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reBERth: A musical shooter

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Updated with new video from our latest build.

 

Hey Everyone,

I'm here on behalf of Team ReBERth, a small indie group made up of ex-Harmonix (of Guitar Hero and Rock Band fame), ex-iNiS (Gitaroo Man, Elite Beat Agents, LIPS), and FireHose Games (Go Home Dinosaurs, Slam Bolt Scrappers), accompanied by artist Jacques Pena ([twitter]artofjacques[/twitter]), musician Larry Hong ([twitter]hey_lune[/twitter]), and engineer Evan Quinlan ([twitter]evanquinlan[/twitter]).

We're excited to finally take the wraps off of our game, ReBERth; a musical space shooter where rhythm drives enemy patterns, chord changes morph the level, percussion drives firing patters, and the music tells the story. We're in early alpha development, but will be working to get a beta for review by the end of the year. 

You can try out the latest build here, before we finish up our vertical slice. This will be the build we launch our crowdfunding with, so we would really appreciate feedback. Download the game here: https://jstaniz.itch.io/reberth

 

Latest [5/2/16]

[media]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S53PDmRRgsg[/media] 

 

Alpha build [9/15]

[media]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RphAgeiswKo&feature=youtu.be[/media]

 

Awesome. By the way, you can follow us along here: [twitter]reberthgame[/twitter] and if you're wondering what the tech is that runs the whole thing, its called Koreographer, which can be found here.

Edited by JustinSonicBloom

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We've plotted out our vertical slice (which will likely lead up to a crowd funding round). We've given it a 4 month timeline with a team of 5 (designer/developer, developer/writer, composer, artist, project management/marketing). We now have our storyboard for the demo, and a sketch of the music. 

 

The music is up, so take a...listen!

 

https://soundcloud.com/hey-lune/introduction-excerpt-1/s-eNiOq

 

You can follow along at http://www.reberth.com or [twitter]@reberthgame[/twitter]

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Our composer audio composer, [twitter]hey_lune[/twitter], did a great write up about his process for developing the music in our game. It focuses on music theme and how to vary it to create cohesion in the score. 
 
Here is a small preview:
 
The scale motif is even reflected in both melodies practically note for note! If that’s not recurring, I don’t know what is.
“But Larry,” you might ask, “isn’t just rehashing familiar tunes going to be boring?” WELL. A composer has ways of spicing up recurring material by varying other elements of the music around it. We’ve pointed out how they’re similar. Now let’s see how they’re in fact different:

  • Time Signature: The first melody is in 4/4, while the second is in 3/4. Whoa. Totally different feel! ....

 

Get the rest, with music samples, here.

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This story was written by our own Mark Lawley concerning why our team  (which is all dudes) could possibly write a female protagonist and do it any kind of justice. 

 

 

You can read the whole thing here or read below.

 

Why are a bunch of dudes creating a story about a female protagonist?

 

We should begin with the eloquent words of Pulitzer-prize winning author, Junot Diaz: “The one thing about being a dude and writing from a female perspective is that the baseline is, you suck…I wring my hands because I know that as a dude, my privilege, my long-term deficiencies work against me in writing women, no matter how hard I try and how talented I am.” In that same interview in The Atlantic, Diaz goes on to detail how male privilege gives us “atrophied muscles” when it comes to creating representative female characters. Indeed, feminist critics like Judith Fetterley and Anita Sarkeesian have explored the many problems that can arise when we writers feel entitled to stories outside of our experiences. They have frequently shown how the subtle but deadly undertow of our culture leads us again and again to sexist and racist depictions in our narratives.  

 

So why is Team reBERth, currently composed of six men, writing a story centered on a young woman? Do we even begin to have the authority to write such a tale? Are we, like so many people, merely trying to profit from an ongoing feminist movement and the increase of female gamers in the market? And are these issues actually important? After all, what we’re making is “just a game,” right?  

 

But as Fetterley explains in “On the Politics of Literature,” to adopt the stance that narrative is apolitical is to “posture,” to put on the “pretense that literature speaks universal truths” by excising the “merely personal.” We cannot so much as present a blank document or an empty canvas without committing a political act. As soon as we create the label “art” pointing to any object in the world, context immediately imbues that object, that pointer, that label, and the system that binds them with the hue of politics. And Fetterley knows the stakes are high because “power is the issue in the politics of literature…to be excluded from a literature that claims to define one’s identity is to experience…the endless division of self against self.” With narrative–no matter how seemingly blithe or low-brow, no matter if it comes with pew-pew bullets and cheat codes–the stakes are always high.  

 

It is true that limiting authors to their own experiences might filter out a lot of harmful depictions of marginalized groups. After all, if narrative is one of the most dangerous disease vectors for hatred, it might seem reasonable to take CDC-like precautions. But we as a culture value freedom in the arts. We balk when we see censorious barriers put on the imagination and its expression. That is why instead of censorship, I believe in discussion. Instead of arguments, I believe in co-exploration. And art, including electronic narratives (a fancy term for “games with stories”), is a particularly fruitful ground on which to embark on those co-explorations.  

 

When Eric first approached me with the reBERth project, the first thing that struck me was that he’d created a pan-vitalist mythos that wasn’t merely derivative. And to live and breathe inside that rich world, he’d created the character of Mel. He didn’t want her to be sexualized. He didn’t want her to be the sci-fi stereotype of the Super Strong Woman, the kind who has no dimension and is strong in a one-dimensional, masculine way. He didn’t want her to be an antiheroine. Instead, he wanted her to be one of those people who could confront tragedy while still maintaining a purity of heart through the strength of a loving family. We’ve defined “purity of heart” to mean moral conviction. In our conversations, something about Eric’s energy for this character and her Campbellian Hero(ine)’s Journey sparked my imagination. I began to feel that crucial feeling of creative co-ownership, of co-authoring, of co-exploration happening with the material. I know to never proceed with a project without that feeling, but when I have it, I can’t stop thinking about it. I began to feel confident that Mel wouldn’t just be a placeholder; yet another player’s Link not to the Past but to a game; yet another Platonically perfect and therefore featureless shape, like a sphere, on which we’d write our stereotypes. Instead, she would step into the world of Spira Firma with agency.  

 

I now feel compelled to tell the story of Mel, her mother Medea, and her grandmother Sycora as I understand it. To me, they are manifestations of the triplicate goddess archetype, the Hecate, theMoirai or three Fates, complete with a maiden, a mother, and a crone. And yet they also feel like real individuals who go through the rupture of their family and must work, throughout the course of the game, to reunite once more. Mel’s incorruptible moral courage, her desire for everyone to be together and to be happy, her dedication to her family: all of it speaks to me. Her mother Medea’s fear that the universe’s infinite possibility is actually a crippling limitation to one’s course in life, and yet her contrapuntal drive to realize some ultimate goal strikes me as a very real existential crisis. Sycora’s desire to feel both the lightness of freedom that a long, accomplished life should earn her, and yet her desire to also take on the heavy burden of responsibility once more is something I think many people will identify with. I don’t believe that these characters are merely ornamental to the game. I don’t believe they are designated as female for the sake of acquiring narrative “flavor.” And so I find myself exploring not just their stories, but how their inner lives can be metaphorically represented in game design, in level elements, even in the code itself (the topic of a future blog post featuring Zeno’s Paradoxes).  

 

While I work on these characters with the team, I certainly feel that hand wringing that even the likes of Junot Diaz feels. I worry about our collective blind spot. In our meetings, I try to adopt a zero-pretense approach and talk about the sexist and racist tropes I have replicated in my own work. I hope this will contribute to a safe space for us all to own up to our own prejudices, a space where having one’s work called sexist or racist doesn’t have to come with the connotation of “morally bad, close minded person.” But I still keep thinking about how unlikely men are to write good female characters, and I feel discouraged.  

 

That is why I am grateful to have brilliant artists like Toni Morrison to lead the way. She tells us writers to “forget writing about what you know; write about what you don’t know.” Of course, when we do this, we must still adopt the humility of the outsider. We still must listen more than we speak, and we must write from the most vulnerable places within us to have any chance at success. And I am grateful to critics and artists like Anita Sarkeesian and Alison Bechdel, who have so clearly and succinctly given us guideposts to follow as we try to create experiences for people to enjoy, hopefully without their having to suspend their ethical sensibilities.   Because such an endeavor requires a daily recommitment to its core values, there is a near guarantee that we will make mistakes. When we do, I hope we will keep committing ourselves to listening to our collaborative critics and to fixing our missteps. And I certainly hope that if the reBERth project succeeds, we will expand our team such that it has a balance of gender and race, of perspective, of dimension. I hope it will be the kind of creative endeavor where narrative becomes not a disease vector for hatred but a medium for reinvention, empathy, and humanity–all those difficult things that so often benefit from the sugar-coating of an awesome game experience.

Edited by JustinSonicBloom

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Hey Everyone, 

 

We're going to start a small user Beta test based on our vertical slice of what you see in this video:

 

[media]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S53PDmRRgsg[/media] 

 

If you want to sign up, you can do so here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/179hkrZeSqa65PDthQT98ys8WeFSzVj85Si_oW0ITdf4/viewform

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Hey Everyone,

We just opened up the build for people to download and play. It's technically a Beta of our vertical slice, so it's at the point we want to hear people's thoughts. 

The big areas that we are looking to hear more about are:
General gameplay - Does it feel tight? Are the mechanics engaging? Do controls feel like they have purpose?
Direction - Do people feel like they are lost? Where are things not clear?
Story - Are the characterization understood? Are the characters compelling? Do their motivation start to come through in the story? What would improve story telling for you?

We already have a bunch of things that we are targeting to change, but it would be good to hear more perspectives to either reinforce the changes we want to make, or target new changes.

You can access the build here: https://jstaniz.itch.io/reberth

Edited by JustinSonicBloom

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I tried the demo ... it's interesting.  I tend to expect laser sounds and explosions while playing this kind of game, but the music was completely dominant.  I'm not sure if I liked that or not, but it was definitely different.  Also, there was a strange tendency, because of the music, for me to think I was watching a cut-scene, so I was surprised when I started taking damage from asteroids. 

 

Maybe there's a way you could queue the player to let them know they have to take control and start playing. 

 

In general, I also felt the level was a bit too easy, nothing really stood out as challenging, even the boss.  In my favorite games, it's nice when you have to discover HOW to overcome an enemy, and very satisfying when you actually do it.

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@MKSchmidt, Thanks for the feedback. We're grabbling with sound, vs music that is driving the game events, and associating those sounds with the game events. We dont get a definitive "like" or "dislike" of the audio design, but we definitely get a "this is interesting." We're working with a SFX guy, and we'll balance from there. 

 

Maybe there's a way you could queue the player to let them know they have to take control and start playing. 

 

Yup, definitely. We are going to use dialog to prompt user input. The whole beginning progression will focus on teaching the firing mechanics, and a few more systems that are not present in this build.

 

In general, I also felt the level was a bit too easy, nothing really stood out as challenging, even the boss.  In my favorite games, it's nice when you have to discover HOW to overcome an enemy, and very satisfying when you actually do it.

 

We hear you on this. We're looking at increasing enemy engagement, and changing the boss fight patterns. The weapon system is getting 3 weapon firing modes that change its functionality. We intend to teach its usage, and then challenge the player to use the weapon tools to clear through the game. Hopefully that will address that. We've heard it from a few sources, so it's high on our list for revision. 

 

Thanks for the feedback! We definitely appreciate it!

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