Your first encounter with rhythm game mechanics in an RPG may have been that one odd mini-game in Evoland 2. However, the genre has been fairly robust lately thanks to Before The Echo and more recently, The Metronomicon. Developer Puuba’s rhythm RPG mixes genre trappings like magic, different classes and leveling up with a humorous story-telling and some pretty stellar music. After releasing in September 2016, The Metronomicon will be heading to PS4 and Xbox One in 2017.
GamingBolt had a chance to speak to the developer about The Metronomicon, from its development hurdles to future content (and there’s certainly a lot in store for fans).
"If you’re skilled at RPGs but not music games, there are three difficulties, each with the same depth of combat, but simply different complexities of notes."
Rhythm RPGs are still a fairly new hybrid genre but how did the overall style and concept for The Metronomicon come about?
The idea for a Rhythm RPG was actually first the product of two different gameplay ideas I was writing up at the same time.
First, I was looking for a way to streamline a roleplaying game. To keep all its strategy and party building, but boil it down to just its core. No menus, no UI, constant-forward-motion, fast. I called it an “Infinite Runner RPG”.
Secondly, I was looking for a way to bring subjectivity and strategy into the rhythm genre, which so often is just a repetition of buttons. It quickly occurred to me that music has a pulse, drives action, and never slows down. I realized that these were probably the same idea.
What were some of the challenges faced when getting the project off the ground?
Oh man. First, music. We’re a small team, and didn’t even consider, at first, reaching out to our favorite bands. We were going to make all the music ourselves. Once we started reaching out, we realized just how much work that was, and how much it would grow the game’s potential.
Fusing the constant speed of music with the opportunity to make decisions was also a challenge. We wanted to be sure that the player had the opportunity to make meaningful gameplay decisions, and that they would matter. But, we also wanted to respect all of our songs, and not impose the need to break their stride by pausing or slowing them down.
We ended up coming up with a sort of grace system that, I think, lets them both work and breathe.
How did you envision a gameplay system which was easy to play but difficult to master, especially when it comes to switching characters and prioritizing different roles?
The breadth of our RPG characters and equipment really facilitates this. If you’re skilled at RPGs but not music games, there are three difficulties, each with the same depth of combat, but simply different complexities of notes. There are deep party synergies, allowing heroes to do more damage to status-effected enemies, and then manage their buffs, debuffs, and elements.
If you prefer music games to RPGs, there are simpler characters that do more straight-forward things like damage or heal. There is gear that can give combat bonuses for note accuracy or streaks.
We really wanted to deeply honor both sides of our gameplay equation, allow for both types of players, and to really allow them to synergize and explore one another as well.
"I think the biggest reason for our push to consoles is simply our personal belief in the game."
When balancing the overall difficulty and skill required, did you explicitly target rhythm game players, hardcore RPGer or mixes of both?
Our goal was to allow for both. If you’re good at just one or the other, there’s almost certainly a build for you. If you’re good at both, you’re likely to own the leaderboards, and excel beyond the rest. No right-choice from the musical side precludes a good strategic choice, or vice versa.
What are your thoughts on the criticism the interface has received and how has it been improved since launch?
There’s certainly a lot to look at at once. Early on, we knew we had an in-built dilemma. A rhythm game player is going to focus on the notes, eschewing all else, and will probably miss the animation of action. However, we didn’t see that as a reason to pull the animation back. If the player misses it, so be it; it’s not critical. But, to choose to do less, and be less pretty, just because some people will miss it, just didn’t appeal to us.
How has the response to the game been thus far and what prompted releases for Xbox One and PS4?
Critical and player reaction to the game both seem to be really positive.
I think the biggest reason for our push to consoles is simply our personal belief in the game. I think that The Metronomicon is the most polished, and one of the cleverest games that I’ve personally made. I think it’s super fun, and addictive. I just want more people to be able to experience the game in whichever format they prefer.
What was it like working with so many artists on the soundtrack?
Oh man, it’s amazing. We’re working with some of our genuine favorite artists. We never dreamed we’d get as many yes’s as we actually have. They’ve all been a joy to work with, and let us have our creative way. Getting to hear unreleased tracks from so many great bands is pretty cool as well!
"The console versions will be kept in parity with the PC versions."
Will there ever be a co-op mode at some point?
Yes indeed! Co-op is in development right now, and was just debuted at PAX East this month. As part of our upcoming expansion, “Slay The Dance Floor”, the game will support full multiplayer across all game modes: Story Mode, Sidequests, The Arena, Freeplay, and even a whole new gameplay mode.
What other post-launch contents are you working on? Will there be a full-fledged expansion with more songs in the future?
Indeed, yes! Since launch, we’ve put out UGC support and a number of downloadable song packs.
As a further part of this forthcoming expansion, we’ll be adding new abilities, a new playable hero, a new game mode, and full multiplayer! So much stuff in this new patch!!
Will the console versions see any new arena challenges or additional content?
There will be new sidequests, and a bunch more, as above!
The console versions will be kept in parity with the PC versions. They’ll be the first to debut some of the new features and content, but our plan, right now, is to keep supporting the PC version as well, for the indefinite future.
What is your take on PS4 Pro And Xbox Scorpio? Do you think this is a one off thing or will this mid-gen refresh continue in the future?
I think this might be the state of things, going forward. We’re just having so many sea change generational improvements in computer technology. Even more than historically. 4K, VR, GPU leaps forward, new display and storage technologies.
I think, if console wants to stay relevant (and, it definitely has its place, what with ease of use, compatibility streamlining, and the like), it can never afford to fall Too far behind PCs. And that might mean shorter generational cycles.
"New heroes, new play modes, abilities, items, quests… Full multiplayer! So much stuff is coming we can’t wait to announce!"
Should Sony have gone ahead and released a more powerful mid-gen refresh just like the Scorpio? Do you think the difference matters?
Personally, I don’t think it’ll make an extreme concrete difference. Most users care, in practice, generally “Does it work? Does it look good? Can I play it?” The nuance of framerates and resolution, while discussed a ton among enthusiasts, I don’t think fazes a casual gamer, even a core gamer, who isn’t also a tech guy.
Microsoft has this mandate wherein developers can’t have exclusives for Scorpio. What is your take on this matter?
I think it does curtain some ability to take full advantage of all the new tech. Unavoidably, a great many devs will always aim to make their game cross-compatible in the easiest ways. The AAA guys, and plenty of others, will be more aggressive, and try to stand out from the pack on tech more. But, by and large, we’ll always have to support the original Xbox, which, for many, will mean an easiest road.
Several analysts are already talking about PS5 and how it will feature more than 10 TFLOPS. Do you think the next console cycle will finally bring us close to photorealism?
I wonder if we’ll ever truly be there. I remember playing FF7, looking at those blocky Lego people, and thinking “This is it. Nothing will ever look as good as this. This is real life, now”. And I think, every time we get used to new tech and graphics, we see more and more room to grow. I think there will always be forefront games, pushing the boundaries, which we’ll always see as “Holy crap, they made it.” And we’ll probably always look back at those games in five years, and wonder if they still hold up.
Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
Yes sir! “The Metronomicon: Slay The Dance Floor” is in production now, and we’re aiming for the Summer. Alongside our console releases, we have tons of new features in the works. New heroes, new play modes, abilities, items, quests… Full multiplayer! So much stuff is coming we can’t wait to announce!