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Q&A

Since mid 2023, we've run several Q&As with the UNBEATABLE community on Discord, allowing people to hear from us and learn more about the game, the team, and the status of the project. Click on the tabs to see select questions / answers that have been sent to us from fans!

The UNBEATABLE '23 "Ask D-CELL" Q&A ran during mid November as a part of the community-driven event, THE UNBEATABLE '23 . Players submitted via a question form, and the questions were answered together by several team members!

 

Q: How is development going?

RJ: You may notice if you look at our kickstarter page that our estimated delivery date for the game was December 2023, which it currently is right now. WHERE IS THE GAME, I can hear, shouted from the belfry (I don't know why you're up there).

The answer to that is...a lot of things!

Firstly, a lot of progress has happened (of course!) and we've spun up entire internal animation and programming teams to work on the game. Progress right now is very smooth.

The biggest hurdle is just how complicated a project like this is to get right. This might not come across entirely well from our trailers and from [white label], but the type of game we're doing here is something that can't be done as a half measure. In other words, if any part of it doesn't work, the whole thing doesn't work. Animation, music, design, writing, and code all need to line up and all of those things need to actually run well (which is, I guess, still...code). But we've cleared a lot of earlier hurdles and a lot of things we thought might not be possible with our team have turned out to be totally possible.

All that is a lot of talking around stuff we can't talk about until a future date when, suddenly, we'll be talking about them all the time. Until then, the short answer is: it's good!

Andrew: wow that's a lot of text rj save some for the rest of us

Clara: y'all there's some stuff the team has been whipping up recently that has been so so so cool!!!! it makes me feel so incredibly grateful that i'm able to contribute my voice to this game.

Vasily: It's been a rollercoaster. Going from working a job so predictable and boring to a game with long pauses and super intense weeks (of my own volition) with no real in-between, it's a super creatively fulfilling project to work on. This is the first game we're shipping as a studio, so we're taking the time to make sure it's done right and something we can be proud of!

Jeff: We cover a lot more on this (And our current progress) in our end of the year update we just posted on our blog. Take a look here!

Richard: i want beef bowl

Q: If Beat got Rest a small Christmas gift (maybe setting sibling differences aside for the holidays) what would it be?

RJ: a spotify gift card

Andrew: lol

Clara: a burnt CD-R of Running With Scissors

Jeff: trouble

Vasily: a frog guiro

Q: What is the general structure of the story, will it be linear like "Story Section - Song - Story Section" or will it be more dynamic?

RJ: This is sort of the wrong question, because it supposes that the way gameplay works in the story mode is that you play songs and then do a story thing. In the story mode, the songs are story things. It's woven a bit more closely together.

Andrew: This game doesn't have a clear delineation between "songs" and "story sections", though it is pretty clear when it is you Have To Play A Rhythm Game. This isn't a situation where you have to "play songs" to "unlock more story" - we want to infuse a level of diegesis into everything, songs included.

Clara: the music is interwoven with the story in a way, it's gonna be cool!

Jeff: You'll definitely be playing songs at points like a traditional rhythm game, but I'd say the overall ratio of story / music gameplay and the core loop of what you play, and when you play it, is a lot more fluid. 

Vasily: So, yes, there's a core gameplay loop the structure of the game adheres to but our goal is to have everything become glued together into a single cohesive and woven together experience.

Q: Are there any dream collabs you have in mind for Unbeatable?

RJ: We think it's hard to talk about most of the ones that we'd love to do because there's a very real-world possibility that we can do those (life is WEIRD). Some of the ones that I don't think we'd ever get to do that I'd want to look into: Spider-Verse (tons of good music to draw from, obviously, and a great aesthetic basis for doing fun stuff with flipping the look) or NieR (we wouldn't use the music directly but would do some wild rock flips of it)

Andrew: There are so so many dream collabs I would love to do with UNBEATABLE... but, as RJ mentioned, some of these are very real possibilities, so I'll be keeping my lips zipped for now :)

Jeff: I keep trying to think of collabs that would be dreams, but you know what they say about dreams, they can always come true! So might need to keep it close to my chest. although...if anyone has contacts to the BEMANI sound team i am all ears...bunny ears?

Clara: lots... if i can sneak one mention in here... i'd love to work on something with mui zyu. she has SUCH a cool way of writing songs that sounds unlike anything else i've ever heard.'

Vasily: porter robinson

Richard: umineko

Q: Will there be another opportunity to back the game or deluxe edition releases of the game? Let me give you money!

 

Jeff: I appreciate the thought, but at the moment, we have no plans to start a new Slacker Backer campaign. There are still ways to support us (merch at conventions, the PayPal donate button at the front page, and purchasing DEMO TAPES), but save those hard earned dollars for when it's out!

RJ: by definition, this is what a pre-order is, so if/when a pre-order opens for a deluxe edition that may/may not be potentially in the works, then.................yes. but nothing like that exists yet. or does it?

Andrew: rj is being very cute but no we don't have a deluxe edition or a preorder page or anything yet please don't go searching for it (when That Happens we will be sure to let y'all know)

Q: The NOISZ collab was banger, any chance we could get Synthion or Iris for some original UNBEATABLE tracks?

RJ: we literally cannot legally answer this question or we will be killed by the government

Andrew: we literally cannot legally answer this question or we will be killed by the government

Vasily: 👀

Clara: i'm going to say hell yeah and see if jeff includes this answer when they make the post

Q: Has scope crept up on you so far during development?

RJ: Honestly, not really, at least not since the Kickstarter and [white label]. Before that, by definition, we mean, yes - the version of the game that was originally pitched internally was a six song rhythm game with a light story element (which we've already outdone, uh, for free) - so UNBEATABLE as you know it is absolutely a giant wad of scope creep compared to that. But the version of the game that's coming out is the version of the game that was promised on Kickstarter.

Andrew: haha ha ha hahahha there was a post a certain someone made way back in 2018 that read "i think UNBEATABLE is a 2020/2021 game". You can probably do the math on that? 

Like RJ said, at the start of 2018, when I was pitching this thing to him, the game was going to be half an hour long. It was made in a completely different engine, and it was primarily going to be a series of small visual novel sequences breaking up a rhythm game. By the end of 2018 it had platforming and environments. By the end of 2019 it had swapped engines and ballooned even more. By the end of 2020, well, COVID happened and the world decided to make this our full-time jobs, so - Kickstarter.

In the face of all the change and iteration and scope creep during those early years, there were three things we never lost sight of - a kick-ass soundtrack, striking visuals, and a compelling narrative.

Jeff: When it comes to production, things always change on the fly, so mitigating scope creep. In that sense, it's crept up more than you count - but our target for what the game's story and its major beats haven't fundamentally changed since late 2021.

Vasily: sorta kinda? if anything I'd say it's more of an ambition creep, but we've managed to proportionally prop up said ambition with more people helping on the project and making sure fluff is being done expeditiously.

Q: How does the band meet up since Quaver, Treble, Clef are too young to drive and Beat doesn't like cars? Skateboards?

RJ: they walk. clef is mad about it. (i will clarify: clef totally can drive. is she "allowed" to? does that matter?)

Andrew: hey, don't forget the public transit. trains are sick.

Q: Which UNBEATABLE characters owns the most plushies?

RJ: quaver, probably, but treble is close. beat has one or two but she can't find them

Andrew: beat's room is a mess. you'd need an excavation team to find those plushies.

if by owns you mean "had at one point or another", maybe clef? those poor things are long gone, though

Clara: treble seems like he's a sanrio boy tbh

Q: What are some of your less obvious inspirations for UNBEATABLE?

RJ: crazy ex-girlfriend (go watch the pilot episode right now before you generate any opinions on me saying that), deadly premonition, early suda51 games that aren't killer7 (this isn't about visual style, though killer7 is obviously great), outer wilds (by default, because the entire dev team is obsessed with it), dozens of obscure bands

Andrew: less obvious, so i guess i have to skip all of the late-90s - early 2000's anime (flcl, haibane renmei, beck, lain, etc etc etc)?

for me, honestly, it would have to be a combination of xenogears (both in narrative and in art - Tetsuya Takahashi absolutely made the right call to do 3d environments and 2d sprites, especially back on the PS1), super paper mario - a game whose writing and music and narrative and characters i remain absolutely obsessed with, and everything Naoko Yamada has ever touched (Liz and the Blue Bird is, hands down, my favorite movie of all time).

also Charlie Kaufman's stuff (I think this also goes for RJ).

Jeff: Aspects of the game have roots in all sorts of things, ranging from One Finger Death Punch to SSSS.Gridman. It's a lot of things! My chart design definitely took cues from the flow of games like Devil May Cry 4 and Groove Coaster.

 

Clara: i was such a Steven Wilson fanatic in high school and analyzed so much of his work that i have attributes of his style engrained in my music writing that show up in whatever i work on, especially UNBEATABLE. i've also been going to a bunch of shows to discover new bands and hear what they're doing, and it's been super inspiring!! Penelope by Small Crush and Cartwheel by Hotline TNT have been a couple of albums i've been listening to on the regular after hearing them live.

Vasily: I grew up as a trance and metal kid. Listened to a lot of Armada and Anjuna on various CDs as well as the early XM radio days. For the metal side I listened to a bunch of melodic/symphonic stuff like Wintersun, Blind Guardian, Unleash the Archers, and Kamelot. A decent influence of metal and trance have crept its way into my melodic approach to our music and mixing style. If there's ever a metal cover of Worn out Tapes, I think that influence will be way more apparent.

Q: When [white label] was initially released, it was implied to be an episodic side-story. Is this still planned, or will the rest of the story be told through UNBEATABLE when it releases?

RJ: technically, both answers are yes

Andrew: we hope to have more to share on that front... soon?

Q: Hey there! I've been working on a rhythm game prototype and found that occasionally, after enough time has passed, the song can get slightly desynced from the game logic. Any particular methods that you'd recommend to reduce this desync?

Andrew: OK, it's nerd time.

This depends on a lot of factors - your engine of choice, what kind of audio middleware you might be using, what your design goals/limitations are. You might already be doing the thing I suggest below, in which case I say good job and good luck! Latency issues or CPU bottlenecking and other such nuanced things are tough to solve.

Generally though, the pitfall A Lot - and I mean A Lot - of devs fall into is trusting their computer to Keep Time Good. Computers, generally, are very good at keeping time. However, most people go about implementing that by having a timer that ticks up constantly. Usually this is either done by locking the framerate and ticking up a set amount each frame, or by using a feature known as "delta time" which is, as the "delta" might suggest, a calculation of the length of time between the previous and current frame.

Neither of these methods Keep Time Good. 

Framerates are not stable, and delta time - because it relies on prior frame data, only gives an estimate of the amount of time passed per frame. Over the course of a two or three minute song, those errors add up.

Now, how do you solve this?

You have to tie into the bits of the computer that ARE good at keeping track of time. That's either your computer's internal clock, OR, better yet, the audio playback information. If you find where you are in the song and do an inverse lerp on that (look it up) you can pretty easily figure out where and how things should be positioned. Bonus - doing it this way lets you reverse the song and have things move backwards. It's pretty neat!

Fun fact: back in the original version of UNBEATABLE, the playback information would only get updated every half a second, so I did actually have a timer that counted up, but only in the span of time between getting new, accurate data.

Q: When is the full game coming out?

Jeff: When it's ready! :)

RJ: after white label episode 5 and before d-cell game 2

Andrew: not in 2023, unfortunately (maybe if we finish this game in the next *checks watch* ten days)

Vasily: refer to the prior Dwarf Fortress Steam Version release date

Q: Will there be a star chart of Proper Rhythm though

Jeff: There may be one in the future! Someone's already been given permission to make it when the time comes :)

Q: I'd like to know more about the different charters' charting philosophy for this game. after seeing the new noisz charts and getting to see more of cheryl i kinda want to know how you guys think when making charts. its really interesting to hear this kinda stuff!

Jeff: I always "follow the fun". A lot of my patterns are inspired by the feel of sick combos and juggles in a action game, which is why I utilize a lot of the special note types to convey that feeling. That charting style remained the same across different versions of the game throughout development, and I'd argue it shaped a lot of how the final rhythm gameplay ended up feeling. Also I like charting to the lyrics, it's just how I vibe to music rhythmically. Sorry!

Cheryl: I'd been following UNBEATABLE for a really long time prior to being brought on, I think I've been around since its announcement? I don't even remember how I found out about the game. But uh this isn't about that so. When I was brought onto the team Jeff was the only other charter (and we were later joined by TaroNuke), so with my early charts I definitely tried to strike a somewhat different chord. Jeff's charts are definitely focused on variety, and they're all really good, don't get me wrong! But I thought it would be neat if the game had charts that were more focused on speed to kinda tackle as many avenues of charting style as we could with the game, so mine are a little more straightforward, and exchange a lot of varying note types and techy patterns with pure finger blistering speed. I wasn't entirely sure how that kind of charting philosophy would sail over with the playerbase, so I decided to do the best possible thing in that situation, which is, obviously, drop the hardest chart in the game in a completely different skillset on the players out of nowhere (this is sarcasm. this is not a good idea). But people seemed to like it anyway...? So I guess I'm here to stay.

TaroNuke: So first and foremost, my #1 charting philosophy is "use repetition smartly", for 3 reasons.

1.) You can use it to be consistent with the song because it feels bad when a chart randomly starts doing something different even though the music didn't really change,

2.) You can use it to make the chart more sightreadable and memorable, because it's fun to get a second try at a pattern you may have flubbed the first time,

3.) You can use simple variations of patterns (such as mirroring the notes) to make sure a player really understands the pattern.

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