It's time to tell those darn aliens to

Beat It!

Beat It!

a music-making arcade game

The long-standing feud between the humans and the Vorglon reaches its high point when the Vorglon turn it into a war of attrition.

The Vorglon use mass drivers to send endless unguided cargo containers at high speed over the intergalactic shipping lanes. Humanity defends against these by deploying an Automatic Defense Base into the local shipping lanes, where it can destroy them effectively as they use the automatic exit ramps, which are few in number.

The Vorglon also send numerous other assailants which fly in under their own power at lower speed. You are charged with defending against them using your highly mobile Lead Defense Unit (which is constructed from lead to maximize weight so as to minimize recoil).

To defend you must use your power shot and your weak shot. The power shot is effective against all your opponents, but it is powered by human lives, so each shot you fire still reduces the human population. Make your shots count! Your alternative weapon, the weak shot, does not consume human lives and fires faster, but it does much less damange and is only effective against the weakest foes.


Beat It! requires Windows 95+, hardware-accelerated OpenGL graphics, DirectX 8+ for DirectMusic, and General MIDI 2 audio support. Most modern PCs should have all these components and the necessary performance to play it.

Beat It! runs in fullscreen 1024x768 mode. If your display cannot display exactly this resolution (because your display is widescreen or is an LCD that will not emulate 1024x768), it will run in a window. (You can force windowed mode by running the program 'windowed', which may be necessary if your monitor lies to the program about what modes it supports.)

Download the windows zip file here (400KB)

Unzip/extract it to its own directory and run the executable. To uninstall, just delete the directory.

Press ESC to quit the game.


  • More tuning is needed
  • Enemy sections don't always switch with accompaniment sections
  • Game doesn't end when population reaches 0
  • Screen resolution issues described in previous section
  • Helpful error message if DirectX 8 isn't installed


Design and programming
Sean Barrett
Sean Barrett, NASA
Art technology concept
Casey Muratori, Chris Hecker
Art quality consulting
Atman Binstock
nothing nothings with special guest MC This Earth That I Found and featuring      (your name here)      


Beat It! was created as part of Indie Game Jam 4, whose theme was audio. Most of the game was created during the Jam itself over the long Thanksgiving weekend, but some gameplay improvements (powerups, additional enemy formations) were added with another 20 hours of work spread out over the following weeks. (The visual aesthetics were created entirely during the Jam; the above screenshot looks exactly like the game did by the end of the jam, except for the appearance of the bullets.)

The primary motivation for the gameplay was my sense that Harmonix-style beat-matching gameplay created the feeling of playing a musical instrument, but only by forcing you to synchronize to a previously constructed audio track which you must mimic; the experiential effect is only binary: either you're playing it correctly or not. The hope with Beat It! was to provide you with an arcade game which you can play while totally ignoring the music, and yet in the process of playing it you would create music; and hopefully by optimizing your score in the game, you would create "good" music. Of course, creating the necessary AI smarts for the last was unlikely within the scope of the jam, and for this particular aspect I consider Beat It! merely a proof of concept.

Special Thanks

The following games were instrumental in inspiring Beat It!:

  • Tempest, by David Theurer
  • Guitar Hero, by Harmonix
  • The Axe, by Harmonix
  • Ebi Flip, by Atman Binstock
  • Spheres of Chaos, by Iain McLeod

Beat It! was written using several libraries:

  • DirectMIDI, an LGPL DirectMusic wrapper library, by Carlos Jiménez de Parga
  • GLFW, an LGPL replacement for GLUT, by Camilla Berglund

This game would have been severely inferior without the use of the DirectMIDI library, which I'd never even heard of when the jam started. I am very grateful that it exists and that it was LGPL'd so I could use it for this project.

Also, thanks to the Indie Game Jam:

  • Chris Hecker, for providing his house and for orchestrating
  • Atman Binstock, for writing the IGJ4 engine

Source Code

Here is an interim source release to comply with the LGPL until the official IGJ4 release.

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