[E3 2010] Rock Band 3 Interview

We chat with Harmonix to get the straight poop on just what's different this time around.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: June 25, 2010
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Music games have absolutely exploded in popularity since Harmonix Music Systems first cranked out their tunnel vision rhythm action game FreQuency. Amplitude followed shortly thereafter, adding far more mainstream acts, but it wasn't until that formula of big-name bands and songs was attached to a dedicated instrument a la Konami's Bemani series that things really took off.

Guitar Hero was perhaps the harbinger of the kind of success that we'd see again with the Wii; it was competitive but social, open for new gamers but ramped up to become the stuff of YouTube video fame when burred fingers attacked the final tier songs in expert. When Rock Band added vocals and drums, though, the actual range of playing experiences changed dramatically -- and then everything sort of hit a wall. Even with sequels and competition, the additions were iterative rather than revolutionary, which is why the inclusion of Rock Band 3's feature list got us all giddy again.

We sat down with Harmonix's Daniel Sussman, lead on Rock Band 3 to get a sense of what the developer was doing to bottle lightning thrice. Here's the result, straight from the E3 show floor:

TotalPlayStation: I know you've had to do this a bunch, but just to help get the general spiel out of the way, would you mind going over the genesis for creating a third entry into the series when there was a bit of a glut of stuff released last year?

Daniel Sussman: So Rock Band 3 has been two years in development. Basically the day that Rock Band 2 shipped, we had a core team of people working on what has become Rock Band 3, with the realization and firm belief and understanding that Rock Band 3 needed to be a disruptive release in the context of the music game category and that, y'know, getting great music was not going to be enough -- that we really needed a vehicle for people to kind of experience and interact with that music in a way that was new and compelling.

It was basically a ground-up rebuild of the franchise where we're being very protective of the investment that people have made in hardware purchases; guitars and drums or whatever, DLC purchases... So there's a lot of compatibility that we worked into Rock Band 3 whereby whatever you have from Rock Band 2, from Rock Band 1, from DLC that you bought and hardware that you bought, all of that is very well supported in Rock Band 3.

And that actually carries over to a lot of the Quick Play Modes and the way that we re-engineered the Career. One of the things in RocK Band 2 that struck me personally was that going in you had to make a decision about whether you wanted to play the social Quick Play thing or do the Tour and Rock Band 3 sort of destroys that barrier where the Career is basically... everything that you're doing, whether you're playing Quick Play or the trainers, or giving your band a name or building a character, all of that accruing progression. So the story of your band from nothing to great, worldwide travelling band is told through everything that you do.

So that narrative is realized through the character the character environments -- not necessarily the venues but in the shell -- so you'll see the characters in 3D environments that scale based on what you've done in the game.
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