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