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Guitar Hero: World Tour

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Genre: Rhythm
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Neversoft
Release Date: Oct. 26, 2008

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'Guitar Hero World Tour' (PS3/X360) - Developer Interview

by Adam Pavlacka on Sept. 24, 2008 @ 9:00 a.m. PDT

Guitar Hero: World Tour will feature guitar, vocals, drums, the ability to create your own songs (and upload them on GHTunes), four-player on/offline co-op, and an eight-player battle of the bands multiplayer mode (4vs4).

Guitar Hero World Tour will transform music gaming by marrying Guitar Hero’s exhilarating guitar gameplay, with a cooperative band experience that combines the most advanced wireless instruments with revolutionary new online and offline gameplay modes. The game will feature a slick newly redesigned guitar, a genuine electronic drum kit and a microphone, as well as an innovative Music Studio music creator that lets players compose, record, edit and share their own rock and roll anthems, along with online Band Career and 8-player “Battle of the Bands.”

Delivering the largest on-disc set list in a music-rhythm game to-date, Guitar Hero World Tour is comprised entirely of master recordings from some of the greatest classic and modern rock bands of all-time including Van Halen, Linkin Park, The Eagles, Sublime and many more. Additionally, the game will offer significantly more localized downloadable music than ever before on all of the next-generation consoles. Budding rock stars will also be given creative license to fully customize everything from their characters’ appearance and instruments to their band’s logo and album covers.

WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!

I'm Alan Flores, lead designer of Guitar Hero World Tour.

WP: With Guitar Hero World Tour, you guys added on a drum set and a mic, which is suspiciously similar to Rock Band. Was this something that was in development before Rock Band came out? Was it something that you guys saw and thought, "Wow that's a crazy cool idea, we should do that too?" Obviously, moving onto a full band seems like a natural evolution, but how did it come about, and why just the drums and the mic? Why not say, add a keyboard, to differentiate?

AF: Activision had another studio developing a drum prototype. They were working on a game that was Drum Villain or Drum Hero or one of those things. It was a rumor, but it was actually true. There was a drum prototype set that was developed. We saw the set when we were working on Guitar Hero III, but we had to get up to speed quickly and had to get Guitar Hero III out so we didn't have time to actually do the full band thing. Then they didn't go forward with that game. We decided to incorporate their drum set into our game, and just sort of take the full band experience and try to do our take on that.

WP: What about the keyboard? Do you ever think about it?

AF: That gets brought up a lot. I wouldn't say "Yes" or "No" at this point, but there's potential. Maybe someday, we'll see a keyboard in there. Who knows?

WP: With Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, we saw a rock 'n' roll theme, with the follow-up, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. World Tour seems to be more of a mix. Is there a particular reason why you didn't go with another theme game for World Tour?

AF: There's a loose theme. There's sort of a theme about the band getting together and feeling like they're a super-group and they're going all around the world and playing, but with a game of this scope because there are five [sic] different careers — guitar, bass, drums, vocals — there's online play, there's online band play, there's the music studio, there's GH Tunes, there's like full character creator and instrument creator. There's just so much in the game, we didn't have a lot of time to develop this other stuff. We wanted to get the core elements into the game and make them as fun as possible.

WP: Let's talk about the music studio a bit. With rhythm games, creating your own songs has always been a big demand with players, but it's always something that developers have shied away from. How did you guys attack the problem, to not only make it easy to use but also get over the legal aspects of sharing? What happens if, say, I re-create one of my favorite songs and upload it, and other people are downloading it. Are there any potential legal issues there?

AF: First of all, we have to discourage people from doing copyrighted material. If we find something out there that's copyrighted, we are going to have to pull it down. Or if someone complains and says that they're the copyright holder and they don't want this put up there, then we'll have to take it down. If someone continually violates that and is constantly putting up copyrighted stuff, they're going to be a banned user and they just can't do that anymore. We can't really allow or encourage that. We would prefer that people would just go there and write their own music, and that's really what it's there for. It's sort of a limitless aspect of the game. The basic sense of it really, is that you go into the music studio and just sort of jam out. You and some friends get together, play some guitar, set your scale, set your sound and your line six pod, set your preset, have the guitar you want, and just jam out. Then you can go into the advanced studio recording mode and have a four-track sequencing program and lay out drum beats and guitar leads, use the drum machine, and all of that cool stuff and then go post it online and have people play it. It's really pretty awesome.

WP: In terms of flexibility, say, I've got my own band, and I'm looking to promote some of our songs. Is the song creation in World Tour flexible enough to actually re-create some real songs and put them up and say, "Hey this is our stuff, check it out"?

AF: Yeah, if a band wants to do that with a song that they wrote, there's nothing to stop them from being able to do that. It will sound like a Guitar Hero World Tour style, it won't have your actual guitar tone, your actual voice, your actual drums, but it'll play the same notes, have a cool style and have it sound pretty great. I actually think that's where most of the more casual users will get the benefit from this. They're probably not going to create their own songs, but they're going to go to GH Tunes and say, "What are the top songs added this week?" download some cool songs, and just have all that new content to play. It's like a limitless amount of stuff that they'll be able to experience in the game because people keep creating it every single day.

WP: Are the user-created songs going to be cross-platform? If I created a song on the Xbox 360 version and upload it to the Web site, will PlayStation 3 and Wii users be able to download it, or is it strictly platform by platform?

AF: It's strictly platform-specific.

WP: So you've been at Neversoft a while working on Tony Hawk and Spider-Man games. What kind of a development shift is it going from a sports title to an action title and suddenly a music game? They're completely different genres.

AF: It was a really strange time for us. I'm a longtime guitar player and I've been in tons of bands, so thematically, I knew a lot more about the background of Guitar Hero than I did about skateboarding when I was working on that, obviously. It's really pretty similar. We have an aggressive development schedule; we want to make a cool, awesome game that has this core mechanic that we can't really mess with too much because people love it; we have to deal with licensing, which is similar to before; we have to deal with talent when they come in — it was skaters before, now it's rock stars. It's a very similar thing. It's a lot more similar than people would realize.

WP: I own Guitar Hero III on either PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, and I've downloaded a whole bunch of songs. Is there going to be any way to import those into World Tour, or are Guitar Hero III songs only for Guitar Hero III, and World Tour songs only for World Tour?

AF: The Guitar Hero III songs aren't compatible with Guitar Hero IV, with one exception, and that's the Metallica album, Death Magnetic, which came out Friday, September 12th. If you download that into Guitar Hero III, you'll be able to instantly play it in Guitar Hero World Tour once that's released.

WP: Will future songs be compatible with both, or will World Tour songs only be for World Tour, and if you want new content, you'll have to upgrade?

AF: I can't talk about that.

WP: We noticed that on the back of the drum controller, there's a MIDI plug. What exactly is that used for, or is that only for testing?

AF: We have a MIDI port in there, which allows people to plug a MIDI device into the drum set and interface with the game. If you wanted to, you could take any MIDI controller you want — keyboard, drum machine, a MIDI glove if you wanted to — and play the game through our drum set that way. It's a little bit more than just a toy.

WP: As far as the songs are concerned, what really goes into bringing a song from a classic track to getting it into the game? You've got the sheet music, you've got the actual recording breaking down the different individual tracks and then recombining them, but how complex or simple is the process? Can you give us an idea of what goes into it, both from a legal perspective and from a technical perspective?

AF: It's a pretty involved process. Once we pick a song, we have to license the master track and the publishing, which is the composition. Once that's done, they have to track down the multitrack tapes and make those into musical stems. Multitrack tapes are usually one guitar in one track, another guitar in another track. Stems are like, we put guitars on one track and drums on another track, that sort of thing. That's where the process gets a little bit like voodoo. Sometimes they have the master tapes in a vault in Montana, 300 feet under the ground. Sometimes the bass player sold them to some guy, or sometimes they lost them or they got burned in a fire. You'd be surprised; sometimes you just can't find stems for songs that you want. But once we get the stems, we bring them over to Neversoft and we'll take it, go to our audio department, who will mix them, tempo-map them, so the beats start in the right places. Then we'll have our new track department listen to the stems and do a MIDI layout of the five notes that you can play on the guitar, and they reduce it through the difficulties. It's the same process for drums and vocals. It's a pretty involved process and takes a few weeks for each song, but it's exciting when you get a new song. You just want to get in there and play it and feel what it plays like.

WP: What's your favorite part of the game? Were there any anecdotes from the development process that you can share?

AF: One of the most interesting parts of the development cycle was when we did the boss battle recording with Zakk Wylde because that guy is a maniac. He's just a mad man. You see him on stage and he's just a crazy person. That's how he is all the time, so getting the boss battle recording was an experience. He's a genius guitar player. He's just got this crazy personality, it was an interesting time!

WP: Is there anything about the game or song production that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?

AF: There's just so much in the game. It's very difficult working on something of this scope because it's a very painful process, but now that we're finished with that, people can actually go and experience it and see how cool it is. A lot of stuff that we haven't even talked about, like our character creators, is amazing and totally in-depth. You don't just change the clothes on your character; you can change the shape of his face, the length of his nose, the width of his eyes, the color of his eyes, his skin color, you can put decals on him, you can make any kind of crazy character that you want. We've got a pretty in-depth graphic creation system so if you go into GH Tunes and want to make an album cover for your song, you can make a cool album cover with up to 40 different layers of cool stuff on there. Lot of depth in the game.


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