Whatever Happened To … Chroma, Harmonix's Music-Based FPS?

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor August 15, 2017
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As much as we might make fun of “dead” or “dying” games, at least a game that launched and then declined rapidly … well, launched.

Other titles aren't always so lucky. They get a big announcement, some PR hype … and then the news becomes less and less frequent. The websites aren't updated as much. Social media accounts go silent. Then, years later, someone asks the question: “Hey, whatever happened to that game?”

The answer is usually a Dr. McCoy-esque “It's dead, Jim.” But until the developer or publisher officially pulls the plug, there's always a glimmer of hope to be had. Some games go out with a bang, leaving no question as to their alive-or-dead status. Others simply fade away, leaving hopeful players to wonder if they'll ever get their hands on that game that sounded cool on paper – and might have even had a chance to play.

Today, we'll take a look at whatever happened to … Chroma.

Chroma

Developers: Harmonix, Hidden Path Entertainment

Announced in early 2014, free-to-play game Chroma had a unique hook, blending “fast-paced PC shooter action with music-driven gameplay,” all presented in a high-tech, future-noir wrapper. Developed by Harmonix, of Rock Band fame, and Hidden Path Entertainment, its stylish visuals and promise of cutting-edge gameplay had us intrigued. Harmonix CEO Alex Rigopulos called it a “dream project.”

How exactly would it work? According to a VentureBeat, which demoed the game early in its development, one of the things you could do was fire off a grenade, which “will bounce on a beat and you can detonate it on a downbeat for greater effect.” Groovy.

One of the things you could do was fire off a grenade, which "will bounce on a beat and you can detonate it on a downbeat for greater effect."

Unfortunately, the odd marriage of shooting and rhythm never really took off. The VentureBeat article admits that the gameplay “isn't intuitive.” Looking at this gameplay video, it appears that you're supposed to time your shooting to musical beats for maximum efficiency. That flies in the face of typical shooter strategy, which is … well, shoot whenever you want. It was undoubtedly a difficult adjustment for players to make.

And for people who don't like to listen to in-game music, Chroma would have been impossible to play. I'm not one of those types of people, but just a few minutes of the incessant beat from that video has me wanting to do terrible things to my eardrums. MAKE IT STOP!

Near the end of that 2014 alpha, Harmonix said the game would need “some substantial retooling” but remained “passionately committed to the high-level vision.”

The sound of silence

The Chroma Twitter announced the end of the closed alpha on June 10, 2014, going into “sleep mode,” as it put it. Sleep, it did; no further Tweets have been forthcoming in the three years since. The game's official website and Chroma's Facebook have also been silent since that date. Layoffs – er, *record scratch*, “restructuring our organization to bring it into alignment with our current and future development plans” – around the same time probably didn't help matters.

It seemed like a neat concept that simply didn't work in either of the spaces – first-person shooter or rhythm game – that it tried to mix

Though there was never an official announcement (that I could find), several sources, including Hidden Path's Wikipedia page, list Chroma as “cancelled.” It seemed like a neat concept that simply didn't work in either of the spaces – first-person shooter or rhythm game – that it tried to mix. Sometimes, unique ideas are great because nobody's ever tried them before. Other times, there's a valid reason why nobody's ever tried them before.

That hasn't dissuaded Harmonix from still trying to create genre-merging games. The company's newest innovation is DropMix, in which “players create one of a kind mixes by playing cards featuring hit songs from award-winning artists.” You'll need a special “DropMix board” to play, along with your iOS or Android device, making it a kind of mobile CCG with music. It's an ambitious idea, and one that might be better suited to its core gameplay than Chroma ever was.

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About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

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