November 21, 2012 by khrisgolder
GamerCheese got our Groov on while talking to Julian Kantor, creator of Groov, to discuss his inspirations, his future goals, and where he sees the Indie game market heading as the next-gen consoles arrive.
Khris Golder: As a part of FunkMasonry (an experimental jazz group), you realized you needed variety in your life. Deciding to tackle the world of music gaming, you and band mate Mark Ziffer brought Groov to life. Will you not be satisfied until every art medium is infused?
Julian Kantor: Great question! Guided by The Way of the Funk… we aim to conquer not just the world of art, but the whole world….Nay, the entire universe, with the power of funk.
KG: Funky! How long did it take you and Mark Ziffer to create Groov?
Julian Kantor: Groov was a project I developed over the course of a few months back in 2008… I had a prototype with dual-stick shooter controls set up, and another with a drumbeat whose tempo you could change by pressing different directions on the arrow keys. Around early October of that year I combined the two and started working hard on the result, which would become Groov.
KG: How about the music for the game?
Julian Kantor: Mark and I collaborated on composing and recording the trumpet melody towards the end of the process, once the rest of the game was in place.
KG: Was it part of your plan all along to create something like Groov?
Julian Kantor: I always wanted to create video games, but most of my creative experience up to that point had been in creating music. Discovering the ancient wisdom buried within The Way of the Funk opened my mind to the enormous potential of combining my two passions. Well, that and playing Lumines.
KG: Lumines is an awesome game! Infused music, dual interests in gaming and music, dual-stick shooters: do you have a split personality or is it that you have too much passion to be tied down to one thing?
Julian Kantor: I suppose the spiritual connection I maintain with the long line of philosophers of the order of Funkmasonry could be construed as a split personality. But instead of murderous suggestions, their voices whisper Secrets of Funk.
KG: I think most of us are thankful for that. With the success of your Indie title, and your passion for music, you founded FunkMasonry Industries. What can we expect out of FMI in the near-future?
Julian Kantor: I will hopefully be releasing a title or two on iOS in the near future…I’ve been making some stuff I think would be really cool to play on iPad. I’d like to get some time over my winter break to put something together for release on the app store. I’ve also been thinking of releasing an album for years…I should probably get on that at some point.
KG: What are some other music-based games that inspired you? You have mentioned in previous interviews that Geometry Wars was a big influence.
Julian Kantor: Lumines was the first game I played that had a musical interaction system. I really loved it, but had lots of ideas (how) I could take it in different directions. Another game that influenced the music system in Groov was (weirdly) Super Mario Galaxy. During the galaxy select screen, when you mouse-over a galaxy, a little chime plays. The chimes that play always changed with the background chords. I thought that was the coolest idea. So when I started making Groov, this was the first feature I implemented — bullets that make chimes that change with the background chords.
As far as dual-stick shooters go, you’re right that Geometry Wars was my one big influence. At the time I made Groov, I was absolutely obsessed with Geometry Wars. I made Groov partially to pay homage to that game, but also to use it as a jumping-off point for the musical ideas I was trying to explore. The main reason I decided to go with a dual-stick shooter was because the way you shoot in those games is just holding a direction on an analog stick. Your rate of fire is totally independent from your inputs, meaning that, in a dual-stick shooter, the computer always decides how fast/when your bullets come out when you shoot. This made it natural for your bullets to fire along with the rhythm of the song.
KG: What are some of the big games coming out that you’re looking forward to playing?
Julian Kantor: Hmm…nothing really at the moment. I’m looking forward to The Last of Us next year. I just got Halo 4, and it’s cool, but I was expecting something a bit more from it. I’ve been playing more Spelunky on XBLA, and Minecraft, which I just purchased. After years of hearing about and seeing Minecraft, I was convinced I’d hate it. Then I started playing, and I’m hopelessly addicted to it.
KG: I felt the same way about Minecraft. That first sand brick hits your inventory, and you’re sold! Minecraft has had such an impact in the way gamers think of spending their money. With the next-gen Wii U on the shelves, a question on a lot of gamers’ minds is what will become of Indie console ports. What’s your perspective on how Indie games are going to be impacted moving into the next generation of consoles?
Julian Kantor: I’m looking forward to having more power to play around with! I think the additional power will help Indies come up with very visually impressive graphics. Since we are never going to be able to compete with the art asset-creation abilities of big studios, our ability to create high-fidelity procedural graphics and use crazy lighting systems will help us create really stunning-looking games.
As far as distribution issues go, I really hope that Microsoft and Sony open up development channels even more than they have so far. It’d be great to get an App store-like ecosystem going. Microsoft made the first move in this direction with XBLIG, but they didn’t take it nearly as far as they could.
KG: I’m glad you could share your insights with us, and we all look forward to hearing more about your future projects.