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Harmonix History Lesson: The Origins of Amplitude

Annette Gonzalez's Avatar + Posted by Annette Gonzalez on May 22, 2014 // Product Manager on Amplitude

FreQuency on PS2

It all began with a geometrical sketch on a white board.

Imagine if you had an octogonal tunnel covered in data. Musical data. Represented over time and space. The player controls a futuristic cyber ship floating through a three-dimensional wireframe. Notes representing particular sounds from a song are represented across multiple tracks in gems. Beatmatching along these tracks and blasting away the gems releases these sounds, allowing the player to weave in various elements of the song and make music.

This would eventually become what we now know as FreQuency, the 2001 rhythm-action title released on PlayStation 2.

FreQuency made strides in innovation with its addictive, fast-paced, and undoubtedly challenging beatmatching gameplay (both single and multiplayer). FreQuency was also one of the first games to support the PS2 Network Adapter.

Though a title loved by fans, FreQuency didn’t quite sell.

“When FreQuency shipped we thought it was going to be huge,” said Greg LoPiccolo, Chief Creative Officer at Harmonix. “There were a whole set of things we didn’t understand, as this was one of our first major commercial products. We thought we could introduce an innovative title and immediately be successful. We were humbled by reality.”

Amplitude on PS2

Despite lower-than-expected sales figures, Harmonix had the opportunity to work on FreQuency’s successor, Amplitude. This was the team’s chance to take lessons learned from the original title and make an even better game.

One thing the team wanted to address from the start was how to create a better multiplayer experience in a world of dial-up internet, latency, and the space limitations imposed by 4:3 aspect ratios.

“FreQuency had split-screen multiplayer to accommodate the octagonal shape,” said Eran Egozy, Harmonix co-founder and CTO. “We wanted players to feel like they were playing along these tracks together, at which point we decided to move away from the FreQuency tunnel.”

With the increased power of their internal engine, the development team also had the opportunity to improve visuals in Amplitude, to add features like a checkpoint system, and to bring in even more licensed music. To create a finely tuned gameplay experience driven by individual instruments, music labels and artists gave Harmonix access to musical “stems” for each track. In the world of video games, this was unprecedented.

Amplitude

This would eventually be known as “Amplitude”

“Stems are the most precious asset that a band has,” Egozy said. “It was awesome that they let us have access to them. Even with Guitar Hero, we’d mostly worked with re-records and sound-alikes, and it wasn’t until Rock Band that we really got back into working with original masters again.”

Amplitude launched in 2003 on the PlayStation 2 and was a critical darling. After launch, Harmonix moved on to other projects such as Karaoke Revolution, and revisited the PlayStation platform with our first foray into motion gaming – EyeToy: AntiGrav – before pioneering the rock simulation boom with Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

AmplitudeAmplitude

“I think the basic thing which we’ve been running with ever since FreQuency and Amplitude was to make you the musician,” said LoPiccolo.

“We wanted to give you some creative agency in FreQuency and Amplitude. Musical outcome was dependent on split-second decision-making, but always sounded good. The basic music game design was probably the most sophisticated thing we’ve ever done at Harmonix, and laid the foundation for many of our projects going forward.”

AmplitudeAmplitude

Even though the team moved on to new music gaming experiences, fans for years have asked – and in some cases outright demanded – that we develop a new Amplitude for current consoles. Harmonix is currently nearing the end of a Kickstarter campaign to do just that.

We want to create a reboot of Amplitude for PS4 and PS3, but we need your help. Please visit our Kickstarter campaign for additional details, and thank you for your support!

//Add Your Own

50 Comments

1

+ JimmyHACK on May 22nd, 2014 at 9:11 am said:

Beg Beg Beg!!!! We are almost there!


2

+ FifthDream on May 22nd, 2014 at 9:12 am said:

I backed it, then increased my pledge. I want it so much! Everyone go back it and make this happen! :D


3

+ Griever92 on May 22nd, 2014 at 9:21 am said:

I’ve upped my pledge twice now in the past day, the livestream Harmonix held on Twitch yesterday was such a nostalgia bomb I had to. It’ll be absolutely heartbreaking if this doesn’t get funded.


4

+ hdcase on May 22nd, 2014 at 9:32 am said:

I did my part. I upped my pledge from my initial $20 to $100, that’s how badly I want this game!


5

+ Expy on May 22nd, 2014 at 9:47 am said:

Backing this at $100.


6

+ InfinitiProject on May 22nd, 2014 at 9:50 am said:

At first I skimmed through the article, saw FreQuency 2, and almost freaked out. I had no idea FreQ 2 was almost a thing but became Amplitude until now. I’ve upped my backing to $200 this morning and have been spreading the word about Amplitude KS ever since the announcement. Finally, one of my all time favorite classics is getting an update for today’s tech and we are VERY close to the goal! Let’s push this FreQs! This has been one scary ride on KS but it’s happening!! Thank you very much Harmonix!!!


7

+ KazeEternal on May 22nd, 2014 at 9:55 am said:

60k to go at 28 hours left. Start throwing your wallets, they are very close.


8

+ Resetti on May 22nd, 2014 at 9:58 am said:

We can do this! I’m so excited because I have been waiting for a new Amplitude/FreQ for years! :) I can’t wait! :D I love you HARMONIX!! :)


9

+ Prostom on May 22nd, 2014 at 9:59 am said:

Against all ods (this was so far behind 5 days ago), I’m pretty sure this is going to make it!
But we can use all the help we can get. And maybe get a Vita version stretch goal!


10

+ andremal on May 22nd, 2014 at 10:08 am said:

Backed. Good luck with getting the rest of the way!


11

+ Tasteemobile on May 22nd, 2014 at 10:11 am said:

I had to double my pledge yesterday after they performed the Home Improvement theme song on the livestream.

It was the only proper thing to do.


12

+ EmperorSupreme on May 22nd, 2014 at 10:20 am said:

You got me :)
backed


13

+ Viewtiful_Gene on May 22nd, 2014 at 10:21 am said:

Why don’t you just port FreQuency and Amplitude to PSN in “HD” form?


14

+ BossmanCCrowder1 on May 22nd, 2014 at 10:25 am said:

Thanks for another blog post! My pledge is at $200, and i can’t go any higher. We’re getting there!


15

+ DrTran64 on May 22nd, 2014 at 11:12 am said:

i don’t have a job, and i’m absolutely broke right now, but i’m hoping to have a job soon. point is, if this game happens, i’m ABSOLUTELY buying it. hell, i might even buy it twice, just because, lol


16

+ Genexi2 on May 22nd, 2014 at 11:13 am said:

I lost track of the number of hours I spent doing online remixes with random folks. Still have 2megs worth of them sitting on my PS2 memory card.

Probably one of my favourite features of Amplitude was how seamless the entire presentation of the game was. There were no flat static screens of anything of the sort. Every element of the interface just flowed from one 3d scene to another, to the loading tunnel, to the actual gameplay.


17

+ ExHaseo on May 22nd, 2014 at 11:25 am said:

I am going to be so disappointed in gamers if this gets funded. Granted, I’ll always be able to blame them when the inevitable Kickstarters for games like Call of Duty and Assassins Creed start popping up. Why wouldn’t they? They would know that people are dumb enough to fund a company that doesn’t need funding, and they would get to make games for free and then sell them for 100% profit.


18

+ Dethfuse on May 22nd, 2014 at 11:37 am said:

Hoping this actually gets funded. I loved Amplitude on PS2. I was lucky enough to get the early bird special.


19

+ NO_FEAR on May 22nd, 2014 at 11:56 am said:

You’re not just supporting a game, your providing support into music games for the future! Let Harmonix know you are interested! You also will get to play a really cool game in the process :)

Go back this on Kickstarter! For those that already have, YOU ARE AWESOME!

Thank you to the staff at Playstation for supporting my friends at Harmonix!


20

+ RE4LNOiZE_42 on May 22nd, 2014 at 12:14 pm said:

I feel that limiting themselves just to Sony platforms is not helping them getting to that goal. I’m sure they would’ve got their funding, and a lot more, if they were open to create such a game with multiple platforms in mind. I know Sony owns the rights to Amplitude ans FreQuency, but they could’ve created a “spiritual successor” with another name. I know plenty of gamers on other platforms that would’ve help fund the game, but learning it would not come to their platform of choice, they chose not to.

I would love a PS Vita version myself though. But I understand, a PS Vita version would be a stretch goal, which means that with 25 hours to go, there’s no way this is going to happen. To me, I’m more interested in a Vita version than a PS3 or PS4 version, as most of my gaming is done on the go. If I fund this right now, I’m still not getting a PS Vita version made.

I understand their reasons to go to kickstarter though. It’s just sad that Sony isn’t willing to fund the development of this instead.


21

+ Dionysus-Jones on May 22nd, 2014 at 12:52 pm said:

@20: Rock Band Blitz was the “spiritual successor” of Amplitude.

But hopefully Amplitude HD will have an online competitive multiplayer component. The absence of real-time multiplayer in Rock Band Blitz was a bit of a letdown, and ultimately it kept the game from having any sort of longevity. Regardless, I’ve backed this project with high hopes.


22

+ Viewtiful_Gene on May 22nd, 2014 at 12:53 pm said:

@ExHaseo
Gamers themselves killed the industry, and they never EVER will realize that.
All we can do is try to enjoy the remains of the good and dying part of the videogame industry before it’s too late.


23

+ RE4LNOiZE_42 on May 22nd, 2014 at 12:56 pm said:

One thing I thought they could probably do, is submit Rock Band Unplugged Lite (PSP) to be available to buy for PS Vita. It’s currently only available for PSP in the store. I miss that game SO MUCH! It was more like Amplitude, only with a Rock Band theme.

Even better, make the complete Rock Band Unplugged game (with all the tracks that were on the PSP disc version) available for the Vita. Even at 40$, I would buy this in an instant. Then they could use those profits to fund Amplitude.


24

+ N_8_ on May 22nd, 2014 at 1:14 pm said:

@RE4LNOiZE_42,

MTV Games and EA publish Rock Band. If I understand correctly, the harmonix team would get paid for their work on the game only with maybe a possibility of bonuses, where the excess profits go to the publishers and wouldn’t be able to be used to make amplitude.

I might be wrong though, and I’m sure that there’s NDAs in place where it can’t be talked about.


25

+ Doctor_Hank_Pym on May 22nd, 2014 at 1:31 pm said:

Funded!!! And still own the originals too :) It’d be great if the new version could somehow handle 4-player splitscreen!


26

+ ZGoldenLion on May 22nd, 2014 at 1:40 pm said:

Oh man this game is so much fun! Been backing from the start but only last few days made it look like it will get funded. To everyone that supports this kickstarter I can’t thank you enough. Let’s get this done guys!!!


27

+ RE4LNOiZE_42 on May 22nd, 2014 at 1:41 pm said:

@ 24,

Yeah, I forgot about that MTV Games / EA thing…

It’s just sad though, that some great games are falling into semi-oblivion because of consoles obsolescence… I also still don’t understand why many PSP games (and PS1 games) aren’t still available on the Vita. Well, I DO understand all the licensing stuff that probably prevents this, but I can’t understand why it’s not so simple to sort out. Unless Sony is asking lots of money to “recertify” games. Then I could understand developpers/publishers thinking it’s not worth it.

Anyway, I really hope Amplitude could come to the PS Vita. The platform really needs an “on-rail” music game.


28

+ Meteorgun7 on May 22nd, 2014 at 1:45 pm said:

Backed, this WILL get funded!!!


29

+ ErsatzJobl on May 22nd, 2014 at 1:56 pm said:

I backed today. ALMOST THERE.


30

+ randmi08 on May 22nd, 2014 at 2:53 pm said:

Glad you posted this history lesson, as I almost forgot to back this title! Made my pledge just now. GOOD LUCK!!


31

+ headronefish on May 22nd, 2014 at 3:17 pm said:

I wish Harmonix all the best in this, but I can’t understand the pricing on some of these rewards.

Why does the record cost an additional $75? A single record? Sorry, but pressing vinyl is nowhere near that expensive.


32

+ SpooNManX on May 22nd, 2014 at 3:49 pm said:

CONGRATS!
It looks like they are going to reach goal with less than $6,000 needed in the next 22 hours.


33

+ FifthDream on May 22nd, 2014 at 4:28 pm said:

It’s funded! Congrats! Can’t wait to play it. :D


34

+ andremal on May 22nd, 2014 at 4:53 pm said:

Funded!


35

+ Boyanime010 on May 22nd, 2014 at 5:23 pm said:

I pledge over $200 happy for lots of gamers :^)


36

+ Warped on May 22nd, 2014 at 7:01 pm said:

Woo its going to happen I cant Wait!! Congrats everyone.


37

+ tusunami on May 22nd, 2014 at 7:15 pm said:

Never heard of this game and never played this kind of ame but it sounds like it could be quite enjoyable. I hope they reach there goal.


38

+ BossmanCCrowder1 on May 22nd, 2014 at 7:35 pm said:

So happy it got funded! Doubt we will reach the stretch goals though.


39

+ SpooNManX on May 22nd, 2014 at 10:22 pm said:

I’d like to see this reach the stretch goal for online multiplayer, but it’s looking highly unlikely.
Without online it won’t even be as full featured as the PS2 version.


40

+ Skeetlejuice on May 22nd, 2014 at 10:30 pm said:

Pledge $10 or more

THANKS – A hearty thank you from Harmonix and your name as a backer in the game credits!

After all the begging it appears they limped in to make a game. You better hope they manage their money well and don’t deliver a sub standard product, because if you were “lucky” to pay $20 or more that is all you will get.

if you paid $100 or more you should think a bit why you did that.

Frankly while this could be a good game in the end, i really question what backing / back end deal they have with sony on this. It just stinks when they admit outright that $35 will have the dlc, so basically this is a $35 or more game?

Now that harmonix has limped to their goal, barely with no shortage of crass begging, enjoy the new trend going forward.

just remember no refunds.


41

+ Skeetlejuice on May 22nd, 2014 at 10:39 pm said:

I don’t pay for take out/away up front and then get whatever they decide to give me a year later. This is kind of what you guys are doing with this.

Even with artist and craftsmen on consignment, if you don’t agree that they delivered to your requirements and their promises / quality level you can refuse to pay, or demand refund.

No such luck with this new kickstarter trend.

Just the new begining of how we get soaked. Not unlike horse armor dlc. After horse armour it’s preorder / dlc / season pass / on disc dlc / fragmented preorder bonuses / online pass / microtransactions / freemium on top of full price. We did that. I don’t mean to be singling Harmonix out, as I like many of their games, just where this trend is leading. It’s not going to be fun for some of us, as it’s already erroding the enjoyment of a very expensive hobby as is.

for those that spent crazy money to get this made for the sake of … Nostalgia, the home improvement song is proof of that if nothing else you are to blame.


42

+ VictorManX on May 22nd, 2014 at 10:43 pm said:

Any news for this game to be on the Vita?


43

+ GreatnessWar_96 on May 22nd, 2014 at 10:51 pm said:

G.A.96


44

+ RE4LNOiZE_42 on May 23rd, 2014 at 6:17 am said:

@ VictorManX,

As far as I can tell, it won’t. It was stated that a Vita port was a strech goal, the first being the inclusion of online multiplayer for $1,125,000 and as of now, there’s only 7 hours left and they’re at $814,000, so they won’t get to their first stretch goal. So it’s pretty safe to assume that a Vita version won’t happen.

It’s sad because that means I would probably never play that game. The Vita was the only platform I was interested in as most of my gaming happens while on the bus ride to/from home. My PS3 only gets some uptime because my kids are playing Disney Infinity on it, and have no plan to buy a PS4 yet.

I’m sure the game will be fun though. If it was to be on Vita as well as PS3/PS4, I would have backed this up, no question.


45

+ klassymike on May 23rd, 2014 at 7:13 am said:

Glad the game reached it’s goal!! Hope this rejuvenates the Rock Band series as well!


46

+ SpooNManX on May 23rd, 2014 at 12:17 pm said:

I heard they are going to take all of this money and use it to create an all Justin Beiber version of their Dance Central game. ;)

I really hope they consider adding the co-op online play to this even though it didn’t hit the stretch goal. It really needs to make up for the poor online gameplay of Rock Band Blitz… Please Harmonix!….leave FACEBOOK out of it this time! We have a PSN friends list for a reason!

Rock Band 4 would be nice, but they have been letting all of their good band licensing expire so it’s doubtful. I’d also not want to have to ‘re-purchase my Rock Band music all over again.


47

+ afroless on May 23rd, 2014 at 9:17 pm said:

I literally destroyed a couple of controllers R1,R2 and L1 with amplitude. I went through a couple controllers then the PS2 was sold and I purchased PS3. When I booted up aomplitude again I found it unplayable. R2 had no response being analogue instead of merely a button so the intense tracks I had developed I had no chance of clearing anymore as using the face buttons were much too slow for advanced play. Introducing an extra peripheral as you did with rockband/guitar hero will dissuade people. I’m curious if at least this discussion has arisen


48

+ SpooNManX on May 24th, 2014 at 12:32 am said:

So no stretch goals reached. I hope they can consider adding online co-op to it anyway.


49

+ Elvick_ on May 24th, 2014 at 1:16 am said:

I had backed it, but I had to remove it because of money. ):

I’m glad it made the goal though and am looking forward to it.


50

+ jSETH on May 24th, 2014 at 11:25 am said:

I’m so glad that the soundtrack of the game will be 100% electronic, not filled with awful pop-rock songs!
Papa Roach? Really? (Don’t tell me it was cool back in 2003, cause it wasn’t)


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