Watch: ‘Beat Saber’ 360 Mode Feels like a New Way to Play

But needs innovative mapping to shine

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Developer Beat Games last week revealed a new ‘360 mode’ for their VR hit Beat Saber. Notes can now come from all around the player instead of just straight ahead. While it feels like a fun new way to play, it makes beat mapping considerably more complex. It’ll take innovative and creative mapping to really make 360 mode great, and for that, Beat Games should turn to its community.

Beat Saber’s primary mode throws a series of blocks at you from directly ahead. It’s simple and straightforward, but can be very challenging at high levels, which is part of the reason why Beat Saber has such broad appeal. A new ‘360 mode’ planned for Oculus Quest allows beat maps to send lines of blocks at you from arbitrary directions as the song plays out.

At E3 2019 I got to play an early version of the 360 mode. As a relatively high-level Beat Saber player, I found it very intriguing and I see a lot of potential, but it’ll take more time to discovery what kind of note patterns really make this mode shine feel unique and awesome.

You can think of the 360 mode much like the normal mode, except that the direction where the blocks are coming from can rotate around you on the fly. No matter which direction they’re coming from, they’re still traveling in straight lines, but notes can come along multiple tracks at once with different angles to you. Lines on the ground are used to show where you can expect the next string of blocks and to give you an idea of which direction you should be facing.

I got to play two songs, both of which were only mapped up to Hard difficulty. At first the songs started with notes coming head-on, but pretty quickly I saw the lines on the ground shift to indicate that notes would be coming from the side. The lines worked well to tell me ahead of time what to expect, and even slicing notes that moved between tracks felt pretty natural as they shifted gradually around me. However, sometimes the lines and note paths intersected in front of me and it was little more difficult to sort out the order of the notes because of the way they intertwined as they got closer to me.

In the end, playing in 360 mode was fun and different, and definitely felt like a new way to play Beat Saber compared to the standard mode, but it’s clear that it’ll take more time to learn how to make beat maps in the 360 mode which are really innovative and interesting. Ideally 360 mode should allow note maps which create totally unique movements for players compared to the standard mode. Because the design space of 360 mode is larger in scope though, it’s going to be more difficult to discover what really makes a great beat map.

In order to accelerate this need to learn what kind of 360 mode beat mapping could really be awesome, I think that Beat Games ought to put these tools out to their passionate communicate to see what kind of interesting 360 beat maps they come up with.

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While the 360 mode could be a cool addition to Beat Saber, it could also represent ‘feature-creep’, which is dangerous for an indie team like Beat Games and for a game which thrives because of its simplicity.

Beat Saber already features the standard mode and ‘one saber’ mode, both of which have unique maps across four difficulties. That means that to make one song level for Beat Saber, the developers need to hand-craft eight unique maps if they want to serve every difficulty of both modes. Introducing 360 mode means not just more complex mapping, but four additional beat maps for each song (if they choose to cover all songs and difficulties with the 360 mode), meaning each song needs 12 hand-crafted beat maps.

Beat Games says that 360 mode will debut first on Quest because of its untethered 360 tracking, but it expects that a similar mode would come to other headsets later in a way that confines the rotating notes to some area in front of the player (so that they don’t get wrapped up in their cable), perhaps a ‘180 mode’. Without incredibly careful mapping and testing, it seems unlikely that 360 maps could easily be automatically converted into 180 maps though, so again, a 180 mode might mean yet more complexity and work when it comes to beat mapping.

Image courtesy Beat Games

Speaking with the developers though, it sounds like 360 mode is still very early and both the mechanics of how it works and the extent to which it will or won’t cover all of the game’s music is unclear. So we’ll still have to wait and see if it ends up being a boon for the game or extra baggage.

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  • KOSTANTINOS KOD

    Doesn’t look better. Feels unconnected and unnecessary.Maybe is the song design dunno.

    • KOSTANTINOS KOD

      Oh yea the need to step left and wright gonne thats why feels broken.
      You can sit on a frigin rotating chair and play Hackz mode!!

  • nasprin

    That would actually be quite awesome, if there is one thing I find lacking in BS that is the quite scarce amount of meaningful and fun patterns – it easy to design a very hard, almost unbeatable map, but very hard to do a difficult, but beatable and fun map.

    • adrian meyer

      Yeah I don’t find most of the custom modded songs much good, majority are either just stupid hard or gabba/Japanese crap songs that I have no interest in playing. Not many with a good flow, I seem to just play the official ones the most.

      • nasprin

        Exactly. It gets a little bit tedious to go through 50 screaching anime girls to find a halfway decent track. Ironically, the screaching anime songs are usually mapped quite well, but the music just kills you…

        • adrian meyer

          Yeah I wouldn’t put my ears through that no matter how well they’re mapped haha

      • Trump sure is dumb

        That is really complete BS. The modded songs are way better than the original songs/ maps. There just happens to be way more of them. There are about 12 mappers than consistently churn out superior maps and there are lists of good maps found using google. Of course, the K-Pop stuff is all over because well.. Koreans (and 15 year old American girls).

        • adrian meyer

          Yeah maybe I should do a google search haha, usually just searching on the game itself just pisses me off scrolling through loads of crappy ones. I’ll have a look.

  • snowy007

    Looks really interesting. But screw the quest exclusivity of it. Just give us 360 mode as well. Not only do wireless pc headset solutions already exist, but it should be up to the mappers to create decent maps that don’t spin the player 500 times in a single direction. And if we have full 360 support, we can still make maps that only use 180. Won’t be possible the other way around. Unless it gets modded in.

    • kuhpunkt

      They already said they will try to bring it to other platforms, where it’s possible. Won’t work on PSVR, but on Vive/Index it would be possible, at least 180° – they don’t want people to trip on the wire.

      • snowy007

        Yes, I know. I’m saying that i don’t want a dumbed down 180 version of it just because i have a wire. Just give the full 360 support and let mappers decide how to use this space. Good maps won’t rotate too many times in a single direction. And maps that do can still be fun for users with a wireless solution like the TPCast or Vive wireless adapter.

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    • KOSTANTINOS KOD

      How is it interesting? You dont use steps, you sit on a spining chair doing left right. This is just an attempt to help oculus sell more,or let people with needs to enjoy beatsaber to.

      • snowy007

        I’m honestly not sure what you are talking about. Don’t use steps? Spinning chair? I wouldn’t want to play BeatSaber while sitting down… Rotating and especially avoiding the red walls is a lot easier standing up. And how would a 360 mode make it more enjoyable for ‘people with needs’?

        • Ratm

          They sacrifice the need to step if needed this is literally breaking the game, chair or without no idea why would anyone want to play this beside been handicap or smt.

          • dogtato

            No they don’t, no it isn’t, it isn’t an easy mode, there were still walls that you have to dodge even if in this one example song the walls were mostly decorative.

          • snowy007

            Looking at the video, nothing has changed with the mechanics of stepping aside to dodge walls. Track layouts can still be exactly the same as currently. The only difference is that the track with the blocks and walls can start to come from different directions. The song in the video does seem fairly easy with the walls. Because they appear mainly towards the edges of the play-space, with one exception where you have to duck. But that’s just how that specific song is mapped.

          • Ratm

            You dont step to avoid walls in the video, you turn.

          • snowy007

            Turning is not how they avoided the walls in the video. They could have stood still and those walls would still have missed. Just because that specific song on that difficulty is mapped in such a way that the walls all appear on the far sides of the play-space, does not mean that all songs and all difficulties are mapped in such a way.

          • Ratm

            There are few in youtube, they look the same ,i dont think its posible to be done and be playable.

      • MountainK1ng

        Who plays beatsaber sitting down? Unless you’re confined to a wheelchair or something…

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  • JesuSaveSouls

    They should turn it into a real game with a story mode but on bosses you battle it out in song.

  • BsExcl

    “360 degree”

    Less than 5 seconds of the song goes beyond 180 degree… Really put into perspective how bs that “don’t want player to trip” exclusivity argument is.

  • Ubelsteiner

    The song is just boring AF to me, but I see potential for this to be a fun additional layer of challenge for better songs/higher difficulties. I think higher FOV headsets might start seeing an advantage with this (assuming it’s not going to be restricted to Quest only).

  • Brent Winters

    After reading a different article that didn’t make it clear that this was a Quest exclusive right now, I made the mistake of buying the DLC on the PC. Disappointed there’s no 360. As for those complaining about all the bad mods and anime crap, I agree. There are good songs but it takes time to download, install, and try them. Is there a good song browser that lets you listen to the song before installing it and has a good rating system to sort the best to the top? That would be helpful.

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  • GrebGoneBad

    Exclusive 360 only to Quest users? Fuck that. I’ve got my rift cables on a pulley system above my head so there’s no risk of them tangling around me (something I would definitely advise over the current generation of wireless solutions any day due to their high price and relatively low time between charges). Granted continuous spinning in one direction would cause strain on the cables, but it’s up to the mappers to make sure they don’t create maps that cause this.