Oh Quaver, What Are You?
Today, something big happened in vertical scrolling rhythm games happened. A game trying to bridge the gap between osu!mania and stepmania for 4k players, and osu!mania and BMS for 7k players. Let's talk about how it did that.
First, lets talk about the most important thing in any rhythm game: game feel. Moreover, how much you can change for the sake of accessibility and one's personal preferences. Quaver starts off strong with fine detailing on scroll speed changes, a vast quantity of sound effect changes, up/down scroll option, basically everything you would want...except a cmod. I adamantly disagree with any game opting out of having a constant scroll speed modifier. There is almost never anything fun one can do with them, unless you're absolutely abusing them (Take this o!m chart for TWO-TOrial – PHQUASE and DJ TOTTO, charted by MAAAAAAAAAAAAAS). However, most charts play more like Valkyrie Dimension CSP in DDR, constantly regarded as one of the hardest and least fun charts in the game due to its intro and outro streams that whiz past at a monumental 744 and 390 bpm respectively. Since DDR also doesn't have a cmod, this forces players to either a) play at uncomfortably low scroll speed for the rest of the song, a friendly 186 bpm, or b) cry. (Please do not let me get started on o!m SV charts because they're often just genuinely unsightreadable, something that is a massive crime in rhythm games)
Stepmania Imported Charts
They're just broken. Almost all of them. Almost any sm chart with a bpm change or a freeze will fall massively off sync, sometimes including being FULL SECONDS off sync. The DDR convert of Saber Wing (AKIRA ISHIHARA Headshot Mix) is PARTICULARLY awful, but sadly Quaver isn't playing well with my recording software. This is something I hope will be fixed soon, but I expect is low on the priority bracket. This, however is particularly frustrating because
osu! Imported Charts
It's fucking flawless. Not a single god damn problem.
Scoring is about as good as you can get for a game that doesn't seem to use millisecond specific timing like etterna does. Timing windows are similar to stepmania judge 5 with a slightly higher perfect window. There's not a combo based scoring system in sight, a massive refresher from osu!mania.
In rhythm games, there are two standard forms of held notes: there's charge notes (CNs), where the first input is timed and there's no timing to the release at the end of the note, and there's long notes (LNs), where the release is timed. 99% of modern games use CNs, with a good few (such as etterna and bms) allowing to optionally turn on LNs. This is almost definitely the best way to go about things, as a vast portion of players prefer to play with CNs due to the challenge of holds being to hold the note, and making timing the release force an almost piano-esque flourish that can lead to damage over time in certain patterns. With this said, it was much to my disappointment that, like osu!mania, Quaver forces LNs else plays won't be ranked. Again, this shafts almost every stepmania convert, continuing a pattern of pushing against pulling in sm players.
Not much can be said about skinning beyond this: it is incredibly robust, allowing both osu!-esque lane coloring and stepmania-esque snap coloring. People are working on importing skins from other games, and using a more osu! inspired general UI is a PERFECT THING. Etterna, and many other stepmania 5 themes, have a problem of looking and feeling somewhat dated, so having a game look good is a nice change of pace.
Actually Playing The Game
In terms of actually playing the game, Quaver is great! In rhythm games, good and bad are separators more of options and choice, rather than objectivity. The core engine of Quaver does feel incredibly wonderful and consistent, framerates were high and consistent, when I actually select a map and hit the keys there's honestly nothing I can say, so long as the map is at a consistent bpm with no LNs.
To wrap things up, Quaver feels like it's a game that doesn't know what it is. It's trying to be a universal competitive vsrg for 4k and 7k, but is so fundamentally different from stepmania, FFR, bms, o2jam, and so much more that, when push comes to shove, it just feels like osu!mania 2. I had high hopes for Quaver, but, even setting the beta bugs aside, I can't see it having any significant shelf life. The only thing it has to differentiate itself from o!m is a better scoring system and better rate mods, but it still holds the massive paradigm shift between o!m and sm, and isn't in any form a bridge between the two. With nothing really pulling people aside from “You can play o!m and stepmania charts with a functioning online play!” Quaver needs a good ace up its sleeve, and I sadly don't expect it to have one. My best wishes goes out to everyone who has and will work on Quaver, but I sadly don't think I'll be keeping it on my machine.