Beat Hazard: One Man's Quest To Make Your Music Hurt You

This weekend while poking about Steam I stumbled over Beat Hazard, the game that turns your music into colorful, frantic shooter levels, and I fell in love. Watch me play, and then read about the one-man studio behind the game.

As someone who often worries about the lack of exposure Xbox Live Indie Games get to the public, I feel like a complete idiot not discovering Beat Hazard until this weekend. Not only has the game been available on the Xbox 360 since last September, it's rated the third most popular title on the service, and is also in the top 6 of this year Dream Build Play Competition.

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I learned all of this by poking the folks at Cold Beam Games, after spending the better part of my weekend blasting my way through my music collection on the Steam version of the game, which is a bit more expensive than the 400 Microsoft point XBLA version, but also features leader boards and Steam achievements, among other improvements.

My first question for Cold Beam Games? How big is your team?

"Just me," explains Steve Hunt, the sole member of Cold Beam. "Not too shabby eh?"

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Not too shabby indeed. Beat Hazard is a game Steve's wanted to create for four years. "I've only just had the chance to do it. Wasn't sure at the start if it would work though. But it came together well in the end."

Very well, if my weekend's worth of playtime is any indication.

So how does it work? Just ignore my clumsy explanation in the video, and get the skinny from the creator himself.

"Each element of the game is tired to a number of frequencies in the song. As these frequencies change they cause each element to build up pressure, so to speak," Steve says. "Each pressure element works either in the short, medium, or long term. The pressure level is then used to trigger different parts of the game.

"So for example, short term elements, like you weapons, fire in time with the music. Bad guys, flight patterns and number of enemies work on medium term triggers. So they take a bit long to build up steam. Bosses use long term triggers."

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This all adds up to an exquisite ballet of death, set to the tune of your favorite music, and since the process always works the same, you face the same level every time you play a certain song, allowing players to keep trying until they've mastered a particular track.

While highly entertaining and more than a little bit addictive, the Beat Hazard is still relatively simple. Your enemies don't vary much, and boss fights generally devolve to spinning circles around the large enemies, avoiding their attacks.

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Luckily Steve isn't one to rest on his relative success, taking user input into account while pondering the next direction Beat Hazard will take.

"There's already a bag load of ideas on the forums. I'm not sure what I'm going to add yet, but I definitely want the game in evolve in some way."

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DISCUSSION

I am already coming up with ideas for a musically based game. Instead of having the sound effect overlay the music and have the weapons shoot to the beat of the music why not have the sound effects of everything that is going on replace the music and be the music. So let's say you are playing a song called Toxicity by system of a down -a personal favorite- have the wave of enemies match the tempo of the song. Faster songs means faster spawning enemies. Faster beats means faster moving enemies and faster rate of notes playing means faster rate of shooting the enemies do. Now for the sole reason of this game; the sound. Why not have the 'pew pews' of the weapons resemble the music itself like the guitar and the variety of explosions be like the drums parts of the song? Or have an event happen every time a particular note is played. For example, the second a C# is played have an item pop up. Just so the game doesn't pop up an item for every C# played if there are a lot of C#'s then have the game analyze the notes of the song first and distribute the items and health power ups according to the probability of the notes. So if there are a lot of D's in the song then have the game distribute weaker items and very strong ones for every rare note that is played.

Now these are just my ideas. I hope they are plausible. I've been reading about C++ and the creator of the language says anything is virtually possible with it so I put my trust in his words haha.

My main issue about this particular game is that you have your wonderful music playing and you are playing in accordance. Don't you want to enjoy listening to your music as well as enjoy playing the game? Isn't that why you have the bloody music in the game in the first place?

What I am getting at is that it would be nice to listen to your tunes you are playing to if the bloody explosions and laser shots don't interrupt it all the time!