BandFuse: Rock Legends takes everything that was great with plastic guitar games — addictive gameplay, the music you love, instant playability — and makes it work for real instruments on your PS3. If you ever wanted to sing, play bass, or guitar, and wished all those hours of pressing red, red, green could translate into real music, look no further.
We’re going to take an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the craft involved in-level design, challenge ramping, and song transcription. If you’re already familiar with BandFuse, feel free to skip down to the exclusive bits. But first let’s talk about a few of the core features behind BandFuse: Rock Legends.
One of the many things that sets BandFuse: Rock Legends apart is the host of artists supporting and participating in the game. Slash, Bootsy Collins, and Zakk Wylde (among others) have lent their amazing skill and experience in the form of songs, interviews, instruction and more.
These artists are behind BandFuse: Rock Legends because it is the most authentic rock and roll experience you can have on consoles. Within the game, they entertain, guide, and instruct you with exclusive interview content crafted to round out the rock and roll experience.
BandFuse: Rock Legends is designed for you to plug in any guitar or bass with the supplied cable and immediately begin rocking out. The technology behind the game is world class — with no perceptible latency, a unique analytics AI engine, fantastic amp modeling for tones, and a clean 60 frames per second. The game development team pushed to the limit what a console can handle to bring this into your living room. Never before has there been a game that put as much focus on music and audio.
The Set List
A music rhythm game is nothing without great songs. BandFuse: Rock Legends shoots right up the middle with great rock, veers one direction for some tasty indie treats, and digs in for some metal shred goodness. In addition, we’re bringing additional DLC to the game based upon the feedback we hear from you the players. All 55 songs on disc come with full transcriptions of guitar, bass, vocals, lyrics, and also include the music video or live footage for every song. We’re bringing music videos back!
Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes on Level Design and Challenges
As mentioned, there are 55 songs on disk and every song is fully transcribed as closely as possible to the actual artist performance. Then those songs are broken down for each instrument into four additional levels of difficulty. Each song has the familiar Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert difficulties, but then add one more level called “Real” for the true transcriptions.
Let’s take a look at what these five difficulties look like in practice. In this case, we’relooking at the opening lick for the song “Love Bites” by Halestorm on the Guitar. “Love Bites” won a Grammy in 2013 and has a fast, driving, and tricky little intro.
For Easy song difficulties, the goal is to create an experience for players who have never touched a guitar before or are transitioning from a plastic instrument. Notes are spread well apart with ample time to prepare for any changes. Most songs are put on the “lower” (5th and 6th) strings of the guitar. And No special techniques are required. The difficulty of the song never increases and the player can be confident of a consistent experience.
For Medium song difficulties, the songs are still designed for beginners, but now for aspiring players who want an acceptable challenge. Players can be expected to use up to three fingers while playing (not at the same time) and arrangements reflect that option. There is still plenty of space for players to respond, but now gameplay may move to new locations on the guitar neck. Most importantly, at this level the song will start as “Easy” but continue to ramp and progress in difficulty until the end.
For Hard song difficulties, several key new features begin to be introduced. “Power” chords and double stops, two of the most fundamental techniques in modern rock, play a part. Palm muting, small bends, and hammer-ons and pull-offs make their way into the musical vocabulary of these levels. For players with some competency, this is a satisfying level to rock out to as you are playing much closer to the actual artists. The difficulty here ramps throughout the song again, both increasing challenge and providing variety.
For Expert song difficulties, things get faster and harder. Shifts and movement around the neck is more fluid, and chords may show up. Techniques cover the gamut from bends to slides to vibrato and tremolo picking, among others. There are some concessions made for approachability, but this is the difficulty designed to prepare you for the real thing.
For Real song difficulties, the “gameplay” if you can call it that is to play these songs exactly the way the artists performed them. BandFuse: Rock Legends is the only game that uses the original studio stems — stems are essentially each instrument voice broken out separately. At this level, the part you are playing is ducked out (reduced in volume) so by playing the game, you are playing the part.
The dedicated team of musician/designers who do this work are called Note Trackers. The Note Trackers are some of the real heroes behind a game like BandFuse: Rock Legends, and it’s their love and respect for the music that comes through in each and every level.
As mentioned, we have the studio stems and by listening to the parts individually broken out, great Note Trackers can hear much more than us mere mortals. If there is music or tablature available, it will be consulted, but one thing we have found that is almost certain — nearly every bit of tablature you see on the web is wrong. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to have great video detailing the players’ fingers while they perform a part and that gives insight, but never covers the full performance. The Note Tracking team has a deep vault of knowledge about individual players and their styles/preferences; many questions are resolved by tapping their years of experience.
And in some cases, like with Slash, Zakk Wylde, Bootsy, and many others, we’re lucky enough to know the artists themselves and can sit down and ask them directly. Let’s just say that the gang from Halestorm has a wicked cool tour bus and we enjoyed hanging out with them, too.
Thanks for letting us talk a little about our game! We hope you take a look at BandFuse: Rock Legends, which launches today for PS3.