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Thursday, February 28, 2008
The Making Of Phase For iPod
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

A recent Joystiq article provides a synopsis of a speech given by Harmonix's Chris Foster at the Game Developer's Conference. Foster's discussion covered the creation of the rhthym game Phase for Apple's iPod multimedia device, specifically looking at the effort involved in making the game respond properly to the wide range of potential songs it might encounter.

The most notable feature, and the one that caused the most trouble for the development team, is the procedurally-generated gameplay. Since Phase works with the music on your iPod, note charts must be automatically generated. Foster talked at length about the issue of ensuring that these are fun, making sure that there aren't too many or two few and that they are consistent. Some important decisions that went into this: the "slider" sections in silent parts of the song, and varying note density not only by beats, but also by loudness, to ensure a dynamic gameplay experience. Sensitivity of the generator was tested with an eclectic set of 200 songs, including especially problematic Japanese noise music and Bjork.
Foster showed some early design work on Phase, which started development as a two-button PSP game, then was put on indefinite hold by some other project of theirs, with drums or something, and then was picked up again. Originally, the concept of the game involved building a city with your music -- as the player successfully captured gems, structures would begin to build up on the sides of the game track. This took a number of visual forms, including one arresting black-and-white view that Foster said he would like to revisit for a game. It looked really cool. The question of presentation lingered throughout development on the PSP and iPod until the discovery of Andrew Stewart's artwork provided direction. His fun-focused design helped lead the team away from iPod-shaped cars or Spore-style iPod monsters.

The iPod provided its own issues. It didn't have the power for a "world-building" design. It also had a weird controller. In order to test their designs, the team actually built an iPod "emulator" by cutting the touchpad off of a desktop keyboard and gluing two paper circles to it. This touchpad, however, was more sensitive than the iPod's. Foster revealed that the team also had to add code to iTunes in order to get songs into the game, meaning that Phase installs on the computer and the iPod.

For the full article click on the link provided below.

Joystiq: Phase Discussion

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