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Introducing KickBeat, a Music Combat Game for PS Vita

Neil Sorens's Avatar + Posted by Neil Sorens on May 23, 2012 // Creative Director, Zen Studios

Hello, PlayStation fans! I’m very excited to tell you about our new game: KickBeat. It’s a music game; it just doesn’t look like one. Check it out, and then after the jump I’ll tell you about how it works and some of the development history.


Music games have a long tradition of innovation. From the peripheral-based games like Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution to controller-based ones like Frequency and Patapon, these games allow us to experience music in new and often unexpected ways.

KickBeat follows in the tradition of this type of music game. Although its beat-matching mechanic is not complex and will be familiar to fans of the music game genre, KickBeat does a couple things that make it different from anything else you’ve played…and with publishers afraid to do anything except sequels to dance games, what better time than now to give the genre a kick in the pants?

KickBeat for PS Vita

KickBeat for PS Vita

The first thing about KickBeat that is immediately visible is its fighting theme. If you watch the old Hong Kong kung fu movies, you’ve probably noticed that the fight choreography is heavily rhythmic. We noticed that, too, and figured it would be a good theme for a beat-matching game. Combine the martial arts theme with heavy, aggressive music that goes well with punching and kicking, and you’ve got a game with a little more edge than the ones where you get jiggy to the the latest autotuned pop hit (not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially with friends and/or limited sobriety).

Second, we got rid of the bars, arrows, and button icons that other music games rely on for action cues and replaced them with fully 3D animated characters. Instead of just seeing characters in the background moving to a preset script as eye candy while the actual gameplay takes place in an abstract 2D interface, you actually control and react to those 3D characters. That means you actually get to focus your attention on what those characters are doing! As you play the game, you’re creating your own fight sequence with your button presses (or screen touches). We also even let you get rid of all the other interface parts (such as score) if you like, so that there are no distractions from the action.

KickBeat for PS Vita

As you may have gathered from the trailer, enemies circle around you before attacking from one or more of the four cardinal directions. Their attacks are synched to the song’s beat and to other high-energy moments in the music: guitars, vocals, and so on. To defeat one, you just press the button corresponding to their direction at the correct time (right as they move in to attack you). For example, when an enemy attacks from the right, you press the right direction button or the Circle button to send them sprawling. You can also just use the touch screen – tap the portion of the screen where the enemy is attacking from, and you’ll get the same result. Two or three enemies at once? No problem! Just press all the appropriate buttons/regions at once. You can use both the directional and face buttons simultaneously, an essential skill to learn once you get to the expert difficulty levels and you’re beset by a constant stream of enemies.

Now that you’ve got the basics, let me tell you a little bit more about the game’s history. It’s been around in idea form since 2006, and we started development on it in 2009 – an exciting time for me, as it’s my first original game idea to be put into production. Yep, KickBeat is my baby!

Although the game concept is a very simple one, it turned out that it’s a really, really hard game to make. Because animations take a certain amount of time to play, it’s very difficult to give them the instantaneous response time that you need in a beat-matching game, while still keeping the motion believable. We started out by motion-capturing a martial arts champion, only to realize later that none of it would be usable for the game. Essentially, we had to start over on the animation system – but this time, we knew the problems we’d come across and designed the system to overcome them. As a result, almost 100% of the animations in the game are hand-animated, no small task for a game that needs as many animations as ours. And I think the animators did a fantastic job of creating a martial arts style that is acrobatic, fluid, responsive, and just plain fun to watch.

KickBeat for PS Vita

Selecting the music for KickBeat’s hard-hitting soundtrack was an equally daunting task, but very rewarding when you manage to find that perfect track or hidden gem and get a deal signed. We didn’t get every song we wanted – I really wanted the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” for example, but it didn’t work out. However, those setbacks just made us look harder to find great music in unlikely places. We ended up with 18 tracks across multiple genres (mostly drum & bass, rock, and hip-hop), from big names like Pendulum and Rob Zombie to some stuff you probably haven’t heard before. The most unusual? A track from Shen Yi, a Taiwanese rapper – yes, it’s in Mandarin, and yes, it is awesome.

We also thought it would be fun to be able to put your own music into the game – that was my favorite feature in Audiosurf. We’ve got a feature that will allow you to do just that, with no scripting on your part required – just put in a couple pieces of info, customize a couple settings to your taste, and the game creates a new level for you to play.

One other part of the game I want to mention is the story. Because we’ve put all this effort into making characters a central focus of the game, we needed to give these characters a human touch. Otherwise, they’re just animated props. Our story revolves around a lovestruck and unlikely hero drawn into a battle for control of the world’s music. It’s lighthearted fare, but we’ve done a bunch of hand drawn and fully voiced sequences that really bring the characters to life.

KickBeat for PS Vita

Well, there you have it. KickBeat will release this year, exclusively on PS Vita. It’s a real thrill to finally be able to talk about the game after working on it so long, and I can’t wait to see what you all think of it! We will be showing the game at E3, so there will be more news surfacing soon. You can also catch me on last week’s PlayStation Blogcast talking a little bit about the game.

Thanks for reading!

//Add Your Own

50 Comments   18 Replies

1

+ GGCAN on May 23rd, 2012 at 9:38 am said:

Thanks for this article Neil.

Will have to check this game out a bit more.

Any pricing for it as yet ?


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 9:39 am said:

    Pricing will be in line with our other games – more details as we get closer to launch!


2

+ Midgetguy on May 23rd, 2012 at 9:43 am said:

This looks AWESOME!!!!

I’m typically not a big fan of motion or peripheral based music games, and my favorite music games are always controller based and super unique!

Parappa the Rapper, Space Channel 5, Gitaroo Man, and Frequency are some of my all time favorites!

This is right up my alley, and I can’t wait to play it! ^_^


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 9:51 am said:

    Those are some old school games! I still have some Ulala and Rez promo stuff in my closet somewhere from my days at SEGA, during the Dreamcast era.

    Glad to hear you’re excited for KickBeat!


3

+ Sharingan_itachi on May 23rd, 2012 at 9:45 am said:

Retail release?


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 9:48 am said:

    Download only!


4

+ LordKuragari on May 23rd, 2012 at 9:45 am said:

I think this looks like some fun gameplay.

Im interested in price point and length.

also a demo would be AWESOME


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:02 am said:

    There will be a demo.

    Length depends on how many tries it takes you to get through each song. Plus some incentives to replay for better scores, like the score competition in our pinball games and some unlockables (the second half of the story unlocks after you finish playing through all the songs, for example, so that you can bump up the difficulty level and go through them again with fresh story scenes). We’ve also got four difficulty levels, with higher scoring potential as you go up – meaning that there are plenty of reasons to strive for mastery once you’ve got the basics down!


5

+ Zoomy-Ramen on May 23rd, 2012 at 9:47 am said:

Can I hook up my DJ hero decks and play with that?

Seriously though, looking pretty cooooo’


6

+ vanwinkle on May 23rd, 2012 at 9:47 am said:

Looks absolutely fantastic. Zen Studios is awesome, but I’m not a huge fan of pinball. This game, however, is right up my alley. Always great to see some Vita exclusive games.


7

+ vanwinkle on May 23rd, 2012 at 9:51 am said:

And, Mr. Sorens, if you don’t mind me asking, is the game native res? And are those shots an accurate representation of the game’s graphical quality? I ask because we’ve kind of been burned by a lot of games that looked great and then when we played on the Vita the weren’t rendered in native res and looked kind of blurry.


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:06 am said:

    No bullshots here! The game runs at 960×544.


8

+ Xcaligamer1 on May 23rd, 2012 at 9:53 am said:

omg love the concept, not gonna have a vita til july but this game is def on my list of vita games to get


9

+ DaMann22 on May 23rd, 2012 at 9:54 am said:

Finally a rhythm game coming. Ive been waiting for dj max technica forever. This should definitely hold me over until then.

Release Date? Online Coop/competitive multiplayer?


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:10 am said:

    We don’t have a release date yet (we’re still finishing up the game), but we can safely say it will be this year sometime.

    We’re aiming to have competitive multiplayer (I don’t want to 100% promise it just yet because it’s one of the things that, although functional right now, isn’t complete).


10

+ Zookey on May 23rd, 2012 at 9:55 am said:

Ok. I’m sold.


11

+ thunderbear on May 23rd, 2012 at 9:58 am said:

When I first saw the headline I admit it didn’t excite me that much but after watching the trailer I can completely see myself getting addicted to this. Looks like fun!


12

+ Ganryu_GDM on May 23rd, 2012 at 9:59 am said:

Amazing … Sold…


13

+ G-Force08 on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:00 am said:

Looks great! Looking forward to seeing more!


14

+ FORMIK on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:01 am said:

This looks great, and I’d like to see a trailer of the game in action. Maybe more news in a few weeks?


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:13 am said:

    Definitely! We’re going to be showing off music, detailed gameplay, game features, etc. in time.


15

+ angibri2000 on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:02 am said:

Wow, you guys are really getting those music games out! I can say that being a past DJ in my younger days I love music/rhythm games. I have Lumines, PixelJunk4AM and can’t wait for SoundShapes, DYAD and heck now even this! I’m not huge on the rockband and wannabe DJ ones and even though this seems to be along those lines I am definitively interested in getting this given the right price.

Keep bringing those music titles especially to Vita so that I can jam out on the go with my headphones! Nice job!


16

+ WrekGar on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:07 am said:

Definitely looks interesting and is on my Gamedar. Will we be able to use our own music in the game?

The Blog Stalker


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:14 am said:

    Yes, you’ll be able to use your own music.


17

+ Thwip on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:08 am said:

I was going to skip right over this post. It is a long/wordy post, the game style didn’t interest me, and I had never heard of the game before; but then I noted the Zen Studios in your title, and I am always interested in something new for my Vita. Glad I took the time to read the post and watch the video; this looks like a great Vita game! Thanx for sharing.


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:17 am said:

    Thanks for checking it out! Since this blog post is actually the first info we’ve put out anywhere about the game, it makes sense that you’d never heard of it before.


18

+ FORMIK on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:20 am said:

Can you reveal what, if any, Vita control functions it uses aside from the buttons for the enemies?


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:24 am said:

    You can also use the touch screen for the enemies. There’s no accelerometer usage.


19

+ ultratroll on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:23 am said:

Between this and Zen Pinball 2, looks like the vita is worth my money after all :)


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:42 am said:

    Don’t forget Super Stardust Delta! Also Lumines.


20

+ cosmis_chaos on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:24 am said:

Awesome. It’s like a Kung-Fu dance party.

‘Everybody was Kung- Fu fightin
Huuuuhhhhhh
‘Those dudes were fast as lightning
Huuuuuuuuhhhhh’
It was a little bit frightening.


21

+ FORMIK on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:28 am said:

Thanks for the prompt responses! This definitely looks like a game to look out for.
I’m glad to hear about the touch screen option, as I’m waiting patiently for a Patapon 4 for the Vita to also allow for this (one can hope).

Be sure to release some avatars for this game, as it has a crisp art style and well-drawn characters.


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:38 am said:

    Good idea!


22

+ TheTwelve on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:28 am said:

I am ALL OVER THIS. I can’t can’t wait. —12


23

+ NASCAR_Rcn8 on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:46 am said:

I may be mean and hard on vita a lot on the vita in these blogs but man this is what the vita needs. Its own awesome music exclusive. You guys keep these type of exclusives coming in and I may just buy and KEEP a vita this time lol. Great work on the game guys. It will be the very reason of me buying and keeping a vita when this game hits psn. Oh and THANK YOU for making it downloadable to. Which pretty much every vita game is downloadable but still, I prefer DL not disc or vita card games. So making this only DL only should get the word out that digital is the best option now. You never can lose it, Never can get tempted to sell your game cause you can’t, and you get two copies to put on two vita’s if you own two vita’s that is lol. The 2 copies deal is what I love about digital. Use to be 5 but 2 is still better than 1. Anyways thanks for making this soon to be out awesome game! Looking forward to owning it!


24

+ Ricen-Beans on May 23rd, 2012 at 11:02 am said:

This looks AWESOME!!!
2 questions:

1.Will this have a platinum trophy???
(plants vs zombies has one)

2. Will u be changing the voice of the narrator??
(sounds dull and boring at the moment)

Apart from that the game looks really interesting and epic. Will be checkin it out for sure.


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 11:12 am said:

    1. Not sure yet
    2. Yes, actually, we did


25

+ Cross-Legacy on May 23rd, 2012 at 11:27 am said:

This looks absolutely amazing. Keep up the good work you guys.


26

+ Ricen-Beans on May 23rd, 2012 at 11:53 am said:

Thank u for the reply. Def looking forward to it now.

Platinum trophy will def increase the replay value. Please consider it.


27

+ tusunami on May 23rd, 2012 at 12:41 pm said:

This looks to be a interesting title,I look forward to this soon!!!!!!!!!!1


28

+ Still_Dreaming_ on May 23rd, 2012 at 1:21 pm said:

Oh wow! You worked at SEGA? That’s awesome.
…I’m a big Dreamcast fan if you couldn’t already tell from my username. :P


29

+ PSX5K on May 23rd, 2012 at 1:23 pm said:

I saw Styles of Beyond in the trailer artist list and I’m a fan of theirs. Can you give any details about which track(s) you’ll be using in the game? Thanks!


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 2:45 pm said:

    We’re not giving out track names just yet, but I can say that you won’t be surprised by it.


30

+ TMAZT3R on May 23rd, 2012 at 1:44 pm said:

Vita is getting a whole bunch of announcements sweet. Hope this calms down some of you babies.


31

+ saintaqua on May 23rd, 2012 at 2:00 pm said:

I was all for this game until I saw the music list…I can’t stand any of those…
To be honest the music playing in the preview is far preferable.
If you can add in lot’s of stuff like that or a more varied list of artists I’ll get it.
If not, names like Mason and Rob Zombie will make sure it’s a no buy for me.
That would be a shame since I love the concept.


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 2:51 pm said:

    You could download our pinball soundtrack and import it into the game! http://zenstudios.bandcamp.com/album/marvel-pinball-original-soundtrack. Or add whatever other music you think fits. Early on in development, we had had Rhianna and Katy Perry tracks as placeholders, and it was…amusing? Incongruous juxtaposition, you know.

    What kind of music do you think would work best?


32

+ Torgo on May 23rd, 2012 at 2:46 pm said:

@saintaqua

Then use your own music, it works with anything you have loaded on your Vita :-)


33

+ SKeRJ on May 23rd, 2012 at 3:13 pm said:

That is SO bought, two of my favorite game mechanics all wrapped into one lovely package of kick ass.


34

+ camiwaits_us on May 23rd, 2012 at 3:22 pm said:

Haha, this looks fun!


35

+ Xtreme765 on May 23rd, 2012 at 4:47 pm said:

OMG, didn’t look so appealing until I saw the trailer, love that it’s gonna be digital download only which usually means around a $10 – $20 download cost. Either way it’s already sold itself to me. (lol, gonna play “sexy and I know it” while beating up on some enemies to the rhythm)


36

+ Axecution on May 23rd, 2012 at 4:57 pm said:

This looks so amazing you dont even understand. You played FreQuency and Amplitude eh? Have you seen Rock Band Blitz? It looks similar. Comes out soon. >.>

But you know what it doesn’t have? Competitive multiplayer.

Please, please, please, please, please make the competitive multiplayer happen. I will play this game to death if it has multiplayer. Once Amplitude’s servers got shut down, there hasn’t been a single multiplayer controller-based rhythm game. and that was years ago. Dx

Anyway. Im getting this either way. It looks awesome. >.> Love me some music games haha. Hopefully DJ Max will release soon. And hopefully it wont have that BS note auto-correction like Fever cause that was just dumb.


37

+ Axecution on May 23rd, 2012 at 4:59 pm said:

Actually i have a question. Are the notes for the in-game songs random? As in, are the in-game songs loaded the same way as the mp3s you load onto the game yourself? …as in, is it like Rock Band? or is it like Dance Factory? :P


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    + Neil Sorens on May 23rd, 2012 at 5:05 pm said:

    The in-game stuff is scripted, not generated by the music analyzer. On the highest difficulty level, the direction of the enemies is randomized, but their timing is not.


38

+ XINTSUAI-BR on May 23rd, 2012 at 5:02 pm said:

very cool! I liked the idea, just not quite understand the gameplay, depending on the price I’ll purchase,. The art is very beautiful, congratulations


39

+ Fareo on May 23rd, 2012 at 10:34 pm said:

Wow this is such a clever and original take on a burnt out genre. I love music rhythm games but as I said, I and most of the population are pretty burnt out on them. The concept is great and I’m pretty certain that this will be a day one buy for me.

Also thank you so much for responding to so many comments. Sony has so many guest posters that just post and leave, the interaction with the community means so much to us.

Kudos to you sir


40

+ XFRod on May 24th, 2012 at 1:04 am said:

Not sure where… Maybe the Zen facebook page? Awhile back, Zen posted something to the community about naming a Kung Fu themed, rhythm game. I’m going to assume this is what they were talking about.

So, Neil… Was Kick Beats a result of that? Also, out of curiosity, what were some of the other submitted titles that weren’t used?


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    + Neil Sorens on May 24th, 2012 at 2:06 am said:

    Yes, KickBeat was submitted by the contest winner – we will be announcing more about the contest results on our site in the next few days. We had around 1000 names submitted – some very good ones among them, and even a contingent favoring “Zen Fu” as the final name.


41

+ xxSolshido35xx on May 24th, 2012 at 3:17 am said:

looks like a cool game, but all ive seen lately is trailers and no ps vita games worth it. can we please get a new batch of games cause I hardly use my vita cause there arnt too many good games worth putting time into.


42

+ Elvick_ on May 24th, 2012 at 4:59 am said:

This looks great. :3 Definitely picking this up. This and DJ Max Technika Tune will fill my rhythm needs nicely for awhile. Although, I’ll probably import Hatsune Miku Project Diva F too. :P


43

+ Elvick_ on May 24th, 2012 at 5:11 am said:

@41: Games take time to develop… just be patient. This is a foreseeable “issue” early in any console life. So if you’re not prepared for it, then never buy within the first 6 months to a year of a console/handheld’s life.

There’s plenty for me to play and plenty coming up that I’m dying to play too.


44

+ Binary on May 24th, 2012 at 6:33 am said:

Neil

The game looks great and I am ready to play but I agree with saintaqua you should use the type of music that you have in the video so Its a completely new experience. Putting Rob zombie music in a fighting game that’s not too violent so kids can play it also is not a good idea.I know you can upload your own music but the campaign should have a unique sound .


45

+ dilbig5 on May 25th, 2012 at 9:29 am said:

Looks very interesting. Hopefully it plays as good as it looks


46

+ herbalsticky on May 25th, 2012 at 11:55 am said:

Ahhh, another dent in my 32 gb.


47

+ saintaqua on May 25th, 2012 at 7:19 pm said:

It works with my music too? Okay! As long as it works well then I am definitely sold.
And to answer your question of what kind of music I’d like in it then I’d say the kind in the trailer works for me.
I’m actually glad you took out Katy Perry and Rhianna…that’s definitely not the kind of music I want either, lol.
Since I can add my own music I’ll be using Yanni, Florence and the Machine, Sonata Artica, J-Pop,Dragon Force, Night Wish, Within Temptation, Dan Black (from the awesome Sony commercial) and maybe even some New Age type stuff.


48

+ saintaqua on May 25th, 2012 at 7:23 pm said:

Will there be dlc?


49

+ RobbyArcane on May 25th, 2012 at 9:31 pm said:

Hey Neil,

I saw that you were asking a person what kind of music should be in the game. If you’d like, check out my music and maybe consider using it? Soundcloud.com/RobbyArcane

It’s all pretty much electro house/electronic and dubstep.

Hope you enjoy!

—Robby


50

+ ModernYorkster on May 26th, 2012 at 7:02 am said:

Niel,

Is this a PlayStation exclusive?


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