Is it possible to give gamers that magical, musical feeling of being “in a groove?” How do we sync graphics and sound so they combine into something more powerful than the sum of their parts?
Most importantly, can we do all of this and still make something that is fun to play?
15 years ago when I set out to create the original Rez with my team at United Game Artists we challenged ourselves to answer these difficult questions. Luckily we had a few key inspirations to help us find answers.
One was my first real experience with good techno music at the 1997 Street Parade music festival in Zurich. The power of simple, driving beats perfectly matching colourful lights and abstract imagery was a spectacle unlike anything I had ever experienced before.
…or had I? In a strange way, it reminded me of another inspiration from a totally different medium.
I had always been a huge fan of the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky who tried to evoke sound through vision (tied to a concept more generally known as “synesthesia”). He meticulously placed shapes and colours in a way intended to create an impact beyond their visual qualities — to resonate with the other senses. And the soul.
The last key inspiration were the arcade-style shooters of my youth. Xevious made the lasting impression that this genre could be accessible to anyone, but at the same time include deep gameplay and replayability. Years later, playing Xenon 2 on a friend’s Amiga in college was the first time I realised that a rich, evocative soundtrack could help a game transcend technical limitations and become almost like a new form of media altogether.
And now, 15 years later…
All this reminiscing isn’t just for nostalgia’s sake (and it isn’t just about the Rez post-mortem talk I gave today at this year’s Game Developer’s Conference) — the developers at Monstars and Enhance Games are working hard to keep these core inspirations in mind every single day as we develop Rez Infinite for PS4 and PS VR.
The same ideals we followed back then guide us now as we remaster assets to 1080p, remix the sound for 3D audio, and consider control options and other tweaks now that the game will also be (optionally) fully playable in PlayStation VR.
And the spirit behind the creation of the original Rez is especially important as we create the all-new, original content we teased at the end of our debut trailer: “Area X.” We aren’t ready to talk about this just yet, but hopefully the image says enough on its own.
Keep in mind this is concept art and not actual screenshots; right now we’re deep in experimentation, unsure of exactly where we will end up, but thrilled at the possibilities — just as it was with the original Rez all those years ago.