WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!
I'm Alan Flores, and I'm the lead designer on Guitar Hero: Metallica.
WP: Since Guitar Hero: Metallica is the first band-branded title after the release of Guitar Hero: World Tour, which features a full band instead of just a lone guitar, what was the difference in the development processes?
AF: There are a lot of differences. First of all, there's the music that we use in the game, which consists of 28 Metallica songs and 21 guest artists. With World Tour, you have this eclectic mix of all kinds of different music in the game, but here, we're focusing on Metallica and artists that Metallica inspired or were inspired by Metallica, people they played with and people whose songs they've covered. That's the focus of the set list, Metallica and relevant acts.
We changed up quite a few things from World Tour. One of the most noticeable things is in the band play; we changed up the interface a bit because people had a hard time knowing if they were failing and if the band was failing, so we took the individual rock meters and put them to the side of each highway so you instantly know how well you're doing. If the band starts to fail, the screen starts flashing red, sort of like a Call of Duty red vignette, so you know that the band is in trouble and you'd better launch your star power to help everybody out.
We've added a bunch of stuff to this too, to give it a really full Metallica experience. We added the Expert Plus [difficulty level] double bass drum pedal thing, where you can plug in an extra pedal and a splitter and you can actually track the songs with all the double bass drum hits the way they're supposed to be.
We've also added a lot of Metallica bonus footage. There are photos of the band and lyric sheets. There are Metallifacts, which is something that plays when you play the song, and you can get little bits of information about your song. There are "behind the scenes" videos, including one where Lars is practically crying, which is my favorite one, and live footage of the band.
WP: Can you elaborate on the Lars comment, for our readers?
AF: We were sitting around, and Lars had finished doing a song and asked, "What's next?" One of the guys in the video, Aaron, he looked over at me and said, "Shortest Straw, Shortest Straw," so I said, "Hey Lars, he wants you to play 'Shortest Straw.'" Lars said, "Yeah, sure, I'll give it a shot." Of course, six takes later, when he falls over, broken, he actually made it through. It was pretty funny. It's cool to be able to shout out your favorite tune, and he would do it.
WP: How involved was Metallica in making the game? Obviously it's their music and they're motion-captured, but did they have any other input? Did they specify the songs, or did Activision request specific songs?
AF: All of the music in the game is sort of handpicked by them. All the Metallica songs — we had a big list of stuff, Lars had a big list, and we put them together and found common things. The ones that James and Lars felt were very important, they were included in the game. The guest artists, they picked them all, and they picked all of the songs for the guest artists. All the venues are ones that we talked about with them, ones that were relevant to them, like playing Tushino Airfield, where they played for 500,000 screaming Russians. They really wanted that stuff in the game. They gave us input on Metallifacts. In the game, they gave little personal touches about all of it. Metallica is involved everywhere in this game.
WP: If you bring out new downloadable songs for Guitar Hero: World Tour, but you only own Guitar Hero: Metallica, are they available to you?
AF: There's no downloadable content for Guitar Hero: Metallica. It's a standalone title. We didn't want to get into any issues, like maybe a band doesn't want to approve its song that you put up as World Tour DLC, but if you downloaded the Death Magnetic album for Guitar Hero III or World Tour, that will automatically work on Guitar Hero: Metallica, but you'll also be able to play as the band.
Also, we have the music studio in the game returning, that was in Guitar Hero: World Tour, but we changed the sounds to make them sound a little bit better. We use an ESP Truckster guitar model that James Hetfield uses and an ESP bass that Tom Araya uses and sampled those in the game. If you write something in Guitar Hero: Metallica in the music studio and upload it to GH Tunes, people in World Tour can see it, and vice versa, if you write it in World Tour, then you can play it in Guitar Hero: Metallica.
WP: One of the big features of Guitar Hero: Metallica is the double bass drum, which obviously makes the game a little bit harder for people who are not as coordinated as Lars. Aren't you afraid that it's going to be too hard for people to play?
AF: Expert Plus is going to be too hard for most people, but that's because that's for people who play Expert and they want an extra level of challenge. Most people are going to play the game on Medium, Easy and Beginner, and the game is fully accessible for those people. If you're one of those hardcore guys who wants that extra layer of challenge, you're a good drummer, and you think that you're really ready to challenge yourself, you plug that extra pedal in there, and you put it on Expert Plus, and you get to play that.
WP: Metallica wanted bands associated with them or played with them in the past, such as Merciful Fate's "Am I Evil?" How hard was it to get all of those songs into Guitar Hero: Metallica? We've heard that one of Slayer's tunes was difficult to get in there.
AF:The issue with Slayer was that we had a big list of music that we wanted cleared, and then one of the songs we had was "Angel of Death" from Slayer, which is an awesome song. It's not pro-Nazi. Anybody who knows the controversy about the song knows that it's not saying Nazis are good or anything like that. It's a song about this horrible Nazi killer. We had that song cleared, and this is late in the game and we're going to start working on it, and there becomes an issue with lyrical content and getting it cleared and being able to put it in. Germany is very sensitive about those things, and getting it cleared for the ESRB and the ratings issues, we probably weren't going to get that song. We decided not to do that song because it might affect the rating of the game.
Now, Lars was adamant that we had to have a Slayer song, so late in the game, we got "War Ensemble" cleared, and then we had to do a bunch of extra work to try and get that song ready and put it in the game. In the end, it worked out great, we get Slayer, we get an awesome Slayer song, but it was a bunch of extra work to get that done.
WP: For Guitar Hero III, DragonForce's "Through the Fire and Flames" was the hard song. What's the hard, ultimate song for people to beat in Guitar Hero: Metallica?
AF:Probably the overall hardest song is "War Ensemble" from Slayer. First of all, on Expert Plus drums, if you're not a good drummer, like a real drummer, you're not going to be able to play that. That song is ridiculous, and with double bass, it's insane. The guitar-playing is super, super fast and super hard. The hardest Metallica song is probably "Fight Fire with Fire," which is super fast as well. If you're singing, Queen's "Stone Cold Crazy," I think people are going to be surprised how hard it is to sing like Freddie Mercury. He sings really fast and just spits lyrics out there, and he's all over the place with the range. It's really tough.
WP: Apart from the double bass drumming, are there any modifications, differences or upgrades made to the hardware?
AF:There are no changes to the hardware. All of your previous hardware will work. The game's not going to be bundled with hardware either — well, it is in Europe, we're going to do some bundles. It's the same guitar, and if you have any previous controller or compatible controller, it'll work with the game.
WP: Is there anything about the game that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?
AF: It's awesome. (laughs) It's really, really fun.
Guitar Hero: Metallica will be out March 29 in North America for X360 and PS3, outside of North America early May. Wii and PS2 editions will follow later in Spring 2009.
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