I just checked out Audition, a dance-based MMO. I’m not sure which Asian country it comes from (I didn’t look too close), but it is, of course, heavily anime-styled. It also brings some clever stuff to the table.
As with many of the Asian games, there’s a nominally massively multiplayer lobby, which you enter minimally multiplayer games from. You play the game in order to earn virtual cash, plus you buy a different sort of virtual cash. You can then buy further accessories for your character (clothes, character customization, etc) and new stuff to play (in this case, songs) with that money.
What was cool about this particular game was that they found a way to make the DDR-style hitting of arrows work in a high-latency environment. Instead of having to hit every arrow exactly on the beat, you instead have to input strings of arrows, and hit the space bar to “enter” the line of moves. There’s actually three different strings of arrows you can choose to enter, but making a mistake on any of them will push you back to having to input the whole string again.
As you advance, more and more arrows need to be typed correctly in sequence; if you get all the way to 8, then you go into “freestyle” which lets you build your own strings of arrows — but they obey some sort of internal dance grammar — you can only do three down arrows in a row, for example. So as you learn the ways in which moves lead into one another, you’ll get better at building custom dances. Mess up on freestyling, and it’s back down to one arrow you go. And of course, if you fail to enter moves for a bar of music, your character stands around looking like a dork.
Arguably, you look like a dork anyway, since the boy moves at any rate are about the sappiest, least energetic dancing I can imagine.
There wasn’t anyone else on the server I was on, so I didn’t get to see how this played out with other playters, but I am guessing that only needing to send moves to the other players every bar instead of constantly makes for a more lag-tolerant experience. The addition of the freestyling and the dance grammar is very cool — it means advanced players can actually put together choreography out of the dance moves; there’s even a team mode, so presumably you can work up team routines.
So, kinda neat. The game part is challenging too — it’s a different skill than reading individual arrows coming at you as in DDR or O2Jam. It feels more like a typing game, albeit one where you’re typing only on the cursor keys. The inputting of sequences doesn’t feel like dancing, and it doesn’t feel like a cheat, like DDR on a controller does.
I have no idea why the rendering is as choppy as it is — there’s no excuse for the main screen being as low framerate as it is on my home machine. I also don’t think it’s particularly a good idea for the game to ask you for a social security number, passport number, or driver’s license number (mandatory to input a number!) — I know that in Korea, using your national ID is no big deal, but here in the States it of course conjures up all kinds of identity theft specters. Of course, it has no way to verify the number so you can put in anything.
All in all, if you haven’t ventured to try some of the wackier stuff coming out of the Asian MMOs, or if you thought that someone really should have made cantina dancing into a more complete game, it’s worth checking out.