beats me!

Beats Me! is an acoustically appealing experience where four players come together to create music by collecting notes and beats in a collaborative manner.

ROLE: Game Designer, Programmer

TEAM: 5 Members- 2 artists, 2 programmers, 1 sound designer



CLIENT: Building Virtual Worlds class at CMU's ETC

TOOLS: Unity, Photoshop, Ableton


design goal: 

To make the player feel like a DJ. The Jam-o-drum is an interface device that encourages collaborative visual "sound" gameplay. The interface allowed two unique action verbs that are rotating the input disc and hitting the input disc. This felt like a good opportunity for us to leverage the rotating motion to give the feeling of players mixing songs.

INSPIRATION: Rock Band and Guitar Hero


contribution to the project:

  1. Scripted gameplay progression, the scoring system and the feedback system.

  2. Scripted and iterated on the rotating mechanic to give a natural feel to the player.

  3. Created initial prototypes for the audio visualizer in Unity.

  4. Set up a pipeline between Excel and Unity for sounds designers that allowed them to change the rhythm patterns and timings of the notes and the beats very quickly, thus reducing iteration time.


Design Challenges

Rotation mechanic:


We started with a digital and analog form of the rotation mechanic. The game drew inspiration largely from Rock Band and Guitar Hero and thus we had the concept of four lanes. So for the first prototype, we created the "note-catcher" such that it would snap to one of the four lanes when the player rotated the disc. The second prototype allowed free movement of the pointer. The question was which one worked better and why?


We playtested both of them and found out that majority of players favored the free movement of the pointer. as it made them feel like they are in complete control of the problem.


I believe they chose the free movement prototype because it made them feel like they have more control over the game. Also, free movement is much better in moment to moment feedback and it showed it us how important it is for the player to follow those split second movements. Free movement essentially made the gameplay "juicier".


lack of micro goals:


Each play session of the game lasted 3 minutes 30 seconds. The only thing player did was make sure that they collected as many notes and beats as possible. The focus level of the player did not vary a lot over the course of the playthrough. This kept the interest curve pretty flat over most part of the game. The problem was how to increase and release tension during gameplay.


A multiplier system! We set up a 2x, 4x and 8x multiplier system which activated upon successful collection of consecutive beats and would disappear on missing a note or a beat. Suddenly this change allowed the players to start slow and increase their focus as the multiplier rose. The highest moments on the interest curves were at points when the players had activated the 8x multiplier and were focused on not missing any beats so they won't lose the multiplier.


The players need micro goals to make up a story in their minds. Moment to moment goals are necessary to keep the player engaged because using these goals as a spine, players can create a roadmap of the entire playthrough in their minds.


Feedback on catching notes and beats:


After the first week of development, our playtesters complained about the lack of proper feedback at moments when they caught the beats and hit the pads at the right time. The problem was we were providing feedback in the form of simple particle effects and by flashing the pad and the "note catcher" when hit correctly. Players did not notice this as positive feedback. In fact some players felt that they had missed the notes or beats when something started flashing. So how do we provide clear feedback in this case?


Our game was visually very noisy in terms of shapes. So our solution was to use text which was nowhere else on the table. White text would be positive feedback and red text would be negative feedback.


I believe the major reason that the flashing feedback did not work was because flashing of most things is life is a sign of warning or a mistake.