Neversoft Talks Guitar Hero Metallica & Beyond

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The release of Guitar Hero Metallica on March 29 is a double score for publisher Activision, developer Neversoft and, mostly importantly, us.

First, we’re finally getting a sizable catalog of Metallica songs to play along with as a band. Not just songs from Metallica, but their hand-selected personal favorites as well.

Second, a “second” bass pedal that splits off the first included with World Tour will be made available. It marks not only a first in the “music gaming” genre, but an integral part to getting the most out of the Metallica experience.

The inclusion of this new pedal sparks a number of questions of how it will work on not only Metallica’s songs but all 85 songs included in the game. To help set the record straight, Neversoft Lead Design Alan Flores took a few moments from his crazy schedule to answer our questions and maybe even sneak in a few hints about what’s in stores for the Guitar Hero series down the road.

What did you do as developers to ensure the difficulty in Expert+ mode is off the charts?

It’s pretty simple – all we did was track every bass drum hit, something that we couldn’t do without the second pedal. But now that we have two pedals we tracked all the bass drum hits, and just let the music do the rest. Songs like Metallica’s “Fight Fire With Fire” and Slayer’s “War Ensemble” are just insanely intense when you play every drum hit. So, we are just representing that faithfully.

How did you go about choosing which Metallica songs to include? Did Metallica have a say?

First, we made a big list of Metallica songs here, and Lars had a big list of songs. We compared the two and found that they were very similar. James had a couple of must-adds as well. Getting the core group of songs was really pretty easy. Everyone realizes you have to include classics like “Seek and Destroy” and “Creeping Death,” for example. At the end, we had like three slots available and the band wanted to get five more songs into the game. It was tough for those guys to have to cut songs that mean so much to them but we can only do so many songs. I think in the end, though, we came up with the ultimate Metallica set list.

Did Metallica have a hard time “as a group” picking their favorite non-Metallica songs for inclusion or did one member step up and make the decisions? How did that process go down?

It’s funny, they really did have a hard time picking guest artists. We wanted to get input from every member of the band, but getting them to narrow it down was hard. For example, Kirk definitely wanted a Michael Schenker song in the game, but we can only do one Michael Schenker song. And Kirk is such a fan of his work it was difficult to just get one pick out of him.

I applaud the addition for the new Drum Over mode as it’s something any “air drummer” has wanted to try out. Will this be compatible with the Expert+ mode allowing for two bass pedals?

Expert+ is the difficulty where all the double bass hits are tracked. The ability to play with two bass pedals is available anytime anywhere if you have the two pedals and the splitter. If you have two bass pedals plugged in, you can drum over songs, write double bass songs in the music studio and even play easy songs with two feet, if you like.

What was your thought process behind not programming alternate versions of songs to support lead and rhythm guitars versus World Tour’s lead and bass guitars?

This was simply a workload issue. In World Tour all 85 songs were tracked for guitar, bass, drums and vocals. If we were to support lead and rhythm, the amount of work would expand exponentially. We would have to track single player guitar (which is a combination of the most fun parts of lead and rhythm), bass, drums, vocals and then track lead and rhythm. The lead and rhythm tracks are derivatives of the single player guitar track so it’s not completely new, but when you multiply the work done to do this by 85 you’re looking at a lot of work.

Speaking of drums, where do you guys see gaming drums evolving in the future? I look at some of the Roland and Yamaha electronic drum kits with full cymbal and pad compliments and see the perfect opportunity to bridge drumming for scores and drumming real songs – something you’re already working towards with the Music Studio.

Now that we’ve done our first take on video game drum controllers, we’re definitely looking at other real world examples to see how we can improve ours. There are lots of ways we can make the drum controller better from drum heads with more bounce, to smaller more compact setups and quieter heads. We will be looking to improve the drum controllers as long as we’re making them.

Are the double-bass pedals responsive enough to keep up with every accelerated bass drum kick with a song like “One?”

Absolutely! The speed of the double bass of “One” is nothing when compared to some of the faster stuff in the game like Slayer’s “War Ensemble.” The double bass pedals and the game have no problem keeping up with it. Now, most peoples’ drumming skills, that will be a different story.

Can you give us a little tease of what we might expect from the next post-Metallica iteration of Guitar Hero?

Unfortunately I can’t really talk about it but I can say that I think Guitar Hero Metallica is one of the best Guitar Hero games ever made and a good example of what we can do if we focus our efforts on bringing a band’s essence into a game. The depth and variation of their catalog, along with the lengthy band history, really helped us make a compelling experience. I really hope we get a chance to make more games like this for similar artists. Personally, I would love to make a Led Zeppelin game like this!

Guitar Hero Metallica will be available for PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and PS2. You can secure a pre-order for any version right now by visiting Amazon.com.

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