In the Groove (series)
In the Groove (commonly abbreviated ITG) was a series of music video games that used a four-panel dance pad. The series was first distributed by Roxor Games during a time when four-panel dance games in the arcade market were on the decline. As of October 18, 2006, Konami (makers of Dance Dance Revolution) has acquired the intellectual property rights to the series.
The name In the Groove refers to three different things: the arcade version of the game In the Groove, the PlayStation 2 and PC version of the game, and the brand name of the franchise itself. In the Groove 2 is the second game in this franchise. An In the Groove 3 was planned but canceled, due to a lawsuit with Konami.
In the Groove is based on a modified version of the free and open source StepMania engine, which was originally designed to simulate the Dance Dance Revolution series. ITG was produced in the United States, and the majority of the In the Groove fanbase consists of players who desire songs and step patterns of a higher difficulty than those found in Dance Dance Revolution. A total of 72 songs are available in the original release of the game, ten of which are unlockable and one of which (Liquid Moon) is only available at the end of a single Marathon course.
RedOctane published a PlayStation 2 version of In the Groove. This version has all the features and songs from the arcade release, in addition to four "preview songs" from the arcade version of In the Groove 2. The game reached store shelves on June 17, 2005, and introduced several new gameplay features, including the Novice difficulty, new Marathon courses, and new Fitness and Training modes.
At the Amusement Showcase International 2005 in Chicago, IL, Roxor Games announced that In the Groove 2 would be released with its own dedicated cabinet as well as an upgrade kit for old In The Groove conversion kits. The new cabinet was initially produced by Andamiro, the creators of Pump It Up, another dance-simulation game. However, in 2006 Roxor announced that they themselves would take over cabinet production for In The Groove 2 dedicated cabinets. In The Groove 2 was also made available as a conversion kit for older Dance Dance Revolution machines. In The Groove 2 features 65 new songs, as well as every song and course from the original release of In The Groove. Although a PlayStation 2 version of ITG2 was never released, the PC version (based on the first game) received a patch adding all the songs from ITG2 plus the new theme.
On May 9, 2005, however, Konami filed a complaint against Roxor seeking, among other things, a preliminary injunction preventing them from selling arcade cabinet conversion kits. See Roxor Games (or "Lawsuit", below) for details.
On January 14, 2006, at the In the Groove North American Tournament Finals in Las Vegas, Roxor announced that the arcade release of In the Groove 3 and the home release of In the Groove 2 would take place sometime during 2006. ITG3 was to be previewed at the Amusement & Music Operators Association Expo 2006 convention in Las Vegas, though was absent from Roxor's presentation area, presumably due to delays in the game's production. The release of In the Groove 3 never happened, as Konami gained the intellectual property rights to the series and presumably cancelled future In The Groove projects. Some songs that were to debut on ITG3 found their way into Pump It Up Pro and Pump It Up NX2. Due to the open nature of the Stepmania platform used by ITG, the discovery of the ability to add custom songs to an ITG machine, and a patch for In the Groove 2 called "r21" (which adds support for custom songs, released shortly before the lawsuit) many fans of the series have used leaked song and incomplete step files from ITG3 to try and rebuild it as a fan-created product.
The gameplay mechanics of In the Groove are very similar to Konami's Dance Dance Revolution series, involving stepping in time to the general rhythm or beat of a song using a four-arrowed Dance Pad. During normal gameplay, color arrows scroll upwards from the bottom of the screen and pass over a set of gray, stationary arrows near the top (referred to as "targets"). When the scrolling arrows overlap the stationary ones, the player must step on the corresponding arrow(s) on the dance platform.
Longer arrows referred to as "Holds" must be held down for their entire length for them to count. "Rolls" (as introduced in In the Groove 2), which appear to be spiky, green and yellow holds, must be rapidly tapped (like a drumroll, hence the name) for them to count. Mines deduct score and health if a player's foot is on an arrow when they pass by the corresponding target arrow on-screen.
Passing & Failing
On the player's far side of the screen is a life bar. This is affected by the accuracy judgements the player receives for hitting (or missing) arrows (see "Judgements" below for specifics). If there is anything left on the life bar at the end of the song, the player passes the song and can proceed to play another (up to the maximum number of songs allowed for one credit).
If the player's life bar empties at any time, the song (and possibly the round; see "Safety Nets" below) is failed.
Most machines have the Auto-Fail feature turned off - that is, any player whose life bar empties during a song can still finish playing that song, but will be failed at its conclusion. All machines will immediately fail any player who stops hitting arrows long enough to accrue 30 misses in a row.
Similar to other dancing games, the player is judged for how accurately they step relative to when they were supposed to step. From best to worst, possible judgements are "Fantastic," "Excellent," "Great," "Decent," and "Way Off," If you failed to step on a step within the accuracy zone, it will be a "Miss".
For holds and rolls, if the player finishes the hold or roll successfully, they receive a "Yeah" judgement. If not, the player receives a "Bad".
How Judgements Apply to the Life Bar
Steps judged "Fantastic," "Excellent," or "Great" add to the lifebar until it reaches its maximum.
Steps judged "Decent" do not have any effect on the life bar.
Steps judged "Way Off" or "Miss" will take off parts of the life bar until it is emptied.
During gameplay on all difficulties except Novice mode on ITG2, all judgements except "Fantastic" and "Miss" are prefixed or suffixed with a dash. A prefixed dash indicates the player stepped earlier than they were supposed to; a suffixed dash indicates the player stepped later than they were supposed to.
In the middle of the screen, the game keeps track of a player's current "combo," which is the length of the player's most recent chain of good timing judgements.
Steps judged "Fantastic," "Excellent," or "Great" add to a combo; steps judged "Decent" or worse and missed notes will break a combo. Contrary to what one might think, hitting a mine does not break a combo but will take parts off of the life bar until it is emptied.
A player's combo carries over from one song to the next, typically ending at the conclusion of a credit. However, if the player utilizes a USB card to keep track of their scores, their combo will also carry over from one credit to the next. Although the USB Card keeps a folder called "In The Groove" or "In The Groove 2" with a file called Stats.xml. This keeps information such as Current combo and Calories burned. Players can also change their combo to a much higher combo. so that they can use it on a machine.
When a player plays on the "Novice" difficulty on an In The Groove 2 machine, the machine allows them to play all the songs in their credit regardless of whether they pass any of them or not.
When players play on the "Easy" difficulty setting (but not with anyone on "Novice"), the machine allows them to play their second song even if they fail their first; however, if they fail their second song, the game is over.
If all players are playing on the "Medium", "Hard" or "Expert" difficulties, there are no safety nets - fail any song and the game is over.
It is also worth noting that if two players are playing, if either of them passes a song, both get to play the next song. However, if both players fail a song, the game is over.
For each judgement, the player receives or loses points depending on their accuracy:
- Fantastic: 5
- Excellent: 4
- Great: 2
- Decent: 0
- Way Off: -6
- Miss: -12
And for holds and rolls:
- Yeah: 5
- Bad: 0
Mines, when hit, deduct 6 points, but when avoided have no effect on score.
These points are divided by the total number of points possible for the song or course to make a percentage. The percentage is shown during play and at the results screen.
At the end of the song, the results screen displays a grade for each player based on the percentage of points that they got. The following are the minimum scores required for each grade:
- Quadruple Star: 100%
- Triple Star: 99%
- Double Star: 98%
- Star: 96%
- S+: 94%
- S: 92%
- S-: 89%
- A+: 86%
- A: 83%
- A-: 80%
- B+: 76%
- B: 72%
- B-: 68%
- C+: 64%
- C: 60%
- C-: 55%
- D: <55%
- F: Life Bar Emptied—Failed
As of June 9, 2012, according to Groovestats, a popular website for tracking ITG scores, 111 out of 113 single Expert and 22 out of 123 double Expert difficulty non-custom songs currently available have been quad-starred, meaning that someone has reported a perfect score of 100% on that particular song.
In the Groove rates song difficulty on a scale of 1 to 13, and according to this scale, the number of songs on each numerical level that have been quad-starred is as follows:
- 9's: 53 of 53 (100%)
- 10's: 35 of 35 (100%)
- 11's: 12 of 12 (100%)
- 12's: 9 of 10 (90%)
- 13's: 2 of 3 (67%)
- Total: 111 of 113 (98%)
- 9's: 20 of 68 (29%)
- 10's: 2 of 55 (4%)
- Total: 22 of 123 (18%)
- 9's: 73 of 121 (60%)
- 10's: 37 of 70 (53%)
- 11's: 12 of 25 (48%)
- 12's: 9 of 14 (64%)
- 13's: 2 of 6 (33%)
- Absolute total: 133 of 236 (56%)
Of note is the fact that of the Expert-difficulty songs, VerTex^2 has the lowest world record score on both single and double mode (99.91% on single and 93.15% on double). Only two single Expert songs (VerTex^2 and Euphoria) have a world record score less than 100% (both contain 3 "Excellent" judgments).
In the Groove is built on a complete PC system dubbed the "Boxor" which runs a heavily modified version of the Debian GNU/Linux distribution. The computer contains a standard IDE hard disk (usually 40gb or 80gb in size), single-core 32-bit processor (Usually AMD Athlon or Intel Celeron), 128mb nVidia GeForce FX 5200 graphics card, 256MB or 512MB of DDR RAM, a Gigabyte Technology GA-8IPE1000 Pro2 motherboard, and a USB 2.0 hub (Cypress EZ-USB FX2) for transferring user statistics and edits onto a flash drive. On upgrade kits for Dance Dance Revolution machines, The Boxor includes a special I/O board called "ITGIO" for making a JAMMA connection to the machine. Some Boxors have slightly different hardware than others. The software used to run the game is a proprietary fork of the open source StepMania computer program. Anti-piracy measures are achieved through the use of a "serial dongle" which prevents execution of the software on an unlicensed computer. The official songs on the machine are archived and encrypted to prevent piracy of the "simfiles" that make up the official songs on the machine. The boxor came as a modification kit, designed to replace the internal hardware of a traditional Dance Dance Revolution arcade cabinet - custom adapters map the input from the pads and buttons to a joystick-like interface, and connectors to interface the PC with the monitor, audio, switches, and lights to provide compatibility with original DDR cabinets.
Because ITG and ITG2 are based on standard PC computer hardware and open-source software, enterprising users have found ways to hack the game and change settings and themes, add songs and modify the game in similar ways that Stepmania can be customized. The exploit involves using a USB keyboard to change the boot sequence on the machine's BIOS in order to boot a Linux distribution from a USB key. Once it is booted, full access to the hard drive and file system can be achieved. While this exploit works best on ITG2, ITG is also vulnerable to similar modifications, with the one hurdle that the monitor on upgraded DDR cabinets do not have the ability to display the correct refresh rate when in the system BIOS and in the Linux console. Users hacking an original In the Groove cabinet must perform the operations "blind", or disconnect the cabinet's monitor from the boxor and replace it with their own monitor.
Certain versions of the In the Groove 2 cabinet - in particular the ones manufactured by Andimiro, have BIOS passwords. In this situation users have to bypass the password by resetting the BIOS on the motherboard. This is typically done by removing the power cord and CMOS battery, then activating CMOS_PWD reset jumper on the motherboard of the computer.
It is also possible to physically remove the hard drive from the In the Groove cabinet, connect it to another Linux PC which is under the hacker's control, and modify the files on the hard drive that way.
Some users have been able to enable networking services on the In The Groove operating system, allowing root access to the machine through SSH or SCP in a networked environment for easier and quicker hacking.
Most of the songs in the ITG series were composed by aliases of Kyle Ward (commonly compared to DDR's Naoki, who works under similar circumstances). Four songs found in the DDR series are now also present in In the Groove 2: "Bumble Bee", "Tough Enough" by Vanilla Ninja "Typical Tropical" by Bambee and "Sunshine" by Triple J (originally known as "Follow the Sun").
The ITG as a whole is generally considered to have good synchronization between the step charts and the background music; most charts in ITG have steps which are fairly close to being on beat with the song. However, this wasn't always the case.
DDR, according to many players, have an early bias in its steps. Often players would have to step a few hundredths of a second ahead of the beat to obtain a perfect score. Adversely, In the Groove's stepcharts were generally synced slightly late of the beat. Players generally had to step a few hundredths of a second after the beat in order to obtain a perfect score. Since players were already used to stepping early, this gave original versions of In the Groove the feeling of being offsync.
The initial release of In the Groove 2 presented better synchronization between stepcharts and their songs than its predecessor. Since Roxor now had precise control over the hardware that was being used in the machines, it was possible to sync the songs to be more precisely on-beat. Despite the overall improvement in song synchronization, early revisions of In the Groove 2 still had several charts were noticeably offbeat (examples include the charts for the songs "Agent Blatant", "Amore", "Lipstick Kiss", and "Turn It On"). As a result of these findings, and other bugs that were discovered, patches (known as revisions) were gradually implemented that provided bug fixes and sync improvements as they were discovered in the initial release. As revisions were released, they were dubbed names based on their version, starting with R2, and ending with R23.
R16 made a significant change to the way that In the Groove 2 polled the dance pad for input. In particular, it increased the rate of polling to provide a more accurate representation of when the user stepped on the arrows. Although there were few actual song synchronization changes, this modification made the grading much more accurate, and many player's scores improved as a result. While this polling modification was made in R16, it was not until R21 that it was popularized. R21, like the other revisions, was a rollup of all modifications from R2 onwards, but it included both the polling frequency change, and the much sought after option of allowing users to play custom songs loaded on their USB keys at the arcade.
On May 9, 2005, Konami of Japan filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, asking for an injunction against Roxor and payment of damages, based on "Konami's patent and trademark rights in its Dance Dance Revolution arcade game" and unfair competition law. Konami claims that the refitting of arcade cabinets "has been done in an infringing and unfair way". This did not affect the PlayStation 2 game, which was released as planned. On July 10, 2005, however, Konami amended its complaint to include the In the Groove PS2 game and its publisher RedOctane. On July 25, 2005, Roxor Games filed a counterclaim against Konami. In the counterclaim, Roxor denies most of the claims in Konami's complaint. Roxor Games also claims that In the Groove does not violate patent law and that Konami has engaged in unfair competition. However, the lawsuit ultimately ended in a settlement where Konami would acquire the In the Groove intellectual property rights and that Roxor would "respect Konami’s intellectual property rights". Kyle Ward and several other of ITG's developers and musicians later formed a new company, Fun in Motion, to in association with Andamiro, produce Pump It Up Pro, a spinoff of the Pump It Up series featuring music and features carried over from In the Groove.