Through an interview with Polygon, we’ve learned that Activision had been waiting for a new innovation before bringing back the Guitar Hero series from the hiatus it’s seen since 2010. That innovation came three years ago with FreeStyleGames (developers of the DJ Hero spinoff series) and an overhaul to the iconic Guitar Hero controller. “We had these colors,” recounts creative director and studio head Jamie Jackson, “and one day my head of the UI team came to me and said, ‘I’ve come up with this idea I want to show you. I’ve taken the colors out.’ I was like, ‘Well, you can’t take the colors out of Guitar Hero. That’s Guitar Hero. Everyone knows the colors.’ He says, ‘No, check it out.’”

Tyler Michaud, senior director of product management at Activision, explains the importance of giving the franchise a proper rebirth:

“Guitar Hero created this pop culture phenomenon. Really, I would argue, it was one of the first titles to transcend our entire category and become this household name. But it’s been a while. It’s been five years since the last release. There’s so much emotion and passion around the Guitar Hero brand at the company. It’s something we always intended to bring back, when we had that legit innovation that would transform the way you play the game in a fundamental way. It’s taken until now to have that. FreeStyle delivered that vision. I believe this truly is the reinvention of Guitar Hero.”
— Tyler Michaud

The new controller features six buttons in two rows of three—one white and one black. On lower levels, you’ll only use the white buttons. But starting at the Medium difficulty, you’ll begin to play with both rows. This adds a new kind of complexity while removing the need to use your pinky finger and move your hand position, which kept a lot of players from mastering
Guitar Hero in its original incarnation. Many players who’ve struggled with Guitar Hero will also be pleased to learn that Live removes failure entirely; no matter how bad you play, you’ll be able to finish the song. Jackson continues:

“We always knew, like Tyler said, if we ever brought Guitar Hero back it had to be because we came up with some great innovation and made some big changes. The way we started it, we took it right to its core, its base. We said, what was it about Guitar Hero that was so cool in the first place? Why did it become the game it became? . . . This idea came from quite a few different places. First off, I guess, we wanted to make this hand do something that most people thought a guitarist does. By taking the buttons and splitting them in two rows, we have lots of different button combinations we can hit. We can hit chord shapes, which are familiar in guitar playing. We wanted people to come into this Guitar Hero Live and have something to play that’s very simple. It’s totally basic, just those three buttons. It’s all you need to worry about, the bottom row.” — Jamie Jackson

Jackson also stresses how the team strove to create new play opportunities that improved the experience for both amateur and veteran players:

“So we wanted to build a game that would let in that idea of play that everyone’s very comfortable with, using the three fingers to play. But we also really cared about the people who are expert players, hardcore players. They want a new challenge as well. They want something different. So going back, at a base level it’s very easy to learn, but at the top end it’s difficult to master. That was a mantra we had internally. Getting that base level, those three buttons for the medium, and then from there on you start to use the top row, which means that this hand is starting to do things a bit more like a guitarist. Then at veteran level, I have chord shapes and so many different button combinations we didn’t have before. We wanted to come up with a new game. It had to be a new challenge. We didn’t just want to regurgitate the old gameplay. We wanted to give you a new challenge. We wanted you to come back and want to play again, but we wanted you to have depth, almost reset you a little bit and make you go and learn something new.” — Jamie Jackson

Source: Polygon

Our Verdict

Alex Zangari
Hi, I'm Alex. I'm a lifelong Nintendo fan and PC gamer. A few of my all-time favourite video games include The Legend of Zeldas: Twilight Princess and Majora's Mask, Mass Effect 2, Rayman 2, and most importantly, Xenoblade. If I ever catch you making a "really feeling it" joke in our comments, you can bet your ass I'll hide it, you casual scum. Feel free to send me a private message if you have something you'd like to discuss... or if you just want to say hi!


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