Jump to content
  • Advertisement
  • 03/12/19 01:18 PM

    Tactics, Strategy and Rhythm: How Audiosurf Utilizes Immersion to the Fullest Extent

    Game Design and Theory
       (1 review)

    Brandon Druschel

    When it comes to video games, immersion is one of the more popular topics among game critics and players alike, and for good reason. When you ask people why Marvel’s Spider-Man is such a joy to play, it shouldn’t surprise you if at least one of them tells you that the game “makes you feel like Spider-Man.” In fact, the phrase “makes you feel like…” is so common that it has been parodied and even ridiculed, with popular YouTubers like VideoGameDunkey providing direct examples of the phrase being used repeatedly in video reviews.

    But despite the phrase’s over-usage, immersion is indeed an important aspect of just about any video game. The game doesn’t necessarily have to be realistic in order to engross the players within the game environment – it’s the quality of the game’s content alongside the player’s involvement that heavily influences what the player “feels” as they play.

    So what makes a game like Audiosurf truly immersive? Before we get into the nitty gritty, I’ll provide a brief overview of the game itself and I mean exactly by immersive.

    The official website describes Audiosurf as a “music-adapting puzzle racer,” and has the unique feature of generating tracks by using the player’s own music files. The game provides many different modes, but the most popular one is Mono, which involves touching color blocks to fill a grid. If one column of the grid is over-filled or enough time has elapsed, the grid clears and the player gets points – the more the grid is filled, the more points you gain. There are also grey blocks which the player must avoid – if the player doesn’t touch any grey blocks through the whole song, a 30% bonus is added to the final score.

    Dr. Damian Schofield defines immersion as the following:

    Quote

    “Immersion the state of consciousness where an immersant’s awareness of physical self is diminished or lost by being surrounded in an engrossing total environment; often artificial. The mental state is frequently accompanied by spatial excess, intense focus, a distorted sense of time, and effortless action.”

    Ernest Adams, an author and consultant on game design, puts immersion into three different categories: Tactical Immersion and Strategic Immersion and Narrative Immersion.

    Tactical immersion is experienced when performing tactile operations that involve skill – players feel “in the zone” while perfecting actions that result in success. Fast-paced action games, like Call of Duty, are good examples of games in which tactical immersion is at play.

    Strategic immersion is more cerebral and is associated with mental challenge. Puzzle games like Portal, in which players contemplate choosing a correct solution among an array of possibilities, are good examples of games with strategic immersion.

    Narrative immersion has the player become invested in a story, much like what is experienced when reading a book or watching a movie. Audiosurf doesn’t have a story, so narrative immersion won’t be focused on as much.

    The “build tracks with your own music” feature is critical to the level of immersion that Audiosurf achieves. A rhythm game can try be as engrossing as possible, but the player is far less likely to get the game if the soundtrack isn’t their cup of tea. Audiosurf circumvents the issue entirely by letting the player choose any track they want. The game doesn’t even have to tell the player how to feel – the player themselves can play a track that suits their mood, or compliments the mood they want to feel. The customization is even more impressive in the game’s sequel, Audiosurf 2, where custom skins can be used to dramatically change how tracks respond visually to the music.

    To top it off, the visual representation of the track complements the intensity of the music itself. A slow and serene tune (think ambient, “chill-out” music) presents the player with a dark blue-green, smooth track, and gameplay is more relaxed and the player moves slowly. More intense, upbeat tracks will be bright and yellow-red in hue, with the track often jumping up and down to the beat, and the player moves significantly faster down the track.

    Most games would often attribute themselves towards one of Adams’ immersion categories over another, but Audiosurf’s gameplay compliments tactical and strategic types of immersion in unison.

    Topping the scoreboard in an audio track requires a lot of skill, especially in tracks with a high BPM, where a lot more blocks (notably grey blocks which must be avoided) are involved. In most cases, the player must avoid every grey block in order to achieve a high enough score to be leaderboard-worthy. Thus, tactical immersion is experienced.

    Getting as many points as possible isn’t as simple as touching every single colored block you come across, because overflowing a column on the 3x7 grid clears the grid entirely and accumulates the total points from the remaining tiles. For example, if I blindly touched every colored block I saw, regardless of how filled up a column is, I would end up gathering less total points than if I chose to deliberately pass by some colored blocks in order to fill the grid up entirely to gather 21 blocks. The lanes in which each colored block passes by is more or less random throughout the song, so the player must keep track of the incoming blocks, and quickly determine which of those blocks they should gather depending on the current state of their grid.

    As you can probably tell by reading that last paragraph, obtaining the highest score in Audiosurf can be quite a mental challenge. Sometimes, the challenge is exacerbated by more intense tracks, which pressure you to think faster than usual. In that particular situation, tactical and strategic immersion work together seamlessly.

    Audiosurf isn’t a perfect game, but its ability to immerse the player through its colorful visuals, freedom in music selection, and complex, challenging gameplay is undeniable. Audiosurf’s unique feature of music-generated gameplay would go on to inspire other games like Beat Hazard, Crypt of the Necrodancer (through an optional mode), and Symphony to base their gameplay on the player’s own music.



      Report Article


    User Feedback




    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

  • Advertisement
  • Game Developer Survey

    completed-task.png

    We are looking for qualified game developers to participate in a 10-minute online survey. Qualified participants will be offered a $15 incentive for your time and insights. Click here to start!

    Take me to the survey!

  • Advertisement
  • Latest Featured Articles

  • Featured Blogs

  • Advertisement
  • Popular Now

  • Similar Content

    • By adeki
      Hi guys!
      I've been producing quite some time now, and lately I've been very interested in videogame soundtracks and decided to give it a go myself. It's a bit retro-ish and very uplifting. I think it would go well in a very action-packed game. 
      https://soundcloud.com/iiikeda/crash
      Let me know what you think! 
       
    • By Octane_Test
      I want to render an ocean where players can change waves’ amplitude in real-time. Initially, I would render rolling waves (see picture). As the amplitude increases, I need to transition the rolling waves into breaking waves (see picture). For now, I am not going to show the shoreline onscreen so I don’t need to render breaking waves interacting with the shoreline; I only need breaking waves on the open ocean.

      I’ve tried three different approaches so far and I’ve only had success with rolling waves using approach 1. Breaking waves have been impossible so far with all three approaches.

      Approach 1: Mesh deformation

      a.     I can create smooth rolling waves using the Sine and Gerstner equations.

      b.     Since I can’t use these equations for breaking waves, I tried to implement them by using this free plugin whose output is similar to this paid mesh deformation plugin. But there are 2 problems with this plugin approach:

      ·      There is no smooth transition between rolling waves generated by approach 1a and the breaking waves generated by the Deform plugin

      ·      The output of the plugin does not look similar to real breaking ocean waves in three different ways:

                                                     i.     No smooth blending with the ocean surface

                                                    ii.     A large depression is created below the crest

                                                  iii.     The entire wave is the same height (rather than with more realistic variations)

      c.      I considered using vertex shaders but this approach seems similar to mesh deformation.

      Approach 2: Fluid dynamics + metaballs

      1.     To render an ocean I will need thousands of particles which will be too expensive in terms of performance (especially for mobile devices).

      Approach 3: Using mesh files

      1.     I can create breaking waves using some 3D software like in this post but then I can’t modify the ocean in real-time. It will be more like a pre-rendered simulation.

      To summarize, I am looking for an approach where I can vary ocean waves’ amplitude for a smooth transition between rolling waves and breaking waves. Please let me know if you have more questions.

    • By keki123
      Hi there,
      I need help! Based on my own experiences, I have a theory that if we (game designers/builders/creators of awesomeness) were to have a simple method for collecting and analyzing feedback about our games we could:
      significantly improve the early game-play and feel of the game,
      reduce the time it takes to keep or kill our ideas,
      improve the time it takes to go from thinking to world building (idea to production),
      stay engaged whilst on the journey to full production.
      So before I go any further with my theory, I’d love to get your thoughts and opinions. Are the problems I face just mine or are you experiencing them too?
      Please help me by completing this quick questionnaire:
      https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9SFXKHD (it should only take 2-3 mins) 
      or providing any comments you feel might help (please be constructive ;)).
       
      Thanks in advance!
    • By Pepsidog
      I'm wanting to create a hybrid game between turn based and action.  I'm looking to create a system where the player has a list of attack or move options on their turn, but I want to add a skill minigame in order to make the game more engaging for non-strategists.  I figured some sort of minigame or something.  Any ideas are welcome.  Thanks in advance!
    • By GameDev.net
      Last month Survios (the studio behind Raw Data and Creed: Rise to Glory) released the naval combat VR game, Battlewake on PlayStation VR, SteamVR, Oculus Home and Viveport.  Since the early summer announcement fans have been anticipating the title, and after reading a lot of the reviews Survios did not disappoint. Battlewake turns players into “super-powered pirate lords embarking on a larger-than-life nautical war for the ages”.  Players control an upgradeable warship armed with a collection of thirteen different ship-based weapons inspired by real and imagined naval battles including flak cannons, ballistae, and axe throwers. Each of the four playable pirate lords also has their own ancient magic to drawn from to unleash special and ultimate attacks like tsunamis, maelstroms, and kraken.  The game’s score by composer Jeremy Nathan Tisser is also worth mentioning, as it does a great job of heightening the player’s high seas experience. In the below exclusive interview, Nathan discusses his process for scoring the game.
      A lot of reviewers are saying the multiplayer version of Battlewake is where the game really shines. How does the score change when there are multiple players?
      I would say the biggest difference between multiplayer and story mode is interactivity. When you’re playing in story mode, you want the story to grow and evolve with the player. Whereas in a multiplayer setting, you’re basically just battling it out with a bunch of different people, so the music doesn’t need to shift or evolve quite as much.
      What was your inspiration for the Battlewake score?
      I pulled inspiration from a myriad of different musical stylings and culture. Primarily, however, I drew on my backgrounds in heavy metal as well as traditional orchestration. We wanted a big “larger than life” style orchestral score, like you’d get in a pirate film, but we wanted it to be exciting and unique. We decided that a heavy metal twist on an orchestral pirate score was the right vibe for the game. We also looked at different cultures from around the world, and how they interpret music, be it through instrumentation, through rhythm, etc. So we used a wide variety of ethnic percussion instruments, including the African talking drum, Japanese taikos, Djun Djun, congas, various shakers, and much more. We also hired an anthropologist, with whom I also study Kung Fu, to act as a cultural consultant. We wanted to add an element that portrays some of the Voodoo cultures of Haiti. As it turns out, there’s almost no written information on the Voodoo and Vodou cultures, because to have any information in the hands of those wishing to cause harm to others could in fact be catastrophic to not just the intended target, but to innocent bystanders as well. So we found a couple of war chants that would be used for the purpose of intimidation instead, and incorporated those in the form of chants over the orchestra. Take a listen to the track “Jade and Steel” on the soundtrack when it comes out later this month!
      Were there any obstacles you had to overcome, musically, while working on this game?
      The biggest challenge of this game came down to how early I was brought in. I began writing music for Battlewake in December of 2017, when all that was available to me was a basic demo of the gameplay mechanics, a well-developed backstory, and a series of concept art for the various environments. Nothing was set in stone yet, and the storyline of the game itself was unknown. I had some ideas in my head, but it really took me about 8 more months to nail it down. The game itself had also grown and evolved, and was constantly changing form throughout that time, and that kept changing how the music would function within the game. 
      Is there a type of game you haven’t scored yet that you would like to?
      I would honestly love to score a Star Trek game or a Doctor Who game. Or perhaps even a World War 2 style game. Something where I can get a little more nostalgic, and maybe write something beautiful, yet still maintain some sort of edginess to it. Personally, I just love the idea of storytelling, and I try to make that come through in my music for games as well, as opposed to just writing basic loops or standard “epic” music.
      There are four Pirate Lords in the game. Which was your favorite one to score?
      With Battlewake, I actually ended up scoring the 4 different environment types rather than the characters. The reason for this goes back to how early I was brought in. The story wasn’t set in stone just yet, but they still needed music. If you have a chance to play it, you’ll see how integral the music is to the “fun” experience of it. That being said, I absolutely loved scoring the arctic environments and the volcanic environments. I’ve been dying to write a big ol’ heavy metal polyrhythm into one of my scores, and Battlewake allowed the opportunity for me! The arctic level was more of my opportunity to write something that sort of follows a “song form”, so it feels like a track that could really be performed in a major concert environment. But it’s also just super fun to listen to and blow things up to!
      Do you have a favorite sequence in Battlewake?
      Personally, I really love when you get to release the Kraken! How many times have you watched Pirates of the Caribbean and thought “man, I’d love to get to say ‘Release the Kraken!’ in a video game…”? Well, now you can! And it is SUPER satisfying.
       
      How much music did you create for this game? Are you going to be releasing the game’s score?
      I wrote around 45 minutes of music or so, but it’s all layered and stemmed and divided into loops, so it can be turned into a few hours worth of music. As for the soundtrack, Notefornote Music has is putting out the soundtrack very soon! It’ll be available on all digital platforms around early-mid October, and then a few weeks later it will be available on a limited-edition CD print! There also may or may not be one additional release, so keep an eye out on my twitter page for that (@jeremytisser).
      Are you a gamer yourself? If so, what are some of your favorite games to play?
      I’m actually not much of a gamer. Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to have a Playstation or any of those like my friends, so I grew up playing games like NHL 97, Tony Hawk Pro Skater, Sonic the Hedgehog, and more on Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64, and then Gamecube. Every time I’d go to a friend’s house to play Mortal Kombat on Playstation, I’d just get whooped because they were playing every day, and I couldn’t. So I never got excited about games. However, I was ALWAYS big into VR. I used to get so fascinated by those big VR machines you’d see in the arcades, or in Las Vegas. And I always loved seeing those 3D IMAX films at the museums. When I got to graduate school in 2011 at USC, I had the opportunity to work on some really cool and advanced VR projects, so that’s what really sparked my passion. All that to say… Mike Tyson Boxing, Crazy Taxi, and Tony Hawk Pro Skater rule!
       
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

GameDev.net is your game development community. Create an account for your GameDev Portfolio and participate in the largest developer community in the games industry.

Sign me up!