The Future Of Rock Band

There was an interesting interview on a couple of days ago with Harmonix’ (Guitar Hero, Rock Band) Greg LoPiccolo, talking about the future of the rhythm-based music games they produce. What I found most interesting was that a lot of what the interview postulates is exactly the kind of thing anyone who has come over to our flat to play Guitar Hero has discussed.

Obviously, you have spent a lot of time taking existing songs and fitting them into your technology. In the future, do you think the music industry may look towards releasing new CDs that have tracks on the disc “pre-formatted” to work with Guitar Hero or Rock Band?

Due to physical format issues…Having it on the same disc, I’m not sure if that would ever happen. But I can certainly imagine a future of coordinated releases, where some given band may release their content into Rock Band at the same. I think that would make a lot of sense.

Such a method, albeit homebrew, has been implemented in the PC Guitar Hero clone, Frets on Fire, where, with a fair amount of hard graft, individuals can take any song, convert it to a midi file, mess around with the guitar tracks using Fruity Loops (or, I presume, any kind of semi-professional tracker/sequencer), and, with a great deal of admiration on my part, mix it all together in a wok to create a playable version.

Another game that has taken a simplified version of this idea is Wipeout/Guitar Hero/Rez inspired Audio Surf, which “converts” any audio track into blocks which must be collected in a certain pattern over a course. Hmm, I don’t really have the brain capacity to do this game justice in words, so I’ll let the official site explain:

Audiosurf is a music-adapting puzzle racer where you use your own music to create your own experience. The shape, the speed, and the mood of each ride is determined by the song you choose. You earn points for clustering together blocks of the same color on the highway, and compete with others on the internet for the high score on your favorite songs.

Actually, I reckon I did a better job with my game-summary, and with fewer words, but I suppose they were loath to use any Wipeout or Guitar Hero comparison.

Anyway, one further expansion/diversion I’ve been thinking about, especially with the type of music I’ve been brought up with:

Any chance of expanding into other instruments? Perhaps a keyboard?

We get a lot of requests for the keyboard. Who knows? It may happen one day. It is actually conceptually pretty difficult to build in. Most consoles are set up for four peripherals, not five, which means you have to drop something. Which means that the song offering is more complicated.

You know, it is a big commitment. And then the question is, are there enough rock songs with compelling keyboard parts to make it worthwhile? And maybe the answer is yes, but we’ve been pretty busy [laughs] and we haven’t really gotten there yet.

Except I wasn’t actually imagining rock songs with keyboard parts. I remember having a Roland SH-101, which was a monophonic 32-key synth which could be hung around the neck like a guitar, or “keytar” (awful word). No, my proposal is a more keyboard orientated version. Easy songs could include early Depeche Mode stuff, with more advanced Lemonjelly tracks upping the ante a little. And then the Easy mode could be renamed “Andy Fletcher mode”, for the tone deaf or people with complete lack of rhythm (like 2 year-olds).