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The Next Level In Gaming

Lets talk about hardware…

Anyone who logged on last week will know that my last contribution was a rather excited outburst giving you a sneaky look at the newest Guitar hero controller. I will not lie. I will always be a guitar hero girl. I was hooked at Gh3 and never looked back. I do however acknowledge that there are a lot of Rockband aficionado’s out there and it simply wouldn’t be fair to talk about the new guitar hero hardware without also having a nosey at the newest offering from the Rockband music room. I am usually a Gh girl through and through, but believe me when I say that this time the guys at Rockband really have turned it up to 11…

For a while now there have been rumors of a complete Rockband instrument overhaul, but I must admit I was initially skeptical. On completion of the online demo, Greenday Rockband showed a small but significant teaser in the form of a keyboard symbol. At this time it was easy to assume that this would be largest change made to rockband this year, however after what we have now seen at E3 it is clear that the keyboard was merely the start of the Rockband re-design.

With this I am calling all Rockband Guitarists, Drummers, Vocalists and Keyboardists to listen up and listen good! In honor of E3 week here is my very special (and perhaps slightly sketchy) summery of some of the features the new rock band hardware. Clear out your virtual music rooms, its time for an overhaul.

Keyboard
I am of course obliged to start with the newest member in the Rockband family, the keyboard. For a while now we have pondered over the appearance of the new keyboard controller, but we need ponder no more because here it is.

Is it a Keyboard or a Keytar?

Looking like a cross between a keyboard and a keytar the Rockband keyboard seems, well kind of unsurprising really. More interesting perhaps is the way the keyboard appears on screen. From what we have seen so far the keybord appears on screen in a similar way to the guitar and drums, but with a twist. Due to the sheer number of notes, instead of having a static runway strip the on screen instructions for the keybord will scroll from left to right allowing players to see only three colored sections of notes at a time. Arrows will indicate when the runway is about to move from left to right, and as the songs get more complicated the movements will become faster and more frequent.

A little fuzzy granted, but you get the idea

In another interesting twist it seems that there is going to be the possibly of using a small patching unit to connect a normal keyboard so that it can be used within the game. Though the unit itself will obviously cost money the idea of being able to use your existing instruments is very creative, and will more importantly save space. Space which you could use to buy…say maybe a new guitar…

Pro-Guitar
This brings me conveniently onto the new Pro-mode Guitars. Not only because in website team band sessions the guitar is often the most popular instrument, but also because out of the classic instrument set it is the guitar which has had the most attention.

If this one isn't real enough for you...

At this years E3 two new models of virtual guitar have been unveiled, both more advanced and awe inspiring than ever before. The first, the ‘Mustang pro’ guitar shown seems to be kind of a half way house between a classic Rockband controller and a real guitar. Though this guitar still has buttons along the frets, it has ditched the strum bar completely and replaced it with a set of 6 playable strings. I should also take the opportunity to now mention that as well as using these new controllers to play pro Guitar, it is also possible to use them to play Pro Bass. This means that Bass players will not be left out of the instrument based excitement, bless their cotton socks. Back to the topic of the Guitar itself  I may be a Gh girl at heart, but even I will admit this is exciting. Though this new controller is massively more advanced than anything we have seen before, it could be easily argued that impressive though it may be this is still not a true representation of a real guitar. To start with the strings are fixed to the body and do not continue up the neck, and further to this it only has 17 frets as opposed to the standard 22. This doesn’t really bother me, but if you are the type to be disappointed by this lack of realism don’t worry. Enter the second pro guitar.

...then how about this one

Check out this little beauty. In addition to the upgraded standard guitar Rockband were also seen showcasing a fully game compatible Fender Squire stratocaster guitar. Unlike the standard Pro guitar this nifty bit of kit has a full fretboard and fully functional strings. If you like the idea of realistic rocking out this one is for you, I for one doubt it will ever get more real than this.

At first glance it is easy to get distracted by the impressive good looks of these guitars, but do not let image distract you from the bigger picture. The effect they will have on the gameplay runs far deeper than a set of strings and a shiny scratch plate. It is clear that with the stunning level of detail and realism that has gone into creating these new guitars the aim of this mode is no longer to simply play hit songs and beat the games career mode. No, to the guys at Rockband its clearly not about this anymore. Pro mode claims to teach you the basics of how to play a real guitar, using real chord formations and finger placements to teach you as you play. Because the guitar has so many buttons the classic on screen system no longer works. In the new on screen layout instead of simply having 5 colored lanes representing varying individual notes, we now have 6 lanes each representing a string. In addition to the colors each note you are asked to play now has a tiny number above it corresponding to the fret you are supposed to play the note on. A bit complicated no? Anyone good at maths? In theory by playing pro mode guitar you are supposed to be able to transfer the skills you learn in the game onto a real guitar and thus become a guitarist. Though this is undeniably an impressive use technology, I am starting to worry that Rockband is moving a little too far away from the original point of the game.

Not really related to what I am saying I know but we all like more pictures of guitars

I play games to have fun and unwind. If I wanted to learn to actually play the guitar I may as well spend my money on my dream guitar, learn to play it from tab and have the rest of the Plus-Xp team stand behind me holding up cardboard stars and occasionally throwing glitter at me to mark my progress. Ok so this may sound a little bit silly but my point remains the same. So far the rrp of these new guitars has not been mentioned but I am assuming that they will not come cheap. Then even if the price is not enough to put you off I am betting that the complexity of the new on screen instructions in conjunction with the sheer number of buttons will leave many players more frustrated than entertained. I hate to be pessimistic about all of this as new guitars are very aspirational and exciting, however the way I see it a lot of the appeal of Rockband is that you can play it with friends and share the experience. In all honesty behind all of the excitement and Guitar lust I fear that to many players the new guitars run the risk of being more off putting than inspiring, and in a game originally designed to be played together this is not necessarily a good thing.

I still want a go one one though…I can’t help it… its just so epic… let… me… at… it…

Drums
Now to the drum kit. As an enthusiastic (and thats putting it mildly) Rockband drummer I was pleased to see that the Drum Kit has also had a Makeover. In addition to the 4 classic drum pads three new symbols have been added to the kit, making it more true to life and just generally more shiny.

Shiny, Shiny

The three new symbols aim to mimic the set up of a Standard basic rock kit by adding a high hat, plus crash and ride symbols to the existing three toms and snare we are all familiar with. Though I expect the game will continue to be, well lets just say ‘creative’ with which pad makes which sound, these new symbols will almost certainly make the drumming experience more realistic, more challenging and therefore more fun. Oh and I should also say that from what I have seen so far it looks like these symbols will be available to buy as an add on to an existing kit saving us money and effort. Nice.

Vocals
Not much to say here I’m afraid. I suppose there is a limited amount you can do with a microphone really… Perhaps the singers will just wear a hat and feel special that way, it may work. Not to leave the vocals out completely I will mention the fact that Rockband three will be including multiple harmonies Harmonies as seen in the beetles Rockband. I suppose this is nothing very new and exciting, but its all I have.

Now thats what I call full band play baby!

Thats it really, everything I know about the new rockband kit in one neat little post plus my added musings on the guitar. Ok, so perhaps the post wasn’t that little, but just one more quick footnote to finish. I wouldn’t be surprised if after reading this some of you find yourselves peering hopelessly into your tragically empty wallets with a mixed look of both great excitement and vague dismay on your faces. It would after all be nieve to imagine that these sorts of kit upgrades would come cheap, however there is hope for all you skint little guys. As well as showcasing all of this new kit the guys at Rockband have also made it very clear that the old instruments will still be compatible with the Rockband three content. You won’t be able to play pro mode with your old instruments, but you will still be able to play all of the same songs in the older, much more familiar Rockband format. There have also been whisperings form the team about new content for the original instruments, meaning that if you prefer your old controllers you wont be left out.

Thats really it now…No more footnotes…I want to buy more plastic guitars…

Until next time,

GuitarGirl24
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GuitarGirl24 On June - 18 - 2010

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