This year during ACGHK 2019, I paid a visit to the HK indie game corner, featuring games of many genres. One particular booth was surprisingly crowded, and the game featured there was Rotaeno, a new concept rhythm game upcoming for smartphones.
Forgive my friend’s hasty first attempt at the game.
Developed on Unity, this particular rhythm game has players catching notes when it reaches the sides of the screen. While the style of gameplay is standard for the genre, the game utilizes gyro to a surprising extent, with the game staying centered no matter what angle you’re holding it at. In fact, on the contrary, you’re supposed to twist around the screen to reach notes, as well as clear certain notes that require you to be at a certain angle.
It’s a lot to take in at first, and I found that I unnecessarily put too much focus on turning the screen too much, missing notes and also losing track of upcoming notes. Fortunately, the game mitigates this to some extent as for regular notes, the only requirement needed to clear them is that they have to be on-screen on the circle for you to tap them, so you’re free to tap them on the edge of the screen while just turning a little. Finding this out helped me out majorly.
In fact, it felt like the motion controls helped me get into the game even more, being something of an extension of how I’d tap my finger on the back of the phone when I play rhythm games. Furthermore, I found that the twisting was quite responsive, and surprisingly fun for a concept, and I liked that it wasn’t just something for specific notes (like the directional L/R notes in Project Diva Future Tone), but bled into the main gameplay mechanic.
Here’s what gameplay at a high level looks like below (featuring an older build compared to the version shown at ACGHK):
After the demo, I was fortunate enough to have Chris Choi, one of the seven core developers behind Rotaeno at Dream Engine Games, answer some of my questions. According to Chris, the game has been in development for three years, originally titled Groove Wheel. As someone who’s only in the first year of university, it took these three years to develop his skills to turn the concept into a fleshed out game.
Originally, he wasn’t a big fan of rhythm games, until he played a particular rhythm game arcade title in Japan. This inspired him to make one independently that felt as good as the one he played, and adding in gyro movements is part of this. However, the game saw many different iterations to reach its current state, which he feels is both easy to understand and fun.
The songs featured in the demo were licensed from other creators, and this is set to be true to an extent in the full game too. However, Dream Engine Games is set to add in their own original songs as well. I also asked about what sort of business model this game will have, and Chris answered that while it’s not set in stone yet, the game will likely be free to download with a certain amount of songs available (“around 20”), as well as additional song packs.
As for whether we’ll be able to adjust the sensitivity of the gyro, he explained that it’s hard to implement such a feature as how much you rotate is directly linked to your field of view, and as such it would be very disorienting to the player. Finally, when I asked about how crazy the game could get, Chris teased that in the harder difficulties, notes will literally come from all directions. I’ll likely get plenty of opportunities to train my wrists when the game releases this year.
Rotaeno is expected to launch for Android and iOS in late 2019.