Backbeat

Project Details


Roles: Generalist, Level Designer

Time: 8 Months

Team Size: 5-8

Tools: Unity 3D, Github, Rust, Trello, Photoshop, DaVinci Resolve


Steam Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1585730/Backbeat/

Description


THE GAME


Stephanie "Watts" Watson, an aspiring bassist, bounced from audition to audition never finding music that really resonated with her, that is, until she discovered the magic of funk. Caught up in the groove, she recruits a group of hometown amateurs to take on art school darlings La Tormenta at the Battle of the Bands.


Features


  • Rewindable, multilinear beat-based environment puzzles
  • Player-controlled songs created from your movement choices
  • Real life jam band music rules and tricks for maximizing your score
  • Character-driven story set in 1990s suburban America through 40 levels of strategic madness

Mechanics


Each character in your band moves through the map in different ways, encountering unique solutions and obstacles. Advancing a character consumes a turn and part of the timeline, setting up interactions with other characters and enemies at different points in time. Rewinding a turn undoes your move, allowing you to find improved solutions and new ways to tackle problems.

Manipulate each character separately, rewinding or fast-forwarding along the timeline in the process to reach her current point in time. Changes in time are reflected in the progress and actions both past and present of each character, creating some possibilities and removing others.

Each character has his own resource-limited super move which can be triggered under certain conditions. Tip toe through tight spaces with your bassist, slide through guards with your keytar player, break through walls with your drummer, or blow enemies out of the way with your mighty super sax. Strategic use of your super moves increase the number of solutions to each puzzle and are the key in gaining a maximum score.

Four resource-based musical metrics govern how and when you can move and interact with objects in the levels. These can completely block progress if used inefficiently, and create amazing musical chains and high scores when regulated artfully.

My Part


For this project I was working as a Generalist, I got involved in many different aspects of the project going from level design, system design and game design, to marketing, project management as well as asset integration and graphics adjustment/creation.


Early on in the project I did marketing and research of indie competions to push the game out to a bigger audience. I created a marketing plan and made daily Twitter posts as well as found information about numerous events for the company to take part in.


While doing this I also got familiar with the project and created a few levels for the main story of the game along with some asset integration for the music and UI images.


My biggest part however during this project is doing level design for both the main story as well as extra levels.



Process


To create a level in Backbeat there were a number of things I had to consider. First of all it is a music based game so if the music doesn't sound good when the level is cleared in an S+ rank that would make it a badly designed level.


Later levels in the game that had all metrics unlocked was easier to create a design according to the music since the metrics themselves would force out a solution that created a good musical flow. But the earlier levels that didn't have as much metrics unlocked needed to be designed in a way that allowed the music to sound better if the player gets a higher rank solution. 

For example when doing any type of interaction action in the game that character performs a "Solo" and doing a melodic solo on top of another usually doesn't sound great. Like the image shows above this would be a description of a bad musical flow when it comes to "Solo" and "Assist" performances. 

So one of the basics of designing a level for Backbeat was create distance between the different interacts in the level so that solos would not normally overlap unless the player were forcing their way through the level getting a bad grade. On the other hand having a rythm solo on top of a melodic one can assist and enhance the melodic solo. So designing interacts to be forced to happen at the same time with specific characters would also create good music. In the image above we can see a solo by the saxophone character (Yellow line) and a rhythmic assist by the drummer character (Orange line). 


Other things to consider when designing is when characters are forced to move in another direction. Doing so will create the triangles on the timeline that can be seen in the images above. In the game when a character changes direction a different musical sound will play chaning up the final song playback when clearing the level. So musically if multiple character tries to change up the music at the same time too often that will also affect the music in a negative way. So it was important to design levels to give the player options when to turn with certain characters. The same goes for turning on a non-bar interval. Turning while the character is in between bars on the timeline (In between the black lines on the timeline) will change the music arhytmically.


So the levels need to have a path that is challenging enough to solve depending on how far in the game the player is, while at the same time having that solution have their interacts seperated or assisted, the turns should be able to be made to not overlap other characters turns to often and finally both turns and interacts should be able to align well to the bars on the timeline.