Live action replay at E3: ‘Guitar Hero’ comeback aims for live action game instead of computer-generated graphics
Live action shoot of significant proportions with motion-controlled camera rig taking place of guitarist
Guitar Hero, a game that puts you on stage with the band, in front of a real crowd, close enough to see their reactions – and they aren’t shy about sharing it with you
Making ordinary gamers feel like rock stars – that’s what Guitar Hero originally set out to do. So when it came to resurrecting the series after five years, the idea to make it a live action game instead of computer-generated graphics took that aim and ran with it.
The end result is Guitar Hero Live, a game that puts you on stage with the band, in front of a real crowd. You’re close enough to see their reactions and they aren’t shy about sharing it with you.
Developer FreestyleGames’ project director John Napier describes the game as “our rock star experience”. “What we wanted to do was give people the thrill associated with being a rock star guitarist on stage,” he says. “You’re looking through the eyes of the guitarist.” That required a live action shoot of significant proportions, with a motion-controlled camera rig taking the place of the guitarist.
Everything, from the musicians playing the on-stage bandmates to the crew behind the scenes had to feel authentic to get the “rock star experience” FreeStyle Games was going for. That’s where Dublin-based designer Steven Douglas came into it.
As a lighting designer for live music acts, he has toured with everyone from Kylie, Jay Z and Kanye to the Killers and Rage Against the Machine. However, he is also a fan of Guitar Hero, so when the opportunity came up to work on the project, he jumped at the chance. Turning the camera around to face the audience meant everything – lighting included – had to take that point of view into account.
“Traditionally, when designing lighting for a live show, I am looking at the bigger picture from 150 feet away,” Douglas says. “The emphasis is usually on the spectacle on a large scale for the live audience. Even when I dabble in TV and the filming of live events, I still have to look at things from the point of view of an audience member even if it is via certain camera angles.
“We had to change things to work for the unique camera view but also to stay true to what would actually happen in a regular live gig so that you don’t lose that feeling of this being a real gig that you are a part of.”
Even the controller has changed, something that both Napier and creative director Jamie Jackson say took a lot of time, thought and prototypes before settling on the finished product.
The new six-button configuration – two rows of three buttons – essentially pushes players into making loose chord shapes and fulfils the goal of getting players one step closer to being a real guitarist, Napier says.
The second part of the game is GHTV, a 24/7 playable music video network. It’s like a TV channel, Napier says, with curated shows according to genre that players can jump in and out of, earning experience by taking their chances with whatever song could be playing at that time.
Players who want a bit more control over their set list can access the on-demand songs through Guitar Hero’s “Plays” system, which Napier compares to a jukebox token system. Plays are earned through the game – the more you play, the more you earn – or bought with real money if you’ve run out.
Guitar Hero is also working on other angles for content, with premium shows that give players early access to content and exclusive to debut in the game and customised note highways. You can spend money to get access to the content or unlock it for free by completing challenges set in the game.
For the team behind Guitar Hero, it is all about getting the best and newest content for players. “This is just the start,” said Napier says.