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Road To The IGF: Fret Nice Takes Guitar Hero Controller Platforming

Continuing Gamasutra’s ‘Road to the IGF’ feature, which profiles and interviews Independent Games Festival 2008 entrants, we talk to Bits & Pieces Interactive's Mårten Brüggemann, developer of Fret Nice, about his musical platformer designed for a
Continuing Gamasutra’s ‘Road to the IGF’ feature, which profiles and interviews Independent Games Festival 2008 entrants, today’s interview is with Bits & Pieces Interactive's Mårten Brüggemann. Brüggemann and his Swedish-based colleagues have created Fret Nice, a platformer to be played with a guitar controller, and designed to make the player feel as if they are controlling the main character in time with the rock soundtrack. The game's official description also notes: "With the "Riff Combo system", the player is able to play along to the game's rich soundtrack while avoiding obstacles and defeating menacing enemies." Multiple game levels each have a specific rock song to play along with, and we asked Brüggemann about the genesis of this rockin' project. Fret Nice began as a University project, correct? How was your work received? Yes, Fret Nice was my degree thesis, and as that, it was pretty well received. However, if I had to choose, I wouldn't want to create another game in an academic context - as I thought that sort of background research-heavy work procedure often draws one's attention from the actual game designing. Where did you draw inspiration from in its design and implementation? I would be foolish not to mention Donkey Kong Jungle Beat as an inspiration for the "platformer controlled with a musical instrument" part of the game. When it comes to specific platform elements of the game, I think 20 years of 2D love makes it hard to make out specific sources of inspiration. Overall, the game design is focused around the guitar controller, and most of the game mechanics are incorporated to make the most out of the differences in using a guitar to control this kind of game, as opposed to an ordinary joypad. So I guess you could say that the guitar controller itself had a big influence on the game design. What made you choose Multimedia Fusion 2, and what sort of other development tools have you been using on the project? I've been working with Multimedia Fusion and its predecessors for a long time, and thought it would be sufficiently powerful for what I wanted to do with Fret Nice, plus I'm not that good at programming. For music, I used a tracker called Modplug Tracker, and the graphics were made by Emil Berner in GraphicsGale, mostly. Aside from utilizing a guitar controller, what do you think the most interesting element of your game is? The Riff Combo system used to defeat the enemies of the game and play along to the game's soundtrack is something I'm especially fond of, and I think brings an unique feel to both playing the game and its audiovisual appearance. How long has development taken so far, and what has the process been like? The first version of the game, the one submitted to IGF, took about 6 months of sporadic work to finish. About half of that time went to creating the base of the game and designing the core game mechanics. During the other half, me and Emil worked together, me doing the level design and programming the game elements specific to each level, and him making the graphics. If you had to rewind to the start of the project, is there anything that you'd do differently? There are some parts of the design that could be more balanced, and will be so, in the next version of the game. What are your thoughts on the state of independent game development - which recent indie titles impress you, and why? I think the independent game development scene is as good as it ever was, with potential classics released every week or so on the internet, and with channels of distribution like XBLA, PSN, WiiWare, Steam, and others opening up for indie work, the future looks quite bright. I really liked [IGF Student Showcase winner] And Yet It Moves, for the weird gameplay and the rich ambience created with simple cut-outs and unexpected sound effects. You have 30 seconds left to live and you must tell the game business something very important. What is it? You get no girls by making games!

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