I've been a huge fan of Guitar Hero since I first played the original game last year. I admit, before I played it I laughed at the idea of a "DDR clone with a stupid guitar controller," but I've since realized my mistake, as the game was arguably my most-played of 2005. It's for that very reason I was worried about Guitar Hero II. I wondered, would they pull a sports-game move, and just update their roster? Would they try to innovate, and in the process ruin what made it so fun in the first place? Thankfully, neither of those came to fruition, as Guitar Hero II is looking to not only keep the magic of the first title alive, but improve in a variety of areas, such as multiplayer and range of difficulty.
How good is Guitar Hero II, you may ask? Let's just say that so far-before the game has even been released-I've already played it more than almost every other game I've played this year. The new songs are great (Kansas is this year's Boston-is it something about having a place-oriented name?), the multiplayer is fun, and the urge to rock is just as strong as ever.
Being such a huge fan of the series, I was stoked when I was given the chance to interview Ted Lange, an associate producer at RedOctane for Guitar Hero II.
Brendon Lindsey: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Ted. I wanted to start off with something relating to the past game, and that I've been wondering about personally for a while now. It was reported after the first Guitar Hero was released that you guys had trouble getting the rights to use some of the songs you wanted. Was it easier this time around? And did anyone approach you asking to be put in the game?
Ted Lange: The main problem is that we didn,t have anything to show the bands we were going after. Imagine trying to explain to Guns N, Roses that we are making a rock game where you take a plastic controller and flick a switch to little circles on the screen, which makes you feel like a rock star. Not very easy to convince someone how cool that really is. This time around we were able to send out copies of Guitar Hero to any band that didn,t understand what we were doing. This made all of the difference. We also had quite a few record labels trying to get their bands put on the game. Some of which we were really excited for.
Recently, we saw the newest console DDR game come out with a few "western" songs and artists (such as Bowie and Fallout Boy). Given the success of the original Guitar Hero and the artists you've been able to get in the game, do you think more music games in the US will start to use songs Americans will be familiar with?
Well...I wouldn,t say that we started a trend or anything, but it is the smart approach. People want to play music that they know. We knew that when we were making Guitar Hero we had to use a good variety of American rock. I would say we did a pretty good job of giving people songs and bands they all know and love.
Speaking of songs and bands people know and love, there were rumors in the past of genre-specific titles being released for Guitar Hero. At this point is that something you guys are considering?
We are working on many ideas, but that is just what they are at this stage, "ideas." We have all kinds of things we,d love to do and genre specific titles are one of them, but we are still so busy with the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II that I,m not sure when you can expect to see anything else. Polka Hero would be pretty awesome, though.
Was the 360's ability to download content-and having such a huge audience of online-enabled gamers-one of the deciding factors in bringing it [Guitar Hero II] to Microsoft's side?
The 360 is the start of next-gen gaming and it has a lot to offer. Downloadable content is one of the things we are most excited for. We have so many ideas going around. You can virtually go on forever with downloadable content. We haven,t nailed down exactly how we are going to attack it, but imagine having genre specific downloads, such as an all punk download or a 90,s rock download. I,d love to see that.
Were most of the guys on staff already into guitar-heavy music? Or was there one or two guys you had to initiate in the music?
Actually there were quite a few guys we had to put through sort of a rock hazing. There are a handful of guys that lived and breathed rock, but we also had guys that had never even heard of Led Zeppelin. It was really cool to see them get into all of this great music. Now they constantly listen to rock. I guess you can say we have done our job.
I admit, Guitar Hero made me listen to a few artists I had never even heard of before I played the game, as well. Did you have any clue Guitar Hero would become as popular as it is now amongst mainstream gamers? Even ones who didn't originally love the type of music presented?
We knew we had something magical, but we could have never expected it to become this huge. It turns out that there are quite a lot of gamers that wish they could be rock stars. We,re really glad that we can give them this experience. It,s great to have so many people love a game that we all loved making.
From playing Guitar Hero II, it seems like a lot of the songs are more difficult for each tier than in the first one. Is this a result of you guys making it harder by adding more notes here and there, or was the difficulty of the tracklist something you took into consideration to make sure veterans could still enjoy a challenge?
We knew people had played Guitar Hero to death. There are even people that can pass songs on expert without looking, so we knew we had to kick it up a notch. We have a few songs this time around that make "Cowboys from Hell" look more like "Angels from Heaven" and that,s no joke. We also added three button chords which are really fun to play and add to the feeling of playing a real guitar. We also still have the easy difficulty for players that are new to the game. You can still jump right in and rock out like beginning players were able to do last time.
In the first Guitar Hero, my personal favorite to play was by far "More Than a Feeling." In Guitar Hero II, "Carry on Wayward Son" reigns supreme. I'm curious: what are some of the favorites around the offices?
There are tons of great songs to play. Some of my personal favorites are Kiss,s "Strutter" and Stray Cat,s "Rock this Town." These songs have such a great rhythm to them that really make you feel like you,re playing a real guitar. Another great song is Dick Dale,s "Misirlou." This song is insane. So much strumming that you feel like your arm is going to fall off. It,s one that you,re definitely going to have to warm up before playing though.
Be honest-has anyone there 5-starred BatM or CfH?
Of course it has been 5 starred! Although the guy that I,ve seen do it I refer to as the Raulbot, but he has done it. You can actually see the buttons warming up when he,s playing. I,ve even seen a few melted controllers around the office. This guy is insane.
Last thing before we let you go: if you could have any song in Guitar Hero, what would you pick?
Give me anything from Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, or the Beatles. These are bands that really deserve the title of Guitar Heroes.
Visit the video section here at GamerNode.com for a few videos of GamerNode staff attempting to play some of the harder Guitar Hero II songs on expert, as well as a nice comparison of songs on the expert and easy/medium levels.
Kyle Stallock Holdin' on to that little spark of madness.
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