What's your game?
A Dance of Fire and Ice is a one-button rhythm game about expressing music in terms of geometry. The best way to understand how it works is to play the prototype here. In essence, you control two orbiting orbs. The only control you have is to switch around which orb is orbiting which; one is always stationary while the other is orbiting around it.
The rhythm aspect comes here: each half-orbit takes exactly one beat. So, by hitting the spacebar every beat the orbits alternate, and the two balls slowly make their way across the screen! In this way, altering the rhythm slightly lets you travel across a 90 degree bend and so on. There are many, many variations of rhythms you can play, and each one will, thanks to the simple mechanic, end up with the orbs taking a different path.
The point of the game is to teach the player the connection between physical traversal and rhythm. By the end of it, the player will be able to traverse any long winding track simply by drumming the matching rhythm.
It places very heavy emphasis on getting the rhythm exactly right to the millisecond, which is harder than most people think. As such, it is also a useful tool to practice rhythm for drummers.
At ProtoPlay, as a world premiere, you’ll be able to play a revamped version featuring all new tracks and HD visuals, and play it with actual drums!
What has the Dare experience been like?
Hafiz Azman: Having already had a successful prototype out there, the focus of Dare was to expand on the concept further, and to do a complete visual revamp.
In terms of programming and game design, I already had an idea of what I wanted the new levels to teach before the competition – players had shown they could master some really complicated syncopations, so it was now about exploring even more complicated rhythms, which required the tracks to now be able to go in any direction, instead of just the four cardinals.
For example, a triangle shaped track would have a triplet rhythm, since each angle in a triangle is at 60 degrees, and one beat always takes 180 degrees, i.e. a half orbit. And a quarter of an octagon is a classic EDM rhythm you can find in a majority of the radio songs nowadays, from Kygo to Walk The Moon!
What was missing from the game was a great artist and a great musician. I knew Kyle from Twitter from back when I was working on Rhythm Doctor, and instantly knew he’d be a great addition. And we found Jade through the Dare page, and her Soundcloud showed her to be versatile. And so I asked Jade and Kyle to join the team, and here we are now!
For me, the Dare period has been mostly juggling implementing assets from Kyle and Jade, making the physical drum controller, programming up the new systems.
Kyle Labriola: It’s been crazy, in the best way! I have friends who pursue game dev, but this is my first time jumping into the scene full-force. As a visual artist, I’m used to working alone, and on things that are only meant to be looked at. The Dare experience has given me a chance to do something completely new, which is both terrifying and really, really rewarding.
I’m honestly really glad that I chose Dare to be my first major experience for this type of thing. The combination of a great team and a really supportive environment in the form of the organisers and fellow teams is really encouraging, even when the pressure is on!
Overall it’s been hectic and fun. Looking back, what Dare really provided was a reason and circumstance for us to form a team. Our mentors at Ninja Kiwi have also been super helpful with advice, props to them!
What have you learned from Dare?
Azman: Time management and being realistic with scope. The ‘Take your scope, halve it, halve it again, and now double the length of time needed’ mantra has rung true. It’s always important to leave lots of time for polish.
Labriola: A huge difference I’ve learned between game dev visuals versus standalone art is: game designers need to be very clever to create the coolest experience with the time they have.
As opposed to the viewer just seeing the lines drawn on the canvas, games have to create an elaborate system of smoke and mirrors to turn simple assets into a believable world. Dare forces us to do our best, even under a time limit.
Are you looking forward to ProtoPlay?
We’re really excited to see how the public will take to playing actual real drums to control a video game, and how they’ll react to the new tracks and visuals we’ve been preparing for them!
What are your ambitions after Dare?
To finish this game and have a polished slick product out on the mobile market – one that does the rhythm game genre proud.
Follow 7th Beat Games on Twitter @7thbeat to learn more about their game.
Dare ProtoPlay and Indie Fest is on 13th-16th August in Dundee’s Caird Hall and City Square, with all 16 Dare student games on show, indie games, talks, workshops and more. http://www.dareprotoplay.com
- Hafiz Azman, from the University of Cambridge, UK – gameplay designer and programmer
- Kyle Labriola, from California College of the Arts – visual designer and artist
- Jade Kim, from Berklee College of Music – composer
Collectively, we are 7th Beat Games. We are a small indie collective who are obsessed with small one-button rhythm games, and specialise purely in the rhythm game genre.
Our first game, Rhythm Doctor (by Hafiz Azman and Winston Lee) was chosen for the Student IGF last year, and featured on sites like Eurogamer and Destructoid, as well as PC Gamer’s 100 Best Free Online Games On PC! Our second game, A Dance of Fire and Ice, was originally made in a 48-hour game jam.
Our competitive advantage with rhythm games is that we all have strong musical backgrounds in addition to our roles on the team. This unlikely combination has made us able to both get what makes rhythm games work, and bring it to reality much more easily than bigger teams where vision and intent can be compromised during communication.