In 2008, Dylan Fitterer released the music game Audiosurf, notable both for its reflex-based racing gameplay and its ability to create courses based on the music you already own. Fitterer developed the game mostly by himself, and it became a cult success, leading to a sequel that exited Steam Early Access last year.
Now he's back with a virtual reality music game called Audioshield, which he says builds on a lot of the technology from Audiosurf. Fitterer showed the game running on the HTC Vive at the 2016 Game Developers Conference this week.
"It came from a desire to do VR, because I first started doing Audiosurf VR, which is the roller coaster ride that you kind of expect," he says. "And I am going to release that also, by the way. But that wasn't hitting VR in exactly the way I wanted to."
Fitterer went on to experiment with a game featuring an exercise bike, which he says "was going to be terrible, obviously."
"But then I thought, 'OK, well, I need to change this up where the music is coming to you.' And once I did that, it all kind of fell into place."
Audioshield is a simple game where you stand in place, holding a controller in each hand, and in your headset you see each controller represented as a shield — blue on the left, orange on the right. Then as the music starts playing, blue and orange balls come toward you, and it's your job to pop them with the corresponding colored shield.
The game mixes things up a bit with purple balls, which require you to hold both shields together. And everything comes with a minimalist look similar to the Japanese Dreamcast game Cosmic Smash, with a plain grid background to keep the focus on the balls.
You also earn bonus points based on the way you move when you're playing. The majority of your score — the "technical score" — comes from the number of balls you pop and the number you miss. That's the difference that will determine your place on the leaderboards, for the most part. Then the game gives you an additional score for how well you perform and show off. It doesn't register Dance Central-style moves or anything overly complex, but it tries to sense whether you flail randomly or intentionally.
"As a tiebreaker basically, you get an artistic score, which is calculated different ways," Fitterer says. "[It's] kind of based on how much movement you had when the game thinks you should have moved."
At the moment, Audioshield is only confirmed for HTC's Vive, but Fitterer says he plans to make the game for other platforms later on. The Vive version will go on sale along with the hardware next month.