Though best-known, perhaps, for its quirky series of rhythm games on the DS, which includes two titles under the Ouendan series and Elite Beat Agents, boutique music game developer iNiS has been around since 1997.
Founded by a group of musicians, it's one of the only developers that has never produced anything but music titles since its inception -- something the musically-minded Harmonix can't even claim, in fact.
In this in-depth Gamasutra interview, the company's chief creative officer, Keiichi Yano, speaks about the creation of his karaoke game Lips, recently released in North America and out today in Europe.
The creative process behind a music game is unique, and Yano outlines his thinking when embarking on the development of the title, from considering the included peripheral to the balance of game modes included on the disc -- all the way to the core philosophy of wanting to let gamers get closer to their music collections.
How did you get hooked up with Microsoft?
Keiichi Yano: We've had this really long‑standing relationship with Microsoft. I've been working with them ever since I've been doing experiments with interactive music technologies, and working with the DirectX team before Xbox was even Xbox.
We're actually the audio demo for Xbox 1. When they were showing it to developers and press, they would show the audio capabilities of the box, and that was our demo.
KY: We've had a really longstanding relationship with them. I've long been saying, "It'd be cool if I could do a game for you guys". One of these times it was actually at TGS, I met up with this guy from Microsoft Game Studios, and I told him, "I really want to do a game for you guys. It'd be cool if I could do a singing game."
He said, "Oh, that's kind of interesting. Why don't you pitch it to us?" [laughs] So, I did, and here we are, two years later...
Well, what sounds really striking is that there are a lot of advanced features in this game compared to a lot of other singing games. It seems like pitch detection is normal, but you also have phoneme detection, and the microphones obviously have LEDs and motion sensitivity. How much of that came from your guys' end? Was it all stuff that you decided, as developers, you wanted to put in?
KY: Oh, yeah, even in my original pitch. I talked about these microphones in the pitch, and I said, "Okay. I'm not even thinking about how much this is going to cost, but this would be kind of be cool if this happened." Everybody laughed at the time.
But, as I went on and thought about the game design more and more, I thought about the party games and all the score mechanisms that I wanted.
Then it just became very obvious to me that this wasn't just some inspirational thing that I had. This is really necessary for this game. I really pushed hard to get all those features in, and now they're here.
Again, these mics are so high quality. We do pitch detection, but we also do rhythm detection as well. It's not just the accuracy of when you're singing the notes, we actually look at what that rhythm is and break that down as well. As you mentioned, [we also have] the phoneme detection and the vibrato detection.
And even with the pitch detection, it's like we have a very fine level of granularity there for if you're really super‑accurate. If I were to get an instrument and play it through these microphones, you'd get 100%, and then you'd score insanely high, actually.