A rhythm game done right can be potent, visceral and oft addicting. Music is so closely tied to emotion and when it is literally tied to what’s happening on screen, a game becomes engrossing in an instant.

That is the appeal of Thumper, a rhythm game by the two-man development team of Marc Flury and Brian Gibson. The pair know a thing or two about making a good rhythm game after cutting their teeth at Harmonix before starting their own team called Drool in 2013. The duo has been hard at work on the game since 2009 and the end is in sight with a 2016 release date on Playstation 4 and Steam.

Before starting Drool, Flury was lead programmer on the Beatles: Rock Band and Dance Central. Gibson has worked as an artist on Harmonix titles Amplitude, Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Creating synergy between music and game play is the ultimate appeal of any Harmonix title. In Guitar Hero or Rock Band, the tactile sensation of strumming on the plastic guitar or other fake instruments only works because of what’s happening on screen. While Thumper isn’t out to help live out your rockstar fantasies, it’s appeal has similar roots.

“In general, at Harmonix I learned a lot about making games and the high quality bar you need to have so you can make a game on console,” Flury said in a skype interview. “I think you can look at the core mechanics [of Thumper] and say it’s very similar to those games…We tried to make [Thumper]  feel like more like an action game though.”

Thumper Secondary

While the game bears some of its Harmonix roots in the rhythmic button pressing timed with the visuals cues on screen, everything else is a far departure from that. Flury coined the term “rhythmic violence” to describe the game and it’s about the best you can come up with for something that doesn’t fit any sort of genre boundaries. Thumper is part racer and features a hero that’s a metal beetle. The intrepid insect speeds down a course that runs like a track from F Zero and looks like Rainbow Road from Mario Kart forced through a singularity and spit back out again.

As far as the particulars, Flury said that the completed game will have more levels and mechanics that are shown in the 10-minute demo that made it’s way to IndieCade in Culver City, California last week. The core game will also be level based like a Mario game complete with boss battles.

Flury said that reaction to the demo has been positive. “The biggest goal is having this be something new and unique,” he said. “There’s a huge variation in how good people are at the game and some people really struggle with it. Whenever you are doing something that’s new it’s hard to feel confident you are doing it right.”

The story is esoteric and is summed up quite nicely on the Drool home page: “You are a space beetle. Kill Crakhed.” Flury said that there will be no dialogue and the intention was to avoid using any text. Every level intends to invoke a certain feeling or mood and how that’s interpreted is up to the player.

Thumper has enjoyed a renaissance as of late after the game received an initial surge of good press back when Drool formed in 2013. Interest in the game was fueled by a killer concept and the pedigree of those working on it, which lent weight to the notion that the initial teaser trailers could turn into a complete game.

The game was supposed to come out in 2014, but that didn’t happen.

“I think when you are making a game, it’s easy to say it’ll be finished next year. It was our mistake in saying 2014,” Flury said. “The reality is that it took us longer.”

The biggest reason it took so long is that a new game engine had to be built from scratch, which takes a while. Flury said that wasn’t a requirement to make the game, but it wouldn’t look the way it does now if they started with Unity.  

Perhaps patience is a just reward as Thumper has been drawing rave reviews on the festival circuit. It was a finalist for excellence in audio at the Independent Games Festival back in March and has either won an award or gotten nominated at indie festivals in Tokyo, Brazil, Boston and Germany. It was also an official selection at IndieCade, which is one of the premiere showcases of the year for indie games. The accolades may be the biggest clue that the game is ready for a much wider audience.

“It certainly feels good to receive recognition,” Flury said. “It wasn’t necessarily by design.”  

While Flury said that that the game had been entered into many of these festivals in years past it’s success this year is a bit of a double-edged sword. Often development would stop when one of the two-man team would head out to a show. Those disruptions have been frequent in the past nine months.

While nothing is for certain, Thumper is closer than it’s ever been to ending a development cycle that has stretched two years longer than intended. What’s next after the game releases is up in the air, but both Flury and Gibson seem committed to making another game after this one is done.

“The idea is that hopefully this will not be our last game,” Flury said.     

About The Author

Editor In Chief

Jose is a straight shooter who always goes the paragon route. He joined the team at Indie Haven to spread the word about indie games all across the galaxy. When not aboard the Normandy, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area playing video games and plotting ways to rid the world of games like Colonial Marines.

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