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post #1 of 6042 Old 08-30-2007, 01:23 PM - Thread Starter
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An interview with Harmonix

http://www.joystiq.com/2007/08/30/ro...with-harmonix/

Dance Dance Revolution showed that rhythm titles had a life here in the States, but Guitar Hero proved they could also become full blown phenomenons. No one could have guessed it at the time, but Harmonix's musical masterpiece quickly became the most culturally significant video game since Master Chief became a household name.

The success was long overdue for Harmonix, having already shown off their rhythmic chops with the PlayStation 2 favorites Frequency and Amplitude. Teaming up with Konami, they quickly established their dominance of the microphone on this side of the ocean with Karaoke Revolution. With 2005's Guitar Hero, they crafted the perfect blend of boyhood dreams and American rock insanity. The next step was obvious, but how could it possibly be done?

Speaking with Harmonix CEO and co-founder, Alex Rigopulos, we look into the history of the great white hope of rhythm gaming and what goes into creating what, if everything goes according to plan, will be considered one of the greatest rhythm titles of all time. From the challenges of gathering licenses to taking on their own success, this is the story of the next great franchise.

Joystiq: Harmonix is full of musicians, so rhythm titles are a perfect fit for your studio. Before work began on Frequency on the PS2, was there a pivotal moment where it was decided that the focus would be on music titles?

Rigopulos: Actually, Harmonix has been focused on music since our inception back in 1995. We started the company not to make games, but to invent new ways for non-musicians to play with music. In the beginning, that meant music creativity software of various kinds. Our first product was a PC title called The Axe that let players improvise instrumental solos using a PC joystick or mouse.

In the late 90's, after the first music games appeared in Japan, it struck us that merging music making and gameplay in new ways was where we wanted to focus our energy, and that's when we started working on Frequency.

When was the original idea for Rock Band forged? Were your publishers throughout time wise to the end goal?

The core idea of Rock Band has been gestating at Harmonix for years and years as the ultimate incarnation of music performance simulation. It's not something we've been pitching to publishers over the years because we just haven't had the creative freedom or resources to turn our vision into a reality. That, of course, changed with the MTV acquisition.

Guitar Hero wasn't exactly the first of its ilk as Konami has been churning out their Bemani series' in Japan for the past decade now. Is there such a thing as a rhythm series going for too long?

I think any series, not just rhythm games, can go on for too long if the creators don't continually invest in adding freshness and innovation to the franchise. But if you do continue to push boundaries, I think a franchise can be creatively sustained for quite a long time.

Considering that Guitar Freaks, a very similar title, flopped in American arcades, what was it that convinced Harmonix that this style of game -- pricey controller and all -- would work in the Western market?

Well, back then, we weren't actually "convinced" that it would work in the Western market, but we sure as hell wanted to have a crack at it. Guitar Freaks was crafted for the Japanese audience; the visual design wasn't right for the Western market, nor was the music. We were hopeful that if we created a game with a distinctly Western sensibility, it would have a much better shot in the US than Guitar Freaks had.

Prior to the deal with MTV, was Harmonix even looking to be scooped up? Or was that a right place, right time sort of deal?

More the latter. Harmonix hadn't been actively contemplating selling the company. But when the music game category finally exploded, it became clear that the time had come for us to really "go for it" in terms of advancing the category to the next level. Doing that as a tiny independent studio would have been impossible. We'd been talking with MTV on and off for years, and when the time came, they were really the most natural partner because they're true believers in the vision that's driving Harmonix; they could see that what we're trying to do is not just develop games, but change music entertainment.

Speaking of deals: licensing. What is the process like for a song to go through the Rock Band music advisory board?

MTV Games and Harmonix will rely on the Rock Band Music Advisory Board members to pool their industry expertise and guide the development team in the selection of tracks and artists for Rock Band. Because the Music Advisory Board is a new entity, we are still determining the exact step-by-step process for selecting tracks and artists.

Is there any artist or band that is out of reach at this point? How do you think Rock Band's upcoming popularity will affect this?

There's been such an overwhelming surge of enthusiasm coming from the labels and artists and it just doesn't seem like any artist or band is "out of reach" at this point.

As Rock Band grows in popularity it may help attract even more attention, but I don't think commercial success is actually the key factor. It's more about the artists recognizing that Rock Band is an all-new revenue stream for them and is genuinely a means to connect their fans to their music in a deeper way.

Not to fuel the fire, but Rock Band will be in a position where it competes with the Guitar Hero series. A series that will now thrive on one, possibly two titles a year. Release wise, will Harmonix be entering the annual game or will downloadable content replace the need?

We do view Rock Band as a platform, onto which we intend to deliver a steady flow of high quality expansion content, both online and through retail as well. And I do think that this will go a long way towards maintaining the freshness of the play experience for quite a while. But I also don't believe we can rely on content expansion alone in the long term. For players to remain engaged, we need to continue to innovate on the feature axis as well; we need to give them new ways to play, new ways to engage with the music and with other players. As for whether these sorts of major feature upgrades come annually or at some longer interval, we haven't decided.

How do you feel the mainstream press has been treating Rock Band so far? Is there a "been there, done that" notion or do you feel as if they understand the difference between Rock Band and your previous series?

The press response has been overwhelmingly positive. As you know, Rock Band won Best of Show from the E3 judges, which the team was thrilled about. In general, the press hasn't had much difficulty at all seeing how large a departure Rock Band is from our previous work.

Rock Band sports a very robust online component, but detractors still believe there is "no point" to online rhythm titles. What would you say that point is?

Sometimes there are specific people who you want to play with-or compete against-but for whatever reason you can't all be in the same place at the same time. Online play solves this problem. In my own case, for example, I have brothers who live in other cities, and I'm looking forward to being able to play Rock Band with them.

Your distributor, Electronic Arts, has been pretty far out there as of late, offering up real-life championship rings for Madden achievements. If you could offer some sort of real-life reward for Rock Band play, what would it be?

How about... the chance for your Rock Band band to open on tour for a major real-world band?

The focus on Rock Band seems to be on realism, from the sheer amount of "master tracks" to the heavy focus on real world venues. What sort of advantages and disadvantages does this offer over the fictional slant of the old?

Actually, word of "real world venues" in Rock Band started floating around at some point, but actually, this is mistaken. The game venues are all fictional creations.

But you're correct: Creatively, we're definitely going for a much more realistic feel in Rock Band than we have in previous games. This manifests itself everywhere: in the peripherals design, the character design and animation, the interface design, the camera behavior and lighting design, the use of master recordings, etc. I wouldn't say this really poses any material disadvantages. Of course, there are things it rules out. But that is always the case with creative decisions. Most importantly, creative production requires focus, and our decision to pursue realism gives the team a clear creative focus, in terms of the experience they're trying to summon in the player. Our goal is for this game to bring our players as close to the feeling of really performing rock music they can get without actually doing it.


So far, your series' have only been available in the Western market. Has Harmonix ever considered aiming a rhythm title towards Japanese audiences?

Indeed, this is something we're actively considering right now.

Years from now, let's say you go to develop a true sequel to Rock Band. What musical instrument would you like to throw into the current mix?

Gong, definitely. Only one note to play for the whole song, but man, you'd better not fricking miss it.
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post #2 of 6042 Old 08-30-2007, 01:31 PM
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Rock band looks like it has a lot of potential. I've always had fun playing guitar hero, but I don't think it's a game I would ever buy. There is never any music that I really like in the games. I also wouldn't expect the music I like to be added to the game, or show up as downloads, but I'd love for a custom track feature to be added. One where you could rip a track from a cd, and use a piece of included software to add the note strikes to your songs for various difficulties and instruments.

I wouldn't expect that feature to be added in the first rockband, but hopefully by one of the expansions or a sequel they might try getting a good feature like that in.

Until I can play the music I'd really like to play it probably won't be something i'd play other than at a friends house or something.
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post #3 of 6042 Old 08-30-2007, 02:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Benkrishman View Post

Rock band looks like it has a lot of potential. I've always had fun playing guitar hero, but I don't think it's a game I would ever buy. There is never any music that I really like in the games. I also wouldn't expect the music I like to be added to the game, or show up as downloads, but I'd love for a custom track feature to be added. One where you could rip a track from a cd, and use a piece of included software to add the note strikes to your songs for various difficulties and instruments.

I wouldn't expect that feature to be added in the first rockband, but hopefully by one of the expansions or a sequel they might try getting a good feature like that in.

Until I can play the music I'd really like to play it probably won't be something i'd play other than at a friends house or something.


throw out some examples of teh music you want I mean Harmonix has been begging for requests for monthes on their website and considering the huge amount of DLC planned nothing is impossible.
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post #4 of 6042 Old 08-30-2007, 02:54 PM
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I'd love to see some jazz fusion added to rockband, I think it would make for some awesome times. A couple examples:

Return to Forever - Majestic Dance, Duel of the Jester and Tyrant

Béla Fleck & the Flecktones - Stomping Grounds, Sinister Minister

Dennis Chambers, Greg Howe, Victor Wooten - Bird's Eye View

Marcus Miller - Panther


Just to name a few. All of these songs are instrumental however, so that would keep any singers out of the tracks, thought I dont' necessarily think thats a bad thing. Most of those tracks could benefit from a keyboard/piano instrument being available though, which I think would be a sweet addition to the next release of the game.
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post #5 of 6042 Old 08-30-2007, 04:28 PM
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I want Mason Williams - Classic Gas. But, the singer would be reduced to cowbell for the entire song.
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post #6 of 6042 Old 09-27-2007, 07:30 AM - Thread Starter
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Cool article on how they are tackling lag.

http://community.rockband.com/index....g/view/id_497/

The bad news: I'm on blog hiatus for a fortnight after this while I go galavanting around the world. I'll be back in October!

The good news: Finally, the first in-depth article about something in Rock Band! Since this I can feel people's eyes preemptively glossing over, I'm going to do a short summary, then something with a few more details. Let's talk about the Calibrate System feature in Rock Band.



Calibrate System in Rock Band - The Summary:

We did a lot of research, and have a new way to make sure that everyone can play Rock Band without different combinations of TVs and Stereos screwing everything up. It's a lot better than our previous games, and we've calibrated on setups from laggy LCDs to massive theaters with video splitters with no problems.

Calibrate System in Rock Band - The Whole Thing:

In previous games, we had functionality that let people set their HDTV lag'. This worked great for a bunch of people, but also produced some weird results for others - some people had unusually high numbers, and some people found themselves unable to play on some HDTVs. What made it weirder was that other people on the same TVs would be able to calibrate fine!

Obviously, this sucks. So, we decided to disassemble everything and analyze every single variable that could possibly influence lag. Meet James and the Lagpwnerer 2000:



James spent weeks with different TV and stereo types, light guns, oscilloscopes, and hacked-apart controllers, and found something that caught a bunch of us by surprise - and became the basis for our Calibrate System flow.

Let's imagine that you're looking at a timeline of when various events happen. For lag calibration in previous titles, we've only cared about two things - when the controller input arrives (like, when you strum), and when the audio and video are being shown on the screen. On a CRT, we assume that these are always in-sync, but on an LCD there can be a delay between input and output.

So, in previous titles, we had a Calibrate HDTV Lag option that told the game to play the A/V earlier, and calculate hit detection later, so that notes showed up at the same time you'd expect to play it.

This should cover everything!, we thought. Then, we started reading emails and forum threads about people not being able to get their system to be calibrated correctly. We were confused because it worked fine on our setups at Harmonix HQ! Then, for some reason a lot of us upgraded our TVs to HDTVs around October of last year, and one or two of us started noticing it too. If we're already compensating for the lag beween when a TV receives a signal and when it displays it, then what else is left to adjust?

James leapt into action, and found some very surprising things:

The biggest was one that we weren't expecting - not only does the audio play at a different time to the video on most HDTVs, but the gap between them increases depending on your display type, sometimes as bad as the audio and video being 110ms apart!
This gets even worse if you run your audio through an amplifier, since it doesn't know how much your video is being delayed by.
This gets worse again if you're sending a 5.1 signal, since creating and sending the signal adds even more audio latency

Gadzooks!, Zut Alors! and Crikey!'s were exclaimed, and James and I bunkered down to work out how we could not only get all of these new variables to line up, but also make it even easier than it has been to do in our other titles. Here's what we came up with:



Yep - one button calibration. We tested a wide range of TVs and came up with presets for all of the most common sets on the market. For most people, this is the only calibration screen you'll ever see - just choose your TV type and your calibration will be all set.

Naturally though, this isn't right 100% of the time. What if you have a very slow LCD TV, or if you have an amplifier hooked up to do audio work? Or if you just don't trust our awesome presets and want to fine tune it down to the millisecond? Well, that's where we provide a new multiple-step process in manual calibration. Step 1 is A/V Syncronization:



The aim of this screen is to make sure that the audio and video are sync'd up and not out of sync like they are on most HDTV sets. It's a pretty simple test - a circle moves from left to right, and you need to move the target so that the click sound happens when the circle passes the target.

With this test and an external amplifier, you can also eliminate a lot of lag from what are traditionally high-lag sets like DLP or Rear Projection HD sets, since you can now move the video all the way back to the now-instant audio. This is how we achieved zero perceivable lag on the Omegathon stage at PAX, even though there was 200ms between the audio coming out of the speakers and the video that was being split to three screens and two massive projectors.

The second part takes care of the difference between the input and the now-syncronized audio and video:





One of the nice things here is as well as the strum or hit calibration test to determine the difference between input and A/V, we also allow you to manually input the difference! This is handy if you know how bad the lag is already, or if you just want to nudge the current value without taking a whole new test.

We also allow you to turn on Overscan.



Most people will leave this alone, but if you're playing on a monitor or through a VGA cable it means that the image you see will fit the screen better instead of being weird around the edges.

So, that's what we've been doing to make sure that everyone can play lag free. We've yet to come up with a situation where there's unsolvable lag, and we've been field testing it in the most demanding conditions, like E3, GC and PAX media setups (yes, calibrating an entire system in the 30 seconds before you're playing for Gamespot Live *is* possible) as well as the wide variety of TV's we specially ordered to make sure we covered everything.
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post #7 of 6042 Old 09-27-2007, 07:57 AM
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Thanks for that post about the new calibration system. Much better than the one they used in GHII.
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post #8 of 6042 Old 09-27-2007, 11:31 AM
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I am really excited about Rock Band, and in the new Game Informer they said that eventually they want to have thousands of songs available. So hearing that i wouldn't be surprised to see some Flecktones or perhaps some MMW, something like that.
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post #9 of 6042 Old 09-27-2007, 11:44 AM
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I'd kill for flecktones or MMW. I just hope they don't keep away from instrumental music because of the mic.

The calibration tool also looks excellent. I've played on a few friends dlp's and lcd's and I can't attribute it directly to lag but it always seemed off, I would imagine that was the case.
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post #10 of 6042 Old 09-27-2007, 12:50 PM
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So now comes the million dollar question.. Rock Band or Guitar Hero III.

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post #11 of 6042 Old 09-27-2007, 12:54 PM
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So now comes the million dollar question.. Rock Band or Guitar Hero III.

I'm buying the 200 dollar bundle for rockband. I'm buying GH3 used if I can. RO pissed me off with their lack of support for GH2 on 360.
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So now comes the million dollar question.. Rock Band or Guitar Hero III.

Both Bundles for me, then i will the the GH3 controller for bass.
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post #13 of 6042 Old 09-27-2007, 01:25 PM
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Both Bundles for me, then i will the the GH3 controller for bass.

If they work together.
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post #14 of 6042 Old 09-27-2007, 01:30 PM
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I'm pretty sure it has been confirmed they will.
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post #15 of 6042 Old 09-27-2007, 03:05 PM
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Pretty reasonable. I'll admit RedOctane messed up when they didn't work out a Guitar adapter for GHII and the PS3, but I'll probably sit on the fence and wait for the reviews.

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post #16 of 6042 Old 09-28-2007, 07:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Benkrishman View Post

Rock band looks like it has a lot of potential. I've always had fun playing guitar hero, but I don't think it's a game I would ever buy. There is never any music that I really like in the games. I also wouldn't expect the music I like to be added to the game, or show up as downloads, but I'd love for a custom track feature to be added. One where you could rip a track from a cd, and use a piece of included software to add the note strikes to your songs for various difficulties and instruments.

I wouldn't expect that feature to be added in the first rockband, but hopefully by one of the expansions or a sequel they might try getting a good feature like that in.

Until I can play the music I'd really like to play it probably won't be something i'd play other than at a friends house or something.

What about giving bands the ability to release new albums with their own Rock Band disk inside? Sort of like when you would buy a disk and it had a supplemental dvd inside. Now you could just load it up and listen to your new cd once and also upload the new tunes to Rock Band. They could charge a little extra for the CD and some of us are all happy, but not all of us, because that would just be wrong.
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post #17 of 6042 Old 09-28-2007, 08:55 AM
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So how is the mic actually gonna work? Is it gonna amplify your voice through the speakers like a karaoke machine? Does it grade your voice and if so, how?
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post #18 of 6042 Old 09-28-2007, 09:29 AM
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So how is the mic actually gonna work? Is it gonna amplify your voice through the speakers like a karaoke machine? Does it grade your voice and if so, how?

based on feed back from the tour going through america the voice is amplified though the speakers along side the original vocalws. Your vocals get teh same effects the standard vocals get. You stay alive by keeping the frequency of your voice synced with the lyrics. you get extra points for proper pronounciation.
If you stay accurate you earn a couple bars of freestyling to just scream or whatever. Explicit lyrics are censored in the vocals and written lyrics but tehre is space left for you to say what you want(there are no replacement lyrics for swear words). When your not singling you tap on the mic based on bars in the vocal note chart. There usually represent a tambourine(or cow bell in "dont fear the reaper". If you plan on playing guitar or bass while singing you can just use plosive sounds to do the tapping like "pow or plu". Also your vocie will not come through your friends speakers while playing online.
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post #19 of 6042 Old 09-28-2007, 09:33 AM
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Is there a harmonica controller? 'Cause that's the only way they're going to get me to purchase this game.

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post #20 of 6042 Old 09-28-2007, 09:42 AM
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Is there a harmonica controller? 'Cause that's the only way they're going to get me to purchase this game.

I'd say subit teh idea to HMX. They are looking for more ideas for a sequel game.
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post #21 of 6042 Old 09-28-2007, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Benkrishman View Post

I'd love to see some jazz fusion added to rockband, I think it would make for some awesome times. A couple examples:

Return to Forever - Majestic Dance, Duel of the Jester and Tyrant

I would kill for some Romantic Warrior on Rock Band. Although the thought of trying to keep up with Al's guitar licks is not a fun or relaxing prospect. I think I would have to be hopped up on a lot of caffeine or meth to stick with it.

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post #22 of 6042 Old 09-28-2007, 09:50 AM
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I would kill for some Romantic Warrior on Rock Band. Although the thought of trying to keep up with Al's guitar licks is not a fun or relaxing prospect. I think I would have to be hopped up on a lot of caffeine or meth to stick with it.

Haha, I feel you on that one. I'd love to be able to play some of the bass tracks in that album too. Though it would be somewhat dissapointing not being able to play chick's parts without a keyboard accessory. Hopefully they'll Release one(and a good amount of music to go with it) eventually.
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post #23 of 6042 Old 09-28-2007, 09:55 AM
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I'm buying the 200 dollar bundle for rockband. I'm buying GH3 used if I can. RO pissed me off with their lack of support for GH2 on 360.

Well, the problem is that Red Octane had nothing to do with the software end of it, that was all Harmonix. I'd actually lay the blame on lack of DLC on Activision, for not getting more guaranteed DLC packs in the contract. There was an assumption made that Harmonix would stay indie and therefore WANT to release additional DLC because it's pure gravy for them... oops.

That said, I'm going Guitar Hero 3. The word is out that the guitar parts in Rock Band are going to be substantially dumbed down, and that's really my favorite part of it.
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post #24 of 6042 Old 09-28-2007, 10:24 AM
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Well, the problem is that Red Octane had nothing to do with the software end of it, that was all Harmonix. I'd actually lay the blame on lack of DLC on Activision, for not getting more guaranteed DLC packs in the contract. There was an assumption made that Harmonix would stay indie and therefore WANT to release additional DLC because it's pure gravy for them... oops.

That said, I'm going Guitar Hero 3. The word is out that the guitar parts in Rock Band are going to be substantially dumbed down, and that's really my favorite part of it.

that's the problem HMX is a ery consumer friendly company. They give feedback and enoy hearingf rom fans. RO is teh complete oppisite. Your reasoning for teh lack of DLC is just an assumption. Not knocking you but RO never comments on anything and their customer service is god awful hence why fine people like you have to make assuptioons about teh ass-tastic actions or lack there of.

and yeah there's a lot of evidence that the guitar note charts aren't all mind-plosion hard in difficulty. I feel the rest of experience makes up for it(the new freestyle sections look killer as well as the end of song jam as well as full albums for DLC). As for GH3 it's widely known that neversoft has widened the timing gap on notes and HO/POs as well so I think both brands are looking to making guitar playing more approachable.
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post #25 of 6042 Old 09-28-2007, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by logicalnoise View Post

that's the problem HMX is a ery consumer friendly company. They give feedback and enoy hearingf rom fans. RO is teh complete oppisite. Your reasoning for teh lack of DLC is just an assumption. Not knocking you but RO never comments on anything and their customer service is god awful hence why fine people like you have to make assuptioons about teh ass-tastic actions or lack there of.

and yeah there's a lot of evidence that the guitar note charts aren't all mind-plosion hard in difficulty. I feel the rest of experience makes up for it(the new freestyle sections look killer as well as the end of song jam as well as full albums for DLC). As for GH3 it's widely known that neversoft has widened the timing gap on notes and HO/POs as well so I think both brands are looking to making guitar playing more approachable.

Ironically, right after I made that post above, I read that a new GHII DLC pack for the 360 came out TODAY.

Off majornelson.com:

Title: Guitar Hero II
Content: Guitar Hero Indie Label Pack
Price: 500 Microsoft Points
Availability: Not available in Japan
Dash Text: [ESRB: T (Teen) MILD LYRICS] Detonation as performed by Trivium, Ex's And Oh's as performed by Atreyu, Bury the Hatchet as performed by Protest the Hero. For all song credits please visit www.redoctane.com There are no refunds for this item. For more information, see www.xbox.com/live/accounts.
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post #26 of 6042 Old 09-28-2007, 02:03 PM
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Price for bundle is $169.99, according to MTV.

http://kotaku.com/gaming/rock-band/r...ted-305025.php
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Rock Band for the Xbox 360 and PLAYSTATION 3 will retail for a more affordable $169.99, a price that includes the game, a drum kit, the microphone and a guitar controller. MTV games blogger Stephen Totilo broke the news earlier today of the final price, also tossing us a release date bone of November 23rd, making for an extra painful Black Friday shopping experience.

PlayStation 2 owners get a lick of good news, too, with Rock Band for that last-gen console bumped up to December 10th of 2007 for $159.99. Me? I'll be rocking out with the taste of turkey sandwiches and cranberry sauce the day after Thanksgiving on my PS3. Finally, something to be thankful for.

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post #27 of 6042 Old 09-28-2007, 02:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pernar View Post

Ironically, right after I made that post above, I read that a new GHII DLC pack for the 360 came out TODAY.

Off majornelson.com:

Title: Guitar Hero II
Content: Guitar Hero Indie Label Pack
Price: 500 Microsoft Points
Availability: Not available in Japan
Dash Text: [ESRB: T (Teen) MILD LYRICS] Detonation as performed by Trivium, Ex's And Oh's as performed by Atreyu, Bury the Hatchet as performed by Protest the Hero. For all song credits please visit www.redoctane.com There are no refunds for this item. For more information, see www.xbox.com/live/accounts.

yeah the official boards were pining for that pack for the past two weeks. I sold my copy of GH2 last week. I don't care for those bands. I'm all set for RB now.
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post #28 of 6042 Old 09-28-2007, 02:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ppshooky View Post

Price for bundle is $169.99, according to MTV.

http://kotaku.com/gaming/rock-band/r...ted-305025.php


True. And Gamestop has updated their site to reflect the new price. Great news!

http://www.gamestop.com/product.asp?product%5Fid=270124
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post #29 of 6042 Old 09-28-2007, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by ppshooky View Post

Price for bundle is $169.99, according to MTV.

http://kotaku.com/gaming/rock-band/r...ted-305025.php

Wow, i was expecting 200. 169 is an excellent deal, i think.
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post #30 of 6042 Old 09-28-2007, 05:36 PM
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Did I read that the standard package only comes with a WIRED guitar and you have to buy the wireless one separately?

PSN: fuseman13 and LAGZILLA
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