Beat 'Em was born from my idea of combining a rhythm game and a fighting game. As college sophomores with limited people, resources, abilities, and time, we needed to make it as simple as possible. I had hard-coded a system in C# of alternating functions to allow players to move to the beat at 120 BPM, and this was just the beginning.
The original blueprints of Beat 'Em stated that the core gameplay would involve flicking the control stick to the beat of the music to move. This proved to be too difficult of a mechanic for the pick-up-and-play kind of game we envisioned. Instead, we decided to allow players to hold the control stick to move, and the game would inherently limit their movement to the beat of the music. These two different movement mechanisms later became their own game modes: Easy and Pro mode!
As we grew as students, so did our capabilities as programmers, designers, artists, and composers. Over time, we were able to solve more problems and broaden our horizons to keep advancing the game.
In order to incentivize players to move and successfully interact with the game, we needed to develop a reward system, which was especially important for the difficult Pro mode. The system we designed would reward players for moving around by charging up a special meter above their health bar. Players can activate a shield or special-shot ability using their meter.
This gave Pro mode an extra edge; players who were skilled at moving to the beat would be able to use special abilities more often.
For Easy mode, the special meter is effortlessly charged and creates a more dynamic competition!
Here is the Ready Up menu. This is where players join and can customize the match they're about to play! Players have the option of choosing the arena, difficulty/mode, song, and game modifiers. Players navigate this menu as their player icon. This allows them to identify with their colors and explore the controls like moving, aiming, and shooting as they navigate the menu. We want the players to be well-adjusted for the upcoming fast-paced gameplay by letting them explore the mechanics at their own pace.
Art, Animation, & UI
It was imperative to nail the art style for this game; if it was gonna be simple, it had to be unique.
I was able to put my graphic design skills to work, and used Photoshop to create all of the visuals and art assets. Displayed here are just a few of the assets. Hover over or click them to learn more.
I created animations for:
The main menu (left) - The title card, the pulsing border, the player icons. and the background colors, which are programmed to be randomly generated between a specific range on every beat.
Ready Up menu (above)
Tutorial menu (see Tutorial Design below)
Menu Transitions - The classic-style TV turning on/off effect when entering/exiting menus
Dying animation similar to the TV effect, as well as particle systems for shooting and dying
I put a lot of work into designing the title card to try and give the best impression at first glance, since it's used for all of the promotional pieces & banners.
I learned from experience that it's better to show than to tell. Simply writing the controls out wasn't enough for players to understand, so I created animations that paired with the directions to show the player exactly how their inputs translate into gameplay.
It was also necessary to explain the unique movement. The animation on this page demonstrates how holding the control stick still results in beat-based movement. The UI elements are also introduced, showing what the health bar looks like if you take damage and also how the special meter increases as you move.
It's now important to demonstrate the special abilities after introducing the special meter on the previous page. Here, animations show what the abilities look like and how using the different abilities will consume your meter.
Other than creating the initial movement system, I also did programming for the menus. More specifically, I programmed the interactions for selecting the various options on the ready up menu and for navigating the tutorial menus. I also created a system to track statistics for each player, like how many shots they've fired, their hit accuracy, kills, and deaths. These values are translated onto the game over screen, where players can view and compare their stats.
During the game, the player who has the most points is given a crown. I extrapolated the existing system that organizes scores to identify winners to create the functionality for the crown to follow the winning player. I continued to build off of that original system to organize the game over screen, which adapts to the number/order of players.
Competitions & showcases
- Beat 'Em was showcased at RPI's GameFest 2018 after it's first two weeks of development, and was brought back for GameFest 2019.
- Beat 'Em represented Quinnipiac University at BostonFIG Fest 2018.
- Beat 'Em represented Quinnipiac University for the Intel University Games Showcase 2020, Received an Honorable Mention.