Treating music with respect

Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Many of the gaming sites out there will tell you that Guitar Hero: World Tour is the sure bet this year over Rock Band 2. I'm not most gaming sites. I didn't enjoy Guitar Hero III, but not because I couldn't play drums to Dragonforce. The abysmal art direction of the game made me want to gag. It's untextured floors, simply rendered audiences of clones and a lead singer out of space (there's a reason you can't find many screenshots of him) furthered my distaste for the title.

What Rock Band and the people at Harmonix do that makes me want to buy their games is their treatment of music. They really love making music and games about music. It shows, and I don't think there's a human being out there who would contest that. That little extra bit makes Rock Band a great game. The community support, the forums, and the company's dedication to listening to the fans sets it apart from Guitar Hero.

Neversoft, now developers of Guitar Hero, do what they've always done. All the way back to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, the subjects of their games have been treated like gimmicks. This is the company that put Darth Maul and Wolverine in a skateboarding game. When I was in eigth grade, that was great, but I'm an adult now, and I don't care about those kinds of things anymore.

The ad campaign and execution of the Guitar Hero entry for DS is a perfect example of the mistreatment of this once venerated series. Neversoft doesn't seem to care too much for the game they make beyond it's final dollar value. That's why Guitar Hero III and Guitar Hero: On Tour are such middle of the road games. The developers cared less about doing the game justice and more about pushing it onto shelves.

There's been a lot of talk about Guitar Hero: World Tour's new song creation tools. I know a few people are betting that it'll be the thing that pushes it ahead of Rock Band 2 come release. Well, if my experience with most die hard fans of Guitar Hero III says anything, you aren't bound to hear much ground-breaking or even reasonably good original music come out of the service. It'll all be about making the most difficult song possible, or a cover of some [insert random numetal band name here] song not available in the game already. It doesn't come off as a gift, but as an excuse for poor community service.

The folks from Harmonix have been releasing new content for Rock Band every Tuesday since release. They've even added the in-game store so you can hear the songs before you buy them. That kind of service only comes from people who care about the product they put out. They do this because they love it, not because of the money.

Luckily, I think people have taken notice. Beyond the game site hype, I'm starting to see more and more people saying they'll buy Rock Band 2 over Guitar Hero World Tour. The lines for the two games at PAX were a clear sign of peoples leanings. Rock Band 2 had a huge crowd and about a fifteen to thirty minute wait for the stage. Over at the Guitar Hero booth however, there was almost no wait at all, with a significantly smaller crowd. Seeing that brought a bit of hope to my dark heart. I might not be alone after all.