Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Impressions of Rock Band 3 and the Future of Music Games

This past weekend I had a couple of friends over. One brought over her Xbox 360 and Rock Band 3. I was really anxious to try it out since I had been hyped about it for quite a while. I'm a fairly recent convert to music games and rhythm games in general. I've only been into them for the past 3-4 years. Though... I suppose that may make me more knowledgeable about them than most people. Anyway, onto the impressions.

The interface and organization of the menus is perfect, and I love the new filtering system. (Though we didn't need it, since she hadn't transfered her other songs over yet.) There is a small complaint though. Suppose you want to play keyboard, guitar, and bass in your band... well, you can't do that unless you activate 'All Instruments Mode', which places the game in a sort of 'karaoke mode.' It isn't really too troublesome, but activating the mics just because you want to play guitar, bass, and keyboard with your friends is a bit irksome.

I love the new road challenges, they're not quite like the career, but... I can do without a world map to show where I'm playing. One thing about these challenges that I love is that they'll never constantly pick the same song over and over again like in Rock Band 2. You actually have a choice for what you want to do for your challenge, either pre-made, random, or custom setlist of a set number of songs.

To my surprise... I was able to get used to the keyboard enough to where I was playing hard pro mode. I'm not sure if this was because I'm already used to music games or the fact that I was only playing hard pro mode on songs that had low difficulty ratings, but it was probably due to the latter. I have to say though, I loved the keyboard, it felt like a very solid peripheral, and some musicians are saying it does great as a MIDI instrument if you want to compose something using a program when you hook it up to a computer.

I can't comment on the guitar, because my friend didn't have it, and we're all waiting for the actual Fender guitar to come out... which is the next thing I'm going discuss. It was just announced today when the Fender Squier guitar for Rock Band 3 will come out, and how much it will be. Available to pre-order January 1st, 2011, and available on March 1st, 2011, and will retail at $279.99. Expensive as a peripheral? Yes... to us gamers. Expensive as an actual friggin' guitar? Not so much, it looks like a quality product, UNLIKE POWER GIG'S CHEAP-O UKULELE WITH THE GAME WITH THE TERRIBLE INTERFACE  THAT DOESN'T EVEN REALLY TEACH YOU HOW TO PLAY.... ahem... sorry, that was my Rock Band fanboy side coming out.

Here is a look at guitar with a video teaser:

I can't wait to get my hands on the guitar next year. As for the future of Rock Band and music games in general? Well... here's an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal interview with Greg LoPiccolo, the Senior VP of Product Development at Harmonix:

WSJ: Unlike traditional ways of learning to play, in Rock Band the music and audience come first and your input comes second. This is a kind of reversal of music making. Do you think Rock Band can encourage players to compose music and find a personal style?
LoPiccolo: The biggest musical benefit of Rock Band Pro is that it motivates beginning musicians to stick with the basics, and evaluates their progress, so they can develop the dexterity and muscle memory to express themselves outside the game. Most beginning musicians never get past this stage, so this is the area in which we hope to really help new players. Once they have some skills, other avenues of self-expression can open up for them. In the future, we’d love to try to tackle composition and improvisation as gameplay experiences, but those are very difficult problems to solve.
WSJ: How close is Rock Band 3 to meeting the company’s ambition of what a music game can accomplish? Where can you go from here?
LoPiccolo: Rock Band 3 is a significant step for us, but we ultimately hope to erase the boundary between “gamer” and “musician.” We have a long way to go in pursuit of that goal.
via RockBandAide

Composition and improvisation, eh? Sounds pretty promising if Rock Band 3 is a precursor to that type of game eventually coming to be.

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