Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Road to GDC

My speech proposal for GDC was accepted this week! "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Design Lessons Learned from Rock Band" is what I'm delivering, and it's war story retelling under the lens of how to ship awesome games in no time and less resources.

First step: Celebration
Second step: Abject terror about talking in front of hundreds of peers

After a conversation with some friends, I realised that there a bunch of pitfalls that I need to avoid - for example, less talking about standard things like "more resources needed/Top 10 of x/scrum is great" and more talking about interesting stories and lessons that nobody else would be talking about.

So, I'm opening it up to both of the people who read this blog: what are the kinds of things that you'd like to hear in a design speech about Rock Band? And what are the things you hope to never hear at a GDC speech ever again?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Child's Play 2008

I've had a bunch of people ask me "So, what was the deal with the Harmonix Microwave that you guys were auctioning for Child's Play?".

It was the official Harmonix microwave, covered with signatures from everyone at Harmonix. It was then filled with loads of HMX games, swag, and band CDs. It also had a certificate of authenticity! It ended up selling for $1,800

My favourite item at the auction was the hand-painted guitar case that John Dee did. Dee is the guy responsible for a lot of the shell art in the game (like the tiger, eagle, and rocktopus), and he slaved over the case for days to hand paint a bunch of RB2 stuff onto it. Then, we signed the back of it. That was another $1,900 for Child's Play.

Oh, and then we gave them a $30,000 cheque.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Eyeball Pics (science!)

I finally got my act together and went to get new glasses. Cool things to note:

* My doctor is a huge Rock Band fan. He was telling me about how he uses the Drum Trainer as exercise, for example. It's both awesome and scary seeing how deep Rock Band is sinking its tendrils.
* I had two choices for determining my eye health - either get eye drops to dilate, or get a camera to take a photo that could be emailed to me. No guesses for what I did:

My Right Eye. Perfectly Healthy!

However... left eye has a freckle (or as it's called, a nevus) on the inside. Not a big deal, but they need to keep an eye on it over time to make sure it does tumorise.

After showing me the pics, my doctor's first words were "So, can I get that as a tattoo for my Rock Band character?". Awesome.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Watson McPupperson's Etsy page is up!

Like the page says:

Watson McPupperson's Crafty Goods specialises in uniquely crafted everyday items made using unconventional canine construction techniques and household materials.

Translation: Stuff our puppy chews up goes here as art. There are some very "unique" items coming soon!

Monday, November 10, 2008

( forums) On Tiering/Difficulty Numbers

(from the forums, regarding how we come up with our song tiering and difficulty ratings)

So, there's a bit of a difference between "tiers" and "difficulty numbers".

Internally, each song has a difficulty number for each instrument, as well as a "band" difficulty. For example, "Conventional Lover" is 235 on bass, 219 on guitar, 193 on vocals, 191 on drums, and 236 on band. These scales are different for each instrument, but it's not uncommon to see a scale range from 100 to around 500+.

For tiers: We assign these numbers to all the songs on the disc. Then, the tiers are determined by splitting up the songs on disc evenly into 7 tiers based on those numbers! For example: "One Step Closer" is #12 for bass at 165, and "Let There Be Rock" is #13 for bass at 171, but since 84/7 = 12, LTBR becomes the first song in the second tier.

"Well, what about those numbers? How are they determined?" I hear you pre-typing. There's a different process for disc songs compared to DLC songs:

  • For the disc songs, it was the design team's job to balance the songs. Sylvain, Casey and myself (with guest stars 100% GS guitarist Grace and expert vocalist HMXJohnlok) usually locked ourselves in a room for hours and argued about relative difficulties. Yes, that does mean we've played the Endless Setlist multiple times for the sake of work.

  • For DLC songs, these are handled by the audio team. They go through and try to figure out how difficult a song is compared to songs on the disc, and assign appropriate numbers.

    Some songs are hard to assign numbers for band ratings. Take "Let There Be Rock" - hard guitar, but dead simple bass. When this happens, we tend to trend towards the most used instruments (guitar, then drums, then vox, then bass) when laying down a number, as well as some personal fudge based on where we feel the song should lie.

    The basic summary is that it's a blend of science and gut, based on the other songs we've released. Sure, I think we've been a little off the mark on a couple of songs, but I think the vast majority available on the platform (500 songs by the end of the year!) fit a nice balanced curve.
  • Friday, October 31, 2008

    So much press..

    It's kinda quiet here since I'm on a whirlwind RB2 press tour with PR Czar John Drake. In case you're interested in hearing me ramble on message:

    * BritishGaming
    * Virgin UK
    * Boomtown
    * GameSpot UK
    * ...picked up by Kotaku
    * misquoted me a fair bit, but they did a bunch of articles:
    * ...on Rock Band 2
    * ...on being misquoted on Harmonix's goal of player expression
    * ...on what I'm working on now
    * Eurogamer on Mannilow
    * VideoGamer on music creation

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    A tale of three communities

    I've been kind of grating against this whole "hardcore vs casual gamer" distinction that keeps coming up, specifically on the hardcore side, because it's a very old school way of looking at things. Ten years ago, we had "hardcore gamers", which were people who were on the internet reading Blues News and downloading Quake maps, and it was all the same community.

    Now, we've fragmented eighty kazillion ways to the point where the definition of "hardcore" is even broader than the definition of "casual". An example, I hear you ask?


    Today, I handed off a chunk of my battle design duties to new design intern Grace. As part of the task, we had a mini coming out party on our three "hardcore" forums for "the hardcore" to say Hi and suggest new ideas for us to add into our battle schedule. The three we targeted were Something Awful,, and ScoreHero.

    The response from Something Awful was five pages of incredibly useful battles, with the occasional peppering of sarcasm and humour:
    "Parenthetical Challenge:
    Bang a Gong (Get It On)
    Train in Vain (Stand by Me)
    Snow (Hey Oh)
    Charlene (I'm Right Behind You)
    Come Out and Play (Keep 'Em Separated)
    Pleasure (Pleasure)"

    Is this hardcore? Not really, if anything it's more of a "highbrow" gamer view.

    The response from was 10 pages of battles. Naturally, a little more noise than SA, but definitely constructive and useful to battle development.

    "Battles based on music from certain countries.
    Of course, that means you need to get some Frenzal Rhomb, Men at Work, Regurgitator and Grinspoon into RB for the Aussie challenge.
    Followed a week later by Aussie Chalenge #2 with Silverchair, AC/DC and Jet :-p"

    Is this hardcore? I mean, this is our official forums, so by definition it's both our most casual and our most hardcore fans in one place. But I think in general these are our "casual hardcore" - if they were super hardcore they'd gravitate towards a gamer forum like SA or NeoGAF, or towards a dedicated game site like ScoreHero or NMA.

    The response from ScoreHero, well, I'll just quote the first post from a moderator there:
    "I think that before you churn out new challenges, you need to decide how to properly rank bands. PeridotWeapon made some great points here. I agree that ranking by Star Rating seems flawed. If yo watch my Literal Battle Solo Expert Guitar video, you'll see what he means when he says that stars start to crawl after the 6 star mark. I know you're looking for ideas for actual battles, but think the first thing that needs to be done is to make a way so that ties aren't so prevalent. Aside from streak battles, score is the way to go. If you want to give solo or less-than-full bands a chance to compete, then don't lump everyone into one leaderboard. Score by full band is probably the best way to rank bands, especially when you remove overdrive from the equation (most notes hit/fewest broken streaks will win- that's the best band, right?). "

    Is this hardcore? Is this even fanboyism? I think this is a new subclass of "hardcore", the evangelical gamer. For the record, we make sure all of our "hardcore" content (which comes out every Wednesday) is score only, which makes this mainly a "hardcore complaining about casual content" post, but at the same time the hardcore are seeing all content - not just stuff targeted at them.


    As press, I guess "gamers" are something you can lump together.

    As a designer, all of these groups (and there are more than just the three we have here) have radically different goals and expectations when playing. It's not enough to just design content to satisfy each of these groups, but you also have to hide the content that they're not interested in. You either have to build the path of least resistance for each group so that it doesn't cross any other paths, or provide multiple layers of depth in the same mechanic ("finishing a song" vs "5 starring" vs "deployment paths/squeezing" is a great example of this in RB).

    Okay, smoking jacket theorycrafting over, I promise.

    ( This week in Battle of the Bands

    One of the perks of being the Lead Designer on Rock Band 2 is that you can have final signoff on things like Battle of the Bands events. So, what better way to abuse that power by setting up a battle to throw myself a birthday party in Rock Band 2! Bonus: you're all invited!

    The "Lead Designer Birthday Battle" kicks off on Friday for 24 hours! Play "Conventional Lover" with a bass player in your band. The best part is that we'll be giving away huge chunks of in-game money for any characters that decide to play.

    Looking to play something less self-congratulatory? I'd recommend the "Expert Time Signature Battle". Consisting of songs that aren't in 4/4 or 3/4, it's a great way to show that you can count beyond one hand.

    I'd also like to welcome HMXVegas to the Rock Band 2 Live Team! Vegas is going to be helping out with battle design, and we're really excited to have her on the design team here. Be sure to send her your awesome suggestions for battles!


    Monday, October 6, 2008

    ( BOTB Community Week

    (The new website has launched today, which means that I'm going to be shifting this post to be "Dan's pick for this week")

    This week is the first week with community suggested battles! My favourite this week is the "Animal Hardcore Marathon", featuring Eye of the Tiger, Hungry Like the Wolf, Cool for Cats, Hammerhead, and March of the Pigs.

    This is just the start of community-suggested battles. As long as you keep the suggestions coming, we'll keep putting them up for everybody to play! Thanks to Osteo, this battle opens on Wednesday.

    There's also The Overlooked Song Battle, featuring "Cherry Bomb"! Like the description says, "Come on now, '70s all-girl punk band The Runaways have earned their due! Joan Jett and Lita Ford could beat the crap out of you if you say otherwise."

    At best, you'll discover some great 70's girl punk. At worst, you'll be a very high ranking person on the battle leaderboards. Thanks to murfinator, this battle opens on Tuesday.

    Saturday, October 4, 2008

    Rock Band 2 "Game With Developers" tomorrow!

    (Edit: It's over! Thanks for coming out and playing, everyone!)

    Just a heads up that tomorrow afternoon I'll be playing in Microsoft's "Game with Developers" event as HarmonixDev1 . Come and play if you want to see me limp along on a bunch of songs!

    The creators of Rock Band 2 are jumping into the LIVE Weekend, and they're ready to rock and roll with the Rock Band community. Look for the following gamertags on Sunday, October 5 between 2:00 – 5:00 P.M. Eastern Time (11:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M. Pacific):

    Dan Teasdale – HarmonixDev1
    Caleb Epps – HarmonixDev2
    Sylvain Dubrofsky – HarmonixDev3
    Alex Gold – HarmonixDev4
    Michael Lattiak – HarmonixDev5
    Estevan (Milo) Martinez – HarmonixDev6
    Matt Boch – HarmonixDev7
    Dan Johnson – HarmonixDev8
    Tom Brown – HarmonixDev9
    Tom Peterson – HarmonixDev10
    Jeff Cardin – HarmonixDev11
    Colby Grenier – HarmonixDev12
    Joe Pagliuca – HarmonixDev13
    Ryan Griffin – HarmonixDev14
    Jay Magrisso – HarmonixDev15

    Monday, September 29, 2008

    ( Battle of the Bands, Week 3

    Week 3 is here!

    * Monday:"Ramblin' Basslines"
    * Tuesday: "Blood Sugar Sex Magik Battle" and "Three More Degrees..."
    * Wednesday: "Guitarist/Frontman Battle"
    * Thursday "Shooting Star Battle"
    * Friday: "New Wave-Off"
    * Saturday: "History of Metal"
    * Sunday: "Tangled Up in Vocals"

    Very soon, the new will be up, which will contain a swank new interface for viewing upcoming battles! It'll also make these blog posts pretty redundant, so I'll probably change the format of this to a "Dan's Battle Pick" rather than a directory of upcoming content. It'll probably be more interesting then, too.

    As usual, post your battle suggestions below. Next week you'll start to see some of your suggestions go live!

    Sunday, September 28, 2008

    Twitter and stuff

    I have now joined the future and integrated Twitter into my social network shenannigans:

    * I now use my Twitter feed, after a long standing ridicule of people who obsessively use it like Casey and Scott.
    * I update my status via Twitterific
    * Twitter now feeds my Facebook status update and the gadget thing on the side of this blog.

    This completes the dragging of me into 2006.

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    ( This week in Battle of the Bands

    This week in Battle of the Bands:

    * Tuesday brings the "This Week in DLC Battle". Play "You're No Rock and Roll Fun", "Shoot the Runner" and "Bandages" in a single setlist!

    * "The Hardcore Guitar Battle" lets hard and expert players prove their dominance on "Colony of Birchmen", "Battery", and "Peace Sells".

    * "The Literal Battle" is exactly what it sounds like.

    * The "Intensive Care Battle" is a touching story about ill people, featuring songs like "Sick, Sick, Sick" and "Vital Signs".

    * The "Saturday Rap Battle" is all talkies, all the time. Rap your way to success in "So Watcha Want", "Give it Away" and "Testify".

    * On Sunday, drummers get their chance in the spotlight with the "Drum Solo-off!"

    Friday, September 12, 2008

    PAX footage on Channel 10

    Microsoft's Channel 10 site has a quick RB2 interview with me at PAX if you're interested in hearing many on-message things being said.

    Tuesday, September 9, 2008


    I'm about to start my first Spore session. Feel free to friend me if you have awesome creatures!

    DanT's Spore Profile

    ( This week in Battle of the Bands

    Well, it's my last blog before Rock Band 2 comes out. It's been a fun ride filled with information, arm wrestling and sandwiches, but I'm glad you all stuck it out.

    I realised that during this whole time, I didn't talk about the biggest feature in the game - Battle of the Bands! While we have a bunch of surprises that people will experience when they play a battle for the first time, here's a quick primer:


    I’m really excited about Battle of the Bands because it feels like a real battle of the bands competition – it’s not just four people playing against four other people.

    We’re going to be uploading new daily and weekly battles every day, each of which have unique setlists and gameplay conditions. One day you might be playing an Expert Guitar Battle that disables overdrive, the next day it might be a family-friendly band battle that you can’t fail out on.

    You have to battle through your friends list first, then once you're the king of your friends list you can battle against everyone in the world for the crown of "best band in the world". When you play the song, you'll be matched up with your nearest competition, and a Tug of War-style meter will show up in the middle to let you know how you're doing in real time.

    This is essentially asynchronous multiplayer, kind of like what Spore does with its community aspects, and we think it provides a much more accessible and rewarding band multiplayer experience.


    So, what am I going to be posting about now that the game will be out? This week in Battle of the Bands, that's what! Every week, we'll be posting a "best of the week" guide for the battles that are coming out, so that you can prepare yourself for competition.

    This week's pick for battles, Launch Week Edition!

    Between now and the end of the launch week, we have 19 battles opening! My picks are below.

    * Did you somehow luck into getting a copy of the game before it launches on the 14th, and want to celebrate? In that case, you should jump into the "Late Night Rock Band Bash" on Friday - a Star battle with Pump it Up, The Middle, and Lump, all with no fail enabled.

    * On Sunday from 12am to 9am, the "Break of Dawn Battle" goes live. Compete in the first official Rock Band 2 battle to prove that you're hardcore! The cool thing about this is that every band has a battle history, so by playing this battle you're essentially getting a badge of honor in your "Battle History" list to show that you were there not just on Day 1, but at the midnight launch.

    * If you need your beauty sleep, you'll also have the "Launch Day Battle" and the "Rock Band 2 Week Battle" that you can compete in during the day or week, respectively.


    We want to make sure that the Rock Band 2 Live Team is making the battles you want to play, so definitely leave your ideas for cool battles in the comments of these posts. Some cool future battles for inspiration:

    - A "Stalker" battle with "One Way Or Another" by Blondie
    - A "History of Metal" battle, with one metal song from each decade
    - A "Six Degrees of Separation" battle, where we connect one band to another through songs available in Rock Band.

    Sparked your interest? Post your battle ideas below!

    Friday, September 5, 2008

    Rock Band 2 TV Ad, 30 seconds

    There's a 60 second one too, but I don't think it has aired yet.

    Interview with Heather and I about all things Rock Band

    While Heather and I were in Portland, we stopped off at Ground Kontrol for their Tuesday night Rock Band bash - and brought a dev kit with RB2 on it for them to play on!

    Before they set up, we did an interview with some of the guys there, and it's gone live today.

    Read it now!

    What have I done?!

    An offhanded comment about hardcore sandwich eating, and less than 24 hours later we have this:

    Thursday, September 4, 2008

    ( Secret Rock Band 2 feature announced!

    I recently recieved a request from a Rock Band fan that I'm allowed to anwser without checking with LL Cool Drake or the Viacom Lawyer Squad:

    "I hope Rock Band 2 comes with a deli fresh ham sandwich, as I could certainly go for a deli fresh ham sandwich. At the rate you guys are going with feature requests I figure it's worth a shot."

    Well, while we won't be including a deli fresh ham sandwich in the Rock Band 2 Special Edition box due to the inability to create sandwiches fresh at our retail partners, I can confirm here first that Rock Band 2 will support players eating their own deli fresh ham sandwiches during all songs on the Rock Band 2 disc, as well as all of the songs available on the Rock Band Music Store and songs that have been exported from the original Rock Band disc.


    Deli Sandwich Q&A:

    Q: How will sandwiches work on "missing part" sandwiches such as open-face melts?
    A: Extra care will be required in eating to make sure you don't stick your thumb into the sandwich.

    Q: So, I can eat a deli sandwich on any song?
    A: Technically, yes. Some songs will compliment sandwich eating (Cherry Bomb, Margaritaville), whereas other songs may provide sandwich eating challenges (March of the Pigs). It opens up new emergent eating choices, and we're proud to be pioneering this design ground with Rock Band 2!

    Q: How can I trust someone that cheats in an arm wrestle?
    A: I totally didn't cheat. Check out that video footage on Destructoid, my elbow is on the table the entire time I am using my crushing weight to win. I will admit, however, that I caught out good sported James Mouat with a thumb-wrestle "fast count". Point is, I'm your hookup for sandwich/rhythm gaming crossover.

    Q: Will there be anything for the ScoreHero crowd vis-a-vis sandwiches?
    A: I can't talk about anything right now, but I can give you a hint with three words: Cheeseburger in Paradise.

    Q: This isn't innovation! TF2 did this already!
    A: TF2's implementation is dramatically different to ours - for a start, theirs is a virtual sandwich which doesn't sate any hunger of the player, only that of their character. Sandwiches eaten during Rock Band 2 are as authentic as you can possibly get, and can be eaten at any time. Also, it has a W rather than a V.


    Post your questions below, and I'll do my best to answer them.

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    ( PAX and Tour Challenges

    We'll be at PAX this week! If you're there, be sure to come and say hi to us at the booth, and/or come to our 90 minute panel of awesomeness.

    On that topic: It has come to my attention however that "big name" gaming celebrities always make these outrageous claims and stunts in order to get press time from the gaming blogs. Therefore, as a D-list gaming celebrity who's trying to make sure that Team Harmonix isn't talking to an empty room on Saturday, I am making the following proclamations:

    * I challenge Kotaku's Mike Fahey, Wired's Chris Kohler, and Destructoid's Nick Chester to an arm wrestle. Mike is allowed to substitute for Crecente if he can't make it, but in that case I'm allowed to take my elbow off the table and Brian isn't - Crecente looks like he works out, so I need any advantage I can get.

    * I challenge 2K Boston's Ken Levine, Epic's Cliff Bleszinski, and Hothead Games' James Mouat to a thumb wrestle, to determine once and for all the title "Best Designer with a Right Thumb". If multiple designers accept the challenge, I will do 2v1.

    * I challenge any members of the Guitar Hero: World Tour, SingStar, and Rock Revolution development teams to a manly hug/complement off. First person to pull away or stall on a compliment loses.

    The only condition - the challenge needs to take place immediately after the "History of Harmonix" panel finishes up. If you don't show up, I win by default. If you've been served and want to bring it, then give me a yell ahead of time so that I can put myself into intensive arm/thumb/hug/compliment training.

    And now, your regularly scheduled programming: Tour Challenges


    When we started developing Rock Band 2, we had a bunch of goals for progression:

    * We wanted to update Solo Tour. Progression is an important part of playing the on-disc songs, but the whole "play a list of songs" is stale, and World Tour is more focused on exploration than progression.

    * We wanted to include DLC into the campaign mode. At the end of the year we'll have over 500 songs for people to play, and we wanted to integrate it properly, not just as a "Downloaded Songs" list.

    * We wanted to solve the problem of people getting stuck on one song and not progressing (Freyaism/Reaperism). Just because I suck on one song out of 84 doesn't mean I'm not good enough to play the final songs.

    * We also wanted to make sure every song played during the progression was the best for that instrument. Singing "So Watcha Want" is an awesome experience, but playing bass on it isn't as good as playing some of the other bass songs. At the same time, everyone should be able to play every song - mode-exclusive songs suck.

    After messing around with different ideas, we came up with Tour Challenges!

    In the Tour Challenge mode, players play increasingly difficult sets of songs known as "Challenges", represented as your band's discography.

    Unlike Solo Tour in Rock Band, Tour Challenges follow a tree structure rather than a linear path - beating a challenge unlocks multiple other challenges for you to beat. This way, you are never 'stuck' on a song when progressing, since they can jump around between various challenges.

    Let's give a quick example. I start up Rock Band 2 for the first time on guitar (and with a friend on drums), and jump straight into tour challenges.

    My first choice is to select the difficulty of the challenges that I want to play at. Since it's my first time, I only have the first tier of difficulty available to me: "Local Upstart". Jumping in, I see all of the "Local Upstart" challenges that are unlocked by default

    Since I haven't played anything yet, I have four options available to
    * "Band Warmups" - which is the 3 best easy band songs in the game
    * "Fender Warmups" - which is the 3 best easy guitar songs in the game
    * "Drum Warmups" - ...3 best easy drum songs...

    * "Vocal Warmups" - ...noticing a pattern here?

    There are also some locked ones that we'll see more of in a minute.

    Now, since I have a guitar and drum band, it means I can't play the "Vocal Warmups", since I need a vocalist to play those. I can, however, play the guitar, drum, and band challenges. Yes, that means you can have a friend on drums still help you out when you're playing the "guitar-specific" challenges! Let's play the guitar challenge!

    Pretty simple, right? Well, if we beat this, we'll get three more challenges! Let's do it!

    Like I mentioned in my last blog, you can pause and save your progress any time. So, if you need to leave before "New Kid in School", you can just save your position in the set and come back to it later.

    Not this time though - we played through and won!

    Note that we unlocked three new challenges that we can play in, just by playing one challenge!
    * "The Guitar Apprentice" is the next level up of the "Guitar" challenges.
    * "The Bass Apprentice" is the first challenge of the "Bass" campaign! Yep, you can go through and play a full bass campaign!
    * "Warmup Marathon Part 1" is the first marathon challenge, and it's for people who want to play the game the old way - if you follow the "Warmup Marathon" path, you'll play all 84 disc songs in a single path. Note that you don't have to play these at all, because Tour Challenges lets you pick and choose the songs and challenges you play to get up to the top.

    If I had any easy DLC on my console, these challenges would also show up!

    Oh, and hey, I've unlocked another tier! I now have 15 challenges I can choose between to decide how I'm going to progress. They aren't just instrument based, either. Take this screenshot from a few blogs back...

    * "'00s Hits" are the 5 best songs from the '00s in one challenge. Playing this unlocks...
    * "Infinite '00s Challenge". This is EVERY song that was released this decade, regardless of whether it was on disc or DLC.

    The cool thing about this is that it grows and shrinks with your library. If I beat this challenge, then buy "Girls Who Play Guitars" by Maximo Park, the challenge acts as if I saved and resumed just before that song was added. Essentially, I can re-complete this challenge just by playing that song.

    This same system also applies for genre - you could have a "New Wave Challenge" that opens up into an "Infinite New Wave Challenge".

    * "Touring Harmonix Bands Challenge" is one of the three challenges that the Harmonix Bands are in in Tour Challenges. We've broken them up into three categories: Breaking (which includes bands like Speck), Touring (which includes bands that are on tour right now, like Bang Camaro), and Impossible (which includes the abolutely ridiculous song "Visions" by Abnormality).

    * "The Who Challenge" is a DLC artist challenge. This appeared because I have some Who DLC on my Xbox (which, frankly, you all should have).
    New DLC challenges show up in this order:
    - If you've purchased three or more songs from an album, an album challenge shows up ("Screaming For Vengeance Album Challenge")
    - If you've purchased three or more songs from an artist, an artist challenge shows up ("The Nine Inch Nails Challenge")
    - If you've purchased a pack of multiple different artists, a pack challenge shows up ("(Arguably) Punk Pack 01 Challenge")

    * "Harmonix Rock Band Tracks Challenge" is a challenge comprised of all the Harmonix bands from the Rock Band 1 disc. When you export your Rock Band 1 disc, challenges are added into Rock Band 2 for those songs, based on the groupings that they had in Rock Band 1.

    Oh, and one last thing - Tour Challenges give away "Ultimate" outfits if you play a specific path all the way to the end. These outfits are things that are so amazing, that we couldn't attach a price to them or justify selling them in the store.

    One that we've talked about is the live snake, which you get for beating one of the Impossible Tour Challenges:

    One that we haven't talked about is the assless chaps. I won't spoil what you get this for.

    Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    ( Early Blog this week!

    By popular forum request, I present some interesting Rock Band 2 song
    statistics! Hooray!

    First Songs
    * For all but vocals, the first song in the game is "Eye of the Tiger".
    This is because it is awesome.
    * For vocals, it's "Pretend We're Dead".
    * The easiest Harmonix song is "Conventional Lover" by Speck. Honestly
    though, it's not about how easy it is, it's how you play it.

    Final Songs
    * "Painkiller" is the final band and guitar song by difficulty.
    * "Panic Attack" is the final drum and bass song by difficulty.
    * "Tangled Up in Blue" is the final vocal song by difficulty.
    * The hardest Harmonix song is "Visions" by Abnormality.

    Full Ranking List
    * going to be coming out through the gaming press very soon. Stay

    Other Stats
    * The shortest song is "Hello There" by Cheap Trick, with a running
    time of 1:37. Coincidentally, it was also the most played song at E3.
    * While "Teen Age Riot" has the most guitar notes at 3,316 notes, the
    majority are chords. "Panic Attack" has the most individually strummed
    or HOPO'ed notes, with 2,767 - "Teen Age Riot" only has 1,824.
    * As of right now the highest scoring band in Rock Band 2 is "Dogs of
    the A.M.S.", a band comprised of OXM reviewers. Nice work, OXM!
    * The band with the highest amount of fans, however, is "Empty
    Theatrics", a band comprised of GameInformer reviewers. Do I sense an
    impending Battle of the Bands face-off?

    And finally, to the people in the NeoGAF thread who were wondering why I
    don't post there - I'd love to post on your forum, but the admins
    haven't approved me to post. If you have any questions, you can post
    them here in the meantime and I'll try and work them into some blog

    Next week, PAX!

    Saturday, August 16, 2008

    ( Q&A, part 2

    I'm writing this short blog from home, since I'm taking some vacation time this week. Is this a good sign for how close Rock Band 2 is to completion? Maybe!

    Besides sitting at home relaxing to the Penny Arcade game, Braid and Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, I'm also preparing for a bunch of external stuff leading up to Rock Band 2's release:

    * A bunch of us will be at the Boston Gameloop next weekend, talking about Rock Band 2 development. Unfortunately the first one is industry-only, but hopefully a good turnout will open it up for everyone else in Boston. If you're in the industry, you should definitely show up and hear us ramble about the game.

    * Another bunch of us are going to Leipzig. Good for those people! If you're able to go, you should go!

    * The more attractive and awesome people are going to PAX! We're going to have a similar setup for Rock Band 2 to what we had last year, but the cool thing is that we've been given a 90 minute panel to talk about Harmonix and everything we've done in the last 12 years or so. We'll have a wide spread of people there (me included) so if you have any questions to ask us that we've been avoiding on the forums, this is the place to ask! If you can't make it but have questions that you want me to try and slip whoever is MC'ing, then post in the comments and I'll see what I can do. We may even have a special announcement or two!

    * A bunch of us may or may not be hanging out on the night of release to say hello to fans. We're still figuring out what retailers are doing what, but it's a safe bet that if there's a store near Boston that's doing a midnight release, we'll be there. More details soon...


    More Q&A:


    Q: "How does the autocalibrate work for surround sound systems? Or will it work by putting the
    guitar up to any one of the 6 speakers?"

    A: Ideally, you'd hold it up to one of the front speakers just to be safe, but yeah - just hold it up to the speaker and press the green fret, and you're done!


    Q: "so you can play [automatically generated] Challenges, without having all the songs in the Challenge, ie The Who Challenge, without the entire pack (But why would you not have the entire pack?)"

    A: That's right! There's a bunch of reasons why you might not have all of the songs by an artist that have been released:
    * You might have bought them as singles instead of a big pack (for example, you buy 4 Who tracks instead of the 12-pack, then buy another track)
    * They might be mixed across multiple sources (for example, you could have a Rush Challenge with "Tom Sawyer" from RB1, "The Trees" from RB2, and "Working Man" as a DLC track)

    Basically, the setlist for the challenge will be automatically determined by the songs that you have on your console. You add more songs for that category, artist, or album, and they'll be added to the challenge!


    Q: "Is there going to be a way to see who owns what songs on the song list in RB2? It's a pain sometimes when you find out that you've bought a song, and one of your other/2/3 friend[s] doesn't have this song. You don't know who to yell at and force them to download songs outside of their genre and belittle them."

    A: Yep! If you select the song in the song select list, you'll be given a list of players that don't have the song so you can guilt them into purchasing more songs.


    Q: "Another small question, but I won't ask this one every time, but if and when you go over Battle of the Bands I just want to know if most if not all challenges you will be able to do by yourself. Like if you have a solo band, will you be able to take your solo singer and do challenges like Any Way You Sing It, and then go to your solo guitaristand do the Ace of Spades Streak Battle."

    A: Yep - we'll have battles geared all the way from full-band family friendly to single instrument hardcore rock-offs. On top of that, we have different metrics besides score that we can use to level the playing field regardless of skill level or number of players. Also, any character can play any instrument, so your solo singer can also be a solo guitarist just by changing your controller.


    Q: HMX does RB2 have a high score list for any given song. Local I mean; not like a leaderboard.

    A: It sure does! RB2 will record your scores both locally and online, with the added bonus that it will update your online scores with your offline local scores when you reconnect to Rock Central.

    Friday, August 1, 2008

    ( Rock Band 2 Small Stuff

    We've got a bunch of really good "big" things coming up through the
    press, but I realised today that nobody has talked about the little
    things that make Rock Band 2 a really polished and fun experience! So,
    let's check out some of the small stuff that most reviewers will miss:

    New Manual Calibration

    Sure, our new autocalibration is great and means that you don't have to
    do anything to get a perfect number besides "hold up your guitar", but
    what if you don't want to buy the new Fender Stratocaster? Well, we've
    made revisions for you too!

    There's no more trying to line up a click with a target - just strum
    when you hear clicks, then strum when the metronome hits the ends, and
    you'll have an accurate number. It's definitely simpler than Rock Band's
    system, and it produces far more accurate results, although I still
    highly recommend autocalibrating since it'll give you a perfect number.

    We've completely overhauled Matchmaking to "party safe" the game as well
    as support some cool things for online world tour.

    The biggest win is that you can't just mash into a slot and past
    matchmaking, or mash out of matchmaking. When you're able to progress,
    you need to press START to continue past the matchmaking screen. Hitting
    Green will just help you make a noise to annoy those around you. Plus,
    if you're mashing back, you'll be required to confirm that you want to
    leave the session and kick everyone out.

    The cooler part of this is that in Online World Tour, people can join your band
    whenever you're preparing to rock! So, if you're in the Rock Shop and
    your friend wants to join, you don't have to do anything - they'll just
    select your band name and instantly join your session, without you
    having to go back to Matchmaking and send an invite.

    Tour Challenge Pausing and Resuming
    We'll be talking more about the Tour Challenges incredibly soon, but
    there's one cool feature that most people will miss when they're playing
    through the first time.

    Say I'm in the middle of a five song set, but I can't finish the third
    song. Or, even worse, I can finish it but I have to leave the house!
    Whatever shall I do?!

    Well, you can save your progress in the set and come back to it later!
    You'll be able to tell which sets you're in progress with a subtle
    finish that we add to those albums:

    This also applies to any dynamic challenges, like "The Who Challenge" in
    this screenshot that exists because of my purchasing of some Who tracks.
    In this screenshot I've finished the challenge, but if I was to then
    purchase a new The Who song, this challenge would change to "In
    Progress" and I'd need to play the new song to finish it again!

    In this screenshot, see if you can pick out any of the other Tour
    Challenge stuff that we'll talk about more later! There's at least two
    things that you may not have already known.


    One of the biggest feature requests we recieved was asking for the
    ability to assign the people that played on stage with you when you
    weren't playing in a full band. We've added this to Rock Band 2, and
    called them "Stand-Ins".

    Take this screenshot here. "Bikini Tiny Little Monkeys" is my band that
    I'm using to play through on Rock Band 2 right now, and I've created a
    bandmate called "Megan" that I play with. However, I wanted to make
    another character that is always on vocals, since I don't like it when
    my vocalist always changes.

    So, I created "Carrie", then assigned her as my Stand-in vocalist! Now,
    whenever I play, both Megan and Carrie are on stage rocking out
    together! If someone wanted to come and sing with me for real, Carrie
    would take a back seat to the new band member.

    Profile Changes

    Just a couple of quick things:

    We now track a Career Score (which is disc only), and a Total Score
    (which includes DLC)

    We also want to encourage as people creating band logos as possible,
    since they represent your band in modes like Battle of the Bands. What
    better way than achievement points!

    While we're on achievments: Yes, we know that the Tug of War and Score
    Duel streak achievements are a pain to get. We've drastically changed
    how we're handling this in Rock Band 2. Maybe we'll be talking about the
    rest of our achievements very soon somewhere?


    Oh, and one more thing:

    Monday, July 21, 2008

    ( E3 Round-up

    Last week, a troupe of Harmonix staff descended on the LA Convention Center to show everyone Rock Band 2. Frankly, we were blown away by the response - we were nominated for a swath of "Best of Show" awards, which is insane considering the strength of titles that I'll be lining up for on Day 1 like Fallout 3 and Left 4 Dead.

    (Derek Enos, Harware Engineer, shows off our nominee badges from IGN)

    Unfortunately, you couldn't make it. That's okay though, I'll summarise the half-hour presentation that we gave to press during E3!

    * We showed off the new Quickplay interface that I detailed out last week.

    * We also detailed out the hardware options. While we've covered a lot of the big features in the instruments (autocalibration in the new guitars, expandability in the new drums), there were some specifics that came up during our demos:
    - You can plug in three additional cymbals and an additional pedal to give you the same amount of inputs as a real drum kit.
    - For those of you who've moved kits around, the kick pedal no longer falls off when you move the kit!
    - There are also guidelines engraved onto the drum legs to help you perfectly balance your kit.
    - The ION kit uses standard 1/4in jacks to plug into the Rock Band brains that come with the kit. This means that you can plug these surfaces into any other real drum gear, like the Alesis DM5 that we had on stage at E3.

    * Battle of the Bands is our flagship feature in Rock Band 2. This isn't just 4v4 - in the words of PR Coordinator John Drake, "four versus four is what I like to call a band sissyfight in the parking lot after a gig". Instead, this is your band battling against your entire friends list, then once you're the #1 friend, the entire world!
    - We're going to be adding new content to Battle of the Bands daily.
    - Battles are only up for a certain amount of time - from a few hours up to multiple weeks.
    - We have different ways to judge battles, like "longest streak" or "highest star count"
    - We have full control of special rules like "No Overdrive" or "No Saviors"
    - When you're playing, we show a meter kind of like the Tug of War meter that shows who's winning at any moment in time.
    - If a friend's band beats you while you're offline, will send you an email letting you know that you've been beaten and that you need to reclaim your position!
    - I'm going to write a blog post about this later on. Stay tuned!

    (The members of "Friendly Sword Masters" prepare to battle against our evil nemesis "Spaaaaaace Hooker!")

    * We talked about Tour Challenges but, again, I'm saving a lot of the details for another blog post.

    * World Tour has a bunch of changes for Rock Band 2
    - You can now hire staff to help your band! For example, you can hire an accountant to get more money or pay a street team to get you more fans!
    - We've added a new feature called "Opportunity Gigs". Did you see the footage of Everlong with the trippy colors going off in the background? This was an Opportunity Gig where a music video director came up to the band and asked to record a music video with the band for more fans!
    - You can now play it with 1-4 players, where any of those players is local or online
    - You can choose the lineup of your band members that aren't playing. Want to make the ultimate nerd-metal band? Just make three characters and assign them to your band, and they'll show up even when you're the only one playing!
    - Again, there's a bunch of big tweaky stuff that I'll save for another blog post, but the one I'll sneak out now to keep everyone happy - we've reworked how the fan system operates. There are no more times where you'll be blocked from getting fans, for example!

    * We touched on the Drum Trainer and Jukebox Mode, but, yet again, bigger blog material.

    * We have a new screen called "Game Modifiers". This screen has a bunch of options that allow you to change your game experience! The ones that were revealed at E3 were:
    - "No Fail Mode". This disables failing out of a game, in case you want to play with people who aren't skilled enough to beat easy yet. Since we don't want it to be an exploit online, we also disable saving and achievements.
    - "Breakneck Speed". By popular demand, we've added an option that increases the scroll speed of all tracks. Since we consider this a personal taste issue and not a game-changing exploit, we don't disable anything.

    It was a pretty gruelling three days of interviews and parties, but the sheer amount of excitement from everyone who checked out the game was overwhelming. Now, we just need to finish the game!

    (Kasson Crooker, Project Lead on Rock Band 2, takes one for the team to do an interview for Fuel TV)

    And the one more thing: I played the Endless Setlist 2 last week. It took us 10 hours to beat all 84 songs on Expert.

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    ( Inside Rock Band 2 Quickplay

    We're starting off small this week and checking out the new "Select Song" screen. Compared to Battle of the Bands or Online World Tour it's a less expansive feature, but the changes to quickplay greatly improve the Quickplay experience.

    Let's check out what people will be seeing at E3 this week after they've checked out awesome stuff like Battle of the Bands, Music Videos and Tour Challenges - the Quickplay Song Select Screen:

    So, as you can tell, we've used the Rock Band Music Store as a basis for our new screen. We've also added a bunch of new feaures based on the feedback we've recieved, as well as our own personal wants for easy song selection in Quickplay and "Make a Setlist" in our World Tour campaign mode:

    As well as the nice album art and extended information about a song, we also show difficulty numbers!

    This is per instrument, as well as the standard band difficulty ordering! This way, you can tell at a glance whether you'll need to drop down a difficulty level or not.


    We actually have a bunch of different ways that you can create a setlist in Quickplay, all of them really easy to use:

    The first one is a new option at the top of the setlist called "[Make a Setlist]". This works in a similar way to "Make a Setlist" in our World Tour campaign mode, however you can specify the number of songs you play!

    If you just want to play some songs with one button press, we also let you play tiers as a setlist! With this, you play every song that is under that particular heading.


    The shortcut menu has been massively beefed up since Rock Band. If you tap the "filter" button, you'll instantly jump to the next tier. However, if you hold it down, you'll get a navigatable menu of tiers!

    This is especially handy for some of our new filtering modes, like "Sort by Location". If you want to get to your new DLC as quickly as possible, you can just move instantly to the "Downloaded Songs" tier.

    We still have all of the sorting categories from the original Rock Band, but they've been tuned a bit. For example, if you sort by artist, the songs inside that artist will have subheadings that sort by album - which, yes, can be selected if you want to play that album as a setlist in Quickplay.

    Naturally, all of this is supported for online bands too, but we've also added a "Round Robin" selection method so that everyone playing has a chance to pick a song. No more having to deal with leaders hogging the limelight.

    We also now have a selection of "Session Musicians" that you can pick in Quickplay if you want to pick a character without spending time creating them!

    This is on top of all of the other new matchmaking enhancements, which I'll cover later!


    As you may have heard, we replaced the Solo Tour in Rock Band with Tour Challenges in Rock Band 2, which is a non-linear progression campaign mode. But what if you still really want to play all 84 songs in a linear list? Or even more so, what if you want to play all 200+ songs currently released in a linear campaign?

    Well, one of the ways you can do this is in Quickplay! Whenever you play a song, regardless of mode*, we'll record your highest score and show it on the quickplay screen. Even better, this score is recorded both locally and online - so if you're playing without an internet connection, you can still record your highest scores, view them in the Leaderboards section of the game, and have them upload when you reconnect to Rock Central.

    * There's an exception here for some Battle of the Bands events, because of a gameplay modifier that changes how scoring, streaks and overdrive works. More on that later.


    This week's Q&A Question:

    I understand the optional cymbals are just secondary inputs for the existing pads, but what about during fills and the "drum trainer" modes? Will those two things recognize the cymbals as unique inputs or will every part of RB2 just recognize the cymbal attachments as secondary pads?" - babywolf

    A: While they're mapped to the same colors for the note charts, the Drum Trainer and fills in-game treat these surfaces are unique - hitting the yellow cymbal triggers a hi-hat, and hitting the yellow pad plays a tom. Same goes for all the inputs on the Ion kit and other third-party kits in development.


    So that's the new Song Select list. You might not think it reading this blog, but this was one of the smaller features in Rock Band 2. Things like Tour Challenges and Battle of the Bands are absolutely massive, and I think you're going to be blown away by how much depth there is once you see them.

    Oh, and for one more thing, here's a teaser for Tour Challenges: some art from two of the challenges you can play:

    Friday, July 4, 2008

    ( Q&A Responses, Part 1

    I wrote up this big post and took a lot of screenshots about one of our new features, and realised that I couldn't show it just yet because it relies on songs - and we hadn't officially announced any yet when I sent this off for approval. Awk-ward.

    So, NEXT week you'll see that blog post, which will be good because I will be at E3 and usually wouldn't have time to do anything but a photoblog.

    In the meantime, I've gone through the questions below and answered the ones that I'm allowed to talk about. Onto the questions!


    Q: "If your Rock Band 2 instruments are better, if I wanted to switch disc over to play Run to the Hills or something can I use the new instruments?" - quinaking

    A: Yes, all Rock Band instruments work on all Rock Band games for that platform, as well as any other music games that adhere to the controller standards.


    Q: "Will there be any improvements on vocals? Will there still be talky parts, and, if so, will they be fixed or easier to hit than they were in RB1?" - Lady Sia..

    A: Yes, on multiple fronts. We've improved the balance for pitched vocals, and completely rewritten the non-pitched talky detection. Rock Band 2 has drastically more reliable talky parts.


    Q: "Well, I'm going to go on record that this "limited time XBOX360 exclusivity" is total bull crap. Who does this benifit?" - killerew..

    A: This benefits both gamers and Harmonix. Microsoft have been awesome in supporting us and have actually helped out on some of these things by visiting us and working hand-in-hand on new platform features. They've been a great partner on everything from development to marketing, and some of the features in the game would not have been possible without them.

    As well as this, the other platforms are coming out really soon after the Xbox 360 launch. Trust me, if you're an other platform owner, you'll be surprised at how little you have to wait.


    Q: "I was wondering if you could create a code or a option to shut off the vocal pitch meter? Singing the song and making it "your own" would be a great idea and make an interesting addition to the game!!" - jd506

    A: I can't talk about specific features until E3, but I think you'll be very happy with one of the new features in RB2 :)


    Q: "Could you find Europe or Australia on a map? Only kidding. After the flamefest of the last European release hopefully you'll be more eager to talk about why there is a delay and such forth. So, why is there a delay and how long will it be?"

    A: Trust me, I complain daily to everyone here about the release date in Australia (my home country). As soon as we can announce dates in other territories outside the US we will. Stay tuned for more info about this at E3! The window will be smaller this time around.


    Q: "Cant wait for E3 and Harmonix's juicy details on Rock Band 2!" - Pamp

    A: Me too! It means I can start posting screenshots and in-depth stuff.

    As usual, if you have questions, post them below.

    Oh, and one more thing for people having issues getting gold stars: The gold star score threshold is now easier to achieve in Rock Band 2. No more cursing at impossible deploy paths!

    Monday, June 30, 2008

    ( Let there be Rock Band 2!


    My name is Dan Teasdale, and I'm the lead designer on Rock Band 2. Along with Sylvain Dubrofsky (senior designer) and Casey Malone (designer), we're the design team that's slaving over a hot keyboard to get Rock Band 2 into your hands very soon.

    Needless to say, we're really excited that we can finally talk about Rock Band 2. It's a true expansion of the platform, and a realisation of our goals to produce the most authentic band experience available.

    A lot of the changes that we've been working on are directly influenced by the wish list that you have all been posting to. As well as improving everything in Rock Band that we felt could be improved, we've introduced some exciting features that'll have people playing as bands with their music collection in fun and new ways. I'll be talking about these over the next few weeks.

    Naturally, all of your purchased Rock Band DLC will work in Rock Band 2, and all of your Rock Band instruments will still work (although you might want to buy the new instruments anyway when you see our improvements). We are totally committed to ensuring that Rock Band is a music platform that you can enjoy with friends for years to come, and not just another music game.

    Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be talking about life during development of RB2, as well as revealing some of the details to RB2 that get glossed over in press previews. If you have anything specifically that you have questions about, please post in the comments! I can't promise I'll be able to get my answers past the kind and friendly PR and Community team, but I'll do my best!


    Thursday, March 20, 2008

    State of the Band - Software Update Announcement

    Hi! I’m Dan T (HMXspraynwipe), and I’m a senior designer here at Harmonix. I’m glad to announce that the Rock Band team has finalized a software update for Rock Band on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 that not only fixes some of the common issues we’ve been reading about on, but also introduces a cool new feature!

    In this latest software update, you’ll find:

    [*] [B] (New!) Music Store[/B]: Rock Band now has a new feature that lets you preview and purchase songs from within the game! Accessible from the main menu, the Music Store lets you view, purchase and sort all available music based on various categories, view album art, listen to song previews, and check out extended information about the song like difficulty for each instrument.

    [*] [B]Revised Fan Caps[/B]: To allow Easy, Medium, and Hard players to progress further in the Band World Tour, we’ve increased the number of fans that you can earn before hitting the cap. Easy players can now travel across the Atlantic, Medium players have a wider range of venues they can play at, and Hard players on the Xbox 360 are now able to unlock the “One Million Fans” achievement.

    [*] [B]More diverse songs in Band World Tour[/B]: If you’ve ever cursed about having to play “Say it Ain’t So” or a Metallica track multiple times in the same hour, then you’ll be glad to know that we’ve tracked down and fixed the issues that triggered these very repetitive moments in Band World Tour.

    [*] [B] Improved phoneme recognition[/B]: We’ve improved the detection and scoring for phoneme recognition. If you had trouble on songs like “Timmy and the Lords of the Underworld” or “Blitzkrieg Bop”, you should have an easier time beating these songs now.

    [*] [B]Microphone Latency on PlayStation 3 improved[/B]: Our awesome team of audio programmers has found some optimizations that reduce microphone latency on the PlayStation 3 in certain situations.

    [*] [B]Xbox 360 Band Logos are now visible through Xbox LIVE[/B]: An issue with parental controls stopped band logos from being visible over Xbox LIVE. With this update, you can now view all of the awesome band logos that people around the world have created!

    [*] [B]Faster loading of downloadable content[/B]: Not only is the loading speed faster, but this information is now cached so that this loading time is a “once only” wait rather than something that happens every time you turn on the game.

    Updating any game is something that takes a lot of effort to do – not only do engineers, artists, production and designers all have to be involved at some point, but each change has to go through a rigorous Quality Assurance pass to make sure that it doesn’t introduce any new issues (like corrupting old save data, for example). After we’re happy with the software update, we then pass it on to Microsoft and Sony, who each have their own rigorous testing and certification processes. The entire process can take months for a simple day’s worth of fixing!

    Because of this, we’re very aware that there are features that the community has requested that aren’t addressed in this software update. I want to make it very clear that we’re listening to all of your requests, and actively want to get these features onto the Rock Band platform in the future – but when we do add them, we also want them to be 100% perfect, and not rushed just to make it into any specific software update.

    Lastly, and most importantly, thanks for being an awesome community! There are changes in this software update that wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the well-reasoned and polite attitude that most of the members on have, and I’m really proud not only of the work that we’ve put into Rock Band, but also of the work that HMXSean, HMXJohnlok, Apples, and the rest of the team have put in to maintain this great place for Rock Band fans to hang out in.

    Have fun!