Thursday, April 15, 2010

Features I'd like to see in Rock Band 3

Ever since I first played Guitar Hero on a demo station in 2005 I've been hooked on the instrument-sim sub-genre of music games.  When I first played Harmonix's next-gen follow-up Rock Band, I fell in love with the aesthetic, diverse playlist, and potential as a party game.  Rock Band 2 remains a frequent activity for friendly get-togethers at our home.  However, while RB2 improved on the original's interface, there's still plenty of room for a more streamlined and varied experience.  The Beatles: Rock Band added harmonies, but aside from that, the formula has remained largely the same across the four main games and several spin-offs in the series.  Harmonix passed on releasing a Rock Band 3 last year, but I'm sure there will still be one, and here is a list of features I'd like to see in order to improve the experience:
  • Harmonies/Duets - The Beatles: RB added this unique feature to make the game more authentic to the Beatles' music, and Green Day: RB will carry it on, but there are several songs in the Rock Band library that could benefit from a multi-vocal option. Songs like Linkin Park's One Step Closer, Gorillaz' Clint Eastwood, and Evanescence's Bring Me to Life, just to name a few, were all recorded with two vocalists, one singing and one rapping. Multiple vocalists could also make artists like The B-52s more accessible to the game.

  • Support for two guitars - Most rock songs feature at least two guitar tracks (not including bass), rhythm and lead. I don't know why this option hasn't been explored yet, especially with The Beatles. The two guitar tracks are usually just swapped between on the single guitar chart, or sometimes the rhythm track is ignored altogether. It would be nice if we were given the option to have one more band mate and to pick the track we prefer, especially since some gamers are better at the "chord changes" and "double strumming" of the rhythm section, while others (like myself) are better with the quick fingering and "single notes" of lead.

  • iTunes-style stat keeping for songs - I can't tell you how many times I've bought a song and completely forgot about it, or played a song once and had it get lost in a field of far more familiar songs. Yes, you can sort songs by alphabet (band or song title), rating (how well you performed on a song, not how much you like it), source (RB1, RB2, DLC, etc.), decade, and genre; but these don't make it much easier to find those rare gems that may have drifted into obscurity as you played Aqualung for the twenty-seventh time. Finding music in iTunes is so quick and intuitive, Harmonix could learn a lesson from Apple. The following criteria should be added to the music sort list:
    • Date added
    • Play count
    • Last played
    • Player rating (taste, not skill)
    • Suggestions

  • Music search feature - Rather than spending 2-3 minutes searching your library for that one song, just press one button, bring up the virtual keyboard, and type the title or artist in. How difficult can it be to add USB keyboard and ChatPad support as well?

  • Optional vocal cadenzas - I don't know about you, but I get annoyed when the game requires me to sing every "ooh," "ah," and "yeah" exactly the same as the original recording, or else lose my note streak. If they're not explicitly written into the sheet music, they should be optional, maybe for extra points, or as an alternate way to activate Overdrive.

  • Button-activated Overdrive - Speaking of Overdrive, there needs to be a more user-friendly way to activate it while on vocals or drums. On guitar or bass, all you need to do is tilt the controller, or hit the Back button. Guitar Hero allows you to activate Star Power on drums whenever you want by hitting the kick bass and both cymbals simultaneously. This can be a little overly complicated, but it's better than waiting half-a-minute for the next drum fill because you missed the crash prompt the first time. As for vocals, my throat hurts enough from singing tenor all night (I'm naturally a bass-baritone, and very few pop/rock songs are in that range), now you want me to scream into the mic at a precise time? Either put an Overdrive button on the Mic controller, or map it to any button on the 360 controller.

  • Adaptive difficulty - Over the years, I've progressed from struggling with the Medium difficulty, to challenging myself with Hard, and in some cases going with Expert because I've already mastered all others. There are some songs, however, that start out deceptively simple, then throw a string of rapid-fire "hammer-ons" or "double-strum" chords at you later on that cause me to instantly fail out. If I step down a level, I could play the song in my sleep with the drop in difficulty. An option should be added, perhaps in place of No Fail Mode, which automatically adjusts the difficulty level based on your current performance. Achieve a 50 note streak or fill the performance bar all the way and the game will take it up a notch. Drop into the red, and the game will automatically bring the level down on the fly. This will make party nights a lot easier for groups of varying skill.

  • Quick-swapping instruments - I almost always play bass, but there are some songs that make me want to drop my Fender P and pick up a mic. Other times I get stuck on drums until my arms hurt and I just need some less physically taxing relief. What do I need to do? Back up to the band member selection screen, log out of my controller, swap controllers with someone (who also had to log out), log into my new instrument of choice (while the person I swapped with does the same), and re-enter the song selection screen. Sometimes the game makes this even more complicated, forbidding me from logging my Gamertag out while the game is playing, and forcing me to either return to the Dashboard, swap my GT to another controller, and reload the game, or worse, shut the system off and start all over again. This is absolutely ridiculous. There needs to be a way I can switch to a different instrument and take my GT and RB avatar with me without spending 5 minutes reconfiguring the entire system.

So there's my Rock Band 3 list of suggestions. Now all I need to do is find out how to share this with Harmonix's development team, and hopefully some or all of these will be addressed in the final product.

Are there any other features or fixes you'd like to see in future Rock Band entries? Please share them in the comments section!

1 comment:

  1. actually, i wouldn't mind these suggestions. Good list.