is back – as if you assumed any different – and this time it doesn’t just want your living room, or your party. It wants your entire party lifestyle. A showcase of the new version of the game at an Activision press event revealed a lot about new multiplayer challenges, different modes of play and an ‘always-online’ system.
One of the biggest changes to the code involved a ‘jump in, jump out’ system wherein you no longer have to faff with a silly menu to set your band up – your guitarist, bassist, singer and drummer can dynamically join the action at any point in the Party Play mode by pressing a button. You can drop out again by pressing another button – and you can do this until there’s nobody left playing, at which point the CPU does all the work.
It’s at this point where the project director at Neversoft, Brian Bright, mentioned that whole parties could be commanded with a copy of Guitar Hero
, a TV and heaps of downloaded content. Curious at the call of the game being essentially the replacement of MTV, SPOnG had a chat with Brian about where the success of the franchise comes from, what to expect in the fifth instalment and whether five Guitar Hero
games a year is a bit too much.
The Guitar Hero
series has gone onto its fifth iteration now, and there are multiple versions coming out this year alone. Do you think you could have ever foreseen just how big this franchise has become?
No, I don’t think I could have. When we first started playing the original Guitar Hero
it was just a little niche game that you’d play with some beers after work with your friends. It always seemed more of an underground hit but… probably around the time Guitar Hero II
for the Xbox 360 came out, we realised that we could be onto something big here.
We were fortunate to get the series at Neversoft and we worked on Guitar Hero III
– at the time I was working on Tony Hawk
and about halfway through development I took a few demo builds home. I was like ‘Holy shit, this thing’s gonna be huge! I don’t wanna play Tony Hawk
any more, I wanna keep playing this!’ I should have been working, but I was hooked on it (laughs).
I then sent an email to Joel (Jewett, head of Neversoft) and said ‘I need to be on the next Guitar Hero
!’ I wanted to help bring the team innovation as the game had such an impact on me. The game came out and it was a huge success – it was such a success that I look back on (Guitar Hero III
) now and think that it’s going to be so hard to live up to that.
It’s awesome the success the game has had. Working on this franchise is great because it’s such a big, global franchise. Everybody knows about it now, there are thirty million or so guitars out there so it’s cool. I mention the game, and everyone knows what it is. I feel lucky to be working on such a huge title.
Must be a bit daunting too, I imagine.
Yeah, a bit daunting. There’s this huge pressure and you get stressed out a lot trying to make the game as best it can be. You also have this expectation to push forward and make the game better.
Of course you also have Harmonix with Rock Band
and other guitar games on the market, so there’s pressure from all sides... Is it ever a challenge to try and add to the game without breaking from the core experience?
All the time. I mean, what makes the game so much fun is that it’s a game that someone can just pick up and play. You don’t need to remember a load of special moves or combos, and that’s what makes adding stuff quite challenging. Because it’s very easy to start adding too many hardware or software elements just for the sake of adding new bits and making it flashy, but doing that too much will alienate a lot of the mass market, and Guitar Hero
is very much a mass market game. It certainly is a challenge to come up with new modes and things that make it quirky, different and fun, and a step forward instead of just throwing in a gimmick.