Harmonix on Rock Band 2
Gathered on a dank Thursday morning in London's Brick Lane, a spot of rock and roll is just what we need to lighten the sense of grey depression that hangs over the East End. Just as well that Harmonix's lead designer Dan Teasdale and PR exec John Drake, are here to tell us about Rock Band 2... and also offer a few teasing hints about the new Beatles game the developer are working on.
Harmonix and MTV are about to announce that they're working on a brand new Beatles game. Can you talk about this?
Drake: We're going to be making an official announcement in five minutes, so, yes, I guess I can talk about this now. It's a game... with the Beatles!
Beatles Rock Band?
Drake: Well, it's not Beatles Rock Band per-se, it's a stand-alone Beatles game. So, its about their career and so on... its a full-on Beatles experience. It's going to be f**king amazing!
Can you tell us what's in the game?
Teasdale: We can talk a little bit about it. It's coming out worldwide Q4 2009. Its the quintessential Beatles experience, focussing on their legacy. They're the biggest band in the world essentially... and we're going to be working with Giles Martin, who's going to be the music producer; we've also been working with all the families, and Apple Corp. Paul and Ringo of course... all these guys we've been working with to try and make this product the most amazing Beatles experience you can possibly think of.
Drake: Its been in the works for 17 months; we've been spending that long trying to get the deal done, so it's great to be able to talk about it... but we should talk about Rock Band 2, because that's pretty much all we can say on that.
Rock Band 2! What is the biggest enhancement you're ushering over the original Rock Band?
Teasdale: The biggest thing we've done is that we've perfected the experience. So, with Rock Band 1 we really innovated, we were the first game with all the instruments, and with Rock Band 2 we've taken suggestions about online; cool new ways for you to experience the music. We're launching so much content every week, so generally speaking we're growing things, making a more refined experience. We've really perfected the experience of playing a band game.
The controllers seem to be slightly different. What are you hoping to achieve here?
Teasdale: So, we've gone through and tried to take in many suggestions from the community, so the drums are different; there's a much more interesting balance when you play with them. The metal pedal - we learnt a lot from Rock Band 1 - so its steel reinforced and virtually indestructible now. You can go through and find harder tracks now for particular instruments, add cymbals or the midi kit. So we're helping players move to a more advanced experience. There's still the accessibility there that people look for when they first buy a game, it's not intimidating, but once you're getting better you can add cymbals or you can get our new professional midi drum kit that we're showing off here today.
You're also shaking up on the online features too, I believe...
Teasdale: We've done a lot of things, all of our campaign modes are playable both online and by yourself. So you can play World Tour with four people anywhere in the world... there's no region-locking on our multiplayer. We have Battle of the Bands now... which isn't just four players versus four players, it's you versus your entire friend list and then versus the entire world. The way we do this is that Harmonix poses new battles to everyone, everyday, so you log-on to Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, and you'll see a list of battles and there will be new ones that day - some friendly, some hardcore, new DLC, etc - the whole thought behind it is that we're putting in new challenges every day.
You're Xbox 360 exclusive this side of Christmas... is that right?
Teasdale: Well, we can't talk about the PS3 yet... the Xbox 360 comes out on November 21st. So that's where we're at right now...
Okay... and what has being Xbox 360 exclusive allowed you to do?
Drake: Well, so the reason that we did the 360 exclusive is that Microsoft were really willing to go the extra mile and help us with all this back-end stuff, the Battle of the Bands and how all the online features work... it's very close to a first-party title.
Teasdale: It's not that we're delaying Rock Band 2 on PS3, it's that Microsoft have helped us finish the 360 version earlier - so the structure was in place earlier.
Drake: In terms of the other consoles, the PS3 version just came out in the States; we're looking at a similarly close window. We want it out soon... but the 360 is where we're at right now, so...
What are your DLC plans for Rock Band 2? The song-list seems to be growing constantly...
Teasdale: The main thing is that it's a music platform. The DLC you bought for Rock Band works with Rock Band 2... and all the DLC we're releasing works with the first Rock Band, too, so we're releasing weekly content; new albums, new singles, we have loads of great bands coming out... there's so many!
Do you feel you're taking on services like iTunes... in a way?
Teasdale: I think it's a different experience. It's kind of like MTV was in the '80s... it was a very new experience, the videos make for a different experience of the music... that's where we're at now. With Rock Band we're providing a new way for people to experience music...
Drake: It's a compliment to iTunes... like MTV was... the kind of people buying music for our games are tech savvy, they're downloading music for the 360 via Xbox Live, are also going to be interested in going on iTunes and downloading music digitally. The two work really we together...
But you've got the Beatles!