Guitar Hero is grooming your inner rock star with its forthcoming release. Known for its player caricatures and toy-like guitar controller, Activision’s smash hit franchise (alongside DJ Hero) is making a comeback since 2010’s Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock with new gameplay and a first-person perspective to help strum your way to stardom.
During a trip to the FreeStyleGames HQ in London earlier this month, art director Jamie Jackson, lead concept artist Gareth Morrison and other staffers demo’d the new Guitar Hero Live for select members of the press and broke down the creative process from start to finish. After jetting across the globe to attend and research some of the most prestigious music festivals, the GH squad took cues from the ambiance, scenery, artists and their fanbases, to help create the Rock The Block and SoundDial Festivals for the game, each loaded with intricate stages to conquer.
“I want you to get to the front and turn around, and I want you to watch the people around you,” Jackson recalled instructing his team while festival-hopping during an interview with VIBE. “I want you to find the mom and dad getting away from their dads to relive their youth. I want you to find all of these people and build this image in your head of what it is to look out [into a festival].”
The sounds you hear on the festival grounds were meticulously crafted, as well, and layered with whoops, whistles and even Silent Disco singing to mirror the noise of, say, a live Foo Fighters show at the Wembley Stadium with 90,000 people in attendance, which actually served as a muse for the sound engineer team. Thanks to the 360-degree soundscape (crowd chants get louder as you approach the edge of the stage), the most terrifying aspect of Guitar Hero Live is messing up. With new live-action technology fused with CG (computer graphic) art, the tougher crowds—comprised of a hundred or couple thousand folks depending on the location—will not hesitate to loudly boo at you during a poor performance. Even your band mate could chuck a cup at you on-stage. However, with harsh criticism comes warm adoration from both your faux bandmates and fans, especially when you’re on a 12 or 50-note streak.
“We basically wanted to make you feel like you are the rock star,” said markup expert, real-life guitarist and Guitar Hero prodigy, Aaron Grimes, who turned his audition as an extra into a full-time gig at FreeStyleGames, even finding his girlfriend in the snake pit during the Guitar Hero Live shoot. “And now, with all the positives and negatives, it can really get to you.”
Luckily, playing with one of the 11 bands to choose from in GH Live won’t alway be a case of sweaty palms. After spending months poring over various mood boards for inspiration, the GH squad created fictitious bands with names like Broken Tide, The Yearbook Ghosts and Fight Hound, each equipped with their own star appeal, merch and sound, ranging from emo to pop to alt-rock. Having a sexier guitar controller also helps unleash your inner Slash. Ditching the white colorway and five buttons along the neck, the new piece shimmers in black and gold with six buttons that helps players flourish like a trained guitarist.
At the game’s core, though, is not just mastering a live show but a deep-rooted love for music. Jackson is quick to say it’s a pre-requisite he asks of potential employees. “They have to be musicians to be able to understand the music. If there’s no connection to the track rhythmically, it’s exposed really badly,” he said. “I’m a big believer in that whole concept of to achieve great things, you surround yourself with great people. We’re all making music games then we all need to like music. Otherwise, you’ve got other games to make.”
As the grand finale, Guitar Hero Live instruments will work across all Apple devices including Apple TV, will also be rolling out GHTV, the world’s first ever 24-hour playable music network. Here, GH addicts can not only whammy to their hearts’ desire but put their talents to the test against other budding rock stars as well as jam along to their favorite rock music videos from the likes of Nirvana, Good Charlotte, and Limp Bizkit.
When asked about potentially expanding the Guitar Hero catalog to hip-hop and R&B songs, Jackson didn’t rule it out. “It’s not as easy as say, rock music, but there are opportunities,” he said, even citing a Cypress Hill track that is included in GHTV.
Players also have the opportunity to rack up “coins” to cop exclusive highways, a customizable player card and badges, and basically stunt on their leaderboards. “Hero Powers” are also available as extra incentives to rock out, allowing gamers to win items like bombs for blowing up extremely difficult note sequences during play. Whether you’re a music junkie or gamer by nature, Guitar Hero Live offers enough reasons to make you say, “Let’s do this.”
Guitar Hero Live hits stores this fall for $99.99 for Playstation 4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Wii U.