Kyle Ward on In the Groove

There’s no better time to be a music game fan with not only a number of rhythm games hitting Japan, but also in the U.S.

One of those series, originating from Roxor Games in the United States, is In the Groove (ITG), preparing for a third arcade release with a potential release for a home version of In the Groove 2. The series, which has been a current mainstay in U.S. arcades, has been a frequent visitor at the top of coin-operated charts.

ITG launched in arcades but has since branched off into home versions. To catch up on the work Roxor has done on In the Groove, here is the legacy of the titles released so far in the franchise:

In the Groove (Arcade) – August 2004

In the Groove entered the market as an upgrade to existing dance cabinets, kicking the series off with around 70 songs, licensed and original. The game was notable for being more difficult than other four-panel dancing games with intense “expert” step charts, mines that haunted players with a decrease in score and performance if stepped on, choreography that required players to use their hands to hit three or four panels simultaneously, longer songs and marathon courses that inserted periodical modifications to the appearance of game play.

Another mode allowed two players to verse each other in a battle mode. Players could also track their personal records and edit step charts through data stored in a USB flash drive. The ranking system was also much more robust than any other dancing game at the time, offering a top ten ranking for every possible game mode, song and difficulty combination.

In the Groove (PS2) – June 2005

The arcade version came to home systems almost a year later and replicated the coin-op version pound for pound. While the Playstation 2 had hardware limitations compared to the arcade counterpart, Roxor was able to not only replicate the original version but also added material completely new to the home version to tease the then-upcoming release of In the Groove 2. It also featured a play-based unlock system that gave the player new songs, modifiers and marathon courses after playing a set number of songs.

In the Groove 2 (Arcade) – June 2005

The second version of the arcade title offered vendors the choice of ordering a brand-new dedicated cabinet built specifically for ITG2 with a partnership with Andamiro. The cabinet featured a bigger screen and better sound system than the cabinets used for the previous version. The new ITG offered more songs and marathons and added new features such as roll steps (players had to continually hit the panel for the duration of the arrow), a new novice mode to assist beginners and an even more brutal survival mode where players needed to make the most accurate steps possible to delay a countdown clock.

In the Groove (PC/Mac) – August 2006

A recent re-release of the original arcade version, Roxor used the beefier power of PCs and Macs to give players an experience completely identical to the arcades. With virtually no load times, unedited songs and even more, updated content, In the Groove (PC/Mac) is the most complete home version of the game that is currently available. Blogcritics reviewed this iteration of In the Groove.

With four titles under the In the Groove belt, Roxor, who also releases other arcade titles, isn’t looking to call it a day anytime soon. Kyle Ward of Roxor Games recently took the time to answer some questions about the series and the progress it has made since its initially retail release in 2004.

Aaron Auzins: First off, thank you very much for taking time out of your schedule to answer our questions.

Kyle Ward: No problem! Thank you for your interest in ITG.

Aaron: Before we start, could you please introduce yourself and how you are involved with In the Groove?

Kyle: My name is Kyle Ward. I’m the music producer, audio engineer and content (songlist/steps) manager for the ITG series.

Aaron: The original In the Groove hit arcades in August 2004. What was the main motivation behind creating an all-new dancing game for the arcades?

Kyle: ITG was originally created by a group of people that were actively involved in the dance game community. We felt that there was so much potential with dance games and at the time there seemed to have been a hiatus in production. ITG was born with this vision and has continued to grow since that day. It’s been really exciting watching how far this project has come since those days.

Aaron: How long was the first version in development and what kind of public reception did the first title received when it was released in arcades?

Kyle: The first ITG versions started as “kit upgrades.” The reason for this was so that arcades with dance cabinets that could easily upgrade. The first ITG had roughly 10 songs and looked quite different then any of the versions to date. I remember rushing to our original ITG test arcade location (with other team members) to keep the machine up and running. It was certainly no easy task at the time! We learned a lot and applied that knowledge to the game. Now, the game has many testing sites that are much easier to manage.

Aaron: What was the transition from arcade to home console like for the team? What eventually lead to producing In the Groove for the PC and Mac?

Kyle: Originally, ITG set out to be an arcade-only port. We later learned that there was a high demand to play ITG at home. The transition was rather easy for players but very difficult for our team. We had to work backwards to make ITG run on a system that was obviously less powerful then our arcade hardware. We learned a lot through the process and that knowledge got applied to our future versions. I think our Mac/PC port also reflects this knowledge and improved the home experience. Additionally, we felt the home PC market did not have an “official” dance game exposure yet, so ITG PC/MAC was born.

Aaron: Roxor released In the Groove 2 in the arcades in June 2005. What kind of increase in player base did the game receive going from part one to part two?

Kyle: ITG2 basically started where ITG1 left off. We had new ideas and a lot of feedback, from ITG1, that we wanted to apply to the new game. The addition of “rolls” and “survival” play made things even more interesting for players. “Marathon mode” also received advancements and steps were as innovative as ever. We upped the songlist and artist count and even kept everything that people enjoyed from ITG1!

Lastly, probably the biggest addition to the game was the new ITG2 dedicated cabinets. These cabinets were designed for ITG and made the game experience even more enjoyable. ITG2 has been a really solid product that continues to sell incredibly well. It even ranked number one as the highest earning dancing game kit in Play Meter magazine for three consecutive months.

It’s been the cause of many tournament and events and has become a global success. We couldn’t be happier with ITG2!

Aaron: After releasing ITG2, organized tournaments for the game really took off. What are your thoughts the number of competitors that participated to have a chance at the worldwide tournament?

Kyle: It’s really been an honor to see all these events occur all over the world now. ITG is the first, and only machine dance game that recently got accepted into the International Dance Organization. I think the competitive aspect of dance games is here to stay and it’s certainly been compatible with ITG’s scoring and design. I look forward to many new tournaments and sporting events involving machine dance!

Aaron: It’s definitely no mystery that you’re responsible for a huge number of in-game tracks as well as the game’s sound production. What kind of equipment do you use to create your music and what artists have influenced your music?

Kyle: Man, my thank you and influenced list would be too big to list here. I’m very active with multimedia and it’s always been a huge part of my life. I’ve always had a passion for electronic music and it’s very cool to be able to do what I love for people.

Most of my songs are composed out of my home studio on DAWs running Logic Audio, Ableton Live and various hardware synthesizers. I play a lot of my material by hand and enjoy using different techniques. My site keeps a log of my life and further information about my current/past projects.

Aaron: Is there anything you can tell us about future home versions of In the Groove?

Kyle: The Mac/PC version of ITG is the first port to allow updatable content to the game. What does this mean? This means that you’ll most likely see upgrade packs that can easily be installed to update the game to the latest ITG.

Currently, we don’t have any specific announcements regarding ITG2 home [versions].

Aaron: When the company location tests versions of the game, what type of input do you look to receive from those in attendance and how many players typically show up to such an event?

Kyle: The most common feedback we get from a new build of the game is related to step syncing/difficulty/opinion. Naturally, we do our best to keep these qualities high with every new release. Typically, we’ve always been one of the most popular booths at any of the shows we attend. Players typically travel great distances to play the latest ITG and hang out with our team! The shows have always been a very positive experience for us in the past.

Aaron: Has the ITG team ever discussed any other avenues of games to develop other than dancing games?

Kyle: Roxor currently develops other games outside of ITG. We’ve actually been hard at work on our new racer game, Road Rebel. Additionally, we just released a sequel to our cute penguin racer, Tux Racer. Roxor has formed teams that regularly work on other projects on a weekly basis.

Aaron: What can we expect from the ITG series in the future, beyond ITG3?

Kyle: The team will continue to always be committed to improving the overall player experience of ITG. There are still so much more in store for the series. We have more ideas then our time allows!

As a player of ITG, you can always be assured that we’ll be there to listen to your feedback and value your opinion. I think one of our greatest strengths is our close communication with our player community. Regardless of our competitors, I think we’ve made impact in the dancing game genre. We’ll certainly continue to do so and players can always look forward to our future products.

Aaron: Once again, thank you very much for your time and thanks for continuing to support U.S. arcades.

Kyle: We all agree that arcades are very important for their social aspect in life. Players need that home away from home. Thank you for playing and recognizing ITG. As long as the demand continues, we’ll always be here to support it. We hope to see you stomping on arrows in the near future!

The interview did include a few questions on the upcoming arcade release of In the Groove 3, but at this time, Ward is unable to comment on the work in progress. Through a pre-order pamphlet made available by Roxor, we do know the release is looking to add even more to the series.

A total of more than 80 new songs, 30 new courses and 800 new dance charts will be added to the total songs built by the previous two versions. The most notable additions scheduled for the release include ITGnet, a free worldwide ITG3 network. A new two-player “co-op” mode is being introduced as well as a mode in which dance charts will encourage freestyle performance dancing across the machine’s eight total panels.

The machine was originally touted to be location tested at the upcoming Amusement and Music Operators Association International Expo/Fun Expo in Las Vegas from Sept. 27-29. However, an announcement by Ward on ITGFreak stated the machine is not ready for location testing at this time.

Blogcritics is once again grateful for Ward’s time and will continue to follow the In the Groove series and will have more information on upcoming releases as it is made available.

Categories: GemuBaka Interview, IndieSnack

Author:indiesnack

Indie Snack is a video gaming Web site focusing on independent developers and game releases. Indie Snack will also soon have services made available to independent developers to include tools aiding them in public relations and game marketing.

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