“We launched Amplitude way back in 2003 and not a lot of people bought that game, but the people that did, really liked it,” said the Creative Director at Harmonix, Alex Rigopulos, at the Amplitude Live Event commemorating the release of a modern remake of the game developer’s original hit, Amplitude.
You may recognize the name Harmonix as the Boston area music-game developer that built the world-beating Rock Band series. You know, the series with the slick plastic instruments that brought your aunt or grandfather out of the woodworks to try their hand at the bass or croon into a microphone finally fulfilling your dreams of a family band.
In fact, Harmonix was also one of the publishers behind the original Guitar Hero which was released prior to Rock Band in 2005 and kickstarted a revolution in rhythm-based music games not seen since Dance Dance Revolution. Before creating Rock Band, Harmonix had been pioneering unique music-based video game experiences, like Frequency, Amplitude, and later Dance Central and Fantasia: Music Evolved.
But, the Amplitude Live Event was all about Amplitude (surprise). Harmonix had long wanted to revisit their original cult success and after a Kickstarter which raised over $840,000 they were finally able to develop their “passion project.”
In Amplitude you control a spaceship flying across a lane of six tracks, with each track representing a musical instrument (percussion, bass, etc) and containing little gems representing musical notes. You and your spaceship shoot at the gems in time with the music and earn points for hitting notes accurately. You can increase your score rapidly by hitting a long series of notes in a row.
When I arrived at the event there were a few TVs set up for attendees to play the game, before the musical acts would take over for a night of electronica, synthpop, IDM, trance and more. The main screen screen allowed four players to go head-to-head and the competition was intense. It quickly became apparent that there was a meta-game beyond just hitting the notes in rhythm. Skilled players would move their ship into other players tracks and steal their notes. One part enveloping music, another entrancing visualizer-esque graphics.
After attendees got their fill of gaming the concert began including performers who had contributed songs to the original Amplitude as well as the remake: Kodomo, Symbion Project and headliners, Boston-based Freezepop. Kodomo graced the crowd with chilled-out IDM beats, and Freezepop brought their unique brand of synthpop to send out some positive vibes on a night which clearly meant a lot to Harmonix and their die-hard fans.
Be on the lookout for Harmonix’s name later this year as they plan to release a VR (virtual reality) installment of Rock Band for the soon-to-be-released Oculus Rift. Not only will you get to play the instrument of a rock star, but soon you’ll be looking through their eyes as well!