Guitar Hero 3 interview
Activision's Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock will be released in Europe next week, while it has been available in the US for two whole weeks. XCN has given us a great interview with RedOctane, and inside you'll find their thoughts about upcoming DLC pricing, the rival game Rock Band, if Slash actually like the game he is starring in and much more!
Answered By Ted Lange, Associate Producer at RedOctane
What are the main differences between Guitar Hero II and III?
The extra I in the title, but there are also things like Boss Battles where you have to face off against real guitar legends such as Slash from Guns N Roses and Online play where for the first time you can battle anyone almost anywhere. We also totally revamped the great controllers that you have come to expect from RedOctane. This year’s Les Paul controller is the ultimate play experience.
How does it feel to work on a game that attracts so many people other than your hardcore gamers? My girlfriend for instance likes GHII even more than me!
It makes going to work everyday a lot easier. When you know you are working on something that everyone will love and enjoy you can’t help, but to enjoy it yourself. I’m really stoked that we have made a game that has brought non-gamers into gaming.
How will you ensure there is no lag to disrupt and desync the song when playing online?
We knew that in order to make online play in Guitar Hero successful we had to make sure there was little to no lag. That is a big reason why we waited until Guitar hero 3. We found that it was not going to be possible to give the best online experience with the tools we had when we were making GH2 so we spent extra time getting the right people behind the game to bring the best possible online experience for Guitar Hero 3 perfect.
Will the content downloads have more than 3 songs in the future?
Three song packs just seem to make sense to us. It isn’t written in stone and you may see singles in the future or even larger packs. We are going to make sure to keep the fans happy though by giving them great content no matter how we structure it.
With GHII you promised that you were going to release the greatest amount of downloadable content ever seen in any game. But this wasn't the case, probably mainly due to the change of developer. With this new game will you be committing to this promise?
Although we were not able to release as much as we had hoped for we did release 21 songs to this date. If you look at other game DLC content you will see that that is actually a good amount of content. I’m not going to make any promises on the future, but we are planning some really exciting things.
Are you introducing new play techniques like bending or tapping, to be executed in some way?
Not as of now. We have included a Battle mode though where you can use the Star Power mechanic to throw attacks at your friends making them switch to lefty flip or having their difficulty jump up to expert. It adds a really fun party element to the game while still giving you the same familiar Guitar Hero experience as well.
The new wireless guitar allows for interchangeable faceplates. Will you be marketing many of them, like Microsoft did with Xbox 360 faceplates?
Wait till you see the ones we will be releasing. I keep switching my personal Les Paul guitars because each time we get a new sample it’s better than the last. The faceplates are going to be something that the fans are going to love. They add so much to the overall customization of your guitar and there is an endless amount of things we can do with them.
Some Guitar Hero fans would prefer more recent songs rather than classic rock songs. How difficult is it to strike a balance between retro and modern?
It’s very hard since everyone has their own idea of what the perfect balance is. If I had my personal taste in the game you would be playing a bunch of Simon and Garfunkel songs, but I know that everyone needs to be happy so we work really hard to make as good of a balance of new and classic music as possible.
With Rock Band heading our way, what kind of evolution do you see for the Guitar Hero franchise in the future? Are you already planning GHIV?
We are actually skipping GHIV and going straight to Guitar Hero X. It will have nothing but Flute and will be played with your mind. Actually we have a bunch of plans that we are always working on. We have brainstorming sessions almost weekly where we come up with new ideas. Who knows where the game will go, well actually I know, but I can’t say.
What do you think about Rock Band? Do you see it as an evolution of Guitar Hero?
I think the music game genre has always been a forgotten and underrated genre. I’m very excited that it is finally getting its dues and having some great titles made for it. Rock Band looks like a fun game, but although it is similar to Guitar Hero it is a different experience. Rock Band is a social band experience where you pick the instrument you want to play. Guitar Hero is focused on the Guitarist as the star. I think when you have focus on a single instrument you are able to really tailor the game to it and make it the best possible experience. When you start throwing to many things into the game some might suffer. I’m very interested to see how a song can work with multiple instruments. I know that when selecting music for Guitar Hero you see how either the Bass or the Drums won’t be as fun. It’s really hard to find 70+ songs that have just as fun of a Drum Line as a Guitar or Bass Line.
How would you convince a gamer to shell out for Guitar Hero III over Rock Band?
You don’t have to convince someone when you are selling a game that is pure fun. Pure fun is easy to sell. I haven’t played Rock Band, but I’m sure it is good. What I do know is that I have played Guitar Hero 3 and it is awesome.
What's the best new feature in the Guitar Hero III? Why, in your opinion, isn't it just Guitar Hero II with new soundtrack?
Boss Battles I feel is the greatest feature in GH3. It adds a much needed element to the game that really makes you feel like a total rock star. When you are able to win in a shred off with Slash you know you’ve hit rock stardom. Guitar Hero 3 could never be just Guitar Hero 2 with a new soundtrack mainly because we had too many great ideas that we wanted to add to it. Sure we could have just added a bunch of new songs, but then you wouldn’t have Battle Mode, Boss Battles, Co-op Career Mode and Online Play. Guitar Hero 3 is a huge step up from GH2 and I think the fans of the franchise will agree.
How did some of the stars react when you approached them for the "Boss Battles"?
They were thrilled Slash already knew about the game and was stoked when we wanted to get him involved. It just was a perfect fit for the game and for him.
Is it hard to make good notes lines for a song? What is the process like and who is involved?
It’s not hard when you make sure you license great music. The music really dictates how the song will play. We make sure to license music that will give the player the best gameplay experience possible. Neversoft then takes the licensed music and makes great note charts that we all get to shred too. They have an awesome team that has a great background in music. A bunch of them are guitar players themselves.
The pricing for download content on GTII saw a lot of criticism. Was the price line so high because of licensing issues and if so does this mean it will remain around the same or do you have plans to reconsider the pricing in future?
A lot goes into a DLC pack that nobody knows about. There are many parts to there cost besides licensing. The set price for them is actually very reasonable and will most likely stay the same.
How do you decide which tracks to include in the game? And what factors contribute (aside from personal choice) to the final decision?
We make sure that we have a good mix of new songs and classic songs. We make sure they will be very fun to play in game and we make sure that we see a new batch of bands in the game each time we release a new version.
Do you feel there is competition between Neversoft and Harmonix to produce the best music/rock game?
Maybe, but isn’t a little competition always good in order to make the best games possible. Without it there would be no need to go the extra mile when making a new game.
There will be more original songs (instead of covers) on this Guitar Hero outing then before. Do you expect that this trend will continue in future Guitar Hero games (and other music games)?
I can’t speak for other games, but we will most certainly be going after original tracks. The more and more that bands get excited about the game the more reachable they all are. This year we were able to get over 70% original master recordings and I don’t see us stopping anytime soon.
On a personal level, who is your favourite rock band and why?
The Beatles! I grew up with their music and even have a tattoo of them on my leg. They have an immense catalogue that has so much musical variety and influence. They are one of the greatest bands on the face of the earth.
A big thanks to Ted and the XCN!
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