‘Rock Band 3’: Keyboards are the key
Ever since Rock Band expanded the musical video-game stage in 2007 to add drums and vocals to the Guitar Hero experience, players have been clamoring for keyboards.
Consider that request filled. Rock Band 3 (due for the holidays for PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii) expands the virtual band to seven (drums, lead and bass guitar, keyboards, lead vocals and two harmony vocals). “With the introduction of keyboards, we get to bring a ton of amazing new music onto the platform, which will help feed the appetite for music for years to come,” says Alex Rigopulos, CEO of game studio Harmonix.
Among the 83 new songs to be included, Rigopulos says, “it’s hard to pick a favorite, but for The Doors to be making an appearance on Rock Band finally with their classic Break On Through, I love that one. And Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is endlessly fun.”
The success of Rock Band and follow-up Rock Band 2 propelled sales of music games to more than $1.6 billion in 2008 ó with the help of competing Guitar Hero titles. Despite a wide variety of new games in 2009 including The Beatles: Rock Band and DJ Hero, annual sales fell by nearly 50%.
That slide inspired the Rock Band 3 development team to try to recapture the fun “that really started this whole phenomenon in the first place,” says project director Daniel Sussman.
During the game, green, red, blue, yellow or orange keys flow on a “stream” representing the notes to be played on five corresponding keyboard keys. In a new authentic Pro mode meant to help players segue to actual instruments, all 25 keys are used; the streams shifts left and right to cover the correct keys. The keyboard also works as a MIDI keyboard that can be connected to a computer. “This is a real instrument and a real device,” says senior designer Sylvain Dubrofsky.
In addition to the new keyboard controller, also due for the game’s release are two advanced guitar controllers that take advantage of the Pro mode, one a full-sized, fully functional Fender guitar (all sold separately, no prices yet).
Other Rock Band 3 advances: improved animations, refined gameplay features ó players can drop in and out of games, or change instruments and difficulty settings without stopping songs ó and a easier-to-use song menu.
“Our ambition for Rock Band 3 was really to re-energize and reinvigorate the (music game) category and advance it and move it forward,” Rigopulos says.