Fans of industrial and synth rock music got some good news on Thursday when Nine Inch Nails announced their next EP, titled ADD VIOLENCE, comes in just eight days. What’s more, fans got a hint of the EP with a catchy single — and to boot, the video features an out-of-nowhere starring video game. NIN went pretty indie here, picking one of the weirdest video games of 2017.
The entire video for the song “LESS THAN” revolves around a woman playing a modified version of Polybius. No, it’s not the urban legend arcade game that stole souls in Oregon in the 1980s; instead, it’s the 2017 arcade action game released by Jeff “Llamasoft” Minter (of Storm 2000, TxKand Space Giraffe fame). Minter confirmed to Ars Technica that the project began with a cold call from NIN’s Trent Reznor via Twitter direct message.
“[Trent] said he’d enjoyed Llamasoft’s stuff and had an idea to discuss,” says Minter. “Of course I was super happy to hear that he liked our work, because I’ve also learned a lot over the years. enjoyed him!”
The idea: Trent wanted to show off Polybius exactly the way it looks and plays, just with lyrics and other visual effects to the beat of NIN’s latest single. However, the game is currently a PlayStation 4 exclusive, so in order to give Reznor what he needed to direct the gameplay into a video, Minter sent the musician something quite exclusive: one of the few copies of the PC version of the game. , which still doesn’t work. have no release date.
Minter says the modified code in Reznor’s copy of the game is “simple, actually”. It calls up a script for every frame of the game that is synchronized with the music, and its primary purpose is to display text at any time. The script can also accept field of view and shader adjustments, and additional button inputs have been added to the game itself so that a player can fine-tune some visual effects with nothing more than tapping the button. Minter was kind enough to send us a sample code:
# Track energy increases
>[1:07.5]field of view 4.0,2.0,0.5
>[1:08.80]PRINT “SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?”,1
Minter says he was pressed for time with “just a few days” to complete the build, and he didn’t see the results of NIN until the video went live to the public. “Of course I was a little worried because if you’re doing your own creative work and it has to match an artist’s work, it’s not entirely obvious that your work will match what he had in mind,” Minter says. “I was just doing things that I thought went well with the energy of the music, and I was really happy when Trent liked what we had done.” (Minter is clearly excited, adding, “Did we mention we’re chuffed?”)
Reznor has long been a champion of video games across the pop culture spectrum, whether composing soundtracks for Shock 1 and Call of Duty Black Ops or by talking at length about the innovation and experimentation he loves in fast-growing platforms.
Polybius is largely similar to Minter’s other vector graphics arcade action classics, and while it’s a joy to play on both flat screens and PlayStation VR, Minter tells Ars he hopes to have the PC version ready to ship when his PlayStation exclusivity of six month contract expires in November. Minter confirms he’s already running it on Oculus Rift hardware, and he’s working on adding support for HTC Vive and Windows Holographic as well.
Listing image by Llamasoft/Nine Inch Nails