The rhythm game genre hasn’t gone away over the years, but with Konami easing off console DanceDanceRevolution releases, one previously easy-to-find element has begun to dry up: readily-available dance pads at retail.
Even during the series’ heyday, other companies stepped in to offer their own unique spin on the product, but as companies such as Red Octane were absorbed into others, even some of these outlets began to disappear. However, as titles such as Pulsen and Crypt of the Necrodancer have recently made waves, the game’s creators have pointed to products offered by Precision Dance Pads as a go-to source for serious players looking for heavy-duty dance pads. These games makers do not in any way benefit financially from Precision Dance Pads’ products, but as options continue to thin out, PDP is noted as a recommended source to play dancing and rhythm titles with your feet.
PDP is spearheaded by Jeremiah McRoberts, who noted he has had a love for dance games since 2001. He recalled through his first year of play, he went through multiple dance pads before ordering Cobalt Flux pads. In eventually doing maintenance and rebuilding those pads, McRoberts brewed up the idea of a compressed pad using a different type of sensor.
“The soft pads are a great introduction pad, but, at a certain level, they will limit your ability to improve and they will break,” McRoberts said. “I consider them disposable pads, where hard pads are much more durable and should not limit your ability to play the hardest songs you never even thought were humanly possible to pass.
“When we go to events, there are the kids that hang around us all day playing beginner/easy mode,” he said. “I always recommend that they buy a cheap soft pad, and if they break it and still love the game, then consider getting one of our pads. Not everyone will be addicted enough to arrow stomping to need a hard pad, and I would prefer that the stuff we make not end up in storage. These are made from our heart and sweat, and we hope everyone plays on them daily.”
While PDP offers the expected four-panel dance pads, it can also serve up five- and nine-panel pads with many customization options that range from appearance to size.
“Just know that we do care,” McRoberts said for those interested in custom orders. “The four-arrow pad was the only one I made for myself because, in my experience with making and modding (Cobalt Flux) pads, the more sensors meant the more maintenance and problems you would have. But people begged me to do a (Pump It Up pad). I didn’t play PIU seriously, but I went to get measurements and our sensors worked just fine even at the larger 14.25” length, so we offered Pump pads.
“The nine-arrow pad took a bit of work to figure out,” he said. “There are a lot of wires all packed into small areas of that pad. I have personally made every nine-arrow pad, but I called it the ‘TX pad’ because it’s the only pad that can play Technomotion properly, and I wanted to support all arrow stompers. Due to the complexity, I haven’t shown anyone how to make these pads yet.”
The options on the web page aren’t just for show, as McRoberts said many people take advantage of the endless possibilities brainstormed by customers.
“As for completely customized pads, we offer templates for making custom artwork on the pad, and I’m very happy that so many people choose that option because I always loved having custom art on my own pads,” McRoberts said. “The pads we make cannot look different after they are made, so we let people customize them before we even build them.
“And I even work with people that want custom dance pad sizes,” he said. “I actually just made a 24.25″x24.25″ pad today, which is (U R D L) in a 4×4 grid. (The customer) wanted only .25″ spacing between arrows. He can literally hit all four arrows with one foot that way. We also did two-arrow dance pads for the (Nintendo) Wii game Walk It Out. We will do custom control boxes for any console or game anyone wants. I’ve done a full-scale NES Power Pad as a hard pad, and there’s a company called Team Fast Pad that basically wanted 11″x11″ panels in a PIU-style grid with an extra border all around for putting advertising – and, yes, we make those for them. It’s a 41″x41″ dance pad.”
Through media and teases on social media, McRoberts has showcased dance pads of many different sizes, and has recently teased themes relating to Konami’s Pop’N Music series.
“I’ve teased more than that,” McRoberts said. “We’ve made an arcade shell for StepMania, a kickboxing prototype, a 1:3 scale pad called the microGX meant for someone wheelchair-bound to play along with arrow smashing, a 3x scale pad called the Omega MAX dance pad – which is ridiculously fun to play on if you have the space. It’s 81 square feet of chaos per pad. We will be making Pop’N (Music) controllers soon. I’m not a Pop’N player, so I’ll be looking for someone locally that will test it out for me. We did that by request. Our main graphic artist is Mark Cochran. He’s done an amazing job. Initially, he began offering custom skins just for fun, and we loved his work so much we commissioned him to do work for us over the years.”
Internet users have also shared multiple videos and promotions from the product being used at a variety of conventions. McRoberts said having people actively talking about the product has meant a great deal to him.
“It’s beyond words,” he said. “I’m not at all an emotional person, but I love being able to give back to the community. I have been a hermit of sorts, playing and building my own pads in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which I loved, and am strongly addicted to. It’s such a great way to stay in shape. I feel blessed that I was inspired with a revolutionary dance pad design that many people also love playing on.”
McRoberts said he has had at least one company attempt to purchase Precision Dance Pads, but he does this for the love of the games and their players over making money.
“We aren’t doing it for the money, we do it for the players,” he said.
One of the pad templates set for purchase on PDP is a Pulsen theme. The game title is currently in early access on Steam from 4-Panel Footprint, one of companies touting the dance pad product.
In also consulting with Kevin Ghadyani, John Velgus of 4-Panel Footprint, told Bemanistyle step chart development in the game keeps dance pad play in mind throughout the process.
“Creating charts for a song in Pulsen is a time intensive process,” Velgus said. “Each song is unique, every song has at least five charts created for it and some have a sixth bonus chart. Since pad play is the most fun and engaging way to play Pulsen, charts are designed for dance pad play from the beginning.
“This means keeping in mind things a player can physically do standing on two feet,” he continued. “The whole process to create charts for a single song can easily take 20-plus hours after the iterations and play testing.”
Despite the dance pad focus, Velgus said Pulsen can also be played with a computer keyboard, controller or Rock Band drums, and the songs and charts are tailored to keep players of all skill levels advancing through the game.
Although Pulsen is still in early access, Velgus said the company does receive feedback from those who play the game using dance pads.
“Players have told us dance pads are their favorite way to play to Pulsen,” he said, adding comments are also made on the exercise physical pad play provides.
Pulsen-branded dance pads are available through Precision Dance Pads, and Velgus said the natural combination of the game and peripheral has worked well for Pulsen.
“Having a custom printed dance pad for Pulsen is something the team always wanted,” he said. “After meeting and working with Jeremiah from Precision Dance Pads, we were able to make that a reality. The final result is awesome – even better than envisioned!
“The pads create a more immersive experience that ties everything together. The pads’ artwork look cool in their own right, and the pads wouldn’t feel out of place even when being used to play another game. These high quality dance pads are top-of-the-line, and provide the absolute best way to enjoy Pulsen.”