Rock Legend: Guitar Hero III Interview
Music game newbie Neversoft tells Kikizo about the process of picking up work on the series.
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In some ways Neversoft, the developer taking over from Guitar Hero creator Harmonix, has it easy. That particular ball is already rolling along smoothly and the series is a big hit for Activision. Now all Neversoft has to do with Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is keep it going.
But it's not quite so easy. All sorts of things can go wrong in game development, and the chances of this happening are even higher when there's a completely new team at the controls, one that's never made a music game before.
"The last thing we want is for anyone to go, 'Neversoft came and they screwed it up,'" says Alan Flores, the lead designer on Legends of Rock at Activision's in-house team. "We were totally worried about that and we wanted to make it kick ass."
Neversoft made its name over the past eight years with the Tony Hawk skateboarding series. But when Guitar Hero series creator Harmonix left to make Rock Band for EA, Activision looked internally for someone to pick up the guitar.
"Do exactly what was done before but do it better, and do it in less time as well," the bosses at Activision told Flores. And that's what he's doing.
Flores is leading a team of around 35 people who are determined to do the series justice. He says that despite appearances, the game is technically much deeper than it seems. "We're learning as we go," he admits.
The process is made easier by the game's profile, which has soared over the past year. Where soundalikes were used for the most part in the first PlayStation 2 game, now the team is regularly being called up by hotel-smashing rock stars who are eager to see their tunes in the game.
"Rock stars are really into it and they want to be a part of it," says Flores. He recounts how the Brooklyn beatsters the Beastie Boys tore through their recordings looking for one particular tape they wanted in the game. In the end, the found it lying in a vault, bumping the 70-odd track listing by one more song.
But the biggest contributor to Legends of Rock is Slash, the top-hat-wearing ex-guitarist for '90s rock gods Guns 'n' Roses.
Slash appears in the game as a boss character, someone players will have to battle in a guitar duel - a kind of heavy metal update to the banjo scene in Deliverance. He was motion-captured so that every gyrating thrust is representative of his real-life swagger, and his music is completely original too, recorded just for the game.