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  • Inside the IGF 2009: Sneak Peek at Resonance

    - staff
  •  The Independent Games Festival celebrates independent and student video games. In this exclusive series, GameCareerGuide is talking to people who have submitted games to the IGF student competition, like the DigiPen students who created Resonance.

    GameCareerGuide spoke with the four team members who made this hybrid rhythm-action game: Keith Gunning, producer; Doug Macdonald, designer; Jason Hamilton, technical director; and Nickolas Raines, product manager.

    Game title: Resonance

    School: DigiPen Institute of Technology

    Description: Resonance is a hybrid rhythm-action game with side-scrolling mechanics. Like a standard 2D brawler game, the player progresses across each of the stages from left to right, defeating enemies in his or her wake. However, the player cannot merely tap buttons furiously in order to succeed. The player's four basic attacks act as four separate notes used to play a whole myriad of short tunes. Whenever a tune is played with the correct timing and notes (within an allowed margin of error), the player performs special moves that damage enemies.

    GameCareerGuide: Tell us how Resonance came to be.

    Jason Hamilton: The main ideas behind Resonance came about when I was shooting down Doug's idea for a rhythm-based platformer...

    Doug Macdonald: I started putting a team together in April 2007 with the intention of making some sort of rhythm game. My initial plan was a rhythm platformer, but Jason managed to convince me that that would probably end up pretty terrible, so we settled on making it a brawler.

    We spent a few months in front of whiteboards, drawing out the game design and having heated arguments about the tiniest details, until we had written a complete game design document. After that, there was just the matter of actually finding time to code the game.

    GCG: What was your goal in developing the game?

    Nickolas Raines:
    Making something fun, innovative, and technically challenging. Resonance was that. Also, having fun during development and enjoying the game that we were working on was very important to me as well.

    Doug Macdonald: My main goal was just to make something that's never been done before. I figured that I'd never have a better opportunity to try pulling off a game like this, since the stakes are just a little higher when you're dealing with a commercial game and a commercial budget, so I may as well try to do something nobody's ever attempted and see what comes of it.

    Jason Hamilton:
    I guess we really just wanted to see if the idea we came up with was really possible  to pull off in a professional-looking way, without having a team of 30 artists and two full-time composers.

    GCG: Why did you decide to make a rhythm game? In the last year or two, the indie and student game development scene has had a glut of these kinds of games.

    Doug Macdonald: The glut of rhythm games surprised us as much as anyone else, since it seemed to start right when we were a few months into development. I've been just a little bit obsessed with rhythm games ever since I first made a fool of myself on a Dance Dance Revolution machine, so I knew from the start that I wanted to make a music game of some sort.

    Jason Hamilton: In the case of Resonance, we wanted to do something where the action flowed smoothly, and rhythm-based mechanics were a natural fit. For me, though, it's probably a deep-rooted love of SEGA's Space Channel 5 that really had me excited to try working rhythm into a genre where it doesn't make immediate sense. As for the scene as a whole though, I think it's pretty obvious that the mainstream popularity of Guitar Hero and Rock Band in the past few years have definitely pushed rhythm games into the spotlight-lots of people want to put their own spin on the rhythm-game concept, and we were no exception.

    Keith Gunning: We really felt that Resonance's combination of rhythm and side-scrolling action elements was unique and exciting.

    GCG: What do you think is the game's greatest asset? What sets it apart from other games in the IGF?

    Nick Raines: The gameplay style is very different from a traditional music rhythm based game. Musically, instead of a more classical performance, the player is charged with a more improvised approach.

    Jason Hamilton: I believe that one of Resonance's best assets is its style. We wanted the game to be fun, so we tried to convey that in everything from the gameplay down to the character sprites and dialog. We did the best that we could with our very limited artistic abilities, but I feel like the final result is fun to experience.


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