WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank and occupation!
I'm Doug Grutzmacher, and I'm executive producer for Activision on DJ Hero 2.
WP: You worked on the first DJ Hero and now on the sequel. Beyond the new mixes, what are some of the key changes and updates that we're going to see in this title? The tagline seems to be "Two turntables and a microphone."
DG: There are kind of three pillars to DJ Hero 2. One is the music, which you mentioned. The [other pillars are] social gameplay and freestyle gameplay. Social gameplay is really very community-oriented. It's about bringing people together to experience the music with their friends or their family, other gamers online or offline. The way we support that is through an expanded list of multiplayer modes. In DJ Hero, we had one multiplayer mode. In DJ Hero 2, we have six multiplayer modes. There are different types of gameplay, and we score you on different metrics.
We have a Streak challenge, which will score you on highest note streak. We have a Checkpoint challenge, where you're scored on reaching the different checkpoints rather than the overall score. We also have a DJ Battle, which a call-and-response type of game designed to emulate a real DJ battle that you would see in a club. You'll see one guy playing and the other guy probably on the mic. It'll go back and forth. The mixes in the DJ Battle mode are design specifically for that mode to support that. It's very fast-paced. We also have DJ-level microphone integration so most of the songs in the game support lyrics on the screen. You're scored on beat and pitch and things like that. Those are some of the features we added to bring people together and start playing the game.
There's also freestyle gameplay, which is basically freestyle scratching, sampling and crossfading. When you get to those certain sections and it says to hold down the button for freestyle scratches, the game will recognize the movement that I'm making on the platter and it will be represented in the game.
WP: You've got a multiplayer versus mode. Will there be a single-player, two-turntable mode where you've got six buttons and two turntables scratching, or is that still for the next game?
DG: We've got to save a little bit for the sequel, so we haven't gone that deep into it for the second iteration, but we're always thinking big for the next one, so who knows next year?
WP: With the Guitar Hero franchise, the DLC for the older games port to the new titles. There's DLC for the original DJ Hero. Can you import any of the original songs and DLC into DJ Hero 2?
DG: We can't comment on the specifics yet. We're still working on our compatibility and DLC plans. All I can tell you right now is that we will have downloadable content for DJ Hero 2 on day one of launch.
WP: How are you picking the mixes? Do you go to clubs and see what's popular? Have you contacted the artists and ask who they want to be partnered with? How does that come together?
DG: It's a little bit of everything. We have a team of professional DJs who make mixes for the game. One of them has worked on DJ Hero 1 and 2. The music is made specifically for the game. We have DJs out there picking mixes, we have a music department at Activision that's helping with all the licensing. It's a big collaborative effort to get the right mixes into the game. It's a fine-tuned process to figure out which mixes sound good and which mixes play good, and all the freestyle stuff and the social stuff has to come together. For DJ Hero 2, the idea is to make it much more farther-reaching than DJ Hero. We're trying to make it more current, more contemporary. As good as it was in DJ Hero 1, we want to make it better for DJ Hero 2.
WP: Can you go a little more in-depth about the different multiplayer modes?
DG: Absolutely. We have Stars Battle [Head to Head], which is basically where you face off and go head-to-head.
We have Streak mode, which is going to score you on the highest note streak. You can actually use the Euphoria button to bank, or record, a note streak. If you've got a high note streak, if you don't bank it, it doesn't count. There's a little bit of strategy there, and the person with the highest note streak at the end of the mix wins.
Accumulator is the same philosophy. It's going to score you on note streak, but instead of the highest note streak, it's going to allow you to record three note streaks and add them together. Same kind of philosophy with a little bit different implementation.
Checkpoint mode. I like to say that it's kind of like playing match play in golf. It breaks up the mix into different checkpoints and score you on those individual checkpoints. You have to kind of pace yourself and maintain that high score and that quality gameplay throughout the mix. You can't just play well in the beginning and expect to win.
There's DJ Battle, which I've mentioned. The DJ Battle is actually scored via a checkpoint system, so it's going to break up the mix into checkpoints and score you on those individual checkpoints. Even though the mix is going back and forth, it's balanced such that the input for player one sort of matches the input for player two.
We also have Party Play mode, which you saw in Guitar Hero 5 for the first time. It's kind of our co-op mode. Very casual, very accessible. People can just jump in and jump out. You can just watch. Prior to going into this mode, you can boot this up from the main menu. The game is going to start everything except the highways. If you want to jump in and out, do that. The highways will appear. One highway, two highways, a microphone — whatever you want to do.
WP: Visually, DJ Hero has a very distinct look. In DJ Hero 2, you've got the option for bringing in your Avatar as your DJ. Are we going to see any DJ Hero 2-themed Avatar items or clothing, so you don't have an Avatar that's completely out of place when you play the game?
DG: Yeah, we want to make the experience as cohesive as possible. I can't go into too much detail about Avatars right now.
WP: DJ Hero had a great critical response, but it didn't have a very good sales response. Why do you think that was, and what are you trying to do to get the word out for DJ Hero 2 so that more people will hear about it, know about it, see it and play it?
DG: In all of our features, we're going to try to make this game as far-reaching as possible, whether that is in social gameplay, with more multiplayer modes so more people can come together. There's mic integration, so maybe somebody doesn't want to jump on the turntables, they want to get on the microphone and sing instead. There are different ways for them to get involved in the game. The set list itself is going to be more contemporary, it's going to be a little bit far-reaching.
The idea behind DJ Hero in general is to take music from different genres and mix them together. There are so many genres, but we just like to think of that as there are so many different people you can reach. We're trying to do that with DJ Hero 2, just trying to reach as many people as possible.
We're aware that it's still a young franchise. Most people don't realize this, but we were actually pretty happy with how it sold. We're just going to keep hammering home the marketing points about social gameplay, expanding the core features and having better music.
WP: What about the hardware? The consistent complaint about the original DJ Hero was the slider didn't have a very defined center point, so it was easy to overshoot the center point. Are there any plans to release an updated controller with a little more response in the slider?
DG: We're actually keeping the same hardware as DJ Hero 1. There were some complaints — and there always are with any product — the overall response was mostly pretty positive in how it simplified the DJ experience for everybody, so we were pretty happy with that. We're going to stick with the same hardware. You're going to see a minor tweak in one of our party bundles. The hardware is going to come out with slightly different colors, but the same functionality is going to be there. It's still a young franchise, and people are still kind of figuring it out, and a lot of people haven't heard of it yet. We're sticking with the hardware we have for now, and we're happy about that.
WP: Will DJ Hero 2 have any main headliners like you had for the original, or is this going to be strictly the game going on its own?
DG: We have a new round of celebrity DJ talent integrated into the game. Similar to DJ Hero, we'll have a very targeted artist integration.
[Editor's Note: The complete DJ Hero 2 track list was recently revealed.]
More articles about DJ Hero 2