Puuba Games’ Danny Garfield breaks down The Metronomicon

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http://www.bemanistyle.com/2016/09/28/puuba-games-danny-garfield-breaks-down-the-metronomicon/

We are only day away from the release of Puuba Games’ The Metronomicon on the Steam platform. The game promises to meld rhythm and RPG games together to create a very unique combat system. We already dove into the developer’s very generous early build with the Bemanistyle preview of The Metronomicon, and we’ll be sure to continue following the title. But, before the game’s release, Danny Garfield, lead developer at Puuba Games, took the time to give us more insight on the game’s development and what makes it tick.

Bemanistyle: For those seeing The Metronomicon for the first time, what is your elevator pitch for the game – what key features and unique elements can people expect?

Danny Garfield: The Metronomicon is a full, proper RPG – with cutscenes, leveling up, party building and gear – all housed within a big, ridiculous music game. Complete with 50 songs, voice-acted cutscenes and a full arena of challenges, The Metronomicon explores a world where modern dance music has invaded the fantasy swords-and-sorcery world of Koras. Only by harnessing the power of dope tunes can you do battle with the party monsters wreaking havoc and restore peace to this musical word.

BMS: The Metronomicon blends a number of gaming elements together. How was this concept derived? Were there any other approaches or concepts considered for the gameplay?

DG: The game actually originates from two different ideas I was working on at once coming together and having a baby.

First, I was toying with the idea of making sort of an “infinite runner RPG.” Something with all the strategy and depth of an RPG … but fast. Something with a constant forward motion, and zen-like play, without all those cumbersome menus. I was also toying with the idea of how to bring strategy, or subjectivity, to the rhythm genres. With some great exceptions, many rhythm games are somewhat binary. “Hit this note or miss,” without much room for player choice.

Oh no! Like peanut butter and chocolate, I realized that these might belong together. The constant forward motion of music motivating the flow of combat.

BMS: When a developer blends genres like this, what types of challenges do they need to tackle? What goes into trying to equally balance these elements?

DG: I think that one big challenge is really trying to respect both genres, and do them both justice … but without being non-inclusive to players of the other. We really experimented with ways to make the musical components more forgiving and more mechanically easy, but without making the game easier by doing so. We really wanted to include deep strategic ability and hero choices, but without letting numbers bog down the music experience.

In doing so, we, for example, chose to avoid numbers when describing ability strengths, instead using an adjective system. We decided to allow for an infinite grace period in hitting the musical notes when changing tracks – but that rewards faster players for taking their turn more quickly.

BMS: On Bemanistyle, we’re seeing many developers now taking the mixed-genre approach. For rhythm gamers, what does The Metronomicon do that separates itself from this wave of current games?

DG: First off, I guess it’s super silly. Not many games have rave/disco sharkmen using their silverware to carve up their live dinner.

Aside from that, though, we really tried to dig deep into the proper RPG strategy of the game. Whereas most leaderboards are based on score, sidequest leaderboards rank people based on things like how much damage they did, how much loot they stole or how much they cured. Clever party builds and use of gear can mean the world in these challenges. By adding sidequests and arena challenges and the like, we were able to have enough space to really blow out the RPG side of things, and leave room for creativity, without compromise.

BMS: What was the process like in seeking songs to feature in The Metronomicon? What elements did you look for in the songs to say “This belongs in the game?”

DG: Oh man, we got lucky. Originally, we were going to make all of the songs ourselves, with friends. But, quickly, we realized that we were making a music game because we loved music. We decided to reach out to all of our favorite bands. We didn’t nearly expect to get the sort of of responses we got. So many  “yes’s!”

The perfect songs for The Metronomicon tend to be of any genre, but they have to be high energy. They need to be danceable. Combat-appropriate, really. Ideally, they should have a lot of competing rhythms that we can blow out into four concurrent tracks. The busier the song, the more tools we have at our disposal to make the gameplay fun.

BMS: Many readers of Bemanistyle have experience in rhythm gaming. What is included in the game that will challenge long-time players of the genre? On the flip side, what can you say about the genre mix for those who look at the game and think it might be too indimidating?

DG: The entirety of the game, all 50 songs, are choreographed at four difficulty levels. What’s nice is, if rhythm isn’t your jam, even at the Easy level, even though the choreography is easier, the combat is equally balanced at all difficulty levels. Because everything (damage, abilities, etc.) is built around the idea of beats rather than notes, the Hard difficulty might demand better musical play from you, but you get the same spells accomplished – albeit with much higher scores!

I think the biggest musical challenge (guitar and dance-pad support aside – which we do!) is the RPG inclusion. Playing fantastically well at the music might be enough for you to squeak by. But, to beat the strongest bosses and optional fights, you’ll need to think about what you’re playing. Is the enemy weak to fire? Hop over to the black mage. Did your paladin’s Taunt wear off? Have her take care of that.

While good music play in general will sneak you past, weaving in the actual spell and hero-based decisions appropriately will really let you excel.

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BMS: The Metronomicon features a wide number of characters and enemies found throughout the adventure areas. What was the inspiration behind the unique designs and animations in the game?

DG: If something made us laugh, it was basically in. Every dungeon is inspired by both a classic fantasy space and a type of musical event. A nightclub in the middle of a forest. A rock show touched down in a haunted castle. A festival on top of a mountain.

From there, we looked for creature types that made sense in that dungeon and seriously blinged them out. Then, add the goofiest dancing and animation that comes to mind, and we’re set.

BMS: As developers, is there anything you learned in creating The Metronomicon that you’re looking to carry forward into future titles? What would you say was the most difficult aspect to develop for The Metronomicon?

DG: I feel like this game really pushed up my personal bar for quality. We were, and all the team contributed to this, just not satisfied with “good enough.” More polish, more content, more ways to play.

Personally, I think this game is beautiful in a way that just flatly outshines my previous works. I think everybody really shoved each other to make this happen, and that’s something we have to carry forward. Nothing is “good enough,” ever.

BMS: Finally, is there any message you want to pass along to readers, people interested in the game or anyone looking to find out more about The Metronomicon?

DG: Umm … Thanks for giving it a shot? Definitely come pay us a visit, on Steam, or Twitter, or wherever. We love to chat and ramble (obviously, ha). I think, if you have a sense of rhythm, and video games are your thing at all, we might have something to offer you.

BMS: Thanks again!

DG: Thanks so much for the chance to ramble on.

The Metronomicon can be pre-purchased for a 20-percent discount, with early buyers also nabbing the game’s artbook and score. The game’s soundtrack can also be pre-purchased at 20 percent off.

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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