” message when you flub a note inspired. | Picture: Saint Wow Studios

trombone champion was the star of my timeline this week; I’m constantly faced with nonsensical renditions of songs like “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”. But in a conversation with Dan Vecchitto, the founder of trombone champion developer Holy Wow Studios, he brought up something that I think is a major factor in the success of the game: we just don’t see a lot of comedy in games right now.

Games have been pushing the boundaries of the capital S Serious Storytelling for quite some time with series like The last of us. Others remain popular due to their highly skilled and high-stress competitive multiplayer. But we just don’t see many games that embrace their own comedy the way trombone champion Is.

Although there are a growing number of games designed with intentionally lower stakes, trombone champion goes further by celebrating failure. Missed notes, which are penalized in other rhythmic titles like Guitar Heroare part of the appeal of the game. The success of trombone champion shows that there is a market for games that focus on comedy, according to Vecchitto. (I would be remiss if I did not mention Back to Monkey Island here, which came out this week and is very funny.)

The initial idea of trombone champion was for it to be an arcade game, Vecchitto said. After creating an arcade multiplayer typing game, Icarus Proudbottom’s Typing Party (which you can play at the Wonderville arcade in Brooklyn), Vecchitto thought of other types of games that would be interesting to play as an arcade machine. One involved a trombone, which to me honestly sounds fantastic; I would travel far and wide to play an arcade game that allowed me to play with a physical paper clip controller.

But there are obvious impossibilities with this idea. (I can’t imagine a trombone controller would survive too many half-drunk people swinging it.) So, instead, he experimented with a trombone game that relied on a mouse. You can see some of this early work in this prototype from four years ago, which already shows the promise of what the game would eventually become.

Vecchitto ran with the idea and spent the next four years building trombone champion. He’s got a full-time job (he talked to me on his lunch break), so he’s largely worked on the game nights and weekends, with a few breaks in between. His wife contributed most of the artwork.

Now that the game is over, he “foolishly” thought they could relax. But given the level of success of the game, they will be working on some necessary fixes and addressing some of the bigger requests, like localizing the game into other languages ​​and adding accessibility options. He plans to investigate the possibility of bringing the game to consoles, including the Nintendo Switch (imagine using Joy-Con controllers to mimic paper clip play!), and he says a few developers have reached out to potentially help bring the game to virtual reality. You can get an idea of ​​some of the updates he’s thinking about in a roadmap shared last week.

Right now, the vast majority of the tracks are in the public domain, and he wants to add more, including other musicians, like the one currently in game from Max Tundra. If you were wondering, Vecchitto himself doesn’t play the trombone, but he is a musician; he even contributed a few songs to Skatebird, the indie skateboarding game in which you play as a bird. (One of these songs, “SkaBIRD”, is playable in trombone champion.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go rehearse the national anthem at trombone champion. Though I don’t think I can play it as hilarious as that.

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