At first glance of Dancing with the Stars: Keep Dancing, it's tough not to instantly lob questions at it like, "Why make a game all about dancing in the browser?" And even after a preview of the game courtesy of developer and publisher BBC Worldwide, it's difficult to keep ourselves from lobbing that question at this free-to-play, Unity-based browser game based on the hit show.
Of course, it's entirely possible that a majority of Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) fans simply aren't interested in getting up and dancing around their living room. Regardless, BBC Worldwide has painstakingly crafted a freemium game experience that's faithful to the source material, and has even found a way to incorporate what DWTS is all about: motion capture.
Keep Dancing is the first browser-based free-to-play (F2P) game this writer has ever seen to use motion capture technology to guide animation. BBC Worldwide executive producer Dyan Williams tells us that the team brought in DWTS dancer Kym Johnson for a three-day motion capture session after three days of choreography and planning. Johnson is behind every move that your in-game avatar will master in-game, and according to Williams, it was the only way to get it exactly right.
"We felt like hand animation just wasn't going to cut it," Williams admits. "To do these kind of movements, to have the fluidity, move things through 3D space and really bring that experience to life, it had to be mo-capped. And it had to be done in 3D."
At launch, there are over 100 dance moves across three styles--Samba, Jive and Tango--to master with your avatar, which can be tweaked using over 100 different customization options. The general gist of Keep Dancing is for players to master these moves from bronze to gold level, which like all F2P games, costs energy. Only after doing this should players even consider taking their moves to the DWTS stage, since they'll be judged upon how well they've mastered the moves in their routine.
Speaking of which, players will have to create their own routines by stringing dance moves together that they've mastered to 15 different licensed songs from artists ranging from artists like Britney Spears to Aretha Franklin. But whether you correctly match dance moves to a given song doesn't really matter--what does matter is whether you "nail it."
While practicing moves and performing them on the DWTS stage, red circles will flash before players' eyes. It will take sharp eyes to notice when these red, spinning circles turn green and click on them in time to make sure each move is pulled off. Final scores directly reflect how many times a player correctly clicks the green circles, so it takes a bit of skill to succeed in Keep Dancing. (But only a tiny bit.)
Social features are a bit light in Keep Dancing at launch, but we're told that they're a top priority for BBC Worldwide to add at a later date. Regardless, the DWTS game is Facebook connected, so expect these features to ramp up considerably some time after launch. (We're told that leader boards and routine ratings are on the way, and season tournaments are a consideration.) Of course, real money currency is present in Keep Dancing, which players can use to buy more energy or premium accessories for their avatars.
All things considered, Keep Dancing is all about getting as close to the real deal as possible. Leaving, you know, actual dancing out of the equation makes that feat especially difficult for BBC Worldwide. Despite that fact, features like motion capture 3D graphics and licensed music help get Keep Dancing pretty dang close. And for fans of the show that might be all they need.
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