State of Play #8 (The Equaliser Edition!)

In this State of Play we give you the low-down on our progress with our new music game, Equaliser!

So it’s been a while since we’ve posted a State of Play development blog – not because we’ve not been doing much, quite the opposite in fact! We’ve been working very hard on our new music-based retro side-scroller, Equaliser!.

What is Equaliser?

Before we dive in to the changes, additions and general progress, here’s a quick reminder of what Equaliser actually is:

Equaliser Title Screen

Equaliser is a retro side-scrolling skill game with a twist – it’s generated completely by your own music collection! Kind of an 80s arcade version of Audiosurf, but different, and flipped on its side!

This is quite a departure from the platformer that was our last game, Electro Bobble (which we’ve recently reduced in price to just €3.99 by the way!), so why are we making it? Well, we were playing around with a concept prototype of it and it was such fun that we just couldn’t not make it. We love games, we love retro, and we love music – it makes perfect sense!

Equaliser Gameplay (Single Player)

In Equaliser you take control of a small spaceship, your mission to pilot it through the landscape of your music collection. Equaliser plays your selected song and generates a tunnel-like level using the same information that a graphic equaliser in a hi-fi system uses. You must then pilot your way through the level as you listen to your song, avoiding the walls and picking up score drops as you go. There are power-up drops to help you on your way, and bad drops to hinder you. The speed at which the level progresses is determined by the ‘intensity’ of the part of the song that you are listening to at that particular time. Your goal? To get the highest score possible for that song!

Features

Here’s a quick overview of some of the features that we’re planning for Equaliser:

  • Level generation based entirely on your music collection
  • A vivid and exciting visual experience, linked closely to the mood of the song you are listening to
  • Local single and multi-player – play against up to 3 of your friends using the keyboard or Xbox controller. Great for parties!
  • Local and internet scoreboards – see your personal best scores for a song, or see how you’ve done against other players playing the same songs all over the world
  • Play a single song, or a whole playlist
  • Customisable background graphic visualisations – add new background graphics created by the gaming community through the use of visualisation plug-ins
  • Visualiser mode – use Equaliser as a music player with full graphic visualisation provided by the visualisation plug-ins

The Alpha

We’re going to release Equaliser in a new (to us, at least) way, and make it available to the public early in the development cycle, during the so-called alpha stage – If you want to play the game early, you will be able to. Not only that, but you can help us shape the game into something that you and other players will enjoy over and over again – suggest features you want to see, suggest tweaks and changes, tell us what really works for you, and what doesn’t so much.

We’re going to do this using “alpha funding” – you’ll be able to buy the alpha version of Equaliser at a significantly reduced price, giving you access to all the alphas as we release them, a private alpha forum to discuss the game and speak to the developer directly, and a newsletter keeping you up-to-date with all of the changes as they happen. You’ll also get a full copy of the final release version of the game without having to pay the full price. This way, the people who actually want to play the game will be the ones shaping how it develops.

We’re still working out the exact details of how we’re going to do this, but we will announce it as soon as we know.

Development Progress

We’ve been very busy working on Equaliser since the release of Electro Bobble. Originally we created Equaliser as a concept prototype to determine whether it was something that could be developed in to a full game. Using the prototype we proved to ourselves, and other people, that it was, indeed, definitely a concept worthy of pursuing – it’s awesome!

As a prototype, Equaliser was very basic in both functionality and design, and when we created it we weren’t really sure where we were going to end up going with it. When we started development on it in earnest we stripped away everything but the core functionality, the level generation code. We then decided exactly where we wanted to go with it, what our vision for it was, and created a design based around that. Then we started development from scratch.

Here’s what we’ve completed so far:

  • Local multiplayer – Play with up to 4 players at the same time, using the keyboard or an Xbox controller. Currently Equaliser only supports one XBox controller, but we plan on extending it to four so that everyone can use one if they so desire.
    Equaliser Players Menu Equaliser Multiplayer Gameplay
  • Visualiser plug-in system – We’ve implemented visualiser plug-ins and written a selection of plug-ins that will ship with Equaliser as default. The plug-in system is implemented using MEF, so if you can write a .NET class library, you can write an Equaliser plug-in. Picking which plug-in to use (or setting it to random) will be part of the options menu.
    Equaliser Plug-in Equaliser Plug-in
  • Scoring and difficulty – Single and multi-player scoring, and the scores screen, are completed, with scoring being calculated based on a combination of distance travelled, number of deaths and number of score drops collected. The local high score board is also completed. The internet score board is well on its way too. We’ve also added 3 different difficulties, or speeds, which greatly change the feel of play from a chilled relaxing experience to a manic, panic-filled one.
    Equaliser Scores Equaliser Speed Menu
  • Menu system – The Equaliser menu system scrolls horizontally between screens, and is capable of displaying both horizontal and vertical menus, as well as menu components for things such as picking songs.
    Equaliser Play Menu Equaliser Speed Menu
  • Other stuff – We’ve also done a whole host of other small and not-so-small things which don’t really bear covering in detail, but be assured there are lots of them!

Moving Forward…

Obviously we still have lots to do, and we’re going to keep you updated as often as possible with our progress. Once we’ve polished a few things off, we’ll produce a video that shows everything we’ve talked about in this post, and more. Then we’re going to push to a point that we can put out a stable alpha and organise the alpha forum and that side of things so that people can start playing Equaliser as soon as possible!

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