Rock Band developer Harmonix today launched a Kickstarter campaign for a sequel to 2003's cult classic rhythm-action game, Amplitude. Harmonix is asking for $775,000 to make the game a reality. If everything goes to plan, the Amplitude successor will launch in March 2015 for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
Cult classics don't often get sequels, so why make a new Amplitude?
"We've been wanting to do more with [Amplitude] since it originally came out," Amplitude creative lead Ryan Lesser told GameSpot in a recent interview. "It's always been ever-present in our minds and we have a lot of fans who consistently and continually ask us to make more Amplitude. The reason we finally decided to do it again is because the confluence of the urge to make the game and the fact that Kickstarter has turned into a really great platform for bringing fan-favorite games back to life," he added.
"We're not sure how the world will feel about it. So Kickstarter is great for that" -- Amplitude creative lead Ryan Lesser
Lesser described the new Amplitude as a "pet project," which is why he thinks it's well-suited for crowdfunding.
"We're not sure how the world will feel about it. So Kickstarter is great for that. It will let us know if people want it. Hopefully they will. But it's a safe way to figure it out before you go and spend millions of dollars on a game."
The original Amplitude for PlayStation 2 was beloved by critics, so you might think a traditional publisher might have an interest in helping the new game come to market. That could be the case, but Lesser explained that Harmonix was always eyeing Kickstarter for the new Amplitude. He said no discussions with major publishers were held.
"Kickstarter was our original intent for this game. We really did want to make a game on Kickstarter. We wanted to make a game that included people in this particular way and validated the game before we made it," Lesser said. "There was a lot of love for this game when it originally came out; the reviews were incredible. So we just thought, taking a game that people already know is good and revitalizing it using the platform that involves people and includes people in the funding and the life-or-death of the game, that just matched up really well."
Harmonix does not have angel investors or other contingency plans in place if the Amplitude Kickstarter campaign comes up short. "This is crowdfund or bust," Lesser said. "Our hope is, of course, that people dig it and want to have the game made. In the unlikely event that it fails, we will take that as a lesson learned and say 'OK, this is a game that people are either not ready for or don't want right now.'"
2003's Amplitude was released exclusively on PlayStation 2, and Harmonix doesn't have any plans to bring the new game to Xbox platforms. "Well, Amplitude was a game that was made with Harmonix and Sony in partnership, so [for the new Amplitude] the main focus [is for PlayStation platforms] based on its history and its past publishing."
Harmonix has never shipped a game for the PS4, the developer acknowledged in the "Risks & Challenges" part of the game's Kickstarter page. But Harmonix isn't stressing over this. "New platforms always come with some minor learning curves. BUT, we have great producers and partners at Sony and we're confident we'll be able to overcome any obstacles," Lesser said.
The developer also notes that overcoming technical limitations and challenges could pose an issue for the new Amplitude, which the studio says needs to run at 60fps. "There are technical limitations to overcome in order to get the game running at 60fps (a requirement to make all musical timing feel snappy). We have a strong plan about how to adapt our proprietary engine for these purposes, but it is a risk."
For the past month, a small team of around six people have been working on the new Amplitude, but Lesser said that team will grow if the Kickstarter campaign gathers steam. "We're planned to have a larger team start at Kickstarter launch [today] and then we'll be about 12 people total." Part of that team includes a handful of developers who worked on the original Amplitude in 2003, including Lesser himself. That's no doubt good news for fans of the franchise who want to see the new game stay true to its roots.
"The difficulty, that's one of our major focuses" -- Lesser
Fans of the original Amplitude will no doubt recall how difficult the game became in its later stages, and the new Amplitude will carry forward this spirit of challenge. "I want this game to be difficulty when you get to the point of the game where it should be difficult." Newcomers needn't worry, however, as it will also offer "really great onboarding" for new players. Still, Lesser stressed that players looking for a challenge in the game's later levels won't be left wanting.
"This is a game that really shines when you are working hard at it," he said. "That's kind of the fun thing about this. The difficulty, that's one of our major focuses; not just that it's going to be punishing; we are going to bring people in really well at the start of the game. But you're going to progress to things that are quite challenging, which is kind of where all the fun is, you know?"
On the game's Kickstarter page, Harmonix refers to the new Amplitude as "Amplitude HD." The game's core mechanics will be just as you remember them from 2003, but if there is overflow funding, you can expect new features like online multiplayer.
"The game, at its core, will use exactly the same game design weaving within the level in the way that there will be three gems and six tracks and all that stuff. That's all going to be brought right over so that addictiveness is maintained," Lesser said. "But we are working on new ways to bring people through the levels and through the entire campaign experience from the start to the end. And then we have other stretch goals including online multiplayer; stuff that didn't really exist in the other one."
One of the new Amplitude game's stretch goals is licensed tracks. Lesser said one artist he personally hopes to see in the game is dubstep icon Skrillex. It's not such an easy task finding music for Amplitude, Lesser said, as songs need to have six tracks to work. "The thing is we want to make sure we focus on bands that produce songs that have enough musical tracks in them to make a great Amplitude level," Lesser said.
The new Amplitude is one of many in-development projects at Harmonix right now. The studio is also working on experimental music-game Fantasia: Music Evolved for Xbox 360 and Xbox One, the PC free-to-play music/shooter hybrid Chroma, and a free-to-play mobile game called Record Runner. Harmonix also said last month that it has "grand plans" to revive the Rock Band and Dance Central franchises for next-generation consoles, though no new games in those beloved series have been announced yet.
|Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch|
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