Note: This is my first blog post on DTOID, and my first time writing much of anything in a while, so criticism would be great appreciated. Thanks. Additionally, I realize that anyone who plays/follows osu! would know that this blog is a couple weeks late, but fuck you.
osu! is a game that means a lot of things to a lot of different people. For some people, it's a fun distraction; a game that's easy to open up and play for five, ten minutes before leaving for work or while waiting for some porn to finish downloading. For other people, it's more of an obsession. Spending hours upon hours constructing the perfect beatmap, or perfecting their skills in the game is their idea of a good time. For the majority of you, osu! is just an enthusiastic-sounding name for the Ohio State University. Regardless of which group you may fall into, this blog post is about osu!, its fifth year celebration, and what the game means to me.
Now, if you fall into the last group and you're still reading this, you're probably wondering what osu! is. If you haven't already given up or googled it, allow me to explain. osu! is a rhythm game in which the objective is to complete "beatmaps". A beatmap is a series of circle-pads, slider-pads, and "spinners" of which you have to hit to the rhythm of a song. Now this probably doesn't sound like a very good time, but trust me, it is. If you haven't played osu! before, I would urge you to try it. It's a free game with a very large active community, so there really isn't anything stopping you from trying it. So go try it.
Now that we have that out of the way, I would like to begin my discussion of osu!. Firstly, the thing that I find most enthralling about the game is its very dedicated community. According to the lead developer of the game, peppy, The game has over 1.6 million user accounts, with an average of more than 7000 people playing at any given time. "Ranked" beatmaps have been played more than one billion times, and almost 50 thousand beatmaps have been uploaded to the site by users. If these sound like absolutely mind-shatteringly amazing statistics, it's because they are.
The number one thing that drives osu! is its dedicated community. Everyday people upload, download, and play beatmaps, all of which have been created by the players. I personally find this very amazing, and I feel that "triple-A" and big budget game developers and publishers could learn a lot from the osu! community and dev team on how to properly create an active and evolving online community for your game. Sure, games like Halo Reach or Gears of War 3 have very active multi-player communities and various options for custom game-modes, but no game that I can think of, especially on consoles, has a dedicated community to the extent that osu! does.
There is always a constant influx of beatmaps being made and ranked by the community
Another thing about osu! that I find particularly interesting is the way that the game has evolved and changed. Back when the first version of the game was launched, five years ago, osu! was a very primitive and un-evolved version of what it is today. The most obviously noticeable of which is the client itself. Different game-modes such as Catch the Beat and Taiko have come about, as well as the every popular multiplayer and options for custom skins. However, more interestingly than that, is the way that the beatmaps themselves have changed over the years.
Now, this may not be obvious at first, but a closer look will reveal that ranked beatmaps from the early days of osu! and the ranked beatmaps of more recent times are very different. Over the years, as the community and game have evolved, so have the beatmaps. The bar is constantly being raised by highly skilled beatmap creators, as well as highly skilled players. As people get better at playing the beatmaps, the beatmaps themselves have to improve as well. Playing a beatmap from five years ago and playing a recent beatmap will yield very different results. As time has gone on, beatmaps have gotten much better; much more refined. The same can also be said for the community and active player base.
These days it is sadly quite rare for a game to have a strong and long-lasting community, especially five years after its launch, and even more so for an indie game that fills a niche such as osu!. Many a game has had their multi-player servers taken down only mere years after their launch due to a lack of interest. Sure, it seems like you'll always be able to hop online and find someone playing Call of Duty 4, Halo 3, Quake III, or Warcraft III, but games like these are few and far between. Fortunately, games like osu! exist. As I have pointed out, this game is constantly growing, changing, and evolving. The community is getting larger and smarter, and so is the game. I feel that osu! really is a marvel of modern gaming, and I hope that in the future there are more games like it that can keep the feel of a tightly knit community alive.
In conclusion, I feel that osu! is a stand-out example of what is possible when it comes to a community. From the beginning osu! has grown as a game, and as a group of people who share similar interests. Even if you don't like rhythm games or any of the music that is popular in the game, I feel like the game and community still garner a certain amount of respect. Further more, I feel like modern developers both big and small should look at osu! when they need ideas about how to make the online community for their game successful. Happy (belated) Birthday osu!, and I hope that in the coming years the game and community both continue to grow.