Bower Defence: It’s Cello Fortress

The diagram above and the video below are both proof of Cello Fortress, a multiplayer game where four players use tanks to attempt to break into a fortress protected by a cellist, is thing that is real. But I’m calling foul. What’s more likely? That the maker of the pretty racing game Proun has managed to turn the music a cello creates into a gaming art show, or that John has created an elaborate series of blogs, websites, press releases, and even gone so far as to hire actors to video a concert to fake a game? And years from now, when everything is going well for me, he’ll text me telling me it was all a joke to make me look slightly silly and I’ll cry? He’s done it before, and he’ll do it again.

Ok. I’ll go along with it. It’s really rather lovely: a twin-stick shooter where the cellist’s performance controls the type of defenses he puts up against the attackers. High notes produce guns, for example. His score is based on how well he improvises his music. The four players attempt to destroy his cannons. It’s part concert, part art exhibition, and part game.

Developer Joost “Oogst” van Dongen’s devblog talks about the struggle it was to get the whole enterprise working together: “Cello Fortress is a complex project in several ways: playing cello so that it sounds good and controls the game is a big challenge and requires an experienced cellist and a lot of practice. Analysing what the cello plays is also technically very complex and has, as far as I know, never been done before in a computer game.”

My ‘John faked it’ theory is looking pretty water-tight.

Of course if means you need to be in the right place at the right time to experience it. It’s currently only scheduled to be shown in the Netherlands over 2013, but I bet it’ll eventually pop up in international shows. As long as there’s a cellist gamer in the world, the game will be playable.


  1. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    Zoe Keating wins.

    • Feferuco says:

      I think you misspelled Melora Creager

      • taibermeik says:

        The housing cover iPad Mini (white) $ 58.00 link to

        • emilyaustin8 says:

          I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I’d be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Heres what I’ve been to

  2. pakoito says:

    Cello was never this entertaining. Literally.

    • RaveTurned says:

      I guess it’s a matter of taste, but I find these guys quite fun. See also their cover of Smooth Criminal, which went mildly viral sometime in the last 12-18 months.

      • Bracknellexile says:

        Even Steve Vai thinks cellos are cool. Can’t argue with that!

    • phelix says:

      You tasteless bastard!

      • JiminyJickers says:

        Good to see other are here suggesting Apocalyptica. Good band.

      • jhng says:

        Apocalyptica — Nooooo! Quite enjoyed it the first time, until my 3-year old daughter decided that we had to listen to “the skeleton music” on a daily basis…

        I’ve tried to fob her off with Bach and Decapitated but to no avail.

    • rb2610 says:

      Apocalyptica disagrees: link to

      Edit: Beaten to it, the Hall of the Mountain King Live is better though :P

    • Feferuco says:

  3. socratesadams says:

    I like the idea of a world class, extremely famous cellist becoming so hooked on this that it totally ruins their cello career.

  4. Ross Mills says:

    In the games industry, there’s always room for cello.

    • Aardvarkk says:

      Other industries would string you up for a pun like that.

      *edit* aww I didn’t scroll down enough, beforan got to it first.

  5. Gap Gen says:

    Protect the bass!

    • Brun says:

      All your bass are belong to us.

      • Gap Gen says:

        All this senseless violins. (EDIT: Oops, didn’t see Bracknellexile’s post. Probably violated some kind of commenting rule?)

        • Bracknellexile says:

          I’m sure we can come to some sort of achord.

          • Gap Gen says:

            As long as we don’t insult each other with “yo yo ma so fat…” jokes.

          • Bracknellexile says:

            Nah, there’ll be no need for insults, RPS commenters usually conductor civilized pun thread.

      • says:

        Hey, that’s from that old controversial franchise Mortal Kontrabass!

        • Gap Gen says:

          Oh, is this the one where you walk into a bar, lay some beats down on some punks and try to get the high score?

  6. NathanH says:

    This is one of the most delightful things I have ever seen.

  7. Bracknellexile says:

    Cue a discussion of violins in video games….

  8. RaveTurned says:

    You had me at “Cello”…

  9. butalala says:

    Registered to call foul on this as a lapsed cellist. Well, the notes played around 1:00 seem way too low to come from the A-string, which is highest of the four strings and the one that the cellist in the video appears to be playing.

    • ghor says:

      There’s no foul here, the audio is one continuous take that is clearly not recorded at the same time as the video clips shown.

      • Universal Quitter says:

        It does make you wonder if only certain musical pieces would work for this, since not every piece has discordant chords, for example, or if you basically need an improvisational world-class cellist to really make this work.

        This would be so much more better for guitars I think, since they almost all have a universal 1/4 inch input, and there are millions of people that already know how to play it very well and own instruments. I don’t think the cello is stupid, quite the opposite; it’s just kind of niche.

        I don’t know, maybe I’m giving the fortress defense idea a little too much credit. Put a G36 and human silhouettes on screen, and this’ll be the next guitar hero.

        • Lev Astov says:

          If you watched the video, you would know it must be improvised. The idea is that it is niche, and perhaps is meant to get more people interested in classical instruments.

        • MrStones says:

          While as a guitarist myself I’d love to have a go at this, but without some foot-pedal trickery or a e-bow there’s no way I could sustain as note as long a cello man. Anything I could play on say a acoustic would be shorter and sharper, more “jagged” sounding compared to the cello’s lovely flow between notes. No gaps between chords/strums if you get me.

          Not to say it couldn’t work, but Beat hazard would strike me as a much better option for a battle of man vs improv guitarist.

          Edit: a day of many typos

          • Bhazor says:

            Sadly I think I’ll have to wait for the cowbell version, thats about my skill level.

          • Gap Gen says:

            Indeed, this current version is lacking in that particular instrument, one might say.

          • draglikepull says:

            Every guitarist should have an e-bow. I love my e-bow.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hodge says:

      Yeah, the audio’s completely out of sync on that and a few other shots. I’ll wager it was edited by a non-music-playing person who’s underestimated how easy it is to spot.

    • FCA says:

      Here is a live version for your viewing/listening pleasure

    • says:

      I don’t play cello, just a smaller guitar-like folk instrument, but that’s the first thing I noticed. It was pretty jarring tbh.

  10. Mr. Mister says:

    I’m sure there’s a video floating around on the Etherwebs with a Cello fight between Vader and that blond dude. Cello Wars called it was?

  11. Universal Quitter says:

    And here I thought I was the only one that called dissonance “ugly chords.” Now I feel slightly less uncultured. Hooray.

  12. povu says:

    Dutch RPS’ers unite!

    • Didero says:

      Every time there’s a post about a game made by a Dutch person or team, I realize I’m prouder of my country than I thought.

  13. AgentBJ09 says:

    Considering I used to play that instrument, this looks really interesting.

  14. x1501 says:

    How dignified. But why stop at cellos?

    link to

  15. Berzee says:

    On a marginally related note, attention developers: I will buy any game controlled via theremin, so long as it also comes packaged with a free theremin!

    • Harlander says:


      I’ve tried to build a theremin twice now, with decreasing levels of failure, but still.

      The game might end up being £400 though

      • Berzee says:

        I even failed at the cheap and easy “theremin made of three radios” method a couple weeks ago. =P I’m going to more radios when they show up at any of the nearby thrift stores, and have another try…but I suspect I may see similar results again.

  16. leQuack says:

    yay, my country gets mentioned without using the words ‘drugs’, ‘wooden shoes’ or ‘Amsterdam’!

    • Bhazor says:

      As a Brit I apologise for all British students visiting your awesome country.

    • Craig Pearson says:

      My ex is Dutch. She is still lovely, and the place is still lekker.

      • zappeo says:

        There’s also a dutch band called The Ex. Not sure if your ex is involved with them, but they’re one of the best bands in the world. And they made an album with Tom Cora, who also plays cello! so this is pertinent with the discussion! \o/

        Andy Kerr too moved to Netherlands. leQuack, your country is amazing and makes me jealous :°

      • Didero says:


        (‘lekker’ means ‘tasty’. ‘Gezellig’ is the hard-to-translate word we prefer)

  17. scoopsy says:

    Well crap, it’s only a matter of time before impressionable youths don their tanks and start shelling cellists. THANKS VIDEO GAMES.

  18. rapchee says:

    i thought guitar hero and the like supported actual guitars, or was it just youtubers trying to look cool?
    although either way, using a cello is a first, but i’m surprised to read it’s difficult to read it’s audio input

    • benkc says:

      AFAIK it does not support actual guitar input, but I know some people who made Rock Band work with actual drum input.

      (If I understood them correctly, the data for the guitar track is not only simplified, but hand-massaged for individual songs. The drums actually have two tracks: one that has all of the information and is only used for the animations, and one that has the data that the user has to match. However, it is a consistent mapping from the actual drum data to the controller input. So, you extract the data from the “for animations” track, play that on a drum kit with MIDI output, run that through a program that knows the rules for simplifying it to what Rock Band expects, and then send that through USB to the consolebox.

      Anything in that explanation that didn’t make sense is entirely my fault; I don’t have a perfect understanding of what they did.

      Aside: each song also has a track of data for controlling the fog machines, lasers, and spotlights — again for the purpose of the background animations. I tried to convince them they should make use of all that data, too, but AFAIK they never did.)

  19. FCA says:

    Go Joost!
    I knew he made games, I knew he played the Cello (maybe actually played together with him in some music jam: saxophone and cello don’t quite mix, but anyway) but never put the 2 together.
    He was also the programmer on the first version of “de Blob”, and is one of the founders of Ronimo games (known for Swords& Soldiers and Awesomenauts).

  20. draglikepull says:

    I’m enjoying the trend of games like this and JS Joust which can only be played at live special events as a social occasion. I hope we see more of this kind of thing.

  21. Dozer says:

    I want to make a version for the Great Highland Bagpipes. They were banned by the English, who considered them a weapon of war (a battlefield communication device) so it is appropriate to use them as a games controller.

    Ooh, think of that, commanding your regiments in Napoleon Total War by playing authentic marching tunes!

  22. Wedge says:

    Thanks for reminding me to finally go subscribe to Portland Cello Projects mailing list so I remember when they are doings things. Also they would destroy you all at this.