Thursday, January 05, 2006

Dance mat RPG?

As a follow-up to Barbara's post, I'd like to reiterate one of the ideas we had at the Guitar Hero party yesterday that tie directly into this topic.

For kids that can't perform well at the intense rhythm games, it seems to me that a game that still requires fairly constant motion on a dance mat could be programmed. Although it wouldn't get the "rhythmic cardio" benefits, I think we could offset that by making it a long-form game that takes a long time to play, and which has considerable replay and/or long-play value. Santa vs. the Snow Monsters wasn't a rhythm game, but people who played it said they were pretty tired when they were done, so I think we have some evidence that you can really burn calories even when it's not a rhythm game.

I've actually been thinking a lot about this, and I'm thinking we should do an experimental game that explores this. I'm thinking about a multiplayer networked game using the RedOctane dance mats, in the style of a typical immersive RPG. Players could use the dance mat to navigate around the environment, and when they get into a combat, they use the dance mat to do their attacks.

Players could choose character classes in the traditional sense (fighter, thief, wizard, whatever), which would translate into different modes for fighting. "Barbarians" might just hammer as fast as they can on a single direction button, for the young kids without a lot of coordination. "Swashbucklers" might be able to do left-right "feints" or back-forward "lunges". "Assassins" might have a golf-game like power/technique bar for making critical strikes. And "Wizards" could do DDR-like sequences of steps to cast spells, and the longer "perfect" run they make, the more powerful a spell they cast. Other motion mechanisms could be added as needed.

As the characters "level up," they get more moves they can employ, or they can do more attacks before the monster fights back, or they get more attempts at critical hits, etc., all of which would let them take on tougher monsters as a reward, but would also require even more motion out of the player to execute.

This sort of setup would allow kids to not only try different modes of play, but there would be a mode of play that could be played by kids with a wide variety of rhythm and coordination ability, and would scale the motion up the more immersed in the game they become.

By making it multiplayer, players of different skill abilities could play together (unlike Guitar Hero or DDR, where both players have to play at the same skill level), which increases the commitment to the game, adds a social aspect, and would allow for cooperative gameplay - you could have a "party" of adventurers going into the caverns who cooperate on a common goal, rather than having head-to-head competitive play, which is the case with virtually all rhythm games.

I think we could prototype a game like this in a week or two. I'd like to get one or two more RedOctane mats if we do this, so we could have a party of 3 or 4 working together.


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