Interview with Jung Suh, Red Rocket Games

By Erin Bell |

Today, Red Rocket Games announced that the studio’s first title (not counting Zenerchi, which was a joint project with PlayFirst), will be a music platformer called Mevo & the Grooveriders. We had to know more about this funky-sounding game so we caught up with Red Rocket Games Co-Founder and CEO Jung Suh. Why music and not match-three? Why keyboard and not mouse? And what exactly is a Grooverider (or a Mevo, for that metter)? Read on to find out.

Can you fill in a bit of the back-story for us? Who is Mevo, and what are the Grooveriders?  

The story to Mevo and the Grooveriders goes back in time.

In the Beginning, there was only SILENCE. The SILENCE was deafening, and nothing else could exist within it… or so it thought. One day, out of the SILENCE came a SOUND – a SOUND so pure, so vibrantly joyous that it was called MUSIC. The MUSIC was good, and the MUSIC knew that it was good, so it began to Evolve, harmonizing with itself to create melodies and rhythms.  These melodies and rhythms began to take shape, and soon evolved into physical creatures called EVOS.  

Among the EVOS was born an EVO of musical perfection – MEVO (MUSIC EVOLVED).  MEVO, along with his band (the GROOVERIDERS), would save the Universe by defeating the SILENCE and bringing FUNK back.  The GROOVERIDERS are respectively: Gevo the guitarist, Vevo the lead vocalist and Larry the drummer (he’s adopted).  

Every millennium, all EVOS gather for a celebration. But SILENCE with his scheming ways, invades the gathering and disperses MEVO and the GROOVERIDERS to ends of the universe.  

MEVO must rescue his mates; restore music and battle SILENCE to bring back the FUNK.

Part of Red Rocket Games’ mission statement is to "bring back the nostalgia of video games." How will Mevo and the Grooveriders accomplish this?  

We grew up in the time period when Atari, Intellivsion and stand-up coin arcade machines, like Asteroids, Donkey Kong and Pac Man, were popular. — I guess that makes us old 🙂

These games really were amazingly fun, with simple core mechanics – not necessarily relying on millions of polygons.  Controls were simple to learn and you could really play for a few minutes or hours.

Mevo & the Grooveriders, Level 5a

We wanted to bring that simple joy back, in particular the platformer genre, like the Mario franchise, but with music as a backbone to the gameplay.

The game has a really simple 2-key tapping system that you can play on any PC.  You can choose to play a single song for a few minutes or really dig deeper and go for hidden items, special level and other goodies. Simple and accessible entertainment – that is what we are shooting for.

Another of your philosophies is to merge Asian online gaming innovations, like microtransactions and avatars, with U.S. game design methodologies. Again, how will we see examples of this in Mevo and the Grooveriders?  

In Asia, the primary game platform is the PC with a free-to-play business model wrapped around item purchase and customization.  Although we’ve started to see bits of this in more hard-core games in the states, very little has filtered down to the casual segment.

By incorporating some of these concepts, we can extend the game play and add value to our casual game.  You will be able to customize your MEVO character with avatars earned or purchased within the game, as well as with ones that will become available online. Some of the dance packs will also be available thru in-game activity and online – all based on micro-transactions.

Eventually, we’ll be delivering new game levels and songs thru micro-transactions. In the future, you’ll also be able to customize parts of the game using music you own.

Although we are adapting some of the business models from Asia, we are definitely using game prototyping methods learned and practiced in the states.  Internally we use emotional compulsion diagrams to create game loops, and agile methodology for production overall.  These are all techniques learned by our manager while working at larger U.S. studios.

Why a music game? Weren’t you tempted to put out another hidden object game or match-three? 😉

Well although we were tempted to develop the next hidden objects/time management/chain popper game genre  – we decided that was crazy talk.  

All kidding aside, early on we realized that music as a genre had huge potential, but being limited to expensive platforms and the additional hardware had its drawbacks.  We wanted to bring a music genre game with a simple yet fun mechanic that was fun to play to the PC and to the casual downloadable market.

Lastly, this game is certainly more in line with the spirit of our company — ex core gamers looking to have a few minutes of fun with the style of games we grew up with, but with the added gameplay from games of today.

What sort of game updates can players expect? How will you ensure that the updates reach players who have downloaded the game from various third-party portals?

We’re heading into slightly new territory for casual games.  Most core PC games have the ability to patch and update, but currently the casual market has few games that take advantage of this PC aspect.

Mevo & the Grooveriders, Level 6a

We will be taking advantage of patches and updates by offering additional avatars, levels, music, and if necessary, patches to the game client.  Some updates will even be added bonuses.  Wouldn’t it be cool if you had a top 10 score, and suddenly you were awarded an additional level for that top 10 score?

We will be working with our distribution partners to figure out the appropriate path for patching and updates.

The majority of casual PC games use only the mouse, but Mevo and the Grooveriders uses the keyboard. How did you end up deciding that the keyboard would be more appropriate for this game?

We actually spent a lot of time upfront prototyping with both the single-click and double-click mouse system, but it ultimately just didn’t feel right.  The finger tapping part of the mechanic is really intuitive, and mentally connects with the feeling of tapping your fingers along with a good song.  

We chose the spacebar and enter key because they are the largest keys on the keyboard.  Once you try it, you’ll get.  Really tapping on the keyboard is the way to go for any music/rhythm game on the PC.  Just don’t break the keyboard 🙂

Red Rocket Games is based in Shanghai; How have aspects of Asian culture and/or Asian game design principles influenced the development of Mevo and the Grooveriders?

One area that had some deeper influence was in the art style. You’ll notice that it has some influence in anime and very much has a feeling of Loco Roco, Katamari Damacy, etc.…  The worlds are very colorful and fantastic.

In terms of design, we really focused our efforts in maintaining a Western point of view. In Asia, often the player will play music games incredibly fast.  It’s all about how many notes/beats you can tap out with out missing a beat. In the West, I think players will appreciate the even gameplay and attention to the rhythm and groove of the game rather than the notion of speed and numbers.  

Anything else to add that we haven’t touched on?

Well we are really excited about releasing this game, and hope your readers will give it a try – even though its not a match 3 meets hidden time management.  I think they’ll really love it.  

Thanks very much for giving us an opportunity to talk about the game.

Mevo & the Grooveriders will be launching in March. Read our preview here.

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