Making the decision to develop an entry of the DJMAX TECHNIKA franchise for PlayStation Vita was something of a no-brainer. The arcade game is known for its stylish cabinet, high-definition background videos, and innovative touch-screen game play. PS Vita is known for its stylish design, high-definition graphics, and innovative dual touch control scheme. Everything seems to line up, until you realize that the gameplay experience on a 22” touch screen has to be re-created for a handheld platform.
If you’re not familiar with the DJMAX TECHNIKA arcade franchise, at its core it plays like most other arcade music games. It has a dedicated control interface used to activate “notes” in as accurate timing with the music as possible. In TECHNIKA’s case the game uses two sets of four horizontal lanes with a timing line that scrolls clockwise on the screen. Even on the 22” arcade monitor, the play field takes up nearly all of the real estate out of necessity.
Our solution was to cut two of the rows to make the interface on TECHNIKA TUNE separate into two, three lane sections instead. The first time many high-level players heard this, it became a concern. “Wouldn’t the game become too easy at that point?” or “The charts won’t feel complete with less note lanes.” We considered this from the get-go and made new charts for every song featured in the game. This allowed us to properly tailor the most important aspect of the gameplay specifically for PS Vita and create a faithful, yet unique, version of the existing game.
Another challenge we faced was the five different types of notes featured in the game. The most basic notes were pretty simple. Standard notes (you tap once to activate), drag notes (you follow along with your finger), and chain notes (kind of like connect the dots) were all easy enough to fit intuitively on the touch screen for the Vita. Hold notes and repeat notes (both of which require you to tap in one stationary spot even when the timeline moves) needed to be reworked to keep the game portable. We couldn’t remove or change them too drastically because they really round out the game play, but there’s no comfortable way to carry the system and use two hands on the touch screen.
Enter PS Vita’s rear touch panel. Having a second surface to activate the notes with allowed us to include their mechanic in a new way, while staying true to the core functionality of each note. Now when activating a repeater note, you just tap the rear touch panel in time with the on-screen indicators. Likewise, with hold notes you just tap once and don’t break contact through the length of the note. Using the rear panel makes it comfortable to play the game on the go and still play expert level songs (arcade purists will be happy to know they can turn the rear panel off in the options menu)!
All in all, we’re sure existing fans of the DJMAX franchise will be pleased with the way the game turned out. The transition from a dedicated arcade cabinet to a handheld console doesn’t seem like the most natural one, but the end result with Tune is all about keeping true to the core game play while expanding on the idea to deliver an easy to grasp and fun to play concept using the PS Vita system. If you’re an existing fan of TECHNIKA, we hope we’ve shed some light on the transition to the new platform, but if you still have unanswered questions feel free to ask! You can find us on Twitter, and I’ll be hanging out here to field questions and chat it up.