May 20, 2010

MMORPG Corner: Stepmania Online

We've all heard of Dance Dance Revolution right? DDR: that silly game sitting in the corner of Dave and Busters that is frequented by harcore dancers and small children lured by colorful lights and sounds. Well, let's consider for a second a DDR that allows the player to actually show skill without looking like a complete fool on the first messup. Well the open-source game "Stepmania" allows this! And what's more, there's an ONLINE version too!

Stepmania (Online)


Stepmania, like it's console counterpart, allows the player to play through songs they enjoy while tapping to the beat through cued arrow keys. Unfortunately for Konami, Stepmania takes it to an amazingly new, user-centric, open-sourcey level.

For starters you play with your fingers (mostly). Of course if you have a PS2 to USB cord you can play on a dance mat, but the main way to play Stepmania is with fingers on either the four arrow keys or "spread" across the keyboard (as if you're typing almost). This allows for much much more arrows and a more challenging game. And you'd be surprised how easy DDR becomes on a keyboard -- one mistake isn't the end in this game!

Next we have the best feature of Stepmania - Bemanistyle. Bemanistyle, among other things, is the source of everyone's songs. Yes, the songs are made by players! Depending on your tastes there are other places to find music, but Bemanistyle is the biggest collection I know of. Beware though, the songs vary in professional status.

If you're more skilled with programs, you can actually make just about anything for Stepmania, from songs to "notes" (arrow skins) to themes to announcers to even dancing characters! And of course if you can make them, you can also download them and customize your Stepmania player! One of my old favorite sites is Stepmaniathings. Check it out, there's so much free content!

Now that you get the point, let's talk about Stepmania Online. SMO is a part of the new Stepmania that allows you to play "against" other people. There is no real combatant gameplay involved, but you get to play the same songs together and compare scores. Gamplay takes place in "rooms" that also double as chat rooms in between matches. It is also somewhat hard to set up SMO's online play but once you set it up once you don't have to reconfigure a thing.

The Debate

Pros: Stepmania has never been a social game, but DDR has, and with the potential of using dance pads, Stepmania can be too. SMO allows players to interact while playing, a key aspect of MMOs, probably one of their driving forces. It may be interesting to play solo online, which may sound silly but SMO saves all your scores and weighs them against other people. You could "fight up the ranks" if you so wish, but beware people who "cheat." All-in-all it's all the fun of Stepmania but with friends! Who can hate that, for the low low price of $0?

Cons: SMO is in beta at best. A major and inevitable downfall is that all players must have the same songfile exactly. There's no "online database" of songs so you must plan things out with friends before playing, or happen on a room with the same music. There are also a few errors, for instance it says that one must set the difficulty to a certain level before playing, but there are ways to get around this. Also the interface is awkward (you can't see the difficulty chart when choosing, etc.) and there are no secret cool multiplayer things. It's just Stepmania so if your pals don't enjoy it as much as you it'll get boring fast.



example of online play

So if you've heard of Stepmania before try the online version! If not, get started! It's easy, go to www.stepmania.com and install the software. Then head to www.bemanistyle.com, create an account, and download some music! Just read the instructions carefully, it's a little tricky for beginners.

And of course there are plenty of Anime/J-pop songs to play, probably all your favorites. Give it a try! You might be able to dance like Miku (not guaranteed.)!





-chansu

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