Interview: PM Studio’s Michael Yum on Superbeat: XONiC

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http://www.bemanistyle.com/2015/11/09/interview-pm-studios-michael-yum-on-superbeat-xonic/

Today, Superbeat: XONiC joins the ranks of Playstation Vita music games, and Bemanistyle.com was able to do a Q&A with Michael Yum of PM Studios to learn more about the title’s development.

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Bemanistyle: What do you think the Playstation Vita lends to Superbeat: XONiC? There seems to be a bit of a rhythm game surge on the system at the moment. How was it working on the format in a time many people are bemoaning Sony’s lack of software support for the Vita?

Michael Yum: I personally think that the Vita is an extremely solid device and quite possibly the best handheld platform for development. The little machine is truly a beast and you can pump so much out of it. As for music games, I’m not sure why there’s a surge on it, but for us it only made sense because our fan base was there. I think personally the device can do so much that it’s what caused the problem. It’s almost like making a console-sized game for a smaller device and market, and that’s where all the business confusion comes from. Big game on small device – probably not a great idea.

BMS: XONiC features many of the “All-Star” artists that were featured in titles such as DJMAX. How important was it for the team to be able to feature their works in a new title?

MY: It was our absolute full intention to make this game in the spirit of DJMAX. I know a lot of the fans really wanted animated backgrounds and stuff, but our core focus was the Music and Gameplay. We are a small team and we had to focus our efforts on what we thought was the most important goal. To make the game “HARDCORE”, “FUN,” feature “MUSIC,” and make it hard as hell for our fans!

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BMS: Is there anything you can share on how the track selection/creation process works for a title such as XONiC? Most companies tend to go on license grabs, but what is it about the fresh music that makes up the soundtrack of XONiC?

MY: The music always comes first. The Producer and Sound Director find the perfect songs that would match our gameplay style. I think that’s what makes us different from other rhythm games. The designers and team consists of a lot of musicians. We’ve dealt with licensing before and it has a ton of great benefits, but it’s also a very exhausting process.

BMS: We also saw a couple of guest entries in the title. How were these tunes made possible for Superbeat XONiC?

MY: I truly believe that the development environment has totally changed from the past. There’s tons of collaborations that you never thought would be possible, and there’s a lot of friends at different companies. When you hang out with these people for so long, you can make anything happen. It was much easier than expected and, just by mentioning things, everyone jumped on board without any hiccups.

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BMS: Can you tell us anything about the development team?  Rhythm games tend to be a labor of love, and I imagine much time goes into creating the command charts that go with each song. How much time did the game spend in development?

MY: This team has been doing this for over 10 years and I’ve personally been working with them for almost eight of those 10 years. We went through many ups and downs, but at the end of the day, we all love music and games.

After the Pentavision split up, half the team joined me at PM Studios and the other half started Nurijoy, so we just all came together to work on this title, and it was just like the old times. It’s hard for someone like me who isn’t a musician to come up with these command charts, but when I see the team at work it just comes naturally. They envision the charts in their heads and play them virtually.

This game was in development for over a year. We were originally aiming to release in June but we knew we had to step it up a notch before release, so we delayed things to make sure the game would please fans. For example, we had to create the game in a certain way for collaborations and DLC to happen. So, ultimately, I believe delays can be good things for the final product.

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BMS: How important was it to the team that Playstation TV be available as a feature of Superbeat: XONiC?

MY: We knew the game had to appeal to the DJMAX fans and should feature controls with the controller. So it was always our intent to make it compatible for the PS TV. Plus platforms like Twitch help promote the game, and so we knew it could go a long way.

BMS: Judging from photos that have been posted to social media, it seems XONiC is being well-received in many different territories. How diverse has the fanbase been for the title, and does the title seem to be drawing interest in those who aren’t overly familiar with the genre?

MY: We are extremely grateful and happy to see some of the reviews and press we have been getting. We knew that without the DJMAX license it would be hard for us to get recognized, but all of the fans came back and inspired us to get this project released. I think we have been attracting new players who love the Vita as well.

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BMS: How much support is planned for the title beyond its launch period?

MY: This is our new baby and we fully intend on keeping alive as long as possible. We have a lot of DLC planned and aggressively trying to get more. There’s a bunch of other events that will be announced very soon, and I think when you see them, you can see the dedication we will give back to the players. Here’s a hint: There will even be physical prizes for those who accomplish things!

BMS: Superbeat XONiC also saw limited edition release support.  How important do you think such collections are to fans of the upcoming title?

MY: I think the limited editions are truly fan service that we give to our fans. The DJMAX stuff was so popular we knew that we had to do something for those people alone. I wasn’t sure if SUPERBEAT: XONiC would attract people to purchase the limited stuff, but we sold out instantly, and I just don’t know what else to say but thank you all.

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BMS: I know PM Studios does actually release titles outside of the rhythm games. Is that still going well for you?  Also, how does it feel to be able to launch another rhythm game to fans of the genre?

MY: Yeah, we have been developing and publishing other things like social apps and casual mobile games, and they have been doing very well for us. To be honest, we always wanted to keep developing rhythm games, and I tried to make a very ambitious one a few years back and it fell apart. It was really refreshing to make a game with the DJMAX team again, and couldn’t have been happier to be back.

With that being said I hope we can keep everyone happy with this title and … to be continued …

 

For those who missed them initially, you can find the Bemanistyle.com review of Superbeat: XONiC and the Bemanistyle.com Superbeat: XONiC preview and features video right here on the site.

About author

Aaron Auzins

A professional writer who has been involved in video games writing for nearly a decade. From handwritten fanzines as a kid to growing up and writing for a number of online sources, I have at least slightly dabbled into nearly every aspect of independent video gaming. Rhythm and fighting games are my jam, and I use my free time to organize events that promote positive gaming.

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