In the casual game market, there is a lot riding on a game’s replay value. Sure, a game could have only one level and be successful, but it has to be something that players can tune in to over and over.
That’s why when Isaac Shepard designed Music Catch, he knew that it had to be, well, catchy.
“I enjoy creating music for games and programming games when I have some extra time,” he said. “Mostly, I just thought it would be fun to create a simple music-based game.”
It turns out that Shepard was right. Within ten days, the Web version of the game had seen over a million plays and was the subject of Internet-wide praise. The game climbed to the top ten list on Kongregate and was even the top-rated Web game on Flash games mega-site Newgrounds for a while.
That’s when Shepard got the idea of turning the Web game – which featured only one “level,” a stage played to a piano tune that Shepard composed – into a full-fledged downloadable game, and set about trying to decide on how he could expand Music Catch.
Onwards and upwards
“The first pass of the download version of Music Catch had 10 songs (the original piano song as well as nine other songs from other Reflexive games), the ability to load in any MP3 on the player’s computer, and a high scores list.”
The web version of the game only had the one level, no high scores list and no option to play the game to your own MP3s. Shepard had originally worked incorporating the latter feature into the Web version, but size and security issues prevented him from implementing it. With an expanded, downloadable version of Music Catch, however, he knew that he could add the MP3 feature and more.
“There was no unlocking of songs, no medals, no custom shapes per song, and no profiles in the web version. After getting a bunch of feedback from co-workers and beta testers, I added those features and increased the number of included songs to 12,” Shepard said.
Reflexive’s Greatest Hits
“Zach Young, a co-worker, then created a bunch of cool shapes for each song. Zach is also the musician on many of the Reflexive songs included in Music Catch.”
Those songs are taken from other games that Young had worked on, but two of the songs in the full version of Music Catch are Shepard’s, who has been a musician for more than 15 years. The first song, "Before Dawn," and the fourth song, "Unattainable Desire," are both from his piano album Swept Away.
Other tracks are taken from Reflexive games such as Airport Mania, The Great Tree and Ricochet.
A road less travelled
Although Music Catch has seen incredible popularity in both its Web-based and downloadable form, Shepard calls the game “unusual” based on its simple, relaxed style of play and its click-free interface. Despite that, he admits that these are probably contributing factors to the game’s success.
“Besides being based on any music that the user loads in, it is extremely simple (no clicking necessary), very relaxing (for most people), very rewarding (millions and millions of points), and highly encouraging,” Shepard says.
The premise is fairly basic, with a line orbiting the edges of the screen and symbols that spring towards the centre – the blue, green and yellow ones which players try to collect by scrolling over, and the red which will take away players’ bonuses. Even the colors of the shapes and the graphics with which they are drawn aren’t terribly complicated, but they do the trick and complement the game nicely.
With a game that is based on the collection of items, which are generated according to the frequency, volume and energy behind every note of a song, the ability to load up any one of your favourite MP3s and start playing a brand new side of Music Catch is an invaluable feature as well.
With an already limitless supply of new stages and variations – as well as trophies to collect and scores to beat – it might make some players curious as to how the game could be expanded further.
“Other features that were tossed around but didn’t make it into this version include more power-ups and different modes of play,” Shepard said.
Different modes of play, you ask?
“Those are both very strong candidates for a future version.”