Wednesday, July 09, 2008

This does not assuage my fears

Chris Dahlen got some hands-on time with Rock Band 2 for the AV Club. Among his terrifying findings (all direct quotes):
  • Rock Band 2 is an expansion, not a reinvention.
  • In the band world tour... you'll have more variables to play with. You can hire staff – promoters, your mom – to support your band or find new gigs. A risk and reward system will complicate the business end: hire a sleezy accountant and you may clear more money from a successful gig, or you may get robbed if you underperform.
  • Harmonix has skipped user-generated content for the forseeable future

None of that is encouraging -- particularly the middle part, which reminds me of all of those bloated features that found their way into the Madden games, like picking your custom player's parents, putting him through college, making him do squats, and helping him to score in double-digits on the Wonderlic.

I should say that after airing all my concerns about Rock Band 2 on Monday, I've come around somewhat. The simplest thing I didn't consider is the usefulness of the disc-only version this time around. Rock Band owners won't have to splurge to get almost all of the benefits of the new version, as they did last year. If you consider that the disc will house over 80 songs, according to Chris's article, then you're saving a bundle on song costs alone -- if, that is, you would have chosen to download all of those tracks a la carte. That's a big "if."

While I still think it's something of a kiss-off to people who bought Rock Band last year that newer, better peripherals will be available in September, ultimately it's not a dealbreaker. Even so, I still think that with the DLC spigot spewing cash into Harmonix's coffers, they would have been better off releasing these iterative improvements as updates to the original, while they toiled away on the real sequel.

One more thing about that lack of user-generated content. I'm sure that whatever Harmonix has up their sleeve regarding this "indie initiative" is going to be a positive feature. But Chris's article seems to suggest -- and Ryan Stewart's Phlog post concurs -- that the coming wave of mostly crappy Guitar Hero IV user-generated tracks is a bad thing.

Sure, most of it will be crap. That's to be expected. The sheer volume of it will ensure that, in absolute terms, much of it will also be good -- some of it surprisingly so. The best will rise to the top, just as happens on sites like YouTube, thanks to community involvement. This is a good thing. And it goes further toward democratizing music than does an exclusionary model by which, if you're some kid dicking around in his room instead of playing in a "real" band, no one thinks you could possibly create something worthwhile.

4 comments:

John Barleycorn said...

I'm happy it's an expansion, not a reinvention. I wouldn't want to have to buy new instruments. Plus the first game is spec-fucking-tacular; why muddle with it?

R. J. O. Stewart said...

I know I've told you this, but I will recapitulate the argument for your blogging audience: my reasons for thinking mostly bad things will come from the GH:WT song creator is simply because of the nature of GH3. It's a pretty clear overture to the "skill players." I mean, anecdotally, I think the only song "broken" by that game - the only one I ever hear anyone talking about - is "Through the Fire and Flames." So while there probably will be some very good songs created with the GH:WT studio, I think most of the GH community will be more interested in the ones that require the most acrobatic fingers.

I do agree that this indie platform model runs against Harmonix's generally inclusive philosophy, though.

TOPolk said...

As a Wii-only owner, I didn't get much say in the Rock Band/GH III debate. Being spurned by EA pretty much guaranteed that Activision was getting my money.

However after the announcement and subsequent release of Rock Band, I was more than set to give EA my money -- DLC or not. That is until the announcements of GHIV and RB2. One being a complete "reinvention" of the franchise complete with DLC and instrument compatibility while the other is more or less an expansion of the first while being an afterthought for Wii owners as well. Easy decision to make. I'll be purchasing World Tour with no complaints this fall.

Taking the Wii out of the picture and looking at both games on their own merits, I may have to commend Activision on playing also-ran with GHIV. Being late to the party gives them a chance to outshine Harmonix at their own game. I'm a little iffy on the user-generated content, but like you said, the best will rise to the top. It should be interesting to see how this plays out come this winter.

ps - this whole timed exclusive on Xbox 360 may wind up being Harmonix/EA's undoing. Releasing on one console while your competitor is copying your game across the board doesnt' seem like a smart business move to me.

Ken said...

RB2 coming out so quickly is a bit of a kiss off, I agree. But the biggest reason to want RB2 is the improved and quieter drums. Personally, RB1 was "enough" for me and I have no interest in RB2, but it was a heck of a lot of fun. I'm likely not the only one that is going to take a pass on Rock Band 2 and simply wait a year for RB3.....