StepMania is a free Pump It Up and Dance Dance Revolution simulator for any operating system. The unique thing about it is that it's fully customizable, from the theme setup to the notes during gameplay to even the game's metrics. The one thing that gets people playing is the fact that any song can be put into the game and be playable, but sometimes this doesn't work out so well. Since the notechart for each song has to be made first before playing it, unless one goes online and looks for simfiles, downloads them and puts them on the game, and then you have to hope that the simfile is good. Charting the arrows takes enough time and skill, but syncing the chart to the music properly is a big hurdle as well, and extremely difficult for songs played by a band that change subtly in tempo. Then there's graphics...
There's also two ways to play Stepmania. Either Pad (like how one would play DDR) or Keyboard, KB for short (like how one would play other rhythm games like beatmania or Keyboardmania). Keyboard style is much more accessible and easier to play, but the learning curve is rather sharper than other rhythm games.
Currently, there's dozens of websites for the game, and standalone games have been made off of it such as In the Groove (and its Spiritual Successor games Pump It Up Pro, Infinity, and StepManiaX), Mungyodance, Pulsen, and Rhythm Horizon.
There are several mainline versions currently in use; 5.0.12 is the current stable release, while a beta version known as 5.1 has some minor quality-of-life additions. There is also a version in development known as 5.3, which is focusing on major internal improvements.
Tropes associated with this game are as follows:
- Ascended Fanboy:
- Several fans of Stepmania, who have made simfiles and made music for the official Stepmixes, have gone on to make music for other rhythm games. This includes DM Ashura, Vospi, 5argon, Sanxion7 and Renard.
- User DukAmok ended up working for Konami in Hawaii and even worked on the XBox 360 Dance Dance Revolution titles.
- Ascended Glitch: The infamous "negative BPM" bug which could be exploited to cause "warps" in a chart, which could be used for all sorts of interesting effects. The 4.0 branch unfortunately fixed this bug, but 5.0 adds a new element called a "Warp" (along with "fake" arrows) which can be used for emulating this behavior in a more future-proof manner.
- Boss in Mook Clothing: There are simfiles of popular songs out there from artists like Justin Bieber called dumps that have charts that don't make any sense and are made to be as difficult as possible.
- Fake Difficulty: Often unintentional.
- People don't offset the music, meaning even if the chart is spot on, the every note will be off by some fraction of a beat.
- The wrong BPM is used. Even if you're off by 0.1 BPM, it's enough to throw the song off before a minute is up.
- Overstepping (placing notes that do not exist in the corresponding music), annoying patterns, or haphazardly placed notes. Mashing a button/arrow down at 4 times the BPM of the song is not fun nor some random jumble that doesn't flow with the song. This is actually the hardest to get right (it's an art, the first two are a science).
- Gameplay Automation:
- Autoplay hits all arrows perfectly, but disqualifies you from making new records. Used when you want to see a stepchart without having to play it.
- Stepmania 3.95, OpenITG, and beyond allows AutoplayCPU to be accessed during normal gameplay (other versions are used for the attract mode demo only). This allows score records to be made. Furthermore, it is possible to set AutoplayCPU to perform 100% Marvelous/Fantastics by modifying AI.ini.
- Harder Than Hard: Default names for each difficulty level, from hardest to easiest, are: Challenge > Hard > Medium > Easy > Beginner with Edit charts usually being harder than Challenge.
- Justice. For reference, the difficulty right below it shrinks the timing window down to 1/3 their normal size. Justice shrinks it down to 1/5th normal timing window, leaving a timing window of +/- 0.036 of a second to get anything other than a miss (comparable to the Perfect timing windows in DDR). It also makes it to where if you lift your foot off the pad during a freeze note (or hit a roll), you will automatically drop the note. Judgerank 8 is bearable, Justice is considered impossible by all but a select few that get shunned on every community.
- The Hard Songs Mega Packs (HSMP for short) are intentionally this, full of overly difficult songs, weather they be well done or full of Fake Difficulty. The only qualifier for the songs in the pack is that it's impossible to get 100% of the score.
- High Hopes, Zero Talent: It takes some skill to play the game. Then again, even if you can play the game extremely well, it takes some talent to actually make a good stepchart yourself. The reason why 90% of charts are full of Fake Difficulty probably starts here when people don't realize this.
- Interface Screw:
- In addition to all the stuff In the Groove had in Marathon Mode AND Negative-BPM/Warp shenanigans, a portion of the engine's core is exposed to a Lua API (partially on 3.95, and even more so on 5.0.x), so Lua scripts can be embedded within songs using the background animation system as a backdoor. Thus, not only can you manipulate the normal modifiers, you can also re-position screen elements and the notefield itself, and even embed minigames right into songs. The ability to place elements of background animations in the foreground has also been heavily utilized in such simfiles, often in tandem with other forms of scripting. Perhaps the most well-known example of such a "mod file" is TaroNuke's "Megalovania", which is just as deviously difficult as its source material.
- A few other SM AP Is have been utilized in such a way, such as ActorProxy (which can be used to re-render part of the screen, or even the entire screen as an actor), and more prominently, 5.0.x's ActorFrameTexture (a system that allows a texture to be created out of any other actor). Put them together, and the possibilities are nearly limitless.
- Level Editor: An in-game tool is used to author stepcharts, although due to its limitations, other programs have also been popular, including DDReam Studio and its spiritual successor Arrow Vortex.
- Life Meter: Comes in the standard health bar and battery versions. You can even adjust how much health you lose with each boo or miss by changing the life difficulty and/or use modifiers to change how the Life Meter works.
- Loads and Loads of Loading: Starting up the game can take a while, depending on how many new songs the game has to load and weather or not you have Quick Load enabled. The first time you load up could take about fifteen minutes before it'll get going.
- Nintendo Hard: There's a reason that StepMania and sadomasochism have the same initials.
- On a pad: During the last few years the definition of "paddable" has hyperinflated with the rise of new, better and better players (associated particularly with the stamina community). Mad Matt has passed an 18 footer. Even 16 steps per second isn't all that fast for the best (for comparison, Max 300 streams run at 10).
- On a keyboard: Any dump simfile whether it's by NVLM_ZK or Midare. Just because it may be a song from something like Camp Rock doesn't mean it's going to be a complete joke.
- Speaking of keyboard charts, every "Vibrajacking" pack is hard. The difficulties start at 10 and a select few go up to 23!
- Non-Indicative Difficulty:
- Beginner sometimes has the hardest chart since failing on that difficulty is automatically turned off. Fortunately, it'll usually say it's the hardest chart.
- There are many different difficulty scales, ranging from the standard DDR or ITG scales, to the notes per minute scale to even making the easiest chart in the pack a 1 and the hardest a 10. The Dance Dance Revolution community has also largely shifted to the 1-20 ratings used since DDR X.
- Retraux: 3.9's standard theme is a variation of the DDRMAX user interface.
- Self-Imposed Challenge: You can increase the rate at which the song is played, increasing the BPM and making it harder. Then there's increasing the judgement level all the way up to Justice.
- Spin-Off: There have been several major forks:
- 3.9 Plus was a fork of 3.9 made during the Development Hell of 4.0, with additional features.
- OpenITG is an arcade-oriented fork based on the build In the Groove 2 used (popularly known as "3.95").
- OpenITG has a fork of its own, NotITG, produced largely by the aforementioned TaroNuke and others; it is primarily intended for the development of Interface Screw-laden mod files (including the UK Sightreading Tournament franchise), with additional options modifiers, visual effects functions, and other additions.
- sm-ssc was a fork by a group known as the Spinal Shark Collective, based on the Lua-based 4.0 codebase that had been scrapped by the original developer in favor of the more 3.9-like 4.0. It was later merged back into the mainline code and dubbed StepMania 5, with the SSC developers having become the primary maintainers.
- Etterna is a fork of 5.0 that is designed primarily towards high-level keyboard players: it rips out features irrelevant to the target audience in order to improve performance, and has other UI changes and features (some drawing comparisons to osu!).
- Temporary Online Content: Due to the game being free and open-source, the data-intensive nature of keeping even a moderately-sized archive online, and the dubious legality of sharing many songs, SM simfile archives are a precarious business indeed. They commonly get pruned, formatted, or even shut down outright, for reasons ranging from financial insolvency to blue-chip lawsuits to even server fires. So if you think you can just upload a simfile online and think it's safe, think again. The hemorrhage of active players in the long limbo before SM 5 certainly doesn't help.
- Trial-and-Error Gameplay: X-mod unfriendly gimmicks can quickly turn a song into a complete mess if you haven't seen the crazy gimmicks. MacGravel's Mellan and r21 Freak's Silikon really stand out in this regard.
- Unwinnable Joke Game: Hentai Sweedevibe, Dear Arch and Right Type of Mood among other simfiles, whether they are designed to be either awful on purpose or just plain awful (see Sturgeon's Law). And not even perfect AutoplayCPU could pass Dear Arch.