The rhythm game genre is something that started small a few years ago and has exploded over the last two years. As the genre grew there was no doubt we'd see targeted version of the games pop up which is why we have Band Hero. We got the chance to talk to some of the folks behind the game to get some insight into Band Hero and what separates it from every other Band game that's on store shelves right now.
Can you introduce yourself and talk about your role on the project? How did you get into game development and what's one thing that you love about the industry?
My name is Alan Flores, and I’m the lead designer of Band Hero. My first taste of game development was making 3D characters using a program called Animation Master for educational titles, which sort of lead to designing levels and then designing games.
The most rewarding thing about the games industry is seeing fans play your games and how much joy it brings them. I've done a couple of events where we play our games with our fans online and it's just really fulfilling to talk to these people and hear how much your games mean to them.
With so many upcoming and just-released music titles (Guitar Hero 5, Van Halen, DJ Hero, etc.), do you feel that Band Hero may over saturate the market? Can you talk about the target audience for Band Hero? Will the game be challenging enough to keep hardcore guitar heroes coming back for more?
Our fans consistently tell us that they want more content: more songs, new innovations, upgraded hardware, etc. In order to prevent oversaturation, we’re working hard to differentiate our games as much as possible. The cool thing about Band Hero is that it allowed us to really open up the doors and try to experiment more with our set list. The Styx’s “Mr. Roboto,” Everclear’s "Santa Monica" and Carl Douglas’s "Kung Fu Fighting" are all songs that wouldn't really fit into a Guitar Hero game but we've found a place for them in Band Hero. They're fun to play and people have a great time with them. That's really the audience for this game: people who want to have fun singing and rockin' out to songs that they know and love.
Will Band Hero songs be able to be exported into Guitar Hero 5 (and vice versa)?
Absolutely! First off, all of the Guitar Hero 5 and most of the Guitar Hero World Tour downloadable content will work in Band Hero. You can also import your Guitar Hero 5 songs into Band Hero and vice versa. In addition, select songs from both Guitar Hero World Tour and Guitar Hero Smash Hits will be available for import into Band Hero.
Was there one song you were really pushing for but were unable to secure the rights for? What kinds of songs did you want to go in the game?
We were really fortunate when working on the set list for Band Hero. There were a couple of things that just came through late, but we were able to put together a really awesome, fun-to-play set list. There were some #1 hit songs that we were kicking ourselves over because they couldn't make it, but I think we’ve really put together a set list of songs that a lot of people will know and love. I mean, who doesn't love singing "Walking on Sunshine!"
Did you have any "holy crap" disaster moments during development (embarrassed yourself in front of David Bowie, accidentally erased tons of code, etc.)?
This game has been relatively disaster-free. We’ve had some "holy crap" moments but in a good way. Like when we first got Taylor Swift signed up to be a playable character in Band Hero, it was really exciting.What was the biggest lesson your learned during development of the game? What one thing you want people to take away from the game?
We really opened up the set list with Band Hero and tried a bunch of stuff we never would have put in a Guitar Hero game. I think that process taught us how much fun you can have with this music. I really want people to realize that when you get a group of people together and throw in the Band Hero disc, people are going to have a good time. It's really hard not to; the music is just so much fun to sing and play.
It was recently announced that the new drum kit was coming bundled with Band Hero, and that it would be Wii exclusive for a limited time. Why was this decision made, and how long until the kit is available for the other consoles?
We’re so excited to bring this new drum kit, complete with a slimmer design and a sturdier base, to our Wii community. The new kit features quieter and more responsive drum heads, a new kick pedal with two built-in ports, and a slot to store your drum sticks. We haven’t announced plans to release the new drum kit for other systems just yet.
Will the Band Hero Super Pack come bundled with the guitar and mic controllers from Guitar Hero 5, or are there new controllers to go with the new drum kit?
The Band Hero superbundle will come with this year’s new guitar, also featured in the Guitar Hero 5 guitar bundle, as well as a drum kit controller and the wired Guitar Hero microphone.
Does Band Hero on Wii have any exclusive features, like the Mii Freestyle or Roadie Battle modes in Wii Guitar Hero games?
David Nathanielsz, Vicarious Visions: Yes! We spent a lot of time focusing on Wii exclusive modes for Band Hero and packed it full of special features. Band Hero includes both the Mii Freestyle and Roadie Battle modes that were part of Guitar Hero 5 on the Wii but we’ve also added two other exclusive features for Band Hero Wii. DS Party Play lets you manage your set list and all your music by wirelessly connecting a Nintendo DS while in Party Play. Party Play is all about quick and easy gameplay, where you can jump-in or drop-out without stopping the gameplay. With any DS connected to the Wii you can manage all of your music while everyone else is rocking away. You can add songs, remove songs, change up the set list, see all the artist and song information and even get trivia about the music in the game — all without ever interrupting the party. It’s very easy to manage all the music with the touch-screen interface on the DS and it doesn’t require any kind of game card to use the feature on the DS.
We’ve also got an exclusive feature called Fan Requests on the Wii that uses connectivity between Band Hero for the Wii and Band Hero for the DS Lite. If you have a copy of the Nintendo DS Lite version of Band Hero you can wirelessly connect it up to Band Hero Wii and access dozens of fan requests in the game. You’ll download these challenges to the DS, which you can take on the road and try to get the best score possible. When you’re done, you can connect back up to the Wii and unlock exclusive characters, content and even more fan requests. Fan Requests can be done on their own, but they are also tied into the career mode on Band Hero Wii and add hours of gameplay to Band Hero.
Will other new features from the Guitar Hero series like tap notes, party play, vocal star power and band moments be in Band Hero? What about standard features like the Rock Star Creator and Music Studio?
All of the new features from Guitar Hero 5 like the ability to easily jump in with Party Play, band moments, new competitive modes--all of it will be included in Band Hero. The Music Studio and Rock Star Creator are also included and we've even added some new outfits and clothing to put on your rock star. We also have a new game mode in Band Hero called Sing-Along that allows people to easily jump-in and sing along to their favorite songs without failing or being scored. You can use any mic that is plugged into the console at the time.
What can you tell us about Band Hero on DS, and how does it compare to the home console versions?
David Nathanielsz, Vicarious Visions: Band Hero for the Nintendo DS Lite is the first full band portable game experience on the DS. It’s a major innovation step forward on the handheld — bringing both drums and singing to the DS!
The game comes with both the Guitar Grip — like the one used for Guitar Hero: On Tour — and a brand new Drum Grip for playing drums. The Drum Grip is a silicone sleeve that slides over your Nintendo DS Lite and has four large drum pads on the front. The pads give a really nice bounce back response that makes the drum play very fun and addictive. The set list for the game has 30 master tracks – which is more music than ever before on the DS and virtually all of the songs are exclusive just for the DS version of Band Hero. The set list has a great variety of artists and music for everyone, including artists like Black Eyed Peas, The Rolling Stones, Lily Allen, Queen, Pink and The Pretenders.
Every song is tracked for drums, voice, guitar and bass so you can play all four different instruments in the single-player mode, but the real fun comes when you get some friends together and play as a band. You can play up to four players in local wireless play, with any instrument configuration you want. So if everyone wants to play drums in the band, they can! There are co-operative and competitive modes and a new game mechanic called Stage Stunts that’s used to gain star power, help out your bandmates or screw over your opponents in competitive play.
We’ve also added an extensive Rock Star Creator to Band Hero DS so you can customize your entire band to look just the way you want. There are hundreds of outfits, body parts and accessories to kit out your band with.
We put a ton of effort into blowing out the Hero experience on Band Hero for the DS this year. It’s a huge game, with loads of brand new features and options and the exclusive set list. And with the Fan Request options that’s accessed when you connect the game up to Band Hero Wii there’s even more to play if you have both the DS and Wii version.
Do you think music/rhythm games ever leap forward from the basic "falling gem" gameplay? How do you see the genre evolving over time?
I think they will. We've been adding things that help improve the overall experience of the "falling gem" game. Party Play for example helps open up the games accessibility and really helps people get in there and enjoy the game quickly. But the Wii and DS versions of Band Hero have added a couple of twists that go beyond the standard gameplay. The Wii has Roadie Battle and the DS has these Stage Stunts, which are mini-games that the player can get into mid-song. That kind of stuff is really fun and gives us a glimpse of where we could be going with these types of games in the future.