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I can’t shut up about Guitar Hero

posted on January 22nd, 2007 by christian

A slew of news about the franchise I can’t get off my mind. Come and get it!

– Rumors of a possible pedal accessory for future installments. A cool idea that could backfire. As Tycho at Penny Arcade mentioned, a peripheral for a peripheral is getting a bit crazy, and who knows if they would actually be a pack in or sold separately. Then there’s the question of whether they would have a direct effect on scoring. I would love to see it, but it would have to be done well for it to become an essential part of the game.

Guitar Queero

– I discovered that GH2 has a code for “hyper speed”, which is the same as a speed mod in a Bemani game. It basically makes the notes move faster, and thus become more spread out and easier to read (I know that might sound very confusing – it did to me at first. Just trust me on it). While speed mods are nothing new in the world of Bemani, some in that community consider using them a form of cheating, and from the looks of it, many GH players seem to agree. I was going to write a whole article about this, but I realized that most of the people for it offered good explanations as to why, and those against it were mostly trying to argue by semantics, while completely ignoring the rules of semantics that destroyed their argument. Really there’s no point in arguing with chest thumping internet hooligans. Yes, in GH it is labeled as a cheat, but so is the Mortal Kombat blood code, as well as Paintball Mode in Goldeneye. Are you going to give people a scarlet letter for using those? If you want to argue that its a cheat as in “giving the player an unfair advantage”, you’re opening up a huge can of worms about the nature of music games. Personally, I see nothing wrong with Hyper Speed. The game does not invalidate your high scores when you use it, which strengthens the argument that Harmonix tucked it away as a cheat so as to keep GH simple and accessible for the general gaming public. Furthermore, you’re still playing the same song, at the same speed, with the same notes, and need the same dexterity to pull them off.

Put it this way. When I was in High School band, I once played a song that was spread out over multiple pages with wide measure bars and big notes. A few years later I played the same song condensed onto two pages with tiny, scrunched up notes. The second performance was much harder to practice, even though I was a technically better player, because it was harder to decipher as my eyes scanned along the page. Does that mean that in my first performance I cheated at band?

– Last week we learned that Neversoft, creators of the Tony Hawk games, are going to be working on the Guitar Hero franchise. When the news first broke, everyone had a different theory about what was going on. Some thought they were being nice to Harmonix and letting them work on something new. Unlikely, since they seemed to be having great fun making GH, had already done some experimental stuff with Frequency and Amplitude, and wouldn’t want to lose the acclaim that GH brought to them. Another piece of speculation was that Neversoft is simply going to help out with all the spinoff games that may come out. More possible than the first scenario, but again unlikely, as the longest part of the process is surely recording the tracks, which neither Harmonix or Neversoft would take care of.

Guitar Lame-o

The reality of the deal is simple folks; Hamrnonix is never going to work on their baby ever again. They are now wholly owned by MTV Games, while Activision has scooped up Red Octane. These two buyers see each other as competitors, and thus won’t allow the one time partners (Harmonix and Red Octane) to be friends anymore.

We won’t be able to tell what this kind of affect this will have on the series, but I don’t see it as being good. Some have speculated that Activision and Neversoft have more clout and will be able to license more original tracks, just like they do for the Tony Hawk games. I’d like to believe this, but the songs are rerecorded not just for price reasons, but because its easier for the developers to work with (any old recording won’t work, because they need to tweak each section of the song separately). Add the fact that finding the original masters for some of these classic rock songs may not be possible, and I don’t see this becoming a reality.

Second, Neversoft has no experience working with music games. Harmonix started off as a business making interactive displays for science museums. They know their stuff, and yes, it does matter. While Neversoft may already have the GH engine written for them, creating good note charts for each song is not very simple. This is where Harmonix’s knowledge and experience was crucial, and I don’t see how Neversoft is going to immediately duplicate that, unless they can find someone in their hirings. If you want an example of what I mean, just ask the Bemani fans again. Imitators like In The Groove may have some good songs, but poor note charts prevent a lot of people from enjoying the games nearly as much as DDR.

Also, I personally don’t see Neversoft adding the same kind of charm to GH that Harmonix did. Not that they won’t try; any Tony Hawk fan knows that the Neversoft people put a lot of goodies and flair into their games. I just don’t want to see Tony rocking out on stage. Although, THPS games have had both KISS and Eddie from Iron Maiden guest star. Maybe they can pull some strings…

Ultimately, I’ll stick with GH as long as the games stay good and the upgrades and expansions are reasonably priced. Considering Activision has trademarks on the names “Guitar Villain”, “Drum Hero”, “Drum Villain“, “Guitar Hero 3” and “Guitar Hero 80’s edition”, something tells me we’re either going to get a lot of cheap expansions, or my new favorite franchise is about to be turned into a loose old groupie. Let’s just hope MTV Games lets Harmonix work on their own copycat game, because if they do, then that’s where the true heart and soul of Guitar Hero will be found. Cross your fingers folks.

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