No image could describe my feelings about this more perfectly.

A while back I had the idea of starting a series on TAY where I would pitch some game concepts that have been stagnating in my brain. I was going to call it “The Bullpen,” because of all the pitches. Get it? Like in baseball? Anyway I had what was to be the first installment all written up, but for whatever reason I never got around to posting it. Good thing I didn’t, because my very first pitch was for a game that had already been made… several times over. The idea was for a beat-em-up game with rhythm-based elements. After a very small amount of research, I found that many variations of this idea have already been released. Hell, itch.io has a page titled “Rhythm Games Tagged Beat ‘em Up.” So my article was obsolete before it was even conceived. Still, it seems like a waste to never share it with anyone, and I’m having trouble summoning the motivation to get any real writing done today. I therefore present to you: The Bullpen: Rhythm “Beat” ‘em Up.

[Welcome to the first article in what I hope to turn into an ongoing series: The Bullpen! So named because I will be pitching game ideas, some of which I’ve been sitting on for years. If you still don’t understand, “the bullpen” is a term in baseball for where the pitcher warms up his arm. Get it? Pitches? Anyway, my goal here is simply to casually lay out some of the concepts for games I’ve come up with and hopefully spark some creative discussion in the process. If you’ve had a similar idea, think that the concept is too close to an existing game, or think that you can improve on my pitch, please let me know! Let’s get right into it, I’ll be leading this prospective series off with a concept I came up with five or six years ago: a rhythm-based 3D brawler.

I’ve really only got the core concept thought out for this one, so a lot of this is going to be improvisational. The idea is a God of War style (or, uh, old-school God of War style now I guess) 3D brawler with elements of a rhythm game. There would be a simple combo system tied to the beat of the music. Mashing attack buttons wouldn’t get you far, you’d have to use the right attacks in the right order as the music dictates. You wouldn’t be locked into following the rhythm, but you would do essentially no damage if you ignore it. Other than that it would be a completely normal brawler, you would have full control over your character’s movements. This way the rhythm elements would feel more organic, since you would choose how to play around them and use them to your advantage.

The combo system would have to be more complicated than just attacking to the beat, however. Otherwise it isn’t more than a simple, annoying gimmick. So in addition to attacking with rhythm, specific types of attacks on different beats would gain an extra power bonus. On top of that, different enemies could be weak to certain attacks, forcing you to consider which enemies to target based on which attacks the music is calling out. Elite enemies and bosses could change weaknesses mid-fight, signaled by a visual cue like a color change or something similar. Success and failure would be determined by how well you plan out your combos based on the patterns in the music.

The visual presentation for such a game would be critical, especially in how the attack cues are symbolized. A Parappa the Rappa or Guitar Hero style scrolling music sheet would be obnoxious to follow at the same time as the action, so the call outs would have to be simpler and more global. Perhaps the color of the environment or the main character’s outfit could correlate with different kinds of attacks. I think color would be the best indicator since it’s so immediately distinguishable, but something subtler like a change in the main characters fighting stance could also work. That would be the functional aspect to the visuals. On an artistic level an electronic/cyberpunk aesthetic seems most appropriate, but just about any setting could work so long as it matches the music. In fact, varying the setting throughout the game would allow for a broader range of musical styles, adding variety to the core gameplay as well as the presentation.

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Since this idea is inherently goofy with regards to worldbuilding and the suspension of disbelief, the story would have to be fairly light in tone. I do think the musical combat system should be explained in universe, but it should be done so in a way that is as self-aware as possible. The plot could be something as simple as an evil corporation trying to destroy all of the music in the world, or perhaps a fleet of alien invaders with a weakness to grooving out. Anything with an excuse to fight with The Beat would work fine. The focus of this game would lean heavily on the gameplay and aesthetics.

Let’s see, that covers the basic premise, gameplay, visuals, and story. So there you go. A quick warmup pitch for the series before I get into some of my more complicated ideas. I just kind of built the bones of this one, so any additional ideas or feedback would be great!]

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Yeah maybe hold off on that feedback. This is the Sir Hippo of the present at the helm now, by the way. It’s almost sad going back to read this thing, knowing how perfectly it describes games like Terrorhythm. They aren’t well-known, but it wasn’t hard to find them. It does say something interesting about the idea though. Obviously I wasn’t the only person to find the combination of genres appealing, so perhaps if I didn’t sit on the idea for so long something could have been made of it. That was really the original intent behind The Bullpen: to get these ideas out there to intrigue and inspire people.

So maybe it’s worth giving the series another shot. I have plenty of other game ideas, I’ll just need to be sure to look into them a little more closely before I write an entire article. It’s certainly a possibility, and what better time to exercise new ideas than during this creatively exhausting writing challenge? Who knows, you might be reading some proper articles from The Bullpen in the near future.