The lights are on
Before Harmonix put a plastic drum set in your house or got you up and dancing in one of the only great Kinect series, it made controller-based music games. The PlayStation 2 was home to Frequency and its sequel, Amplitude. The latter of these is getting a new lease on life, provided the community chips in.
Harmonix has launched a Kickstarter campaign for Amplitude on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 (with a Vita version as a stretch goal). The game isn’t a remake, rather its a new version with new visuals, new music (and possibly some remixes of familiar tunes). “It’s important that we have new music,” creative lead Ryan Lesser tells us. “Otherwise, you’d just be playing the same game again.”
The music will be created in-house. “Some people didn’t realize that, because we made up band names or used bands from Harmonix,” Lesser says. “A lot of people’s favorite songs from the old game were created in-house.” This means that licensing won’t be the licensing jungle gym it was with Rock Band and Dance Central.
There are a number of members of the original development team, including Lesser, on the Amplitude project, so this new version promises to feel like the game you remember from 2003. “We’ve been waiting to make this forever,” Lesser says. “We talk about it all the time. We have fans ask us all the time to make more Amplitude. It’s always been in the back of our minds. We thought that it would make a great match for a crowdfunded game.”
Having members of the original team on board has been important for bringing the original experience to contemporary gamers. “We have been thinking about musical genres and going through the old PlayStation 2 code and bringing out all the elements that made Amplitude,” Lesser says. “We’re doing a lot of research into what made the original one tick. The cool thing is that one of the coders on the project is the guy that wrote the original code in the old game. So we have a bunch of us, myself included, that made Amplitude. It’s cool to be able to go into the old work and quickly make sense of it, because we’re the ones who did it.”
Harmonix says it will have the game running at 60 frames per second on both platforms. As for music, the exact number of tracks isn’t finalized, but Harmonix has some thoughts about where it wants to land. “The plan is about 16 tracks right now, but there will be stretch goal funding that will bring more tracks to the game,” Lesser tells us.
Amplitude early concept art. Click to enlarge.
The title will feature multiplayer, like the original. It will also follow in the footsteps of more recent Harmonix titles with new music available as DLC. “It is our current plan to include a pipeline for DLC,” Lesser says, though plans are not finalized and it’s not a guarantee yet. “We consider ourselves pretty great at that. We love being able to give people more and more music as they continue to play the game, so we’ve been working on technology plans.”
Harmonix isn’t the first larger independent developer to take to Kickstarter. Co-founder and CEO Alex Rigopulos says that “passion projects” like this often end up on the “back burner.” However, he assures that Harmonix is serious about a new version of Amplitude.
“We’re passionate about this game, and we think it serves to get made,” he says in the Kickstarter pitch video. Though in order for that to happen, the studio will need $775,000 in funding.
“We’re trying to do different types of development models at Harmonix, and spread out the way we make games,” Lesser says. “We’re going to continue to do traditionally developed games. We’ve been focusing more on transparent development. In the spirit of developing in public and being 100 percent transparent with people, we want Amplitude to be made, but we want to be sure that people want Amplitude to be made.”
Lesser tells us that he has a positive outlook on even the worst-case scenario. “I’m really hoping that people are psyched about it and it gets funded, but if it doesn’t, even though that’s a tragedy in one way, it’s a blessing in another,” he says. “We would now know that a game we would otherwise spend quite a lot of money on that the market doesn’t want it at this point in time.”
Work has already begun on Amplitude, which helps explain the ambitious March 2015 expected release window. “We have done work. It’s something that I’ve learned from doing Kickstarters and funding Kickstarters. The best Kickstarter is the one that’s already had work put into it. We’ve been doing a lot of early pre-production, and we have a lot of concept art that’s been generated.”
You can check out Harmonix’s Amplitude Kickstarter pitch here.