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Video Game / In the Groove

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In the Groove (or ITG, as it's also known) is a video game unlike other video games.

Instead of a controller where you sit on your ass and mash buttons, in ITG you stand on a panel with four arrows and follow the arrow that show up on the screen, by stepping on the matching arrows. Mind-numbingly easy on the lower levels, but insanely hard in the later ones. Late-teens seem to catch on better than adults for some reason, and a very common sight in arcades is 30-somethings being put to shame by dextrous seventeen year-olds.

In case you haven't noticed, most of the lead is right from the DanceDanceRevolution page. This is because the two games are just that similar, with ITG essentially being an American-made DDR. However, this doesn't mean the series didn't innovate or have some neat features, like mines (which penalize you for stepping on them), charts containing sections that require hitting more than two arrows at once (intended for use with your hands), and Rolls (Freeze Arrows you have to keep hitting). The game also popularized the concept of "crazy-hard" songs to the 4-panel scene, with an added "Expert" difficulty available for most songs. The normal difficulty scale ranges from 1-12 "block" (compared to DDR's 1-10 at the time), with an additional 13th level for the hardest of the hard. And just look at the cabinet!

There's a lot going on graphically as well. The arrows here are IN 3D and are coloured similarly to DDR's "solo" arrows (on beat arrows are red, off-beat are blue, 16ths are green\yellow, etc), but with more solid colour. The default "hallway" perspective makes the arrows come closer to you (IN 3D) as they approach the step zone, though this can be changed to the more conventional "overhead" perspective. If one chooses to turn some mods on (or is playing certain courses), the arrows will weave, spin, and bounce all over the place and yet still somehow be possible to read.

The game was developed by Roxor Games (and ITG2 was co-published with Andamiro, with its dedicated cabinets being an iteration of the Pump it Up "GX" cabinets, and even using the same I/O boards), however due to a lawsuit Konami acquired the rights to the series and killed it off. Most of the original team went on to form a new team to create a Spiritual Successor as a Pump It Up spinoff. After 2 versions of Pro (the latter having fewer ITG staff on board), lead musician and/or developers Kyle Ward and Chris Foy went on to create a new studio, Step Revolution. Its first product was the touchscreen rhythm game ReRave.

In December 2015, while on a trip to Japan, Kyle Ward visited Konami offices for negotiations regarding the series, and later that month, posted a teaser on Facebook for a new game featuring a 3X3 panel dance pad similar to Technomotion with the In The Groove arrow design. In 2017, Kyle Ward unveiled StepManiaX, a Spiritual Successor to In The Groove with a fifth center panel (think Pump It Up, but with cardinal directions instead of diagonal ones) and a touchscreen for navigating menus.

In The Groove was based on the open source rhythm game engine StepMania; people quickly figured out how to essentially jailbreak the machines to add custom content in (including songs much longer and intensely difficult than the "official" game). Even after the official death of the franchise, the game has remained a popular competitive standard for SM on pad; intrepid players forked a StepMania build milestone (usually referred to as 3.95) used for ITG2 to make "OpenITG" (a "drop-in" replacement for the In the Groove 2 executable that adds quality-of-life improvements, and is also usable as a standalone build), while a community member's Polished Port of Simply Love (a distinctive, flat and customizable interface theme for OITG that has become a de facto standard within the community in place of the standard In the Groove 2 interface) for the current StepMania 5 has also been used as an alternative. After development of StepMania itself stagnated, there have been several forks of SM5: Project OutFox has included ITG timing presets as part of its multi-game approach, while a more focused fork known as "ITGMania" is more razor-focused on being specific to the "post-ITG" community.

This games provides examples of:

  • Announcer Chatter: In comparison to DDR, averted. No announcer at all.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In the PC version, Expert charts are only playable after passing the respective Hard chart for any song. Should you want to skip this, you can just enter a code that unlocks the Expert charts immediately. The arcade versions subvert this, as everything's unlocked right out of the box.
  • Arcade-Perfect Port: The PC version, which isn't too surprising since it was released in the 2000s and the arcade game is based on StepMania in the first place. It allows essentially everything that the arcade version allows, and more (Edit Mode, Workout mode, higher-quality song banners, etc). The best part is that, on top of hacked songs being easy to add, the second arcade game's songs and theme were all released in a free patch after Roxor realized they were going to lose the rights, so even the song list is Arcade Perfect.
  • Author Appeal: While hard charts in general are a signature of the series, there are more specifically a lot of charts rated nine in difficulty in the game. This is even stronger in Double, where the vast majority of charts have either a nine-rated hard chart, expert chart, or both.
  • Big "YES!": Prominent in Vertex.
  • Black Sheep: Changes Double Expert with its difficulty rating of 8. Every other Expert chart in the game is rated 9 or higher.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: By DDR standards, almost every single expert chart in the game (officials or customs). Special mention to Summer, a peppy little tune that just so happens to have a Single Expert chart rated 13 out of 12 note .
  • Button Mashing: Rolls require a player to repeatedly step on the respective arrow for it to count.
  • Critical Annoyance: A flashing red background behind the player's field, which turns black once a player has failed.
  • Double Play: Has a separate set of high scores for every song and course, and a separate set of completion tracker. Not played as much as Single style. And just as stupid at times. With a few exceptions almost every official double chart in the series were written by M. Emirizan. The library of custom double stepcharts is very limited compared to custom singles.
  • Easier Than Easy: Novice Mode, which provides similar assists to DDR's Beginner Mode, including consistent speed for all songs.
  • Cute Kitten: Little Kitty Mine Mine~
  • Earn Your Fun: In the PC version only, Expert charts are only playable after passing the respective Hard chart for that song. Fortunately, one code unlocks everything forever.
  • Exergaming: There was a special version of ITG2 built mainly for fitness centers ... WITH MASS MULTIPLAYER ACTION!
  • Expansion Pack:
    • After 2007, the community quickly discovered how to hack the game and add their own charts and packs of all new songs. Presently, there well over 250 packs that are available for anyone to download and play on any hacked ITG machine or Step Mania client. Counts as Downloadable Content as well.
    • Alongside the community-made songs, there are community made themes for ITG such as Simply Love that not only completely overhaul the graphics, but include extra features and settings for cab owners.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Some of the harder Double charts have all manner of absurd patterns that require moving all around the two pads. The second game introduced "stretch jumps", which is hitting the same direction arrow on both pads at the same time. Even zanier stretch jumps were planned for the third game. This may feel unfair for shorter players, but the creator of these charts, M. Emirizan, is fairly short himself.
  • Fake Difficulty: A well written custom chart will avoid this as much as possible, unless it is a gimmick chart.
    • Examples: Double steps, Ambiguous steps, Tell jumps, awkward mines usage. In most experts eyes, even crossovers on single charts are regarded as fake difficulty nowadays.
    • Some fans felt this way about the introduction of "stretch jumps" in Double mode, where you would need to hit the same direction on both pads at once (or worse: see Reactor Expert Double for 1D and 2U, or the originally planned Vertex^3 Expert Double which had longer stretches). The game was generally tasteful with hands and mines, but not all fan-made charts were.
  • Guide Dang It!: Averted. When obtuse and baroque hints to unlock songs and charts were released, the fanbase quickly figured them out.
  • Harder Than Hard: In addition to requiring quicker steps, Expert Mode also features mines that penalize you for stepping on them, and many Expert charts have sections that require hitting more than two notes at once (which means you need to use your hands). Some Expert charts require hitting all four arrows at once.
  • 100% Completion: Getting a score of 100% on a song by getting all Fantastics, which awards the highest grade of 4 stars. (Known as a 'quad') The game also tracks percent completion rate for each difficulty level on the player's USB drive, displayed at the end of every set.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Novice, Easy, Medium, Hard, Expert.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Playing a keyboard chart on pad hardly constitutes "dancing", but rather "stomping like crazy and hoping you get a good score".
  • In Name Only: Any "game" claiming to be ITG released after ITG2 is a fan expansion. The only exceptions are four songs from the planned ITG3 which were previewed in the PC game.
  • Interface Screw:
    • Marathon mode, which is essentially like DDR's Nonstop modes, except that ITG uses scripted distortions and other effects assembled from the game's normal modifiers to make the songs harder.
    • Once people started figuring out how to jailbreak ITG machines, custom Marathon courses started going around like wildfire. But especially the works of WinDEU, which kept on becoming more insane, story-based, and fourth-wall breaking as they went on (see the WinDEU Hates You series, which primarily involves Touhou Project crossovers in its later installments, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Persona, and TaroNuke's UK Sightreading Tournament series and its associated "NotITG" fork, an even further fork of OpenITG designed specifically for such courses).
    • TaroNuke has become one of the more well known mod-charters, creating many charts for UK Sightreading Tournament and others that have become popular such as Megalovania and Botanic Panic. These will make you reconsider what the charting limits are in ITG.
  • Kaizo Trap: Some charts have what appears to be the end of the chart (usually indicated by a pair of simultaneous hold steps), only for there to be a set of mines right afterwards. Failing to pay attention can cause you to lose a quad-star, a full combo, or a tournament grand prize.
  • Level Editor: Some people have hacked ITG2 arcade machines and installed additional songs into their arcade machine's hard drives. With ITG2 version r21 or later, StepMania songs can be loaded from USB flash drives, provided the arcade owner has enabled custom songs support.
    • There actually is one built-in, but it's not normally accessible on the arcade version. The home versions have an Edit Mode, and can also accept edit files from it alongside save data on USB drives.
    • The PC home version has a cheat code to edit custom songs: ULDRURDLU.
  • Loophole Abuse: r21 only checks that custom songs are tagged as not exceeding 1 minute and 45 seconds. With some metadata trickery, one can load up a song that's marked as 1:45...that's actually much longer than that. r23 nixes this by cutting off songs after 2 minutes and 15 seconds regardless of metadata.
  • Luck-Based Mission: In addition to "Random" (StepMania "Shuffle", inherited from DDR), the "Blender" modifier (StepMania "Super Shuffle", not in DDR).
    • Actually, "Random" and "Blender" (and by extension "Shuffle" and "Super Shuffle") produce learnable results as they are the results of an algorithm that produces the same chart every time. Random picks one direction and assigns it to another (for example all lefts become rights and all ups become lefts), while Blender assigns each individual arrow to another direction.
  • Lucky Charms Title: The song "!", pronounced "bang", same as the way programmers pronounce an exclamation point in certain contexts.
  • Marathon Level:
    • With patch r21 of ITG2 (only), long custom songs more than 2 minutes can be played using audio files with distorted headers. Patch r23 automatically cuts off songs at the 2:15 mark. OpenITG allows arcade owner to specify maximum custom song length.
    • Eternal Nectar is 2 hours of uninterrupted 162bpm streams. That's 4.9k measures. As such, it's nearly impossible to pass on a pad.
    • This simfile is longer yet easier, with 4 hours of 140bpm streams. That's 8.3k measures.
    • One of the Stamina RPG Unlocks (An online tournament emphasizing marathon charts) is a 7(!) hour chart. XS Project Collection Full has 10.8k measures, is a compilation of 116 songs (in a row!) and is the second longest chart in the game.
    • The longest (albeit only semi serious) chart in the game is a 24 hour chart aptly named '24 Hours of 100 bpm streams' contained within the 'Crapyard Scent' pack. (Yes, that is its name.) It totals 36k measures of streams, and lasts for (of course) 24 hours. Hope you didn't have anything else planned.
  • Nintendo Hard: The reason the series got a fanbase is because of its very hard step charts. While there are easy charts and difficulty settings for casual players who come across an ITG machine in arcades, the hardcore fanbase is all about the Harder Than Hard Expert difficulty charts included with almost every song. You will be performing passages containing continuous 16th note streams at >175bpm using your feet, so speed mods are essentially mandatory by this point, and holding onto the safety bar behind the pad is the norm. This almost completely killed off the "speed mod = cheating" and "bar use = cheating" debates back in the DDR Extreme days.
    • Also, DDR games started ramping up their speed to similar levels a couple years after In The Groove came out. Unfortunately, this only applied to a select few songs, making it really hard to get up to that level in DDR without also playing ITG, which has many, many more "stepping stone" charts. Official ITG expert charts would be rated within the 13-18 range on the DDR X rating scale, with the majority being in the 14-16 range. DDR has averted this problem today, with a couple hundred charts level 15 and up in A20, but it took them a long time.
    • The majority of custom song packs are available with only expert charts with difficulty STARTING at 9-block difficulty too.
      • When these expert-only custom packs are hacked into a arcade cabinet that charges people money to play, and a new player still at beginner level ends up picking the song with only an expert chart, resulting in instant Game Over, wasting an entire credit.
    • Oh yeah, hello Double Expert? Here you're almost hoping for a high arrow count, because the more frequent alternative is charts that have you flying around both pads at an alarming pace, probably sprinkled (or covered) with hands, mines, and\or stretch jumps.
    • Survival mode sounds scary, but try it out and it turns out most songs are rated between 5 and 7. You need to earn time so you don't run out before the end of each song. There's a bit of an Interface Screw, but nothing too... whoa, 4 seconds dropped for missing an arrow? Even Great takes away half a second? That's right, and only Fantastic gives time back: a fifth of a second to be exact. And you always start with less time than the length of each song.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: "ROUND FAILED...[skull]" in ITG 1, "ROUND FAILED^2" in ITG 2. Both of those come from failing the hardest song from each game.
  • Not the Way It Is Meant to Be Played: All of the charts are made for a dance-pad controller, but the PC version works just fine on a keyboard or normal controller. This obviously makes the game a lot easier and lazier, and cheaper if you don't already have a dance-pad, though scoring well is still a challenge.
  • Rank Inflation: Ranging from F to S+, all the way to Quad Stars if you get the best score on the hardest chart.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Mod-stacking, Great Attacking
  • Serial Escalation: How many steps can be crammed into a chart? How fast can people move their feet? Just how many gimmicks can be thrown at people? DDR Extreme, the immediate 4-panel dancing game predecessor, had a difficulty scale that went to 10. Those charts already are pretty difficult to veteran players and Nintendo Hard to others. ITG's very similar rating scale goes up to 13. Custom charts as high as 29 on singles and 16 on doubles have been passed (note this difference between singles and double).
  • Shout-Out: D-Code's background is that of a pool.
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • After the Konami scandal, most of the core developers left to form a new studio called Fun in Motion, which partnered with Andamiro (who had built cabinets for ITG2) to create a Pump It Up spin-off called Pump it Up Pro. It was essentially a Crossover between elements of the two franchises, combining the basic gameplay with In the Groove elements and features (including a similar chart style, songs that had appeared on the game, marathon mode, etc.).
    • Kyle Ward and some of the other staff members later left to form a new studio called Step Evolution, which initially developed the touchscreen rhythm game ReRave before unveiling Step ManiaX in 2017, which serves as a more direct successor to ITG in regards to its overall feel, but features a 4-panel pad design with an additional center panel similar to Pump's.
  • The Original Series: ITG1 and 2.
  • Timed Mission: Survival Mode, with minor elements of Interface Screw.
  • Tournament Play: Despite the game's cancellation, there are still tournaments held almost weekly by the fanbase. With the realm of custom content, WinDEU and others helped to popularize a format known as the "sight-reading tournament" (SRT), in which the contestants must play brand new charts made specifically for the event. Despite originally not having these elements, the term is now more synonymous with tournaments built around Interface Screw-laden course songs.

    A very infamous example is the 2005 Las Vegas ITG 2 tournament, where British player K-Dogg defeated a player by a margin of just 0.02% - where a single Fantastic rating could have swung the match. The losing player claimed that the pads hadn't registered one of his steps. The match was restarted and K-Dogg lost the rematch, justifiably angry about what happened.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Mess up too much (which isn't very much) in Survival Mode, and you can fail the course, going out in a string of Fantastics (the best timing).