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Music Games

The Design Failures That Led To Rock Band 177

CNN is running an interview with Eran Egozy and Alex Rigopulos, founders of Harmonix, about the long road that eventually led them to the creation of Guitar Hero and Rock Band . It wasn't an quick or easy process, and the two worked on a number of unsuccessful concepts before arriving at the games that redefined a genre. Quoting: "I was watching people interact with our product, and the realization came crashing down on me — we had spent 18 months on a music system that was fundamentally flawed. Karaoke isn't about personal expression. It's about people reproducing the songs they know as accurately as they can. The whole notion of adding improvisation elements just wasn't connecting. So I retreated to my hotel room and was depressed for the next two days. The company was on the rocks. We had zero revenue. We had been trying for four years to make something work. We were out of ideas. Those first four years had been a graveyard of mis-starts and product concepts that never made it anywhere. Worse, there was adequate information about two years into those four years to realize that our big concept was fatally flawed."
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The Design Failures That Led To Rock Band

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  • by rubies ( 962985 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @01:44AM (#29308087)

    ...thinking that other people are creative too.

    Most people aren't (or at least, not in that artistic sense). Adding elements that require improvisation or creativity just makes the game like work for those who aren't inclined that way. There's nothing necessarily wrong in pandering to an audience that would prefer to be entertained rather than try to entertain themselves. That's why rail shooters are popular and Deus Ex was a flop.

  • Sold to MTV (Score:5, Insightful)

    by piltdownman84 ( 853358 ) <> on Friday September 04, 2009 @02:23AM (#29308209)
    They claim they sold to MTV because :"Harmonix has always been about music first -- games are a means to an end for us"

    I wish MTV was about music. For at least the last decade its been all trash reality tv and teen celeb gossip.
  • Re:Rail games (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 04, 2009 @02:29AM (#29308233)
    Call it what you want. They still developed 2 incredibly popular gaming franchises. And had you read the article, youd see that they first tried to be creative, letting people create and modify music (adjust pitch by hand movements and such) but it failed as a final product. This was because for non musicians it simply was boring. For the average person they want to feel like they are playing/singing their favorite tune. When Red Octane approached them with a guitar controller idea, that's when they realized a a rail style game would be fun for the average person, and could be a hit.

    Don't blame the game makers because of this, blame the GAMERS. The article was quite a good read, and I never knew how much failure the guys went through before landing on Guitar Hero. Next time you might want to read the article before posting such a useless comment.
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @03:19AM (#29308411) Journal
    Yeah, it's pretty obvious that you've never seen it or played it. It isn't about learning to make music, it's about getting a simulated experience of being a guitar god without having to go through all the work. You get on there, and the crowd cheers when you do well, and the boo for you when you do badly. It's all the excitement of being on stage, without having to go through the work to get there. It's not about pretending to play the guitar, it's about pretending to be a........Guitar Hero. And it works. It's exciting.
  • by Mascot ( 120795 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @03:48AM (#29308543)

    Whoa, way to confuse "I just want to play a game for an hour" with, "I think I need a new vocation".

  • Re:Yep (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Omestes ( 471991 ) <> on Friday September 04, 2009 @04:30AM (#29308703) Homepage Journal

    Learn how to play a real freakin' guitar.

    Don't really want to. Does that mean I'm not allowed have have innocent fun without people telling me I'm not allowed to? I can go get drunk and have a bunch of idiotic fun with my friends right now, without having to spend years learning guitar, and decades to actually be good at it. For what? Growing up (too late) to be a rock star, like the people I acknowledge will always be much better than me at it. I'm never going to be Adam Jones, or Pete Townsend, or Les Paul, or Tom Morello, or Slash, or... You get the point.

    Can I play racing games without being an Formula One racer? Can I play an FPS without joining the Marines? A sports game with out being professional Athlete?

    Does this also apply to books and movies? I watched the X-Men movies, and I'm not a mutant. I read the Bible, and I'm not God (or even Christian).

    Relax, people do what they want. Its harmless fun. And on the upshot, a certain percentage of the people who play might actually get interested in music, and learn to play something real. Stop caring about what people do, you'll live a longer happier life.

  • Re:Yep (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Omestes ( 471991 ) <> on Friday September 04, 2009 @04:40AM (#29308731) Homepage Journal

    As stated above: Relax, and stop caring what people do for fun. You'll live a longer, happier life that way.

    I love music, but I'm not a musician (unless you count playing the jews harp), don't have the desire to be one either. I support my local musicians, half of my friends are musicians (who play, surprise, Rock Band), I buy them beer, and hype their shows. I don't get my music for free, I pay real money for it. I every time a band is in town that I like I go to it, and spend money on t-shirts to show my support. But I also think Rock Band is a very fun game to play, especially with a couple of beers in my gut. Oddly enough, I also play it with a lot of my friends who are musicians, some of whom are (locally) successful ones. Odd, some of them have seemed to realize that music isn't "serious business". Some of them, I might add, are pretty serious, and classically trained.

    And, as I also stated earlier, these games might get a certain percentage of their players actually interested in music. Interested enough to actually pick up an instrument and make their neighbors life hell for awhile. They force people to actually LISTEN to the music that they enjoy, deeply. Not all of them, obviously, but some. This is actually somewhat noble, being that most of the schools I know of have dropped any music programs that they used to have. This, to me as a non-musician, is tragic, as the selection of music would go up if people actually appreciate it.

    Another fun thing, the drums in Rock Band is actually decent training for real drums, as is the bass guitar, since they teach actual rhythm and beat, which is pretty difficult to actually grasp for most of us.

  • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @04:49AM (#29308781) Journal
    KAraoke is a much closer correlation When people go out for Karaoke no one calls it a waste of time and that they should get REAL singing lessons. I will never understand how people fail to make this connection regarding rythm games
  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @05:28AM (#29308911) Journal

    I've seen people play Forza. I've never played it. I'm not sure exactly what it is. I think that you take a plastic controller and maneuver a car around a racetrack displayed on a monitor, avoiding other vehicles at the same time. Allow me to suggest an alternative. Buy a sports car and go to your local track. Practice driving a lot, trying to avoid accidents. When you feel good and up to it, consider joining organized races at the racetrack. Wait, that sounds stupid.

    A great many people actually do this. It's fun, and not all that expensive to "race" an old Miata around cones in a parking lot, or on a lower budget some to the bigger go-kart stuff.

    Seriously, video games can be fun, but so can actual real-life hobbies. You don't have to be good enough at playing the guitar to make a living in order to really enjoy playing. You don't have to be a professional driver to really enjoy amatuer racing. Climbing can be great fun if you live close to mountains. Shooting at real people is of course discouraged, but IDPA shoots are more fun than any PC shooter. Most of this stuff is cheaper than a high-end gaming rig, too.

  • Re:Yep (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Palshife ( 60519 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:42AM (#29309475) Homepage

    We're having some trouble hearing you guys down here. Can you descend to our level temporarily so we can receive the wisdom we so desperately need? It's probably our fault we can't hear. God, we're pathetic.

  • by LKM ( 227954 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @08:05AM (#29309565) Homepage

    You're missing the point of the game. Rock Band isn't about playing a guitar, it's about - doh - being in a rock band, just like Gran Turismo isn't about driving a car, but about racing.

    Rock Band isn't a replacement for a real guitar, just like Gran Turismo isn't a replacement for the car in your garage.

    I'm looking forward to your "People can't be bothered to drive real cars anymore" rant about racing games, though. It's always fun to read posts from people who have nothing better to do with their lives than complain about what other people do with their lives.

  • by Ephemeriis ( 315124 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @08:26AM (#29309669)

    BTW - they made a Deux Ex sequel.

    Yes, they did. And they made every effort to correct the flaws in the original game and increase its appeal to a wider audience.

    This means it had simpler controls, only one type of ammunition, shinier graphics, more linear gameplay, and a less confusing storyline. In short, they made it more like a rail shooter.

  • by yincrash ( 854885 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @10:53AM (#29311205)
    I agree with this wholeheartedly. It's a little intellectually dishonest to respond to these article questions and not mention konami's guitarfreaks and drummania.
  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Friday September 04, 2009 @09:46PM (#29319967)

    Seriously, video games can be fun, but so can actual real-life hobbies.

    How is playing video games not an "actual real-life hobby"?

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis