A big part of Harmonix bringing Rock Band 4 back was the idea of being able to offer something new. Unless the developer could bring something new to the table, it really didn’t make sense to effectively relaunch the franchise with a new iteration. According to Project Lead, Daniel Sussman that time is now.
“It’s a bold move for us. It’s been really fun actually,” Sussman comments. “Our initial approach to Rock Band was to build on a really strong foundation. We went back, played a lot of Rock Band over the days, [but] we were working on other things. So there was this moment for us where we stepped back and played Rock Band 3 and realized it’s a really fun game. There’s a lot there that is really well designed gameplay. [But] at the same time there were some things lacking in areas where the fantasy was stunted in a way that we felt that we could address.
“One of those big ones was the idea that you as a player have an opportunity to put your thumbprint on the music itself, that you could make a difference and express yourself.” Sussman is of course speaking about this idea about adding to the franchise. “So we developed a module for the guitar where you can play your own guitar solos.”
“It’s designed to be super accessible so even if you don’t know what you’re doing, we don’t want you to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.
That’s part of the magic of Rock Band in the first place. You get this taste of musicianship without the blood, sweat, and tears.
“Yet there is a skill curve to it, it’s very much new gameplay,” Sussman tells us. And he’s absolutely correct, now when guitar solos come up, you aren’t simply following the notes on the track. That fades away and instead the game now gives your prompts to follow.
“You basically get points if you’re doing the thing that we’re suggesting. If you see a long single line that means play a single note, and you can play any single note,” Sussman explains. If it becomes wavy it means Harmonix is prompting you to then tilt the guitar. Others give you freestyle, have you hit certain timing, and the color (orange for the top buttons, blue for the bottom).
Obviously Harmonix was mainly concerned with not making the old equipment obsolete. “Whether you’re playing on the PlayStation 3, moving to PlayStation 4, or have played on the Xbox 360, moving to Xbox One, if you have a guitar or drum, you can bring that with you,” Sussman says.
We inquired about the possibility of a subscription service but Sussman says that’s unlikely, “We have thought a lot about that actually. I was talking about our back catalog as a cornerstone of our franchise and we have so much in there, we have a model that’s working for us right now,” he continues.
So while Harmonix might not be completely uprooting how Rock Band will work, its clearly dedicated to making improvement worthwhile of your attention and funds. With most of the back catalog working with the new title, there will be plenty of songs to jam out to and a bunch of new features to go along with it.