Harmonix’s John Drake wants to send music lovers back in time for just $1,000

Harmonix’s John Drake wants to send music lovers back in time for just $1,000

John Drake
John Drake

Last week, we asked Gameological readers to submit questions that we could pose to developers on the E3 2014 show floor. We picked four of our favorites (and carried over one from last year’s batch); those questions constitute The Gameological Questionnaire.

Traditionally during E3, John Drake would be too busy dancing his butt off or beating on fake drums to answer the Gameological Questionnaire, but I was lucky enough to find the Harmonix hype man checking out the Sony booth and got his answers. I’d like to note, though, that he was still dancing a little even while we talked, and no Kinects were in sight. Harmonix is showing two games at the show, Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved and the newly announced Dance Central: Spotlight. Our conversation was geared toward Fantasia.

The A.V. Club: If you had the power to add an extra button—wait, it’s a motion game.

John Drake: Yeah! I’d add more motion controls. In your face!

AVC: Damn! Hold on. Let’s just roll with this. If you had the power to add an extra button to the controller that served a single function specific to your game, what would it do?

JD: I would add crazy facial tracking to our motion game. So if you ever looked even for a second bored by the remix you were making in Fantasia, we would switch it up, like, “Oh, I’m sorry, you’re not having fun with the classical remix?” Dubstep drop. In your face, right away. Or vice-versa.

AVC: So it just gets crazier?

JD: If you ever look disinterested, the game gets crazier until eventually the game is screaming at you.

AVC: Do you think it would ever work the other way around, where if someone looked disinterested by the dubstep version it would switch to classical?

JD: Yeah, it would go both ways. Luckily, we give you a lot of moments to choose, so you can pivot the mix yourself. And the thing about Fantasia that’s great—hard sell!—is you’ll never be bored! So it’s kind of a useful feature cut for scope.

AVC: If my résumé included a whole summer spent just playing your game, how should I spin it as valuable experience?

JD: If you were auditioning either to be an interpretive dancer, the conductor of an orchestra, or a sorcerer—no problem. It’s perfect experience. You get to wave your arms around to the music in time with what’s going on. Otherwise, I guess maybe if you were trying to make an adventure game, because it involves exploration. Other than that, you could be like, “Yo, I want to work at Total Body Fitness because I have great shoulder muscles from holding my arms up and doing all this conducting.”

AVC: How do you feel about the current trend of games being released in “early access” states?

JD: I like it for PC games. All the console alphas and betas are interesting, although they don’t feel like actual alphas and betas. They feel like load tests, but hey, gamers get to play games earlier and see if they like them or not, usually for free. I’m all for it, why not?

AVC: What’s the most fun glitch or bug that has come up in development so far?

JD: There was a while where Yen Sid, the sorcerer from the movie Fantasia, would flicker on and off, and his facial muscles would randomly contort. So he’d be talking, and all of sudden he’d look really, really mad. I like “really angry sorcerer.” It’s a good look.

AVC: It works for him.

JD: But you feel really bad all the time. If we fix it, he feels encouraging. For a while, no matter what you did, it was like, [in an angry voice] “Great job!” And you’re like, “Oh man, I’m sorry I did a great job. Wait, what?”

AVC: If your game had a super-deluxe version that cost a thousand dollars, what would be in the box?

JD: You’d be able to time travel and play the game with Walt Disney back in the ’40s. It’d be like, “Yo, that’s the thing. We not only remixed your life, we remixed music to start over.” Then you time travel and come back to today. You’ve changed pop music at its core.

AVC: Walt Disney would be the one to do it.

JD: Not that’s he’s still around or anything. [Nervously.] What are you talking about?

AVC: Wait. You wouldn’t include the key to the secret chamber where his cryo-tube is?

JD: No. Only I go in there and speak to him. 

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