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PC Preview - 'The City of Metronome'

by John Curtis on May 20, 2005 @ 3:47 a.m. PDT

Venture into the city of Metronome, a sprawling mass of haphazardly built houses and huge steam engines where the outlandish inhabitants are carrying out their chores day and night. A city where the life of every citizen is dictated by the Corporation, a single bureaucratic entity that owns all the land, the entire infrastructure and all the industries.

Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: TBA
Developer: Team Tarsier
Release Date: TBA

Hidden in the back of Kentia Hall, the slums of E3, we found a real gem in The City of Metronome, which was unlike anything we have ever seen. The title is truly a genre-defying experience, combining platforming, adventure, and third-person shooter aspects with a myriad of other features that have never been seen before. Sound-driven gameplay takes audio to previously unimaginable heights.

The concept of the game originated from Per Bergman and Bjorn Sunesson, two of the nine-person development team over at Team Tarsier. The basis for the story of the game was dreamed up from children's books and Asian horror films. We were introduced to Metronome by Mattias Nygren, CEO of Tarsier, who described the game as a sound-driven adventure, at which point we weren't quite sure what to expect. The introductory video showcased the unique art style and helped establish some of the backstory about a great machine which created ideas for all worlds. On one world, The Corporation found out about this machine and wanted to monopolize its ideas, so they started building their own machine. During this process, they abducted children from other worlds, and the city of Metronome was born to house this future workforce.

In Metronome, you will find strange characters such as the Metrognome, a child who has had its soul extracted by The Corporation, leaving an empty shell which was then programmed for a specific task. The souls of the children were then used to power Scouts, the main enemy in the game, which can come in many forms. Two types of Scouts we were able to see were a walking camera and a police officer which appeared to have been created from using various junkyard pieces. These two styles of characters showcase how audio will greatly impact gameplay. In one of these cases, the use of melodious sounds controls Metrognomes to help in various puzzle and combat situations. Another example of the audio gameplay is the use of destructive sounds during combat with Scouts, and a third audio-driven element was the use of sounds to solve puzzles.

Using sounds is only half of the gameplay element, while the other part of the game will come in the form of the actual recording of these sounds. While we were only shown the ability to create sounds from objects in the environment, we were also told that there would be ways of creating sounds by yourself. The example they talked about involved the main character throwing a garbage can down a flight of stairs and recording the noise to create a destructive sound. The recorded sounds could be manipulated by speeding them up or slowing them down. We were told that being able to do this would take a major role; if you recorded a small dog yelping, you could later tune the recording to a lower pitch to create an illusion of a much larger dog, which can be used to scare off enemies in different areas.

For a game so deeply rooted in audio, the visuals are some of the best at the entire E3 show. Character and level design were completely original, and the textures in the game were flawless, a testament to the development team's devotion. In the preview build we saw, the game took place at night, and the lighting really captured the atmosphere. All of this graphical fidelity was completed in only four months by nine people, so just imagine what they could do in a full development term.

While we were utterly impressed with this game, The City of Metronome is still without a publisher or a system to call a home. Everything that has been developed thus far has been on a PC using the Reality engine from Artificial Studios, and we were told that the developers have targeted the game for release on any, if not all, of the next generation systems. Hopefully, a publisher will see this game while on display at E3 and give them a home, as we would really love to get a chance to play a full version of The City of Metronome.

Corey Owen and Conrad Pendergrass also contributed to this preview.

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