GDC 2012: Create music, broadcast it online, become (Internet) famous with the PS Move-centric title, 4am

If you wander through the stores, looking at the newest releases, it is hard not to feel a slight twinge of déjà vu. The big developers and publishers put out games that they think will have the best chance of attracting the mainstream and selling the most possible copies. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does make it tougher for developers to experiment with quirky titles that try new things.

Thanks to the growing market for digitally distributed games, the opportunity to try new things is greater than ever. Sometimes those ideas produce duds (see thousands of forgotten examples), other times it creates masterpieces (see Thatgamecompany’s Journey). But good or not, each new and creative title pushes gaming further and further into new and uncharted directions that can only help the industry in the long run.

One such title is PixelJunk’s upcoming music-based game, 4am which will soon be released on PSN. Actually, calling it a game isn’t exactly accurate. It is presented as a game, of sorts, but it is more akin to a music manipulator.

The title uses the Move to create sounds that turn into a coherent track, which can then be broadcast online to listeners, who then vote on whether they like it or not. The better received a track is, the more kudos the creator receives, and the more fans they will gain. The best performers will then even be able to announce when they are going to play via Twitter and/or Facebook.

The game (for lack of a better word), begins with a single beat. Using the Move, you can then add in new rhythms with the touch of a button. Swiping the Move then adds the sound as a continuous beat, and moving the controller back and forth tweaks and adjusts the sounds. You can then bring in and isolate tracks and beats while an equalizer-like display onscreen reacts to your movements and the sounds you create.

In principle it sounds simple and even limiting, but in practice, it is not a simple things to pick up. It is easy enough to create a few beats, but to manipulate the track at the right time, and in the best way to add to the sound is a different matter, and one that will take people a while to master.

4am is not a game, that is just the easiest way to understand it. It isn’t deep enough to be a full music generator either. It falls somewhere in between. The real fun is going to come when the people that just “get it” begin to jump on line and show off what they can do. Once that happens, gaming will have created something new. And for that alone, 4am is a “game” that needs to be on your radar when it is released later this Spring.

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