Before Dance Central, there was Rock band. Before Rock Band, there was Guitar Hero. And in 2003, before any of the franchises that made Harmonix Music Systems famous, there was Amplitude, the sequel-less PlayStation 2 rhythm game.
If Harmonix has its way, Amplitude — itself a sequel to the 2001 game Frequency and similar to Harmonix's 2007 iPod game Phase — won't want for a sequel much longer. The developer launched a a Kickstarter campaign for Amplitude to raise $775,000 for a new installment in the rhythm game franchise, which will also be called simply Amplitude.
Polygon spoke with creative lead Ryan Lesser recently about the new game and why Harmonix is hoping fans will bring Amplitude back with crowdfunding.
Lesser has been at Harmonix for 15 years, where he's worked on franchises like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. But before that, he worked on Amplitude, and he's excited at the prospect of bringing it back.
"I would say that it has a pretty unique combination of beat matching that you would find in something like Rock Band, mixed with a very arcade-y, very fast-paced tactical terrain navigation element," he said.
"I usually talk to people about the pacing element of Amplitude, because it's basically like having five or six Guitar Hero or Rock Band tacks next to each other, and the ones you choose make a difference. It's just the intensity [that] skyrockets, and I think that intensity is something that I tend to focus on when I explain it to people."
"That property belongs on Sony platforms."
If it's successfully funded, Harmonix will bring the new Amplitude game to new system — specifically, Sony systems. That's a decision that has to do with the game's legacy, according to Lesser.
"This was a game that Harmonix and Sony made together, so that property belongs on Sony platforms," he said. "It's also a great platform for this game. I've been psyched with how the DualShock [controller] works for this particular type of fast-paced rhythm action game, so it's a really good match."
Beyond the feel of the physical buttons on Sony's controllers, Harmonix also plans to incorporate features built around each controller's specific capabilities.
"I'm also hoping to do really fun stuff with the other bells and whistles of the DualShock," he said. "On the [DualShock] 4, especially. I've always been a huge fan of controller manipulation, like Metal Gear Solid style, so I've been loving what Tomb Raider does with it and Mercenary Kings — playing with the lights and playing with the speakers and stuff — so I'm hoping to do really cool stuff in Amplitude, utilizing those bells and whistles."
What form will Amplitude take on Sony's two newest consoles? It's not an HD remake, but Harmonix hopes to bring many of the things that made the original game memorable to new platforms.
"It's not an HD version in that it's going to look exactly like the original and sound exactly like the original," he said. "It's going to have all new, brand new music, which of course means all new, brand new gameplay. All the graphics are totally different, revamped, modernized, and actually have a different narrative style behind it.
"What is the same is the core functionality and the core gameplay. It's important to us that people know that the thing that they loved about the moment-to-moment gameplay of Amplitude is going to be duplicated as faithfully as humanly possible. Around that will be brand new music and level gameplay and brand new art."
"It's going to have all new, brand new music."
The PS3 and PS4 will also allow Harmonix to bring "super high-quality" audio and visual components to the game, Lesser said.
That doesn't mean that the new game will be a straight remake, but what will change will depend on the people backing it.
"It depends on how you look at it," he said. "We're not calling it a sequel. We're not going to be focusing a ton of our energy on brand new features. When I say that, I mean specifically for the base funding goal. If the game is successful and makes its way through stretch goals, of course there will be new features, and it will, depending on its success level, start looking more and more like a sequel.
"But it is important that people know there's tons of new gameplay here. It's just hard for us to call it a sequel because, in some ways, it's the same, even though, in some ways, it's totally different."
And so Harmonix launched a Kickstarter campaign for the new Amplitude today, bringing a mix of the original gameplay and a refinement of its art and music. They want to make it, and they hope fans want to play it enough to help them by backing its development.
"Gameplay-wise, we really love the original," Lesser said. "We've been thinking about refining and polishing some stuff, just based on our decade of experience — like tightening up the gameplay a little bit. I'm really psyched just to have more polygons to push around and work with more modern shaders and get really great responsiveness.
"Amplitude, more than almost any game we've ever made, really did rely on audiovisual synchronization. You know, Rock Band, Guitar Hero and Dance Central, there's a lot of stuff happening to the music. But Amplitude takes place in a sort of cyberspace that comes completely alive with the music. So having the new hardware will allow us to do even more of that than we ever have before."
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