411 Exclusive Interview: Daniel Tyrrell (XB)

When it was announced that Konami would release a Dance Dance Revolution game for the X-Box, it was initially met with mixed reactions. Long time fans of the series either applauded the move to expand the audience of the game, or dismissed it because of unjustified hatred towards the X-Box console itself.

At E3, the X-Box DDR game was revealed to be “DDR Ultramix”. A couple of days after E3 ended, visitors of the DDRFreak website were greeting by a mysterious forum poster who called himself “Order of Chaos”. He told us he was the leader of the Ultramix design team, and proceeded to keep the DDRFreak community informed of new developments with the game.

Recently, 411Games had a chance to talk with the “Order of Chaos” himself, Daniel Tyrrell, and discuss various aspects of the X-Box’s upcoming rhythm-based game.

411: To start with, please state your name and present position you hold within KCEH. (Konami Computer Entertainment of Hawaii)

Daniel Tyrrell: Daniel Tyrrell, Producer of Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix and Dancing Stage Unleashed.

411: How long have you been employed by Konami?

DT: I was hired here at Konami Hawaii in March 2003. I also worked for KCEA/KOA for 2 years from 1999-2001

411: Have you been involved in any other projects besides Ultramix within the past year?

DT: I was producer of Gladius for Lucas Arts for a year and a half before coming here.

411: How did you become the leader of the Ultramix design team?

DT: I’ll just call it luck. I get to live in Hawaii, I make games for a living and I have a great team to work with. Actually I had worked with the head of our Sound Group and the Senior VP of Product Development here at Konami Hawaii.

411: What made Konami decide to develop DDR for the X-Box?

DT: I think it was a natural choice. DDR had yet to be released on the Xbox platform and there is little competition currently in the marketplace for this type of game. I personally feel it is a great opportunity for us to reach a whole new group of people.

411: What major differences can we expect in this version in comparison with the PS2 versions?

DT: Obviously the LIVE features stand out as our biggest difference but we also have tried to make sure we are creating a game designed for the American market. We brought back the models, we captured new updated dance motion. We added 4 player capabilities (online and off) and created fun challenges. We have added wide screen, 5.1 sound and really tried to take advantage of the Xbox’s sound abilities. We have added multiple announcers and just tried to look at things with a fresh approach for the US and EU markets.

411: Have you encountered any major problems in developing DDR on a brand new platform?

DT: As far as development is concerned we haven’t had any MAJOR issues. The team has had to work really hard with a very tight schedule and so I have worried about team fatigue but this team is going strong and really doing a great job!! They just really care about making a quality title. Licensing songs for the Xbox didn’t go as smoothly as we would have liked but that wasn’t encountered on our side.

411: Given the tastes of X-Box owners, has this influenced the genres of music (i.e. Rap, Techno, Rock, Trance, etc.) included within the game?

DT: Yes we have tried to make sure we are targeting the right songs for the intended customer.

411: There are still 45 Konami Originals and 10 Licensed Tracks shipping with the game, correct?

DT: Actually there are 51 songs total shipping with the US version and we did not secure the licenses for 10 licensed tracks.

411: Are any of these songs unlockable, or are they all available the moment you turn the game on?

DT: Yes there are unlockable songs included in the 51.

411: Are all the licensed songs completely exclusive to the X-Box? Or are there any songs we’ve seen before in the Japan and/or European releases?

DT: All the Licensed songs in the game are exclusive to the Xbox version.

411: In recent screenshots, we’ve seen backgrounds for Paranoia Eternal and Luv To Me (Disco Mix). Can we confirm that these are included within the shipped game?

DT: Yes they are on the final list.

411: Fans have been clamoring to know what songs will officially be appearing on the shipped game. Can you drop any song titles to us now without getting in trouble?

DT: Well I have given you two so far, I guess 2 more wont hurt right?

Superstar by DJ RICH feat. TAIL BROS.

411: Can you tell us how many Challenge Missions have been included as of yet?

DT: 30 Challenges over 5 levels and let me tell you some of these are really tough, well for me at least.

411: How did the new “Battle Mode” come about?

DT: We were trying to come up with new ideas to take advantage of the Xbox. 4 ports=4 players so we took it from there. There were some roots in the cancelled PC version which helped us decide on this.

411: Why have you decided to include the infamous dancing characters in this version when they had been dropped from the MAX / MAX2 era?

DT: The team has always liked the Dancers and the power of the Xbox really allowed us to show these characters off.

411: Word has it that you used new motion-capturing software to record new dances for the characters. How was this done?

DT: We used a great company called House of Moves to do our motion capture. Basically we hired 2 dancers, put them in cool suits with reflector balls placed in strategic places and bounce laser cameras that record the motion in 3d space. Then we apply that to our model massage the data and put it in the game.

411: What prompted the design team to include X-Box Live support?

DT: This was a decision made before I arrived although at first the consensus was that we would only have Music Downloads. The team felt that with the support of Microsoft and the right design we could do online battles in the very short timeframe we had to finish.

411: What can we expect in the form of downloadable content? What will be free and what will be premium? How often will new content be available?

DT: The main focus is obviously on music downloads. These will be available on a monthly basis.

411: How will the downloading of songs work? Will we have to buy them individually, or will they come in packs? How much will we have to pay?

DT: This may change but the plan calls for 5 songs per pack. The price will be very affordable.

411: Can we expect any more “surprises” for this game?

DT: Yes definitely. We have done a few things with Sound options that have never been seen before and should provide a lot of fun for people who like music to sound the way they want it to.

411: Any last words before the end of the interview?

DT: Sure, I’d like to say thank you to the fans who support our game. Your questions and comments are being listened to even if we didn’t have time to implement them in this version. We are working to make the best game possible and we appreciate the support you all give us. I’d also like to thank the members of the Ultramix team who have worked so hard trying to get this game completed. Their work ethic and desire to make the best product has made this a wonderful working experience and ultimately will make for a great game.

411: On behalf of 411Games and 411Mania, I thank you for participating in this little Q&A session. We look forward to the X-Box’ new DDR game.

DT: Thank you, it is my pleasure.

After the interview was conducted, three more songs were revealed to be confirmed on DDRFreak.com:

ABSOLUTE (Cuff -N- Stuff it Mix) by Thuggie D.
Hypnotic Crisis by Blue Destroyers
Infinite Prayer by LED Light feat. Goro

Dance Dance Revolution: Ultramix is still on track for a November 2003 release.