An Interview the wonderful Kyle Labriola – 7th Beat Games
We Recently had the fortunate opportunity to interview Kyle Labriola, 7th Beat Games Community Manager, and Visual Artist for A Dance of Fire and Ice.
Our full written interview with Kyle from 7th Beat Games:
What gave you the idea to make ADOFAI and RD?
In a sense, they were both born from the goals of making new types of rhythm games that only needed simple controls. But really it just sort of came about organically. Both games originally came from simple prototypes that our lead designer, Hafiz, came up with years ago.
ADOFAI’s prototype came together after experimenting with the idea of representing music with geometry instead of standard notation. If a circle orbited around another circle at a constant speed to the beat of a song, what would would traveling along a path sound like? Just from that core of an idea, it ended up working out that those rotations colliding with turns, triangles, and hexagons all correlated perfectly to real, existing rhythms in music. Building out maps and testing if the player could drum along from seeing the path ahead of them turned out to be really fun.
(We went more into more music theory detail on ADOFAI’s core mechanic in this Reddit thread, for those curious: //www.reddit.com/r/musictheory/comments/amh7wz/made_a_game_about_visualizing_rhythm_in_geometry/ )
RD’s prototype, originally, came from just the idea of “What if a rhythm game asked you to keep track of two different lines of rhythm coming towards you at once?” If the game sent you slow quarter notes on the top of the screen and quicker eighth notes on the bottom of the screen, it could be a challenge to keep up with it even if you only needed to drum on one button. Once we came up with the idea of representing the lines as EKG-style heart monitors, the game took on a new life with a surreal, colorful hospital setting. Having a simple mechanic then allows us to do whatever we want with surprises, twists, and audio-visual distractions.
What were the most difficult hurdles when creating the 2 games?
Oftentimes some of the biggest challenges are just fleshing out all the ideas we get in a way that’s manageable.
In ADOFAI’s case, it can be saying “alright we want to tackle having triangles, hexagons, squares, and all these different shapes” and then making sure we make or use songs that use those in a way that makes sense without being overwhelming. Or it could be saying “we want the game to have a hand-drawn, digital painting aesthetic” and then figuring out ways to make that work out.
In RD’s case, it’s often finding ways to pull off all the surprises and details we think of. Since the game is simple, there’s a lot of fun in coming up with different distractions to throw the player off. So we might think “well wouldn’t it be crazy if there was a fake phone notification popping up here” or “what if the audio did this to try to mess them up” and all sorts of things to defy the player’s expectations. Actually implementing those ideas and trying to one-up ourselves becomes our own little challenge.
Has it been challenging to pump out 2 games back to back in the same year?
It’s definitely been a busy month for us leading up to (and following) the release of ADOFAI. But leading up to it, we didn’t usually think of it as “making two games back-to-back.” Back in 2015, we were working on ADOFAI as part of a UK student games competition, so for those three months, ADOFAI was our focus. Then things swung back to our usual RD development.
The hard part was finding the spare time to finish up the final 10% of development before ADOFAI could be released. Them landing into the same year just ended up being a happy accident.
Sometimes the tougher part is just keeping our ideas organized and separated between the two games. Because of how differently the games are laid out, a lot of songs, visual ideas, or mechanics work well in one game but not in the other, so our development process for the two isn’t really interchangeable.
We see in ADOFAI that the tracks are synced up with the music was that difficult to do?
In a way, yeah. Once we had the prototype set up, it wasn’t hard from a technical standpoint, but from a level design standpoint it takes a lot of planning.
People often ask us of we made the soundtrack first and then just draw out the tracks to match however it sounds afterwards. With ADOFAI, this was rarely the case.
It was important that players learn what the different shapes do. We started initially with what kind of shapes do we want the tracks to make (vertical lines, triangles, skewed angles, etc.) and then write music to suit our needs for the game. It’s sort of a back and forth. Chunks of track shapes were planned out on paper because they’re the mechanics we wanted to introduce, and then music is written that uses those mechanics in a clear way.
Now that the game is out and players understand how it works, we can probably take a bit more of a relaxed approach to putting the levels together or using songs that were written beforehand. We’ll looking to release a new level every month for the near future, starting on March 1st.
Are there any courses that got cut from the release of ADOFAI?
Because of the careful method we had to use for composing the songs and putting everything together, we didn’t really bring anything to near-completion and then cut it. But now that we’ll be adding new levels once a month, we can go back and use any of the seeds of ideas that we didn’t get to use.
And if there’s anything we don’t get to, I’m sure the players will come up with amazing new approaches in their own levels. We’re currently working on a level editor for the game that’ll allow people to upload their own audio and make levels themselves.
Any news on RD’s release date yet for 2019?
We don’t have a specific month to announce just yet, but it will be out this year! Following us on twitter (@RhythmDrGame) is the best way to hear about when we have a release date. Or, if you prefer email, we have a mailing list at rhythmdr.com!
What’s next for 7th Beat Games after the release of RD?
The honest answer? Continued support for Rhythm Doctor! We really love its core setup and a surprisingly large and passionate community has grown around it, so we are excited to add more levels or more community editing tools after we’ve released. There is so much that can be done with this set of simple mechanics, and the folks in the community making hundreds of levels have really helped us realize just how many possibilities there are.
Although our first platform for Rhythm Doctor will be Steam for PC/Mac, we are also planning to release for iOS/Android and Switch, so we’ll have our hands full working on those versions. But even then, I guess we never know when inspiration for new ideas might strike.
~ Aaron Nicholls