The era of plastic musical instrument is set to return in a big way this year with new hardware-focused rhythm games from Guitar Hero and Rock Band. But while Rock Band is taking a more traditional stance and incorporating both instruments and DLC from previous games, Guitar Hero Live is starting over from the beginning.
We’ll likely learn more at E3 about exactly how the song system will work, and what the balance will be between on-disc and online music. But in the meantime, we’ve gotten weekly updates on songs that will be available on the Guitar Hero roster.
To learn what goes into choosing those songs, and possibly get some clues as to what additional songs we’ll learn about next, we talked with FreeStyle Games studio head Jamie Jackson in the Q&A below.
GameSpot: Earlier GH games were very much guitar-focused, but you’re branching out into pop and even electronica/dubstep with GH Live. How come?
Jamie Jackson: In the past five years since the last Guitar Hero game launched, there has been a complete musical renaissance. I think if you look at the way people now discover music–whether it be through Pandora, Spotify, Soundcloud, or what have you–you find that genres have evolved and diversified so much in the past few years alone.
At FreeStyle Games we are insatiable about all different types of music, and we really want that to shine through in Guitar Hero Live. And of course, we’re still staying very true to rock. You’ll still have the mind-melting heavy metal, both new and classics, and many favorites from the past. You’ll also see a ton of new songs that have never been in previous Guitar Hero games. We can’t wait for fans to check them out.
Are there any core tenets that every song in the game needs to have?
At the very base, the song has to have the type of energy that makes it fun to play. With the new six-button layout of the guitar controller, we try to find music that really takes advantage of the design, whether it be through a particularly challenging chord progression or a killer guitar solo.
What makes a good Guitar Hero song?
I’d say a lot of what I described above. Anything that takes full advantage of the new guitar controller layout. There’s that one Gary Clark Jr. song, “Don’t Owe You a Thang,” that’s just so fun to play because your fingers are all over the fret board at a super fast rate. When you get into a flow and you hit all the notes, it’s a total rush.
How do you balance accuracy and getting that “feel” of playing a guitar versus making something that’s just plain fun to jam on?
I think that’s the beauty of the new guitar controller. Like we’ve said before, we found in research that there was a barrier to entry with songs that required you to use your pinky finger, or as we affectionately call it, the “danger pinky.” So while we wanted to mimic the feel of playing a guitar by altering the button layout to better resemble a chord-playing experience, we also wanted to make the game more accessible through various difficulty levels for those who don’t want such a huge challenge. Still, at the top level, all the notes are marked up, so it’s gonna be a challenge.
Have you focused on different songs because of the button layout (more chord-based tunes versus songs that require lots of work up and down the neck)?
Well, the goal is to have a variety of both, and certainly there are some songs that have great catchy hooks and others that have just mad crazy solos. But then you have a bunch of songs that have a mix of both. Take for instance “Cry of Achilles” by Alter Bridge. That song starts with some heavy chords, but then towards the end you have some really interesting tempo changes and a great solo, which we think just makes for a really well-rounded Guitar Hero experience.
Why no rhythm guitar?
For Guitar Hero Live we really want to make the guitar the star. You are the one anchoring the band with your skills; you are the heart and soul of the song.
Have any artists come to you, or have you been doing all the pitching to artists/labels?
It’s been a good mix of both. We’ve been working closely with major labels as well as indie ones to get music that we love in the game. It’s not uncommon for us to talk to the labels about a certain artist, but then they’ll present us with another band and we say, “Yes, get them in this game.” We can’t wait to announce more songs in the coming months.
How are negotiations going with Led Zeppelin? But seriously, have you talked to them?
Unfortunately there’s nothing I can really say on that front…
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Author: Justin Haywald
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