Osu!: A Game With its own Rhythm
It’s been a long day, and you have just arrived home. You sit down at your computer, finally relaxing, and turn it on. You click on the little pink circle icon that has become so familiar to you over the last few months and prepare to spend the next few hours destroying your hands in a feeble attempt to chase rhythm. The application opens and says to you, “Welcome to Osu!”
Osu! is a free-to-play, open-source rhythm game originally released in 2007. Since its release, Osu! has slowly gained popularity since and is now one of the most popular rhythm games available for personal computers. To play, players select a song from the interface. Beatmaps, a sequence of circles that players can interact with, appear on screen for players to follow the rhythm of the songs they chose. The player uses his or her mouse to aim at each circle, then his or her keyboard to tap on each circle before the circle disappears. Follow the rhythm correctly, and the player gains points. Miss a beat, and the player loses accuracy. Too many missed beats will result in having to start over.
Beatmaps range in difficulty, with most players beginning with extremely easy beatmaps. A slow tempo with large, spaced-out circles makes it easier for beginners to move their mouses to the correct positions, then tap on keyboards when appropriate. As beatmaps increase in difficulty, circles appear more quickly and in positions that make it difficult to move from one circle to the next. A player has no way of knowing where circles will appear besides memorizing the entire beatmap, making faster maps very difficult to play for beginners. Players will eventually have to “read the map,” meaning that they will be able to predict where a circle might appear next, using the rhythm of the song playing. This skill only comes with experience, and players with good reading skills have dedicated many hours to playing the game. At very difficult levels, the key to passing the beatmap becomes speed and stamina. Players alternate between fingers on the keyboard to provide the speed required to tap the circles on the beat. This kind of speed and the stamina required to maintain it is taxing on a player’s fingers, wrist, hand, and even whole arm. Similarly to map reading, speed and stamina in Osu! come only with practice.
Once a player completes a beatmap, his or her performance is judged by an in-game scoring system, called the performance point system. The player gains performance points, or pp, according to how well he or she did and how hard the map was. Players with the most pp appear on the online leaderboard. As a beginner with little to no aim, speed, stamina, or map-reading skills, the game can be frustrating, and many quit before they get the chance to hone their skills. When I was just a beginner, I felt the frustration of Osu!’s steep learning curve. I did not understand how the keys worked at all and, having very little experience with other games, had horrible aim. However, with just a little determination, I became addicted to chasing the rhythm and forgot about the scores and leaderboards. At some point, I just started having fun listening to the music and tapping along. For me, it was a game I could just play to my best ability, and I could just try again if I didn’t pass. Eventually, with all the practice, I no longer struggled with gameplay and felt that my hand-eye coordination had greatly improved. Players who persevere past the harsh start of the learning curve can fully experience the entertainment, skill development, and community of millions of players.
Osu! has a vibrant community of players all over the world. From persevering beginners to experienced professionals, the community has a place for all Osu! fans. Beatmap creators, singers, fan-art, and background artists are all valued as members of the game’s community. Perhaps the most well-known members are streamers, who livestream Osu! gameplay on platforms such as Twitch and YouTube. Streamers often bring parts of the community together through their impressive gameplay and entertaining personalities. In-person meetups of Osu! players are often orchestrated by streamers, where people can hang out with other players in their area. The Osu! community also holds other fun events, such as art contests, the Osu World Cup, and other various tournaments. Participants and viewers alike are part of the overall experiences. It is all part of Osu! bringing people together using the rhythm that is simply a click away.
You can download Osu! at https://osu.ppy.sh/home.