Virtual reality rhythm game Synth Riders (2019) is getting a new music pack tomorrow called ‘Synthwave Essentials 2′ which is set to feature the heavy-hitting English rock band Muse. Now, developers Kluge Interactive have unveiled the full tracklist for its upcoming DLC in a Road to VR exclusive, and also sat down to talk about some of the finer points of grooving to the infectious electric beat of synthwave in VR.
Synth Riders is all about freestyle dancing, and getting into flow state as you hit incoming orbs to the beat. A unique rail system gets you stretching in every direction; it feels a bit like the neon-soaked lovechild between Thumper (2016) and Kung Fu.
Launching tomorrow, January 14th, Synth Riders Synthwave Essentials 2 Music Pack will include five paid songs, which will be available for purchase for $1.99 each, or as a bundle for $7.96 (-20%).
Check out the gameplay video here:
Headlining Synthwave Essentials 2 is “Algorithm”, Muse’s title track from their acclaimed 2018 album Simulation Theory. For the song, the studio created a new immersive level that synchronizes the game’s patently ’80s-inspired visuals to the beat, something Kluge Interactive CEO Arturo Perez told us results in “the blending of sight, sound, and movement together into a transformative VR experience.”
The game is also getting three free songs, which will arrive in an update tomorrow for all supported platforms. Synth Riders is available on SteamVR headsets via Steam and Viveport, and cross-buy between Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest. PSVR support is also coming sometime this year. More on that below.
‘Synthwave Essentials 2’ Paid Tracks
- “Algorithm” (Alternate Reality Version) – Muse: The title track of Muse’s “Simulation Theory” is given an atmospheric, darkly symphonic treatment and combines with the included Synth Riders Experience to explore the song’s concept that we are caged in simulation.
- “The Dark Side” – Muse: The second track of Muse’s “Simulation Theory” continues to explore the struggle to escape from a dystopia with controlling technologies, from our own anxieties and from the Dark Side.
- “Days of Thunder” – The Midnight: Like something straight out of an ’80s movie, this melodic synthwave track comes complete with a saxophone player in the back seat as you cruise along the Pacific highway.
- “Tech Noir” (Carpenter Brut Remix) – Gunship: Taken from Gunship’s 2015 self-titled first album, this synthwave classic is given a new funk-driven uptempo push by French synthwave artist Carpenter Brut.
- “Running In The Night” – FM-84 & Ollie Wride: A massive synthwave hit for producer Col Bennett, better known as FM-84, which pairs sparkling synths with the incredible vocals of long time collaborator Ollie Wride resulting in a modern-yet-classic ’80s soundscape.
Free Songs Arriving Jan. 14th
- “Abyss” (Gancher & Ruin Remix) – 3FORCE (feat. Scandroid): Gancher & Ruin takes the synthwave epic from 3FORCE featuring Scandroid and twists it into a relentless EDM track that will have you moving.
- “Empire of Steel” (MASKED Remix) – Essenger (feat. Scandroid): Essenger and Scandroid join forces in “Empire of Steel” in this remix by MASKED that takes early 80s synth pop and gives it a harder, modern EDM-and-guitars edge, all set in a cyberpunk future.
- “Automatic Call” – NINA: With a strong bassline and shimmering synths all topped with Nina’s beautiful vocals this is a breakup song you’ll always come back to.
We also got a chance to virtually sit down with Arturo Perez, CEO and partner at Kluge Interactive, to learn a little more about what makes the studio’s love letter to synthwave tick.
Founded in 2007, Kluge Interactive is a Los Angeles-based creative agency which builds interactive experiences for a number of sectors including healthcare, B2B, and the public sector. The studio created and published Synth Riders in 2018, making it their first VR game for consumers.
You seem pretty excited about the upcoming DLC. What’s all the hubbub?
Arturo Perez, CEO of Kluge Interactive: We are very excited indeed! Synthwave was our creative inspiration in making Synth Riders to begin with, and we have seen a lot of requests for a follow-up. When we were making the game, synthwave was more of a niche, and we can’t believe how much it’s grown since then. We are proud to release a pack with classic artists such as FM-84 & Ollie Wride, The Midnight, Gunship, and Scandroid, who are all legends to us. And then there is Muse, who pulled off some legendary songs of their own in “Simulation Theory,” and we couldn’t be happier to feature two songs from that album on this pack.
This pack is special for us for one more reason. For the first time, we are launching a dedicated, playable experience for one of the songs in the pack, “Algorithm” by Muse. Rather than a stage that could be used with any song, this is a unique, artistically-driven, immersive visual feast, perfectly synchronized with the song, that results in the blending of sight, sound, and movement together into a transformative VR experience. The final effect went beyond our expectations and we hope that the “Algorithm” Experience will blow the minds of many VR newcomers and let the veterans relive the “wow” factor of VR one more time.
You can really burn some serious calories playing just about any track in Synth Riders. When you set out to make the game, were you specifically targeting fitness, or was that more of a happy side effect?
Our main inspiration for the game was Thumper (2016), so the initial idea was all about making a good music game for us – VR Fitness was nowhere in our periphery. Once we had a prototype, we did realize this game could work great for dancers and fitness enthusiasts. I remember this came up in an audience exercise we did internally. But it wasn’t until our community confirmed this that we got intentional about it.
Today, we are lucky to have someone like our Product Manager Wirrel in our team, who comes with 20 years of fitness experience. We have gotten more intentional about the movements we guide our players to do, and especially in making sure that these movements are good for their bodies. For example, we know that ongoing repetition is bad for you, so we are always intentionally mixing dance and fitness patterns we insert into each song, in a way that it won’t have negative repercussions. We are also constantly QA’ing with how it feels for the body. We are thrilled that the game is widely used for fitness and dancing; what started off as a happy accident has become core to how we bring new features to the game.
Developers seem to be experiencing significant upticks in both installs and user engagement thanks to Quest 2. Is this also the case for Synth Riders?
Absolutely. The weeks before the Quest 2 seemed to be lower-than-usual for everyone we spoke to. Our numbers immediately spiked 5x the day it came out. And we are seeing another interesting spike with the new year too; it’s clear that there are more and more new headsets out there. The percentage of Quest buyers over every other platform we are on continues to grow and widen over time.
PSVR users have been waiting patiently for Synth Riders. When can we expect to start grooving on PSVR?
We are very excited to finally be coming out with PSVR this year. We don’t have an exact date yet but we can confirm that after a number of false starts, we do now have it solidly in the roadmap. Our conversations with the Playstation team have been very encouraging and we look forward to making some exciting announcements about our PSVR release in the short future.
The game’s Mario Kart-style multiplayer power-ups are my personal favorite addition as of late. Across all available modes, where do you find users spending most of their time? Why is that?
Thank you! We love power-ups, and we are continuing to work on them thanks to precious community feedback. We are having a LOT of fun with it as we believe Synth Riders is first and foremost about having fun, and even though we do have a competitive side to the game, we felt the need to bring this Kart-style approach in order to get people engaged with each other, regardless of where they are at in the game.
One of our current challenges now is that we do have a lot of different modes, and players are not always aware of them all. According to our stats and the reviews we get, the favorite seems to be Spin Mode, especially because it works across every single song in the game, including the customs, and across all levels of difficulty. Some players like to play 360 wild and some players like 180 mild. We are also especially pleased about the way this update turned out!
The game has grown a great deal since it was first released in Early Access. Any hints at cool features we can look forward to in 2021?
We don’t want to spoil too much but we can say that we are working on our own version of a Campaign mode which will be a pretty significant update for us. We are also thinking of this mode as the one to help us guide our players to really understand all of the different features that the game now has. We launched this game in Early Access in 2018 and we can’t believe how far it’s come; this also means that it’s feature-rich and we hope Campaign Mode will be a great introduction to the world of Synth Riders.
The other feature we are very excited about is “Experiences,” something we had in mind for a long time but only came to fruition with Muse’s “Algorithm” which is our first visual-to-song unique experience. We are thinking about how to allow our Community to make even more experiences for themselves, and also about the kind of music we want to work with to get even more official experiences onto the game. We can’t wait to see what we can do here, but for now, we just see a lot of exciting potential.
Final question: any favorite experiments with Synth Riders that just didn’t work out?
A lot hasn’t worked! At one point in 2019, we tried to bring additional mechanics to the game, including a way to play more with your elbows and of course with the feet. We also thought of ways to bring in shooters, something you see a little bit with our “Space Invaders” power-up. It’s not like we’ve discarded any of it, but we decided to stay focused on what really worked; primarily around a great rail experience and versatility in the way we can design patterns around our regular notes and their specials. The community has been critical for us, they keep us focused and grounded on what makes this game so special for everyone. We really try to listen to them and make it a game that is created by both of us. While at the same time we are constantly thinking of ways to push boundaries and bring our own flavor and approach to the rhythm genre.
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Synth Riders is available for $25 on SteamVR headsets via Steam and Viveport, and features cross-buy between Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest. You’ll find the new DLC on all platforms starting tomorrow, January 14th.