Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rock Band Network, Band Hero, And A Marked Decline

From Chris Kohler of GameLife:
In late August, Harmonix will launch an open beta of the Rock Band Network, which will work with Microsoft’s XNA Creators Club to let musicians create and sell their own tracks on the Rock Band platform. Harmonix plans to recruit and train an army of designers and reviewers from the Xbox indie development community who will create and peer-review the tracks before passing them on to Harmonix for final submission.

This is not, as in Activision’s “GH Tunes” feature for Guitar Hero, about creating MIDI music using pre-canned sounds. You’re taking the stems from a ProTools session, the original recorded music, and turning it into a track that is indistinguishable from Harmonix’s own work.


How much smarter can these people get? If Harmonix ever turn to evil, the entire world will be destroyed in less than eight months.

[If Microsoft ever tried to destroy the world, on the other hand, it would take at least three versions, and the first two versions would actually make the world better.]

The idea of having an entirely new route from which excellent music can emerge is fantastic. It just reinforces the idea that Rock Band is a music platform as much as it is a game platform.

Here's how much I love this game (and expect to love The Beatles: Rock Band): I went and had x-rays taken of my forearms and wrists today, because they've never been right since I started trying to play the drums, um, constantly. They got stiff and "achy" and never really recovered, and I realized this week that I can't even play the drums for 30 minutes a day and spend 1 hour at the keyboard.

To me, that's a (bare) minimum daily requirement, so I decided to quit screwing around and finally go to an orthopedist. As a bonus, he's also going to check out my left shoulder, which has never been quite right since last year, either.

So I was answering questions in the x-ray office today so that clerk could complete the necessary paperwork, and when she asked me about the source of my injury, I said "I think it was from playing the drums too much."

She brightened up immediately.

"Oh, you play the drums?" she asked. "Are you in a band."

"Concept Gorilla Manifesto," I said. "It's a garage band. Well, more of a study band, really."

All, right, I didn't say that. But I've played the game so much, and that is so entirely the best band name ever, that I seriously considered it.

Anyway, this shit has to be fixed by September 9. That's all I know.

Now, on to the world of Guitar Hero, which, while inferior to RB, has sone something interesting. The trailer for Band Hero has been released, and while it's laugh-out-loud stupid (just hit the link to see for yourself), the content of the game is actually an excellent move. Band Hero is basically going to be a pop music version of GHWT, and that's pretty damn smart. Pop has a wide audience, and that's going to open up a new market to buy plastic instruments.

Plus, and this is even smarter, those tracks will be exportable in GHWT. Well done.

Matt Matthews, who is a DSG (damn smart guy), has an article up at Gamastutra that looks at the huge revenue decline in music games compared to last year.

I hope MTV and Activision aren't surprised by this. Look, guys, we have all the plastic instruments we want right now. And we don't really care that much about "new" instruments that basically just look different or have minor changes. If you want to make higher quality instruments for almost the same price, and we can tell the difference, then we'll buy them.

Otherwise, I doubt that we'll be interested.

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