Rhythm Doctor. New Level.
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Thanks for signing up! Either you wrote your email in that Google form, or you wrote down your email with pen and paper at one of the exhibitions recently. Either way, welcome, and there’s only like 700 of you so you’re still special!! That’s like a whole two words per person.

Seeing as the mailing list started in 2014, it’s been a while for some of you. I’m sorry. But HEY LOOK NEW LEVEL:


Rhythm Doctor Closed Beta

(Please don’t share around though. We’re in that period where publishers are approaching us now, and they might get angry if they see we’re giving out tidbits of the game publicly. But this is different cause you are ‘beta testers’ you see. That’s what you will tell them ok)

This Month's Level - July 2016 (Level #1 of 5)

This level is meant to come as a boss level after the third act (of a planned four). At this point, you’ve been introduced to multiple rows and swing timing. And this boss level tests your skills by combining the two in a little musical inspired by Les Misérables.

Also at this point, you’ve been acquainted with Dr Paige, and she’s the main character of this musical. You get to help her with her ward rounds via a remotely-connected defibrillator from your own home, as is the norm nowadays. Ward rounds can be tough, so you should be able to beat the original demo before trying this one.

All that said, have fun! There’s a feedback form thing integrated into the game, we’d really appreciate your comments after playing. And if typing in 320x240 resolution is a headache for you, you can always just reply to this email heh. Would appreciate your comments on difficulty and fun-ness, and if there’s anything you’d change for our final release. Thanks in advance!

What's Been Happening In My Life

Uh. Does this even belong in a newsletter.. ah why not.

(Warning: many words. Just thought that maybe some of you might be interested in what it’s like to do the whole indie game thing.. from our twitter poll, 60% of you are under 25, so hey, you might be considering the Indie Life yourself. (TURN BACK BEFORE ITS TOO LATE) )

So.. wow. It has indeed been a while. I don’t know how many of you have been following the Rhythm Doctor dev story, but it goes like this:

I had an idea for a rhythm game in 2011 about keeping track of polyrhythms. Spent a chunk of the summer holiday between university terms making an initial single-level prototype. It looked like this:

You’d keep track of crotchets and quavers and triplets all at the same time, and press space whenever any of them hit their seventh beat! Wasn’t this the most fun thing?!

I showed it to my friends, what came back was “huh what is this?”. It was clear we’d need to scale it back a little.

At the same time my college friend at the time, Winston, somehow decided he would spend the whole night until he got a perfect S in it, completionist that he is. He then came on-board as an artist, and during every holiday for the next two years, we’d work on the game. We never really had any big plans for it, or a scope, or anything - it was just throwing cool rhythm ideas together and improvising, and sending it to our friends.

A few winter and summer holidays later, we released a demo on TIGSource and woah, lots of people liked it! We learnt what Twitter was, and got tweeted by cool people, like the Guacamelee! devs, and got featured on some game sites!

And then we made some more changes, adding a boss level (which people liked too!), and at that time, we found out that there was this competition called the Independent Gaming Festival (IGF) which had a Student division. Looking at the previous winners (big beautiful 3D games), and how most entries seemed to be from people who were actually studying game development, there was absolutely zero chance we would get it. But hey it was free to enter (and also made me feel sort of legit) so why not?

And so on the night of the deadline, I found myself sitting on my bed working towards what was a 6 am deadline for the entries. I then fell asleep while working and woke up ten minutes to the deadline. Ah. 

What followed was tense. In those ten minutes, it was a scramble to compile it, put it on Dropbox, make a new entry on the IGF site.. and then I saw that it wanted a trailer. 

We didn’t have a trailer.

In the end, we got in by mere seconds. Took some video of a streamer playing it on YouTube as a ‘trailer’ (wow great trailer). And one browser refresh after submitting, the entry form changed to ’Entries are now closed’.

In retrospect, this was genuinely a time when waking a few seconds later would have changed everything.

Because fast forward two months, I had completely forgotten about the IGF (yes I had that little hope), but suddenly StatCounter was reporting a thousand hits an hour on the our Dropbox index.html excuse for a website. How very strange.

It turned out that out of the 300 entries, we were one of those chosen for the IGF Student Showcase! Then we were flown across the Atlantic to San Francisco, to take part in the Game Developers Conference (which the IGF exhibition was a part of)! We made a controller for it, and boy was it fun going through airport security carrying a giant homemade device with a big red button.

Over there we met lots of gamedevs and cool indie stars, like a fellow Student Showcase finalist Albert Shih who made the Museum of Simulation Technology, and those people from Ostrich Banditos who made Westerados! We met a guy called Giacomo from Peru who was interested in working with us. And Matt Thorson was exhibiting his game Towerfall a few booths down, and he came to play our game! He quite liked it. It was surreal. 

And then, well, getting the IGF recognition, that sorta changed things - it now felt valid in some way to expand this to be a 2-3 hour game, with bosses and final bosses and remixes and a story. But my graduation was looming, and after graduation there would be no summer and winter vacations to work on it any more. Realistically I wouldn't have had the time to finish another three quarters of the game if I worked only on weekends or something. And the niche in rhythm games was NOW, right now, when Rhythm Heaven had just paved the way, and left this big obvious lack of one-button-rhythm-gameplay on desktops and mobiles. We couldn't wait!

So the one possible solution was to actually take a year out of being employed to work on an indie game.

As we grow older, we become more aware of the opportunity cost of everything. If I did this, it would immediately mean I would be less employable than the fresh engineer I graduated as. Indie games and engineering have little overlap heh, it would be akin to trying to go to an employer after being unemployed for a year and a bit. The UK was slowly changing its policies to push harder against immigrants, so getting a job in the UK where I studied would only get harder the more I waited. On the other hand, as coincidence would have it, the government in Malaysia was offering grants for indie gamedevs to do their indie gamedevving.

In the end, thanks to a lot of kind encouragement from other developers and all you fans (we love you); the always-amiable Winston agreeing to draw for us while he was finishing his own degree; and the possibility of getting a government grant to fund us and pay Giacomo from the Game Developers Conference; it didn’t seem like such a crazy plan.

So that's where we are today, we won the grant, and we’re indie devs. Um.

I still of course have no idea if this is the right decision. I still am not used to the reactions from our parents / grandparents generation (Gen 2 / 1), when they ask where I’m working at now, after graduation, and I say ‘umimnottechnicallyemployed but HEY have you played Undertale’

But I do know that had I gone into industry as an engineer right after graduation, this game would have never seen the light of day. So I guess that’s as good a reason as any. Hmm! Well. That and the fact that having a game on Steam would really be pretty cool..

(I am definitely going to look at this newsletter in a years time and wonder what all this fuss was even about.)

But right now, with this first Level of the Month, and publishers contacting us, things are looking up! We’ve been working properly on this since around February, and it’s a team of three now: myself, Winston, and Giacomo (the guy from GDC who, a year and a half later, joined us, he’s the awesome programmer behind all the split-screen shenanigans in this level!). If you know anyone else who might be interested in publishing something like this, please let me know - particularly in the non-English markets. Or just email me to say hi and talk rhythm games or doctor stories! And if you're a scriptwriter for games I'd love to get in touch with you too, particularly if you have good examples of character-building. We could use some help with our story.

Release Date

Telling you now is just a set-up for heartbreak and anger when it gets delayed later. You know, there’s that other game called Owlboy which the creator has spent 9 years so far on. Nine years. I can't even imagine the self-belief needed for that. You could go from being a medical student to being a GP in that same amount of time. The game is obscenely beautiful though. Man..

Now that you’ve been distracted from important questions, thank you for moving your eyeballs over a thousand words. Here’s a reward:

What's Been Happening In My Dog's Life

just kidding

Rhythm Game Spotlight

[Thanks for the idea Kyle!]

Hey have you tried this obscure Korean flash game?
It’s a two button avoid-em-up that is a visual spectacle, and well-synced. It's all sorts of genius, and if you liked the glitchy boss level in Rhythm Doctor you'll find lots to like here.

(And if you have suggestions of obscure rhythm games that are 'true' rhythm games - having you press things on the beat and that being the entire mechanic - and aren’t traditional DDR/Osu/RockBand style games, that could go in the next months newsletter, please let me know. We're fortunate to have one little community where we know everyone here has a good interest in rhythm games. We’d love to spread the word on any other rhythm games that try something different - heh, rhythm alt-games - that are out there.)

Till next month! May August have good things in store for you.

- Hafiz



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