We spent almost at an entire day at the Activision booth at Leipzig, playing and chatting with developers. They had a decent bunch of games to show to us, though the big attraction was Guitar Hero: World Tour. Before getting a go on the drums and guitar (check back later for our full hands-on) we had a natter with project director Brian Bright to learn more about some of the game's more web 2.0 features.
So I noticed when you were going through the track maker during the press conference that it didn't look like you could record vocals. Is it possible to do that?
You can record vocals while you're playing, so that you can create real songs, voice and all. If you also add a keyboard track to the song, this will act as the vocal melody. Obviously, it won't read what words you're saying, you'll just be able to hum along. But you can do the same with any singing game available now.
Is there a limit to how long a song can be?
Yeah, I think it's either three or four minutes for songs made in the track maker.
How are these songs going to be distributed? Are you planning on a LittleBigPlanet sharing and rating system?
It's called "GHTunes". It's an online community for music. When people download tracks, they'll rate them. We took inspiration from YouTube for the rating system, so you can rate each song up to five stars in half-a-star increments. GHTunes features extensive tracking of stats, like which is the most downloaded, what's the best rated, etc. You can instantly preview tracks in GHTunes and you can even create custom album covers for your songs.
Can the album covers be made outside of the game and be imported?
No, album covers are only able to be made in-game.
How will you respond to people making well known songs in the song creator?
We don't condone copyrighted content being put on GHTunes, but it's going to be a community moderated site. If the copyright holder complains, then we'll take it down. Otherwise, we'll probably leave it up unless it's offensive.
Aren't you afraid of this eating into your downloadable content sales?
No, definitely not. If someone's a fan of a band, then they'll want the master recording, which we'll have. All our songs are master recordings and that's worth paying for over a create-a-track cover, right?
Will GHTunes tracks be available cross-platform?
Not this year, no. It's something that we're looking into, because we're interested in making GHTunes completely universal.
There's no precedent set for cross-platform communication, but it's possible we could be the first to do it. But what happens when you download a song on your 360 from someone and want to check out their gamercard? What if they're a PS3 owner? That's the sort of stuff we need to sort out. We're also planning to bring songs out of the game and onto the web.
On some sort of Facebook-style GHTunes page?
Not through GHTunes, no. We already have a community site for Guitar Hero. We launched it with Guitar Hero III and have been refining it through the release of Aerosmith. We're building up to a full site redesign, with new features, this Fall.
Why have you included a drum machine in the guitar controller, when you have a separate drum controller?
There are several reasons. Imagine you're sitting on the couch, working on a tune. Do you really want to keep getting up and switching instruments, just to set up a decent drum beat?
Also, the drum machine has a few extra features. For example, it allows for drum loops, which can be modified via the guitar's touch strip. The drum machine is more powerful than the drum set.
The drums themselves have 20 available drum sets, each with a unique percussion set. They're also pressure sensitive. Basically, it's a midi drum set. It has no looping features, unlike the guitar drum machine.
You allow people to add keyboard sections to their songs. Were you not tempted to create a keyboard controller?
No, there are reasons why we haven't included a keyboard controller. Not all of our songs have keyboard parts, so we didn't want someone to come into a game, pick up the keyboard controller, and then have nothing to do in any of the songs that are selected. We wanted a big mix of music in World Tour and adding a keyboard controller would either have limited our choices, or the players'.
A keyboard controller deserves to be introduced with its own game. This is something we're thinking about.