Independent game development in Australia consistently produces some of the most compelling experiences to be found in gaming, standing toe-to-toe with larger entities on the global development stage. The PAX AUS Indie Showcase serves to highlight some of the fantastic work being put out by local developers. Player2.net.au has spoken with developers awarded a spot in the PAX AUS 2018 Indie Showcase to get a sneak peek at what attendees can look forward to.
PAX AUS 2018 Indie Showcase – SpinRhythm
iOS, Android, PC, Console
At PAX AUS 2017, there was one title in the Indie Pavilion area that stood out to me – SpinRhythm. Once I’d heard that the team at Super Entertainment had secured a spot in the PAX AUS 2018 Indie Showcase, I jumped at the chance to find out how far the title had come in a year. Shath Maguire, former Halfbrick Studios artist and Super Entertainment Co-founder took some time out of his busy pre-PAX schedule to talk to Player2 about SpinRhythm.
Stephen del Prado: Hi Shath, how’s it going?
Shath Maguire: Good, very good!
SDP: Have you guys been busy in the lead up to PAXAUS?
SM: Yeah, pretty busy. Definitely leading up to PAX, we’re getting used to it because we just went to Cologne for GAMESCOM and PAXWEST So….the build’s pretty solid.
SDP: How would you compare those experiences to PAXAUS?
SM: Well I actually didn’t go to Cologne but I went to PAXWest. We only had a small booth but it was really similar.
SDP: A similar size set up?
SDP: Would you say the size of the crowds is about the same?
SM: Well, PAXWEST is in a pretty…it’s been in the same venue for years. I guess that it might change but it’s nowhere near as good as the Melbourne venue, which is so open. There’s so many doors to access to get everywhere you don’t get any bottleneck situations, so it’s better here that’s for sure.
SDP: How vindicating is it to be selected for the Indie Showcase, to get that continued nod of approval from other devs and the wider gaming community?
SM: It’s really good! I’m pretty confident in the game but you always have your doubts and then when people playing it saying they love it, you’re like “OK, my doubts are slowly dwindling”.
SDP: That seems to be a common thread amongst the devs that I’ve talked to – there’s always that sort of lingering doubt in the back of your mind, that “Maybe I’m crazy and this isn’t a great idea…” until you keep getting that positive reinforcement from people coming to the booth and saying “This is awesome, when can I get it?”
SM: Oh yeah, totally. It’s…you kind of have an idea, like it will at least do pretty well. That’s a good place to be. But when people say they really love it and they want it right now and they are basically trying to throw money at you, it’s a good sign.
SDP: Does that feed into your motivation to continue to push forward on what can sometimes be multi-year projects? I assume it can get pretty draining?
SM: Maybe? Not for me personally because I really want to finish the game and make it as good as possible but it definitely helps for sure.
SDP: I played SpinRhythm at PAXAUS 2017 and loved it – how much has the game changed since then?
SM: For us, it’s changed a lot but people coming into it probably won’t notice the big changes. It’s way more refined and we’ve separated the buttons out, because before it was just one touch and spin with the wheel but now we’ve got an extra drum pad which is for additional difficulties because there’s only so much you can do with one touch and one wheel. Besides that, visually there’s just way more juice – it feels much nicer. More tracks as well.
SDP: Well it’s a rhythm game, it wouldn’t be progress without more tracks…
SM: * laughs * But not as much as we’d like, just because of the direction and trying to figure out what the best way to go is for releasing the game.
SDP: Has that been an issue? Have you had disagreements or discussions in regards to music genres you want to include or what fits in with the aesthetic that you’re going for?
SM: Not so much music genres, we’re all on board with how we feel about the music and that’s actually a really good part because it’s a varied tracklist, but all stuff we all like. There’s nothing we don’t like in the game music-wise. In terms of release strategy, the main focus was whether we do mobile first or consoles first.
SDP: Have there been any issues around licensing? I know that sometimes that can be a real headache for people working in this genre.
SM: Yeah, no it’s huge but we’ve got really lucky with MonsterCat who are really easy to work with. They’ve done licensing for music for Rocket League and Shapes and Beats so they already have established game work and they’ve got this huge tracklist so it really helps. But we’ve got other music from other licenses. It’s just really hard if it’s a really popular song but we haven’t got to that hurdle yet.
SDP: Using the CD-J as a controller is an awesome experience and feels like something that would fit right into an arcade – is that a route you’d be interested in taking SpinRhythm?
SM: Oh, for sure. That’ll be all depending on how popular it is but I’d definitely love to see it in arcades.
SDP: With the added drum pad, would you only recommend that for hardcore home players or is that something you’d be looking at incorporating into a potential arcade release as well?
SM: Definitely, it needs that I think. It’s not the same without it. The really easy difficulty doesn’t have the drum pad – every other song has it on medium and hard. It just makes the game way more fun, I think.
SDP: It’s a pretty interesting approach to difficulty as well. I don’t know if there’s any other rhythm games that have taken that approach, at least for single player. I guess there’s probably videos of someone playing every instrument on Rock Band at once online somewhere…
SM: I guess the only other option is to add another colour on the wedge because there’s only two colours right now. But adding another colour is not necessarily that much more fun, just more confusing. We still might dabble with that, but the extra drum pad just felt…because you’re spinning the wheel with your right hand and tapping as well, the extra hit with your left – you can get some left-right, left-right hitting movements like an actual drum pad which felt nice.
SDP: Is there a launch window for SpinRhythm at this point? Last year you were aiming for a 2018 release, is that still likely?
SM: No…maybe? Maybe, because mobile is going to be our focus first off, but then definitely console release in 2019. But I’m pretty sure it’ll be 2019, early for mobile and mid to late for consoles.
SDP: When designing and developing a rhythm game, what particular challenges do you think you’ve faced?
SM: Mapping the music to the rhythm and all the different inconsistencies with devices. That’s a pain. But, we are really huge fans of rhythm games so it wasn’t that hard. It was a really nice happenstance that this game idea worked with a rhythm backing. It was luck, but also a passion for rhythm games kind of drove it.
SDP: What other rhythm titles inspired the development of SpinRhythm?
SM: Probably Rock Band mainly. The idea has been going for a while in my head but back in the day I was just playing mobile rhythm games, especially Rock Band on mobile which isn’t available anymore, and I felt like it was just taps – and all of them are pretty much just tapping on the screen, but there’s so much more you can do. There’s some swiping left and right, but that’s it. I was thinking this would be perfect because it actually uses touch screen, but then we added a peripheral – the Pioneer – and it just accelerated it even more in terms of how fun it is.
SDP: Have you approached any manufacturers in regards to peripherals or is that further along when other things are more concrete?
SM: Yeah that’s exactly right – further along when the game is released on mobile, we’ll see how it goes.
SDP: I have seen other people picking up a CD-J in preparation for the release of SpinRhythm – is that something you would recommend at this point?
SM: Yeah, we want to get it all working on the MIDI’s. There’s obviously better wheels. People really want to do that, they want to use the wheels they already have. But I think the better route would be to make a peripheral and just have the same experience for everyone. But if not, if you have a CD-J lying around, it should work. We have a pretty nice MIDI input system working.
SDP: Do you have any plans for a Switch release?
SM: I don’t know if I can say, but we’re definitely looking into getting it on most consoles.
SDP: How are you expanding on your PAXAUS booth this year? Will people be able to play with the CD-J and the Drum pad?
SM: Yeah, the main setup will be the CD-J and the Drum pad, with a drumstick or just using your hand. That will be on the big screen at the back. Indie Showcase booths are 3 by 3 metres, and last year they were all at the back section – so it should be a nice setup for people to come through and play the main DJ setup in the middle. There will also be some iPad setups on the side, with headphones obviously because the main setup is gonna be pretty loud.
SDP: PAX, in general, is pretty loud….
SM: We definitely will be adding to that.
SDP: I know you’ve been head down, focusing on getting ready for PAXAUS but is there anything you’re interested in checking out while you’re there?
SM: Ah no, not yet. I usually make sure everyone gets a chance to check out the show floor – it’s a good experience to see what other developers are doing and actually see games because we love them. We did it at PAX West as well – there was some really amazing stuff there.
SDP: What are your plans after SpinRhythm? Do you have anything in very early development, some ideas that you’re kicking around or are you focused on SpinRhythm for the next couple of years?
SM: Definitely SpinRhythm for the next couple of years – that’s locked in. We definitely have ideas…it’s hard to say. We have no real prototypes but definitely a lot of ideas.
SDP: Is there anything you’d like to get the word out on about the SpinRhythm Booth at PAXAUS?
SM: Yeah – there should be a QR code download of the game on mobile available – there’s gonna be 100 releases of that, so if you get in early you’ll be able to download the game!
SDP: They’ll be able to get the PAXAUS Demo or the full version?
SM: It’ll be the PAXAUS Demo on mobile.
SDP: Will they be able to keep that indefinitely, or is there a timestamp on it?
SM: It’s through Test Flight, so it will be timestamped.
SDP: That is really cool – I’ll have to make sure I get down there early
SM: We can save one for you * laughs *
SDP: With the phone releases, do you think you’ll have a simultaneous launch for iOS and Android or target one platform then the other?
SM: I think simultaneous for sure.
SDP: Obviously working within Android and iOS there’s a range of different hardware configurations that people can use. Do you have a particular version of iPhone or Android hardware that you would say SpinRhythm performs on best?
SM: Anything from an iPhone 7 upwards. For Android, it’s hard to say…anything in the last 3 or 4 years should be fine.
SDP: Obviously the Plus models so you’ve got that bigger screen?
SM: Yeah, or an iPad – the bigger the better. Headphones, and you should be good to go!
SDP: Hopefully a lot of people will get down to check out the booth. I really dug what you were doing last year and I’m just waiting for release!
SM: We could’ve released it already, similar to what Beatsaber did, because they had an early access release with a tracklist, but we wanted to add more. Maybe even a single player campaign, but we won’t be showing any of that at PAXAUS.
SDP: So you didn’t really want to go the Early Access route, you’d rather have a feature complete release?
SM: We still probably want to for Steam and Consoles, but if it goes really well on mobile then it’s probably not necessary, but we’ll see. It’s still up in the air.
SDP: Thanks very much for talking to Player2 Shath, it’s always great to be able to do this every year – get the Indie Showcase winners on and spread the word to the community to get down and check out some locally developed stuff.
SM: It’s great, we really appreciate it!
It was whilst toiling away in the bowels of the now mythical Australian Gamer forums that Stephen del Prados attempts at writing were recognised by then up-and-coming Matt ‘Hewso’ Hewson as “not terrible”. Since then Stephen has contributed to such sites as The Age’s now defunct Screen Play, the recently retired Black Panel and currently serves under Editor-in-Chief Hewso for Player2.net.au, at least until the pattern of decline obvious in his previous engagements is picked up by Hewso and he is exiled from games journalism forever