Papa Sangre: binaural video game with no video

Paul Bennun from Somethin' Else sez, "We just released Papa Sangre, the video game with no video. Backed by Channel 4 in the UK, it's not the first audio game or first game with binaural audio in it, but it is the first game with an entire world generated on the fly using 3d, binaural sound. Amazing combo of tech and art. Yes, I am biased. But. We are incredibly proud.Response has been incredible, just amazing, especially from blind people (unsurprisingly)."

Entering the Palace of Bones from Papa Sangre on Vimeo.

You are lost, deep in the darkness of the land of the dead. Your eyes are useless to you here -- but your ears are filled with sound. And what is it you can hear ... ?

All you know is someone is in grave danger and desperately needs your help. Can you save them and make your escape or will you be trapped in the blackness forever?

You're in Papa Sangre's palace. His palace is in an afterlife that takes the form of a malevolent, unpredictable carnival: imagine a Mexican graveyard on the Day of the Dead -- with the lights off. You're the piñata for a host of partying monsters. They probably look a lot worse than they sound. You should count yourself lucky it's too dark to see them.

Get out. Save the one you love. Do the right thing.

Papa Sangre (Thanks, Paul!)


  1. Creepy.

    However, my headphones are situated correctly, but everything sounds like it’s happening BEHIND me.

  2. Forgot to say…this level of binaural audio would be so much greater as support for sighted people when they play Silent Hill.

  3. I’m afraid that this is not quite the first. In 1998 I had written a maze-runner/FPS called “Microcircuit” that used the same techniques (dynamic generation, 3d, etc.). It was freely available on the web for a while but only garnered about a thousand downloads, probably for these reasons:

    First, it was mac only. Though a practical decision — MacOS 8 had an easy to use speech recognition and synthesis API — not a useful one. At the time, the mac market was probably only about 0.001% of the computer market.

    Second, it wasn’t very complicated. I had tested it on myself with the screen turned off. Though it was difficult for me (and other sighted players), those with actual visual impairments could get through the hardest level in a matter of minutes.

    Third, the sound quality was kinda lousy. The high-end machines of the time had difficulty with real-time 3d processing. And so I took some shortcuts that, were I to write it today, wouldn’t be necessary.

    So I guess, congrats! Your game is truly remarkable and I just wish that I could have done as well!

  4. I was able to load the game on a 3rd Gen Ipod Touch.
    Will I get any nasty surprises? Why the high requirements for a game with no video processing or 3G gameplay inclusion?

  5. Answer to my own question:
    Looking at their blog, it looks like the game is processor heavy for computing floating point making lesser devices unstable and limiting audio detail of the room.

    It’s playing just fine on my device and as I have nothing to compare it with sounds great.

  6. Strictly speaking, this should be called an audio game rather than a video game, no?

    Computer game still fits, so perhaps that would be the best term.

  7. i’d love to find some more (and more simple) audio only games … a friend blogged years ago about something like that for his NDS …. any ideas / suggestions (free iPhone app?)

  8. I’m glad games like this are getting made. For a brief time I was very interested in blindness, and even learned braille pretty well. Being a programmer, I wanted to make a game like this. No visuals, binaural audio. All of my friends thought it was a stupid idea. Like most of my programming ideas I never got around to it.

  9. Cool, I’m genuinely interested!

    Oh wait, it’s an iphone app.

    Shame you’ve chosen to limit your market like that.

    1. Yeah, what’re they thinking, releasing their app on the most popular and by far most-trafficked mobile app store? How silly! They should spend their time developing for multiple Android stores with splintered market share.

  10. I’m glad to see more experimentation with such concepts. I’ve been advocating the possibilities of audial computer interfacing and all-audio portable computers for years. It’s a largely unexplored area ripe for innovation. And audial interfacing has much practicality in a mobile computing context, not only as adapted computers for the blind but in a more general context. The most expensive component of a portable computer, in terms of production cost, power overhead, and weight, is the display. It is also the chief limiting factor for hardware durability with a very disproportionate cost in ruggedization compared to the rest of a system. Without it the basic computing power of a typical laptop could be reduced to the cost and size of a modest MP3 player, a headset, and a chord keypad. Obviously, not all applications can be accommodated with sound alone, but the possible limits of what can be done with sound in computing have never really been explored. Most of all uses for the personal computer revolve around reading, writing, and the communication of text. Word processing remains the fundamental computer application. Crack that in some elegant form and you have the basis of an effective and truly mobile general purpose personal computer.

    In the near future I anticipate mobile computing to converge on the form factor of the WiFi headset with sub-vocal speech recognition the basis of user interfacing in an audial interface environment employing audicons, soundmarks, 3D soundscapes, and procedural music and cues. Relying on cloud based resources, these most discrete of mobile computers (or PADs in the emerging internetworked distributed computing environment) would afford a kind of communication by thought without the hassle of neural interfacing. The interface would translate sub-vocal speech, detected by elastic collar or perhaps the earpiece itself, into a synthesized equivalent of the user’s actual voice -in effect allowing people to conduct silent conversations with both the computing environment, its agents, and other users in an audial virtual space.

  11. Video game with no video?

    It’s almost like it’s just a game; maybe even an … audio game?

    *sighs at humanity*

  12. I don’t have audio at work (ha!) so please excuse me if this is answered in the video, but what is the input like?

  13. Nothing special there. A lot of hard-panned sounds, a few sounds that are “doubled” with one being delayed, phase shifted, or both.

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