APPLE DESIGN AWARDS
The Rhythms of ELOH
A puzzle that’ll challenge your mind while chilling you out.
Let the rhythm fill your soul
ELOH is the winner of a 2019 Apple Design Award, which recognizes the creative artistry and technical achievements of developers who reflect the best in design, innovation, and technology on Apple platforms.
You don’t have to play the brilliant puzzle game ELOH for very long to realize it was invented by a drummer.
A rare game that manages to keep you pleasingly perplexed while totally chilling you out, ELOH has a simple goal: Shift blocks to get the bouncing balls from point A to point B. But in a neat twist, you do so with the help of rhythm and percussion. Rearranging the blocks builds a soothing beat that adds a new dimension to the experience.
Here, Christian Baumgartner, game designer and vision-keeper of JC Stranger, walks us through the process of creating ELOH’s rhythmic puzzles.
After working in the games industry for many years, I went indie in 2014 and started on free-to-play arcade games as a one-man show. During my research, I stumbled upon games in which the player diverts lasers by bouncing them off walls. They felt old-fashioned, but I had a hard time putting them down.
So when I started ELOH, I got rid of the lasers and replaced them with bouncing balls that shoot out of the emitter. This felt a lot livelier, and observing them “marching” to their goal created a rhythmic sensation I liked a lot.
The next important aspect was the sound: Being a drummer, I wanted the bouncing balls to create a beat while traveling. Andy Rohrmann, who created the fantastic Old Man’s Journey soundtrack, was the obvious choice. He’d already demonstrated he could blend natural sounds and music with a strong emotional component to it—exactly what we needed.
Once we had drum sounds in place, we created visuals that felt modern but tribal at the same time. Lip Comarella [visual developer and production designer] looked at various masks of different cultures, and Simon Griesser created animations that reflect the silly but relaxed mood of the game.
The biggest obstacle here was to balance the music created when you play with the background music, which must evolve too. We wanted a feel of continuous progression without making a soundscape that feels over- or underwhelming. We needed to decide when elements should react aurally and when they shouldn’t. There was a lot of trial and error involved here, but it was well worth it.
The day we implemented the credits video, I remember getting very emotional. After about two years, starting as a single developer, I was touched deeply to see the names of all those extremely talented people involved rolling down to that moving music score.