People at IndieCade East had the opportunity to play Crypt of the NecroDancer both on a keyboard and a dance pad.
Lights flashed and bass pulsed from the speakers at IndieCade East's Night Games as developer Ryan Clark of Brace Yourself Games showed off his upcoming game Crypt of the NecroDancer. Two players at a time each used a custom dance pad with the goal of exploring a dungeon with music setting the pace, taking down a fire-spitting dragon beat by beat.
Crypt of the NecroDancer isn't a simple mash-up of two genres - roguelike and rhythm - but it uses elements from both. Clark's original intent for the game was to tackle "fairness" in roguelikes.
"Often times when you die in a roguelike (like Rogue or Nethack) it feels like it wasn't your fault," Clark said. "You blame the game rather than blaming your lack of knowledge or skill. But some other roguelike-likes (such as Spelunky) have shown me that it's possible to design a procedurally generated game and still have it feel very fair. I think that these games are significantly more fun to play as a result!"
Clark began by creating a dungeon crawler with short turn lengths. Moving quickly made him feel like he was moving to a beat. To test it out, he played the game to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and was pleased with the result. Because of this, Crypt of the NecroDancer is also different from music games like Dance Dance Revolution. Many rhythm games have the player match beat accuracy, and while early prototypes of NecroDancer used the same rigidity, the requirements have since been relaxed to allow players to move once per beat interval. Clark found that players would often panic in tense situations and lose rhythm, so the change granted a more enjoyable experience.
While NecroDancer was shown off with dance pads Saturday evening of IndieCade East, earlier in the day attendees could play the game with a keyboard. To avoid complicating the control scheme, players use only the four arrow keys to control the protagonist as she moves, attacks, and uses magic.
Playing the game with a dance pad has an entirely different feel to it. Clark prefers playing it on a keyboard, but he saw many experienced DDR fans at PAX Prime who dominated NecroDancer.
"On a dance pad I find that I'm struggling to get my legs to do what I want," Clark said. "I know what I want to do, but legs are bigger than fingers, so it takes longer to get them to go where you want them. Reaction times are therefore poorer, and split second decisions are harder to pull off."
Some songs in the game have a high BPM and require fast movements to keep rhythm. NecroDancer's music, composed by Danny Baranowsky, is catchy and well-suited for dancing, but the game's beat detection algorithm also allows players to use their own MP3 files in the game.
Crypt of the NecroDancer has no planned release date yet, but Clark said he's aiming for a late spring or summer release. Players who want to use a dance pad with the game can use their own or buy custom NecroDancer-themed dance pads made by Precision Dance Pads in an upcoming Kickstarter campaign.