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Karaoke Revolution Party Interview

by the NWR Staff - November 21, 2005, 9:07 am PST

Learn all about the first Konami-published music game for GameCube, Karaoke Revolution Party, from the game's creators at Harmonix Music. Plus, their comments on how the Revolution controller might change music games forever!

Discuss it in Talkback!

Following is our recent Q & A with the creators of “Karaoke Revolution Party”; Game developers from Harmonix Music: Tracy Rosenthal-Newsom, Project Leader, and Elena Siegman, Lead Designer.

Planet GameCube: Why is the Karaoke Revolution series now debuting on GameCube?

Rosenthal-Newsom: The Karaoke Revolution games appeal to a broad demographic. They are the perfect family game; a fun way for boyfriend and girlfriend, men and women, parents and kids to play together. The games are designed for easy access to entry but challenging to master. With the introduction of the next gen consoles to the marketplace, many GameCubes in households will be handed down to the younger generation in the home and KRP really appeals to this younger demographic. It was certainly time to invite GameCube gamers to join the party.

PGC: Can you play with the official GameCube Mic that comes with Mario Party 6 and 7?

Rosenthal-Newsom: Yes. The “Karaoke Revolution Party” GameCube release is bundled with one mic. So, these additional mics from Mario Party will come in handy to enjoy all the “Two Mic Party” modes in the game: Duets, Duet Medleys, Knock-out, and Sing-Off. You don’t even have to hold down the button to sing.

PGC: Is the game compatible with the DDR: Mario Mix dance pad?

Rosenthal-Newsom: Yes.

PGC: Did you encounter any development limitations due to the size of the GameCube's media (vs. PS2 or Xbox)?

Rosenthal-Newsom: About the media: We knew from the start of the project that the smaller size of the GameCube’s discs presented a problem. There’s a ton of audio data in the game -- 50 songs, with separate vocal and backing tracks -- and it would have taken 4 discs to hold it all if no compression was used. We solved this by using the Ogg Vorbis audio codec to compress all of the songs. This enabled us to fit it all on one disc easily, along with all of the graphics and animation.

About memory: The Gamecube has less up-front memory than the other two consoles (Xbox:64mb, PS2:32mb, GC:24mb) and had we attempted to put everything into that memory area, the Gamecube would have been severely handicapped or not completed at all. However, the Gamecube does have some extra memory (16mb) that can be used, provided you can wait one frame for the data to arrive. Once we worked out the details of keeping animation data in this second memory area, we were surprised to discover that we could actually support a bigger set of animations on the GameCube than on the PS2!

PGC: Are there any interesting stories about how the dancing feature came to be included in this game or about how it was integrated and balanced with the singing gameplay?

Siegman: Balancing Sing & Dance mode was a really fun challenge. Each member of the design team had a different competency level with DDR, some folks had never played, a few were experts, and others still were somewhere in between. We took pilgrimages almost weekly at the beginning of the project to the nearest arcade with a DDR machine to play together and make observations together.

When we started play-testing the mode for the first time, we learned a lot. The variety of aptitude at singing and dancing amongst our playtesters was alarming. Some people would fail out immediately on easy and we’d worry that our game was too hard; then the next person would come in and blow us away on expert and we’d worry that it was too easy. In the end, we found that we struck the best balance by making sure that the dance steps really made the player feel like they were grooving to the song and moving their body, and focused on the more standard athletic dance steps you’d see in DDR on the higher levels of difficulty.

PGC: Was there any particular goal in assembling the soundtrack for this game? Were you hoping to improve upon the previous collections or differentiate from them in some way?

Siegman: The big goal with the song list for Karaoke Revolution Party was variety, and lots of it. We have fifteen more songs in this game than previous KRs, which needed to include songs you could dance to as well as work well in the duet modes. The game design was geared specifically to the party environment – where people have varied tastes and musical preferences.

PGC: Do you think combining gameplay mechanics, such as the singing and dancing in KRP, is the future of the music game field?

Rosenthal-Newsom: Combining singing and dancing was the natural evolution of Karaoke Revolution. Sing and Dance mode gives players a more comprehensive feeling of performing. Who doesn’t move their body when they’re singing “Crazy in Love”? Giving players a way to physically experience playing music through their voice, their body or an instrument peripheral is certainly one significant direction that music gaming is going.

PGC: Can the trend continue while still making the games inviting to novice players and non-musicians?

Rosenthal-Newsom: Karaoke Revolution Party contains many modes that just about anyone can step right up to and start playing. Providing a low barrier to entry but a high bar for mastery is a key component to keeping players coming back for more. Sing and Dance mode is unique because it can be played by one or two people. Playing it with two people (i.e. one person sings and one person dances) encourages the social dynamics and lends itself to different players’ strengths. It is more challenging for the single player to handle both mechanics which provides for greater replay value and better performer cred at a party. The extroverted superstar will first learn the vocals to a song, and then work his/her way through the higher dance difficulties in order to show off to his/her friends at the next party.

PGC: Do you think that game development is any different when you have more women on the team vs. less women? If so, how?

Rosenthal-Newsom: Yes, diversity makes a difference. Our KRP team was comprised of 30% women (13 out of a core 44) which is extremely rare in the video game industry. In addition, we had women represented in every discipline (production, design, code, art, audio, and QA). Women come to the design table with different perceptions and experiences than men. They traditionally interact with UI differently and often care about different aspects of the design than men. When the development process fosters feedback from all of the diverse team members as we do at Harmonix, the ideas generated are more balanced. We are made aware of the desires of the wide range of people who play the game, as our team actually reflects that demographic.

PGC: What do you feel are the main obstacles that women face when trying to enter (or stay in) the videogame industry?

Siegman: There really aren’t a lot of obstacles to women who are interested in making games. It’s hard to break in to the industry for people of any gender – you need passion for games, and you need some proof of that. Women who are interested in getting into the game development industry should be aware that at this point in the game industry’s life, they will be working in a largely male-dominated industry. You need to be strong and passionate about what you do – and you also need to know that your value in the industry is important – you’re needed to make a difference!

PGC: What are your thoughts on the Nintendo Revolution and how it might influence future music games?

Siegman: The potential in the Nintendo Revolution is really very exciting. Tracy talked a bit in her answers about how peripherals help both to simulate an experience in a way that the standard hand-held controllers can’t, as well as being accessible to people who aren’t comfortable or familiar with standard video game controllers and conventions. The promise in the Nintendo Revolution is that you can bring that same intuitive, physically and emotionally satisfying experience to people without having to design an expensive peripheral that might only be used with one or two games. It could do a lot not just for music games, but for all kinds of new and different games that haven’t even been imagined yet.

Planet GameCube would like to thank Ms. Rosenthal-Newsom and Ms. Siegman for taking the time to answer our questions.

Discuss it in Talkback!

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