The 1.20.0 update for Beat Saber, out today for free on Rift and Quest Platforms, gives you plenty of new ways to interact with the rhythm slashing game. One of the big new features is the arrival of the fifth original soundtrack, OST 5, a free pack that adds six new heart-pumping songs to Beat Saber’s music library.
As with past OSTs, the tracks are Content ID free, so content creators can stream these songs without limits. If you’ve been around the community for awhile, you might recognize some of the artists in OST 5:
The update has another treat for players in the form of new mechanics known as Arc and Chain Notes. Arcs appear as thin lines that help guide you through certain block patterns. And Chains represent a new type of block, one that’s split into several smaller sections. To earn points for completing a Chain, you must slash through all of its pieces.
Those who like to make custom beatmaps will also have a brand-new lighting system to play with, including 136 lasers that can be individually controlled through the level editor.
We sat down with Beat Games Lead Level Creator Josh “Freeek” Joynes to dive deeper into the creation of Arc and Chain Notes and how they add to the gameplay.
What’s the difference between Arc and Chain Notes?
Josh Joynes: Both Arcs and Chains have been implemented for several similar reasons, primarily that they allow us to represent and express certain sounds more closely than just a single slashed note would. For example, a long held guitar strum in Beat Saber up until now could only be expressed as a note, but an Arc now lets us hold the player within that sound all the way until it ends. A Chain allows us to represent smaller continuous sounds that are very close to each other, for example drum flams or super quick triplets.
Arcs also allow us to guide players’ swings in a really nice way that wasn’t possible before. Sometimes a certain pattern was just too inconsistent with players where some would play it one way and some another, but Arcs allow us to guide a player toward the intended way to play certain patterns.
What excites you most about the new mechanics? How do they enhance Beat Saber’s gameplay?
JJ: The most exciting part of these new notes is that the core gameplay of the game is being changed in a way that hasn’t been done before. An incredible amount of care has gone into making them feel as core to the game as standard notes have always been. It feels fresh and new and genuinely allows for that connection to the music to be even stronger. The new notes also have new haptic vibrations to really pull you into the song even further.
How long have these new Notes been in the works for? What were some of the challenges you had to overcome to implement them?
JJ: Since September 2018, what we now call Chains have been planned and worked on. Arcs have been worked on since early 2020. A lot of attention and care has gone into making sure they feel as core to the game as standard notes, which has been the largest challenge to overcome. We really want players to enjoy them and to level up their gameplay. We've been tweaking the mechanics over the years and are finally confident that they are in a place where players will love them.
Any tips on how to get the best scores with Chain Notes?
JJ: That’s right—with new mechanics comes new scoring. Arcs themselves don’t have any score, as we believe their power comes from their guidance and connection and you shouldn’t be punished for playing around with them. Chains, on the other hand, do have scoring. Each individual part of a chain is what we call a link. The first link has an arrow on it and any behind it have dots. Each dotted link is worth a set amount of points, and it doesn’t matter how accurate or powerful your swing is on these. But the arrowed link does take accuracy into account as well as what we call pre-swing. Pre-swing is the angle you have covered in the swing before hitting that first arrowed link. Once you hit the arrowed link, all that matters is that your saber hits the remaining links in the chain.