Submitted By: Andy Sage
beat's goal is to use various elements of the “Web 2.0 philosophy” to make the music game into less of a game and more of a fluid way to experience music. The basic premise of beat is that players should be able to choose exactly what music they want to play along to, how they want to play along to it, and where all of this takes place.
Several things conspire to make this possible. First is beat's platform independence. In the current generation, all of the content for a game on a certain platform is encapsulated within that platform. beat, however, encourages players to experience it wherever and however they like.
To this end, versions of beat exist for every major console, handheld, and mobile device in 2020, but the same content can be enjoyed on all of them! This is made possible by beat's revolutionary approach to content management. When a user purchases a beat song module, that user's right to play that song extends to all beat games on all platforms. (See below for how gameplay works in this model.)
Supporting this platform independence is beat's distribution model. Traditionally, music games come packaged with a number of “on-disc” songs that all users receive. Their flexibility comes from a diverse selection of downloadable content (DLC) that each player can pick and choose from. beat takes this a step further – all songs featured in beat can be chosen by the player from the very start.
In a way, every song is “DLC”. Purchasing beat for a specific platform entitles the player to a certain number of prepaid song modules, to be selected from beat's constantly-growing library of music. After these prepaid songs, additional modules can be purchased like traditional DLC, and delivered to any beat platform at any time.
The platforms of 2020 are more than well-equipped enough to handle this kind of content delivery; omnipresent 3G data networks let any mobile device access the beat library at will, for example.
The most revolutionary aspect of beat is its modular approach to gameplay, which is what makes platform independence possible. Like most contemporary music games, the basic premise of beat is that the player is playing along to a specific music track as accurately as possible. But in contrast to traditional music games, beat has literally no restrictions on what parts of the song are followed by the player.
Part of beat's philosophy is that users should not be tied to a specific peripheral or platform to enjoy their favorite instrument. To make this possible, every version of beat features many different gameplay interfaces. While each of these is tied to a specific peripheral (i.e. a guitar controller) or other mode of input (i.e. a touch-screen with a stylus), instruments are not tied to a specific interface – so a player on a home console can choose between a guitar controller and their console's normal controller to play a song's guitar part, for example. (Some restrictions will still be in place; using the guitar interface for a song's drum part, for example, makes no sense.)
Each beat song module will support at least two official interface charts for every track in the song, including vocals. For home consoles, this will usually be one for a specific peripheral and one for a normal controller; for handhelds and mobile devices, it'll be two very different ways to use the device's normal input to interact with the song.
And, of course, beat has robust multiplayer modes – up to four different players, local or networked, can play together on songs that all players share, on any combination of instruments.
Why specify “official” charts? Another of beat's notable features is its integrated support for user-created content, in the form of custom gameplay charts for official modules, using any compatible interface the user wishes. As stated above, every first-party beat module includes interfaces for each of the tracks included with the song.
But what if a player is dissatisfied with a certain interface's chart, or wants to play along on a peripheral not included in the original module? The console versions of beat provide in-game chart creation for any of its interfaces, including interfaces that don't have to be tied to a specific instrument track. (This provides support for dance pad peripherals, for example, on electronica or dance songs.)
A finite number of each user's custom charts can be optionally hosted on beat's central servers, where other users can download and rate them. The highest-rated charts will appear at the top of each song module's “User Content” section, and each week, the beat development staff will select the best few for special recognition. Custom charts even fit in multiplayer modes, as the data needed to display custom charts is minimal, and can be sent to all players as required. This user-centric approach ensures that every song is enjoyed to its fullest by the entire player base.
While beat strives for platform-independence for purposes of content accessibility, each platform will offer unique takes on other aspects of the game (and, of course, each platform's interfaces will vary greatly). Home console versions of beat, for example, might offer customizable avatars that can be improved and upgraded through a robust career mode tailored to that player's track library.
Consoles or handhelds that provide console-tied avatars could implement those in the game as well. Perhaps some modules could provide the song's official music video. The game's modular nature makes it possible to include many such song-specific elements in a module, such as avatar animations, instrument samples or effects to be used with appropriate interfaces, and bonus content like band trivia or artwork. (This document deals mostly with high-level concepts, so non-gameplay specifics like this are intentionally left vague. Developers for specific platforms will be given freedom to explore different ways to interpret the parts of each module.)
beat is a music experience unlike any other. If its scope sounds too grand to be possible, consider its chief design concepts: modularity and accessibility. Every aspect of beat is modular: every song is a self-contained unit that can be interpreted in any number of ways, each of which is also its own module.
The flexibility this gives a developer in distributing content, both songs and ways to play them, is immense. And because of this flexibility with user inputs, beat isn't tied to a specific genre of music – hip-hop can be enjoyed next to classic rock, or a player might segue from Metallica to Daft Punk.
Combined with the user's complete control over their library, gone are the days of “I've never heard of any of these”, or “I don't like this style of music”. Never has a music game been so accessible! beat's goal is to eventually become the norm for music distribution, and between its platform independent nature, the cross-demographic appeal of its wide variety of gameplay, and the replayability provided by user content, this is a goal that it can definitely achieve.
(beat's full game design document can be downloaded here.)