It’s an interesting year to be a rhythm gamer. Both Rock Band and Guitar Hero are making a comeback. Prior to Pax East, Harmonix revealed that they have been developing and working on Rock Band 4. Harmonix is even taking song requests for it. Yesterday morning at the Best Buy theater in New York City Activision unveiled Guitar Hero Live.
Even after not releasing a Guitar Hero game in 5 years, Guitar Hero still has 10 million active fans on Facebook. That’s a ton of people still actively playing and interacting with the brand even after Activision placed Guitar Hero on ice. But what made Guitar Hero so appealing to so many of us in the first place?
Everyone pretends to be rock star at one point or another. Guitar Hero allowed us to unleash our inner rock star. While many of us didn’t know how to play a guitar, Guitar Hero allowed us to emulate the experience and play along with our favorite bands. However, Activision felt that the visuals didn’t really match the experience. They set out to develop a game that felt more realistic so much so that they are hoping to give you actual stage fright.
Ask anyone who has ever played in front of a live audience of any size, they will all say that playing music in front of people is like no other experience. And on top of that, the experience of playing in front of a live audience is already gamified. You either win the audience or lose the audience throughout your performance. You can’t fake it. You can’t buy it. You can’t force it. Your performance is what garners your audience’s attention.
The easiest thing Activision could have done is compiled all the greatest hits from the old games, up the resolution and release a game for next gen consoles. But they didn’t do that; instead they spent years experimenting, investing, and imagining what the next generation of Guitar Hero should be. So let’s check out the trailer for Guitar Hero Live.
Guitar Hero Live is the latest incarnation of the popular Guitar Hero series. Featuring a first person view, you are now an interactive part of the band. The cartoon avatars we’ve come to know and love are now gone replaced with live action films. In Guitar Hero Live, you perform alongside a real band, in front of real crowds that react in real time.
Along with this new live action audience, there is a new approach to the guitar controller which makes it easier to play for beginners while increasing the difficulty for Guitar Hero veterans.
Developed by FreeStyleGames, the studio behind the critically-acclaimed DJ Hero and DJ Hero 2, Guitar Hero Live introduces two powerful ways to play—a first-person point of view where you are up on stage as the star of the show.†
With the old guitar controller, people used to get discouraged when they needed to move down the neck of the guitar at the higher difficulties, so most people didn’t go past medium difficulty. FreeStyleGames created a whole new guitar that reflects the way people play naturally. The new guitar is simply two rows of three buttons.
The Easy mode uses the three buttons in the bottom row which makes it super easy to get into. Then as you step up to the Regular, Advanced and Veteran levels, not only does the gameplay start to use all six buttons across both rows but they also start to introduce chord shapes where you are going to have to press multiple buttons from both rows at the same time. In short, FreeStyleGames was able to make it easier for beginners but amped up the difficulty for the more veteran Guitar Hero players.
Some might wonder why the technicolor buttons are gone with the new Guitar Hero guitar.
With the new button configuration, all the player needs to know is whether or not the top or bottom buttons are the ones we need to press. Since there are only three positions for your fingers to be, you want to know whether it’s the index, middle or ring finger that you should press for a note. Overall, associating the buttons with a color would only complicate things further. By eliminating the colors, they eliminated one superfluous thing for your brain to process. They found that people naturally played a lot better and overall had more fun.
Additionally, what was happening behind the note highway kind of didn’t matter to the overall game. With the new live action audience featured in Guitar Hero Live, the feedback the player is getting from the audience is the same feedback an artist would get when playing a real gig. FreeStyleGames designed a positional sound design system for the Guitar Hero Live, meaning that depending on where you are on the stage the sound will be different. For example, if you are closer to the crowd, you will hear them sing along when you’re doing well or heckle you if you’re performing poorly. Similarly, if you’re closer to the drummer, the drums are amped up in the music mix.
Guitar Hero Live also promises music variety and a broadened the approach towards music. Guitar Hero Live will also feature fictitious music festivals with tons of songs from diverse bands including The Black Keys, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Gary Clark, Jr., Green Day, Ed Sheeran, The Killers, Skillex, The Rolling Stones, The Lumineers, Carrie Underwood, Pierce the Veil and Blitz Kids, with many more bands to be announced in the coming months.
†Source: Activision Press Release
Some images provided by Activision.