What Even Is McOsu? Because It's Not Osu!

McOsu is quite similar to Osu!-- a PC rhythm game. But it isn't developed by the same people. So what sets these games apart from each other?

Throughout the years most of us have had some experience with rhythm games. Whether it be the peripheral invasion and subsequent living room takeover of Guitar Hero and Rock Band respectively throughout the 2000's, or the dominance of dancing games like Dance Dance Rev coming full circle with Ubisoft’s Just Dance games that utilized motion tracking. During much of this time, a rhythm game has been quietly building and maintaining its own niche audience: Osu!

In order to truly understand what exactly McOsu is, you must first understand what Osu! is.

Osu! is an open source rhythm game for PC and Mac, with derivative games released on mobile platforms such as iOS, Android, and even the Windows Phone. The gameplay itself is based on various rhythm games, such as Ouendan/Elite Beat Agents. But perhaps the official website puts it best:

While keeping some authentic elements, Osu! adds huge customization via skins/beatmaps/storyboarding, online rankings, multiplayer, and boasts a community with over 500,000 active users! Play the way you want to play -- with your own music -- and share your creations with others.

A tutorial to give you a basic feel for Osu!

So OK: What the Heck is McOsu, Then?

McOsu's (Short) History

Interestingly, McOsu was founded in this same spirit of open-ended customization. McOsu plays the exact same way as Osu! It uses the same notes, sliders, and spinners, too. You even use the same beatmaps you would otherwise load into standard Osu! The only substantial difference between the two is all of the extra mods that have been added into McOsu that are not in the base game, which I will get to in a bit.

First, it is important to realize the context in which McOsu was created. Its development started before Osu! became open source, and its alpha was released around the same time that Osu! went open source.

Reading through the Reddit announcement, which was posted onto the Osu! subreddit, you can see a conversation between McKay, the creator of McOsu, and Peppy, the creator of Osu!, in which they discuss the future of their respective games in a little bit more detail.

But the TL;DR is that Peppy doesn’t seem bothered by the existence of McOsu, even going so far as to inquire about McKay eventually helping with work on Osu as a community contributor.

McKay seems dissatisfied with the potential shackles of doing something like that, however. Working on an official product like Osu! comes with certain boundaries that are not so easily circumvented. Adding in certain features that he wants and has included in McOsu might be harder while keeping a clean, or intuitive UI.

McOsu's McUses

McOsu's biggest reason for existing is to practice. This is stated by McKay in both his Reddit announcement and on the game’s official storefront pages on both Github and Steam. It's also backed up by many users. They want to be able to practice songs more easily. The most prominent features for McOsu assist with this.

Options, Options Everywhere

Speed

In McOsu, you can change the speed of songs more easily and with greater finesse. For instance, changing the Beats Per Minute (BPM) will make the song go faster, but will not change the Approach Rate (AR), how fast the circle closes in on the note, or the Overall Difficulty (OD), the number of milliseconds you have to click the circle when it meets up with the note. Changing the Speed Multiplier, however, makes everything faster.

Scrubbing

You can scrub through the song to get to certain points that you might be struggling with. McKay even mentioned that he had been getting requests to create a bookmark feature, so that players didn’t need to scrub, but so that they could automatically skip to the place they wanted to practice. However, I do not think this feature has yet been added.

Rotation

You can make the screen rotate while you are playing, which some say helps them more naturally react to the notes rather than just use muscle memory to naturally get better at hard beatmaps.

Skipping 

You can skip past parts in a song that have no notes. Many argue that this helps them keep their flow going.

Novelty

FPS, Rainbow Notes, and VR

The game also features a lot of novel features too, like turning all the notes rainbow colored. Or a first person mode where the screen moves around and you “shoot” the notes.

Perhaps most intriguingly is the fact that the game supports VR play for the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift. This is particularly noteworthy since the VR market is so starved for content that any game is welcome. A solid adaption of a successful, quality rhythm game, like Osu, which has a huge database of user-generated content is all the more welcome.

NO Note Locking

One of the more notable changes in McOsu is the absence of note locking. Note locking is where the game requires you to play the notes in a particular order. The reason this is a problem in Osu! is that missing a note can cause the game to not register that you attempted to hit that note, meaning that when you move on to the next note it won’t register it because you didn’t hit the prior note. This, in turn, can cause you to miss a whole string of notes, which can possibly make you lose on a beatmap, especially on harder difficulties.

Reception

It is hard to tell how many people actually use McOsu. Parsing the subreddit it seems as if some people really love it and yet others used it for a little while but went back to just inefficiently practicing in Osu! A very common complaint is that McOsu feels different. Not worse, but different. Some people feel that playing McOsu throws them off when they return to playing Osu!, others just say something feels slightly off. Some discussions have said that McOsu seems easier and/or smoother than Osu! In short, I would suggest testing out McOsu for a while to get your own reactions on the game.

Development Proceeds...

According to GitHub, development seems to continue at a steady rate. Although the developers have done a poor job of communicating with the fan base. For instance, the only major announcement I can find seems to be associated with the Alpha 20 release, which didn’t feature the Osu! Databases for loading beatmaps, meaning loading beatmaps was slow. Well, Alpha 25 added in Osu! Databases. Yay! That’s a pretty big deal. Yet their GitHub still uses the same feature video for Alpha Release 20. And that video was done in one take; I know because they say so in the video.

So what do you think about McOsu? Is it useful, or just treading too closely to Osu! (which itself could be said to tread too closely to its predecessors)? Had you ever heard of Osu!? If not, are you now interested in these games now? Both games are free, so if you have an interest in playing them there's no reason to not try*. 

You can download Osu! from their official website.

While you can download McOsu from Steam or GitHub

*Please note we are in no way affiliated with either of these games. I am merely making it easier for our readers to find these niche games. 

Published Apr. 18th 2017

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