Sunday, January 27, 2013

In The Groove - What's Up at D.O.W.N.S.

Chances are that you've heard of Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), but unfortunately, you, like many, may not have heard of the similar In The Groove (ITG). It's understandable. Dance games aren't exactly the hip and new thing they once were, and even when they were new, arcades were declining in popularity. Furthermore, DDR had many more games in the series than ITG which only has two arcade games and one for PS2. But In The Groove has something that DDR doesn't have that has given it the staying power to keep a strong community long after the series ceased production and was bought out by Konami. That something is mod-ability. 

Since In The Groove is based on the free and open source StepMania, once you have access to the arcade machine, it isn't hard to modify it exactly how you want. Most importantly, this means that it is possible to add custom songs and step charts. ITG already offered more challenging songs than DDR, but with the addition of thousands of fan-made charts, the difficulty has continued to increase over the years as players keep improving. Getting 100% on a song is even harder than most rhythm games since each step is graded based on timing. To perfect a song, you need to hit every arrow with perfect timing, as opposed to Guitar Hero, where all you need to do is hit every note. 

It leaves a lot of room for improvement and for competition, which is why there are several major tournaments every year. At the end of 2012, there was "Bearpocalypse", an invite-only tournament where the best of the best competed to get the best scores they could on certain songs within a certain time period. Just this past weekend was the less serious, but still incredibly difficult, D.O.W.N.S.. 
Players came from far and wide to compete in D.O.W.N.S..
D.O.W.N.S. is unique in that all the stepcharts in the competition are composed specifically for the event by the participants. Anyone who entered early enough was able to submit up to three songs and charts, with very few limitations. This lack of limitations means that the charts are often hard, stupidly hard, or just plain stupid, but there are always a few that include gimmicks and mods that totally turn the game on its head, similar to the Rhythm Heaven adaptation I posted about last September. Charts of that sort from this third iteration of D.O.W.N.S. included  "Racecar", which had players pressing the direction of turns as an 8-bit racecar made its way around a track; one with a misleading title and preview track that was actually a totally different song with a chart consisting of very fast left and right arrows for the whole song; Weird Al's "Polkamon", with Pokemon distractingly appearing all over the screen; and "Take Your Shirt Off", which had a code programmed in that would flip the arrows and display a message when input at the beginning of the song. In fact, there were over eighty charts written for this year's tournament which were made available a couple months in advance so players could practice them.
Amazingly, this year's D.O.W.N.S. brought in players from far out of state and even out of country. Forty-some people participated and far more came to watch, along with the confused mall patrons who stopped to marvel at the spectacle. Clearly, In The Groove maintains a competitive and fun-loving community that continues to evolve with the players' skill levels and their creative ideas. Dance games may be out of the eye of mainstream gamers, but the genre is far from dead.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...