While Guitar Hero
cements its fate as the ?next MTV?, Activision is already looking towards the next big thing by building the franchise sideways. DJ Hero
is the latest in the publisher?s lineup of music games, and Freestyle Games are tasked with emulating the same social crowd and party feeling as its now-mainstream predecessor.
Played with a specially-designed turntable controller, players follow the instructions on the screen in a Guitar Hero
-style timeline. Three buttons control the deck?s three sources ? green selects track one, blue selects track two and the middle red button adds samples from the soundbank. A slider to the side is used to mix between the two tracks, and using a combination of this and scratching the platter, you too can become the life and soul of a DJ Hero
It sounds so simple, yet looks very difficult. But that was because I was treated to a demonstration of the game in Expert mode during an Activision press event. Afterwards I spoke to Freestyle Games? studio manager, Kevin McSherry (glowsticks in hand), to discuss the genesis of DJ Hero
, its possible future and whether a Konami game inspired it somehow...
As you presented the game and we saw the action on the screen, it actually looks more complex than the DJ decks convey. How important is simplicity? How much of a factor is it when designing a game like this?
It?s very important. We wanted to make an authentic gaming experience but we also wanted it to be incredibly accessible. We see this as a party device, and we want to make you the life of the party. In order to do that, we have to make it as easy and accessible as possible.
So, when you start off playing the game, we?ve ignored the side of the mixer where the cross fader and effects dial is ? you don?t have to do any of that. The focus is simply on the platter ? you?re presented with simply starting a record, stopping a record, and hitting a sample.
You then move from Beginner mode to Easy, and at Easy we then introduce some of the scratching. You see scratching is the thing most people think of when you talk about a DJ game. Scratching in Easy is as simple as pressing down the relevant button and performing any back and forth movement.
So straight away you?re going to be connected to the music ? and from there it?s a slow build up to using effects and things until you reach Expert mode. When you get to that point? if you?re playing a mix by DJ Shadow and he?s scratched ?forward, forward, back? in that timing, you as a player are going to have to do exactly that. That?s why it looks tricky when you see it playing on Hard or Expert, because you?re following those specific movements and timings to the letter.
Obvious comparisons are going to be made to Guitar Hero
, and one of the main criticisms towards that game is that, for real guitar players it doesn?t provide an authentic experience. With DJ Hero
, it doesn?t look like that criticism could be laid by real DJs, would you agree?
Yeah, this game was built with a team of DJs, so we have 16 full-time DJs working in our studio in London. And there are no other games people in that studio - we don?t have programmers, we don?t have artists, it?s a music studio. We?re creating mixes for the game, so it comes from a very authentic source. That also means that the experience that we give you in DJ Hero
is very authentic to real DJing.
In the same way that real guitar sales have gone through the roof, probably as a result of Guitar Hero
and the enthusiasm surrounding it, we expect people to start getting into DJing as a result of playing this game.
Onto the mixes ? there?s 100 different tracks, is that right?
100 licenses, 100 pieces of music that you?ll know with 80 mixes involving them. An example would be taking Marvin Gaye?s Heard It Through The Grapevine
, Gorillaz' Feel Good Inc.
and blending them together to create an innovative and truly unique piece of gameplay. If my parents were here, they?d be listening to the Marvin Gaye side of it and thinking ?this sounds like a remix of Marvin Gaye?, whereas if my niece of nephew were here they?d think ?this sounds like a vocal over the top of a Gorillaz track?. So you always hear the music that you?re familiar with, but you experience it in a new way.