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GDC Online 2010: Hands-on and preview of WINtA

WINtA is probably the best brand new game that I've seen so far at GDC Online 2010 (this week in Austin, Texas). It's a title published by a group called OneBigGame, which is a nonprofit video game publisher. They commission and publish games, which are created for free by luminaries in the video game field, and then they sell them to customers for money that goes straight to charities around the world. Founder Martin de Ronde took the stage at GDC to allegedly talk about how to take an app from iPhone to the iPad, but what he actually did was show off this really amazing game and music platform, and he gave a road map to where the iPad version will eventually go.

"WINtA" stands for "War is Not The Answer," which is what game creator Masaya Matsuura felt after September 11th, and that's what he wanted to transfer into game form. WINtA itself is actually a rhythm game -- Matsuura is well known in the gaming community for making PaRappa the Rapper, which is a highly regarded PlayStation game known for pioneering the genre that eventually launched Guitar Hero and Tap Tap Revolution. de Ronde approached Matsuura under the OneBigGame banner, asking if he would create a game to sell for charity, and with the help of Dutch developer Triangle Studios, Matsuura came up with WINtA. The app will be out on the App Store for free later this year.

Check out more, including a video of the demonstration, after the break.
WINtA is definitely a music game. The visuals are very abstract, with boxes rising up into the view and sometimes even floating or spinning around. As each lyric in whatever song that's chosen comes up, the boxes fill with a color, and when that color fills up the boxes completely, the player needs to tap that box at the right time to earn a high score. The overall effect is similar to Guitar Hero, but without a "note highway" -- instead, the player is just tapping on certain places as they go by. It's like Elite Beat Agents, actually (if you know that series at all) except that the boxes fill from the inside instead of being surrounded on the outside.



One major difference is that the timing in WINtA is tuned not to the music of a song, but to the lyrics. Each syllable requires its own tap. de Ronde said that if you watch most players "tap along" to something they're listening to, they'll tap with the lyrics, not the actual music, and it was that feeling that Matsuura wanted to create.

The app is free, but DLC songs will be purchased with in-app purchases. While all of the profit will go to charity, de Ronde said that, in this case, OneBigGame was breaking their rule and delivering part of each purchase back to the songs' artists so that they could clear music for the app. But Triangle Studios also plans to release an editor to the public, so anyone can come along and deliver their song as a playable WINtA level directly within the app itself. The editor makes the app very skinnable -- you can see some examples of what various levels could look like below.


There will also be Plus+ integration for leaderboards and challenges, and Triangle Studios plans to completely recreate the app for iPad, bringing in ambidextrous controls (by mirroring the levels so that both hands can play at the same time) and same-screen multiplayer. Triangle also plans to create a song editor just for the iPad so that songs can be imported and created all on Apple's tablet. Those plans are all in the future, though -- the iPhone version will be first to release this winter, and it will simply be a game, with available DLC levels coming later.

During the talk, I jumped at the chance to play the game, and I really enjoyed it. I'm a huge fan of Matsuura's work, and WINtA has that great music game feeling of moving and tapping in tune to the song you're listening to. The song I played was actually an original song by Matsuura, but obviously Triangle hopes to include as much music as possible in the app -- they plan to turn WINtA into a music platform, much like Rock Band or Tap Tap Revolution.

On the whole, the app was very impressive, and I'm looking forward to it later this year. This is just the start of OneBigGame's iOS efforts, too. de Ronde also mentioned that the company had commissioned an iOS racing game from creator Dave Perry (of Earthworm Jim and Shiny Entertainment), as well as a game called "Minesweeper Adventure" that combined Microsoft's super casual game with something a little more complicated. As with WINtA, both of those games will be released and sold for charity's sake, so you'll be able to support a great cause and play a great game, too. Stay tuned for more.

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