TubeHero is, as the name suggests, a take on the popular Guitar Hero series of music games that were popular on home consoles a few years ago. Basic gameplay involves hitting keys on the computer keyboard (or a USB guitar controller) as colored “notes” move down a highway towards the player. The more accurately the player hits the timing of the notes, the more points they will score, and the more notes they successfully hit without making a mistake, the higher their score multiplier will rise.
TubeHero’s twist on the conventional formula is that it makes use of YouTube videos for its background music. This provides the game with a wide and ever-changing library of music to use rather than limiting players to a fixed setlist or requiring them to purchase new songs individually. Players who set a world record on a song are able to “capture” it for a token (earned through play or purchased), and are encouraged to return and assert their dominance over their favorite tracks every day, otherwise their “hero” status will expire.
The new multiplayer component of the game allows up to four online players to compete simultaneously on the same song. Unlike the solo play mode, there is a much more limited number of tracks available for play in multiplayer, presumably to make it easier to find opponents. Even with just five tracks available at the time of writing, however, it was sometimes difficult to find anyone to play against — though this situation will likely change as more users come to the game and give it a try.
While single player makes use of an energy system to throttle play, multiplayer sees players each contributing tokens to a communal pot, with the winner receiving them as a prize. This allows players to compete in multiplayer as a means to earn more tokens, though at a rather slow rate. It also allows players to play against live opponents while waiting for their single player energy to restore.
There is a major issue with multiplayer at the time of writing, though this is more to do with the player community than the game itself. Out of 10 multiplayer sessions played, not one of them saw an opponent staying in the game until the end of the song. This is a common problem with online gaming, as some players decide they would rather quit out of a competitive match than accept a loss. Some online games penalize players for dropping out of a game before it has finished — often an effective deterrent to this behavior — but there does not appear to be any such penalty in place in TubeHero aside from the fact that the quitting player loses the tokens they gambled on the multiplayer match.
A broader issue with TubeHero’s gameplay is that the notes the player is tapping out on their keyboard or guitar have little to do with the background song bar keeping roughly the same tempo. In the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series of console games, the notes the player had to play on their instrument followed the melodic and rhythmic shape of the backing track — and the game’s sound engine would also mute the part of the track the player’s instrument was supposed to be playing if they made a mistake. Since TubeHero is simply processing YouTube videos and generating levels based on them rather than using specially programmed tracks, there is no means for the game to do this, meaning the game’s note patterns have a more random, disconnected feel, and there is less audio-visual feedback for a player while they are playing than in specialist titles.
In order to acquire and retain users for the multiplayer component in particular, something needs to be done about players dropping out of games early, and more players need to be encouraged to join the competitive community. These are considerations which any multiplayer game needs to make, and at the time of writing it does not look as if TubeHero has taken any steps to deal with these issues.
Since there is no direct interaction between players at all, a better implementation of multiplayer might have been to use an asynchronous solution, where players compete against “recordings” of opponents on a set of songs that changes regularly. Weekly tournaments could be held, with token prizes on offer for winners. An implementation such as this would wipe out “rage-quitting” players and help deal with any potential difficulty in building up a player base in one fell swoop, but would also require a fundamental rethinking and rebuilding of the current multiplayer game structure.
As it stands, TubeHero is an innovative music game that makes clever use of the Internet to provide a fun and varied — if flawed — experience for rhythm game fans. The multiplayer mode needs some serious work to be viable, though the simplicity and popularity of the concept may see it enjoying some success in the short term. For now, it’s one to keep an eye on and see if players take to it.
A decent game, though the new multiplayer mode needs some serious work. Keep an eye on this one to see if players respond positively to the new additions.