Zuci - A Phy-gital multiplayer turn based strategy game

Zuci – multiplayer phygital game was an exploratory project designed to introduce a younger audience to Folk Musical Instruments. This was an academic project done as a part of Master’s thesis at IDC School of Design, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay under the guidance of Prof. Uday Athavankar.
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Folk musical instruments bind one’s community together. Within a community, each instrument has its own specific use, place and time to be played. However, with the popularization of new electronic musical instruments and music, the audience base of traditional folk musical instruments have decreased considerably .

To gather more information about the same, we met with Brahmaputra cultural Foundation(BCF), an NGO who is working on conserving folk musical instruments of the North-eastern states of India. BCF is a non-profit organization with an initiative to preserve and promote cultural traditions of North East India and showcase performing and visual art over the world. Current work by BCF includes the following:

  • Performances(dances and dramas) showcasing 25 tribes of the North East
  • Documentation of 115 instruments: Book and Documentary
  • Lessons on folk songs, folk musical instruments and construction of those instruments

These approaches although significant are heavily dependent on the already established familiarity of audience with instruments.

This raised questions,

  • Will we be able to capture new users with these existing approaches?
  • Is there a way to encourage people to learn folk musical instruments?
  • Can we target younger audiences - who are more likely to be our next audiences?


Inferences drawn from experts of BCF and literature:

  • As mentioned by instructors of BCF, new admissions to Folk Musical instrument learning classes are primarily dependent on these factors:
    • On times of the year – they see an influx only during the Bihu season(i.e March-April) of Assam.
    • Parents, already aware of these instruments or have played such instruments before, bring in their children.
  • Both, instructors from BCF and a study done by GM Ghazali states that:
    • It is easier to teach a person any musical instruments at a younger age.
    • Children tend to be more enthusiastic and adventurous. Excitement of owning one’s first musical instrument adds to their learning and enthusiasm.
    • Recognition from friends and family acts as an encouraging factor for a new learner.
    • Children with music practising family members are more likely to learn, perceive music as part of their life. An interactive and collaborative space provides for a better learning environment for new learners.

A research study to determine the efficacy of three mediums of instruction in sharing knowledge of Folk musical instruments

This was done under the guidance of Prof Uday Athavankar at IDC School of Design, IIT Bombay, as a part of my Master’s Thesis. Please visit the link to read the Study Details

Adopting Game design as an approach

From the above mentioned study, we saw that the group of children that were exposed to multimedia mediums, i.e, slides and games, performed better than those exposed to static medium – Book. Game is a structured collaborative environment. The presence of gameplay and a game world is expected to encourage users for repetitive play, helping them understand and learn better. To cater to a more interactive and collaborative space of learning, we decided to pursue game design as an approach.

Existing products on similar areas


  • Introducing users to folk musical instruments through their properties, sounds and associated festivities.
  • Create a platform to mix and tinker with sounds of different instruments.
  • This project will not be an evaluation of musical skills of the user
  • This project will not replicate the experience of playing a real life musical instrument.

DATA for Prototype

Information on Folk Musical Instruments

Information used in this project were gathered from BCF’s Barluitor Barbhairav, the book and the documentary:

This data was extracted onto a spreadsheet. This helped us decide which types of data we would be using for our prototypes

Content used to develop prototypes

We selected and focussed on these following topics to design and develop our prototypes

OBJECTIVES to achieve

  • To help players understand relationship of different communities, their festivals and folk musical instruments
  • To share knowledge of the resources required to construct musical instruments, and where can they be obtained from.
  • To help players understand, how a folk musical instrument is constructed with resources found within a community.
  • To help identify sounds of different instruments.


Throughout the duration of this project we ideated on multiple concepts. Five of those concepts were able to achieve all or parts of the objectives. Their comparative analysis is as follows.

Two concepts – Concept 4: Worm game and Concept 5: Zuci – muliplayer phygital game were then developed further as they had more merit.


Worm game - digital single player game

Overview: The main objective of this game was to help players identify sounds of different Folk Musical instruments. This was a digital single player game, created for mobile devices (Android and iOS). In this gameworld, a mother worm is guarding her babies, you as a player will hear a musical note playing in the background – choose the correct instrument corresponding to those musical notes. Successfully identifying all the musical notes will lend you experience points but failing to do so, wakes up her worm-babies one after the other and down goes your life span.

Move to see Demo >>

Zuci - phy-gital multiplayer game

Overview: This is a phygital multiplayer turn based strategy game.
Elements of the game:

  • a. Village board: Players explore different areas of this board and find raw materials.
  • b. Assembly board: Players gather raw materials to construct their musical instruments.
  • c. Raw material cards
  • d. Application zuci: this is present in the hands of the Captain, and helps teams during construction of musical instruments.
  • e. Special cards: lets players strategize their moves
  • f. Instrument cards: once a team successfully constructs an instrument, they win the corresponsing Instrument card.

The game mechanics can be divided into two parts:

  • Construction of instruments: Players explore different areas, collect materials for their desired musical instruments and compete in a game of assembly.
  • Music studio: Once ready with their musical instruments the players can create mixes, download and share with friends and family.

Players in this game focuses on constructing Musical instruments with raw materials collected from different parts of villages and assembling them in the assembly board to construct musical instruments.

This is played in groups of two. Within a team you can be either a Captain or his apprentice.

  • If you are the captain(one with the hat and bow tie) , you have all the knowledge to construct the Musical instruments in your Mobile application – ZUCI. You will help your apprentice to find and assemble raw materials and construct musical instruments – but without speaking.
  • If you are the apprentice , follow your captain, explore different areas of the village, assemble raw materials together and construct your musical instruments.

The team to create all the musical instruments first, WINS

Prevent your opponent’s progress by using these special cards. These cards helps develop complex strategies to construct instruments, collaborate with or manipulate the opponent team.

Music Mixing Studio - digital application

Once done, move to Music Mixing Studio and create soundtracks from your musical instruments and share it with the world.

Move to see Demo >>


Final ideations of both the worm game and Zuci were play tested.

  • Total play tests conducted: 11 test spread across 3days of time-period
  • Total number of participants: 10
  • Location: playtesters’ home

Please click on the image to view the playtesting videos:


Evaluation Plan

  • Number of players: 4
  • Number of rounds: 3-5
  • Duration of each round: 15mins
  • Location: room(closed space)
  • Players will be given all the components of the game and will be asked to follow instructions from the application.
  • Natural Shadowing: Interactions made by all players, both in the application and the game board will be observed and recorded
  • After 2 rounds, players will be asked to leave. If the players insist on playing more of the same game, gameplay will be considered a success.

Learnings of players

  • Players were able remember the sounds of musical instruments.
  • They were able to remember the raw materials of construction and where to find them.
  • Mixed different sounds of instruments to create new soundtracks

Analysis of game sessions

Player Interest

We documented the behaviours shown by our players before, during and after our final gameplay evaluation:


All of the final digital applications were developed on Unity, and deployed onto Android devices.

Worm game


Music Mixing Studio


This project is an ongoing project in collaboration with Brahmaputra Cultural Foundation. In the future we intend to include as many communities of India as possible and make it accessible for free to all.

Please feel free to reach out if you would be interested in helping and collaborating with us in the project. :)