Harmonix is working on Chroma, an upcoming fast-paced arena FPS and it’s all focused around music. Chroma was already in a closed alpha so that the devs could gather player feedback and focus on developing the mechanics that will eventually make the game great or lackluster depending on execution. The game is going through a massive revamp since the initial gameplay ideas didn’t exactly result in a fun or exciting game, so we can only hope that Harmonix and co-developer Hidden Path Entertainment (of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive fame) find a new and successful direction. We can only speculate on what could potentially go right as well as what could go wrong, so let’s do just that.
Chroma promises to allow players to use sound as a weapon. What this could mean is that aesthetically the world will be painted as if all the bullets, rockets, and explosions are sound waves but are really just masked versions of what we already have in other games. However, and hopefully, Harmonix plans to actually utilize sound itself as a mechanic and there are a number of very exciting things that this could potentially mean for gameplay.
If the audio in Chroma was additive, that could mean that two completely different weapons could shoot an alike target and create an entirely different effect than if the weapons were shot separately. It also gives the potential for weapons to have different modes or at least alternative fire modes such as a laser than can pulse at different rates for different effects and maybe even change tonality.
In the trailer, which could just be 100 percent dramatization, we see the terrain shifting shape and breaking – a mechanic that was initially promised but we’re not sure if it will be kept in the revised Chroma version. Having the terrain interact with the different sound waves, i.e. shatter at certain frequencies or raise/lower with amplitude, could add a huge level of strategic depth to the matches, especially with weapon pickups.
Basically, this means that certain weapon pickups would allow players not just different means of destroying the opposition but also increased mobility and potential area denial. This is important because while shooting games may have you thinking aim is the most important aspect, it is not. Mobility is king.
How players move through the world in a shooting game is the pivotal design decision in any shooter. The different “sound weapons” will likely behave wholly unique to most guns we are used to in other games. For instance, in Halo we have a grenade that sticks to an enemy and then explodes. In Chroma, a grenade like that could exist but could potentially be blown off with a matching or dissonant frequency. I can imagine very bass heavy weapons like what we could call a rocket launcher, except the explosion actually interacts with nearby weapons to either diminish or strengthen their effect. Of course, then you have things like what we had in Call of Duty, with noise tricks that deceive enemies of your location.
Noise is going to be a problem, however. How will they balance it? Will all sound in the game be tuned to the same key? Will some weapons be specifically dissonant? Hopefully this isn’t just a colorful and noisy reskinning of other shooters and is truly something original. If we look back at Harmonix’s track record (pun intended) I think then we can look forward with optimism.