Glock rockin' beats

Edge|August 2020

Glock rockin' beats
Examining the birth of the rhythm shooter and the challenge of fusing beats and bullets

From Halo’s 30 seconds of fun to Doom Eternal’s pounding combat loops, every first-person shooter moves to its own rhythm – even if it’s one you instinctively feel rather than hear. Recently, game developers have been looking to turn the volume up and make that connection more explicit. Harmonix’s Audica combines shooting and music, but it’s more a rhythm game with guns than the reverse. VR favorite Pistol Whip, meanwhile, sets its on-rails action to a driving EDM score. Now two new games are going a step further: they’re FPSes first and foremost, but they demand your actions match their tempo.

If you spend any time on social media, you’ll likely have noticed one game in particular making a splash. In April, Dan Da Rocha tweeted a 30-second snippet of footage under the Screenshot Saturday hashtag. “Here’s a rhythm FPS game we’ve been messing around with,” he wrote. “It’s been pretty fun to work on so far!” Yet the idea behind Gun Jam was not new by any means; he’d been kicking it around since early 2018 while working on puzzler QUBE 2. “I was playing this FPS prototype and trying to think of a unique hook, something that hadn’t really been done before,” he tells us. As he played, he began to zone out and listen to the background music before inspiration struck. He started tapping his finger on the desk in time with the soundtrack, and then carried on playing, this time forcing himself to only shoot on the beat. “It felt pretty good,” he says.

As the idea began to take shape in his head, his first thought was an obvious one: has this been done before? The Google results brought up Harmonix’s sadly abandoned Chroma, but nothing else. By September, he’d started putting together prototypes for a game that married Doom with Dance Dance Revolution. The game has a traditional vertically scrolling note chart – as seen in Da Rocha’s Twitter post – which invites players to fire on the beat. You don’t need to hit an enemy with every shot, but as long as you shoot each of those colored notes and take out enemies regularly enough, your score combo will increase. The finer details are yet to be ironed out, but the core concept is easily understood.

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August 2020