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Dropchord: finding the game in music

Double Fine Productions' Dropchord is a music game, but it has little to do with rhythm, according to developer Patrick Hackett.

Where most music games tie the game's design to the rhythm of the music, resulting in procedurally generated visuals, Dropchord takes a different, more scripted approach.

Speaking to Polygon, Hackett said every level in Dropchord is tightly designed so the music and visuals are tied together. He explained that music — especially electronic music — shares a similar path with video game level structures, which is why the studio's scripted approach works so well.

"So when you listen to electronic music, you've got your headphones and on they introduce a track, and then they add some elements, then they build it up and go into this breakdown," he said. "They add some more things, and they do it over and over.

"When you think about that path, it's very similar to the path of any video game's level structure: They introduce some things, they build it up, they make it difficult, they give you a prize at the end and you do it over and over."

Hackett said the development team wants to take that level structure and map it directly to the music because "you can't deny that music — if the music is turned up, it's difficult to hear the build-up and not get excited and nervous for the level to complete."

Dropchord's main "story mode" has 10 songs. Players pick up mechanics as they progress through each level, and the game's difficulty also ramps up. There's also an endless mode, which is exactly what it sounds like — the music loops and never ends, which Hackett says is an opportunity to just "listen to the music and hang out with the visuals."

"... If the music is turned up, it's difficult to hear the build-up and not get excited and nervous for the level to complete."

The game is a launch title for the Leap Motion gesture controller, which is set to launch on July 22. The 3D gesture controller supports Windows PC and Mac and allows players to use up to 10 fingers to play Dropchord. The main levels of the game only require players to use two fingers, but bonus levels allow the use of 10 digits to "push" the sound from left to right. A mobile version of the game is also in the works.

"I'm really proud of how the music and the visuals tie together," Hackett said. "That was really what we targeted from the very start — we really tried to target this idea of just really tying the visuals together with the gameplay and the music. I think we hit that."

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