Higher Frequency

Martin chats to Amplitude producer and SCEA Music Director Chuck Doud.

Martin Taylor: First of all, could you please introduce yourself for our readers?

Chuck Doud: My name is Chuck Doud, I'm the Music Director for SCEA and also the producer of Amplitude.

Martin Taylor: Do you feel that there's plenty of room for more music-based titles?

Chuck Doud: Yes. Although to date music games have remained sort of a niche genre, with the convergence of entertainment games like Frequency and Amplitude are going to become more in the mainstream.

Martin Taylor: How does Amplitude improve over the original and much loved Frequency?

Chuck Doud: We kept the same core game mechanic, i.e. trigger individual gems to unlock elements of an instrument part, thereby building the song from the ground up track-by-track, and then having the ability to use all these individual elements to create your own custom remixes. That being said, we made a few major improvements to the original design as well. Fans of Frequency will notice that the tunnel is gone in favour of a multi-lane highway approach. This really provides the player with a couple big wins.

You are now actually out there in the environments. You feel more a part of things as they react and interact with the music you're creating. We also don't need to split the screen for multiplayer. In addition the gems are bigger, and you blast them instead of "capturing" them. Overall it's a much more intuitive and accessible interface. We can also utilize the architecture of the environments to display videos, animated logos and pictures of the artists.

We've also expanded on the genres of music, and worked with many more platinum-selling artists this time around. This adds to the gaming experience as well. People like playing songs they know. We also have plenty of great music from lesser-known artists as we did in Frequency, so there is really something for everyone. Lot's of great music you may have heard before, and plenty of awesome tracks you may not have. We also have a fair amount of either custom tracks or remixes from artists like Run DMC, David Bowie and POD.

Martin Taylor: What is the line up of artists this time around?

Chuck Doud: To name a few we have POD, Bowie, Blink 182, Garbage, Weezer, Pink, Slipknot, Run DMC, The X-Ecutioners, Mekon, Manchild, Dieselboy, and Papa Roach.

Martin Taylor: What is the general criteria for selecting the music? Is it necessary to curtail your ambitions based on the budget?

Chuck Doud: Our criteria wasn't based on budget, the main criteria was being able to find songs from the artists that we wanted to include that were not only cool, but also made a really fun playable level. This means that we had to have a minimum number of parts occurring simultaneously and enough variation in these parts throughout the song. The songs also need to be within a certain bum rang. [A what?! -Ed] Slow songs don't make for fun Amplitude levels. We also wanted a nice variety, and favoured songs that were in general not always so serious, although the not-so-serious bit wasn't a hard rule, just listen to the Slipknot track if you don't believe me.

Martin Taylor: What offline multiplayer features does the game feature?

Chuck Doud: Game Mode multiplayer, where you recreate the song the way it was originally produced but you are competing with up to 4 other people. There are all kinds of power-ups to help you out and screw up the other players. It's really competitive and fast-paced.

Then there is Remix Mode multiplayer, where again 4 people can create their own remix of any song one section at a time. And last but not least is an entirely new feature to Amplitude called Duel Mode, where two players square off head-to-head in a kind of cyber Duelling Banjos competition where they improvise patterns and have to repeat each other's patterns back in real-time. This is one of the most addictive and competitive features of the game. You just can't put it down and you end up screaming either in joy or frustration.

Martin Taylor: What level of commercial success do you anticipate?

Chuck Doud: What do I anticipate? 50 million units. Now, our sales department may have a slightly different expectation, but you'll have to talk to them about that. Amplitude is like no other game out there. You really have to play it to truly understand what it is, and when you do you'll want to own it. When you own it you won't be able to put it down and you'll send us an email like so many other people have done cursing us for making such a fun and addictive game.

Martin Taylor: How will the online elements of the game work, and do they differ much from the offline modes?

Chuck Doud: You'll be able to do everything online that you can do offline, and then some. In addition, when you're online you can connect with other players to compete, share and cooperate. You can search for your friends, by artist, genre or difficulty. You can upload your remix if you think it's good enough for us to hear, and download remixes from our servers. You become part of the Amplitude community.

Martin Taylor: Do you feel Amplitude will appeal more to the more hardcore rhythm-action fan than anyone?

Chuck Doud: Amplitude will appeal to a wide demographic. By design a casual gamer can pick up and play this game all the way through without getting to deep into it, they can have a great time skimming across the surface in game mode trying to beat all 25 songs in all 5 arenas. Hardcore gamers will try to beat the game on higher difficulty levels, and even venture into remix and online modes. Music fans will love the game because they can experience music in a way never before possible, being immersed in environments replete with images from their favourite artists.

Martin Taylor: How does Amplitude create an element of replayability? What reasons are there for a player to backtrack and try again?

Chuck Doud: Four different difficulty levels. Songs, environments and accessories for your "Freq" unlocked based on your performance. Endless permeations of each song created in remix mode that you can then play as a game. Cooperating, sharing and competing online with other players in the Amplitude network. Downloading new remixes to listen to and share, Duel Mode is never the same thing twice, you can just play this for days on end.

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