Harmonix was making rhythm games long before the days of "Rock Band," but despite being fans of dance music, the developer has always had a difficult time implementing those kinds of tracks into their games. The solution was to launch an entirely new rhythm-game franchise: "Dance Central."
The key to "Dance Central" was [article id="1641464"]Microsoft's Kinect[/article], a motion-sensing camera that's able to track the precise body movements of anyone standing in front of it. No game pad or controller is required — simply walk up and you're good to go. From there, the jump to making a dance game seemed like a perfect fit.
It's the easy-to-play nature of "Dance Central" that made Harmonix believe they could bring it to the masses. During Microsoft's press conference at E3 2010, Harmonix co-founder Alex Rigopulos admitted that it's a challenge to get people to play a dance game. "At Harmonix we're always [striving] for new ways to get people experiencing music," he said. "Dancing can be intimidating for some people, but 'Dance Central' was developed so that everyone can play."
As someone who has never been good at dancing (in games or out), I came upon "Dance Central" with a healthy amount of skepticism. Surprisingly, though, I found the game remarkably easy, even for someone as rhythmically challenged as me. Complex dance moves are broken down into individual steps, and the difficulty is slowly ramped up, so players can take one move at a time. If someone is having difficulty pulling off a step-clap-step in the middle of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," for example, the game will pause and let the would-be dancer try the move again until they have it down. It took me no time at all to adapt to the dozen moves throughout Bell Biv DeVoe's "Poison," and I even managed to gain a decent-size crowd of onlookers. Warning: This game requires a healthy sampling of humility.
Harmonix isn't ditching its "Rock Band" roots anytime soon, though. The developer is hard at work on "Rock Band 3," which will introduce keyboards and a new "Pro" mode, which helps players to learn real-world guitars, drums and keyboards just by playing through the game.
Both "Dance Central" and "Rock Band 3" are planned for release in the fall.
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