Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Postmortem Q&A

We talk to Alan Flores, the lead designer of Legends of Rock, about his thoughts on the game and what the future holds for Guitar Hero.

Released in October of last year, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock introduced a number of new features to the popular series and did a good job of catering to newcomers and experienced shredders alike. Nevertheless, developers are perfectionists and are rarely 100 percent satisfied when putting their names on a game. For example, during a recent interview with Alan Flores, we learned that the lead designer of Legends of Rock (that's him) would've liked more time to work on the game before it was released. We also learned that he has some ambitious plans for the next Guitar Hero game.

GameSpot: Neversoft had only a year to whip a new Guitar Hero sequel together. Looking back at that year, what about the game are you most happy with, and more importantly, what would you have done differently?

Alan Flores: Yeah, it was a whirlwind year. We were really excited to work on Guitar Hero, as we all loved and played the games quite a bit. I think I'm most happy that we made a game that is introducing new people to video games. I hear tons of stories about people who say stuff like "My wife (or girlfriend) never plays video games, but she picked up Guitar Hero III, and now she won't put the guitar down." It's a pretty cool feeling.

I do wish we had a bit more time to tune and polish the game. However, we are really proud of what we did with Guitar Hero III, but of course with any game you make, there are a lot of things you think about doing differently after you're done. But that just allows us to include those ideas and innovations into the next one...

Tougher difficulty levels are best avoided if you're new to the series.

GS: How did the team scale the difficulty of the game compared to the previous ones? How do you answer claims that Guitar Hero III is significantly harder than previous installments and perhaps too hard for some newcomers? Is the series catering to its diehard fan base now?

AF: We tried our best to have a nice, smooth linear ramp for the difficulty levels. That's much easier said than done, especially given the accelerated development schedule. But we did focus-test the heck out of the game and tried to integrate the focus testers' feedback as best we could. Personally, I do feel the game is a bit too hard. It does seem that some of the songs in the end are punishingly hard to finish. However, the game is still quite accessible on the easy and medium difficulties, and that's where the majority of the players reside. Now that we have one Guitar Hero game under our belt, we will continually try to improve the gaming experience for all of our fans.

GS: What do you need to do to keep Guitar Hero's core gameplay from stagnating? What will we see in the next Guitar Hero that will keep it fresh?

AF: We really do want to keep the integrity of the core gameplay, but there are a couple of areas where we are going to innovate: music, gameplay, and hardware.

On the music front, we are getting calls from major bands about wanting to be a part of the Guitar Hero phenomenon. Of course, we can't really talk about that right now, but I think people will be stoked with the music we have coming this year. I hear lots of people saying things like "Hey, I really want to see band X or band Y in there." And now, due to the success of the franchise, you're probably going to see band X, band Y, or maybe both in the game.

On the gameplay side, combined with the hardware innovations we're working on, I think people will see that there's more to Guitar Hero than pressing buttons at the right time. We can't wait to show everyone the cool new features we've been working on since before GHIII shipped. We can also add lots of little things to make the guitar playing feel more like you're playing guitar.

Neversoft was one of the first developers to really embrace user-generated content way back in the good old days of the PlayStation 2. Fast-forward to 2008 and the next Guitar Hero... We are investigating the notion that the experience is not just about playing popular songs, but letting people create their own music. We can't go into specifics right now, but creating, recording, and sharing music--all within the game--is a big opportunity to reinvent the Guitar Hero experience.

GS: Your competition has delivered two more instruments--vocals and drums--which are distinctly different from the guitar and bass. How do you plan to keep pace? Will we finally see the infamous Drum Hero surface in the near future? Can we expect various Hero games to tie into each other?

AF: Our goal at Neversoft is to continue to make the best game possible. People have been speculating that we're going to add drums and vocals for some time now, and the infamous Drum Hero/Villain rumors have been going around. RedOctane has been working with a pioneer in the music game genre for a couple of years. He made the first arcade game using a drum controller. So, if we were ever going to make a drum controller, his input would be instrumental in delivering a kicka** drum experience and a quality product.

GS: Has the more aggressive pricing and release schedule of Rock Band's downloadable content (DLC) made you rethink your own stance on DLC?

AF: Well, we focused more on delivering songs to the player on the disk. We shipped with significantly more songs because we made that our focus. I suppose we could have held some content back and then delivered it via DLC at an additional price. But why? We figured it was better for fans to get it on the disk so everyone, even Wii and PS2 players, could enjoy them.

As for the pricing...as a developer, we don't really have control over that. But I will say this, since Guitar Hero III has released, we've released a number of songs for free. Cool stuff like the Halo theme on Thanksgiving and "We Three Kings" on Christmas. We don't have to give stuff away for free. We're just doing it because it's cool. It's a way to give back to our fans. The fans helped make Guitar Hero III a huge success, so we're going to continue to deliver cool free stuff as a way to say thanks. And on this President's Day weekend, we're giving away Aerosmith's "Dream On" for free!

The availability of new guitars won't render your existing hardware redundant.

GS: We've heard plenty of rumors about songs appearing on the next Guitar Hero tracklist, entirely new band-themed Guitar Hero installments, and even a DS-based portable Guitar Hero. What's the Guitar Hero road map for 2008? Will there be multiple products this year? Can we expect any new hardware iterations?

AF: Yeah, there will be multiple products. Our goal this year for the Guitar Hero franchise is to bring more great music and amazing bands to fans and to give new ways to experience this game. Today, we just announced Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, which we are really excited about. We believe that superstar bands, like Aerosmith, are just one way that we can redefine the Guitar Hero experience.

In terms of new hardware iterations, we continue to focus on setting the bar for innovation and quality, and continue making the best equipment out there. We want to make sure that advancing the guitar hardware allows people who bought a guitar with a previous game to still use it to enjoy the next game.

GS: What band represents the "holy grail" of the Guitar Hero franchise--the one act you'd stop at nothing to include? Will we finally see some of the most oft-requested acts (for example, Zeppelin, AC/DC) showing up in upcoming installments?

AF: Well, we had this idea for the end of Guitar Hero III where you play the Top Gun theme by Harold Faltermeyer over the credits. But we weren't able to clear the song... All kidding aside, first as a fan of the game, and now as someone who has an opportunity to work on it, I'd love to see epic bands like Zeppelin and AC/DC in the game. And, there are also lots of other great acts that have yet to appear; bands like The Doors, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, the list goes on forever. I've got a feeling that you'll see some of those guys in the next game.

GS: Thanks for your time.

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Discussion

108 comments
realmadrid92
realmadrid92

nioce i have both but rock bands got it beat in almost every catagory except difficulty ( Fire and Flames exp)

carlogz
carlogz

localhobo, do you have a 360? because you can just import if you have a ps3 :D

localhobo
localhobo

When the hell is Rock Band coming out in the UK, and how comes it's taking so long to be released over here even though it's been out in America for ages.

Edman1
Edman1

Ok, obviously the convo has turned into another flame war over Rock Band and Guitar Hero, so I'll make this quick: Rock Band is probally the best game released for Rhythm games so far, I will admit that, but it seems from what the guy from Neversoft (Or Activision, I don't really care), this is sounding like an attempt to pull the carpet from under Rock Band's throne and getting back on top, and it might work if executed properly too. So If Guitar Hero has the innovation and can add more features to the next Guitar Hero, maybe even adding something that Rock Band DOSEN'T have (So far, in the form of AC/DC and Led Zepplin, from what we know so far) and build on the Guitar controller too. They already have a crack in the armour for Rock Band, and that is its Guitar Controller (Although that could just be me talking), its just a matter of exploiting it and using that fact to their advantage. Thats the only way I can see Guitar Hero toppling Rock Band, but, like it or not, they're going to have to do a hell of a job too

Beatle2010
Beatle2010

QUOTE: Fuzzen "Guitar Hero 3 ROCKS, one of the best games I ever played. It doesn`t look like Rock Band has the Guitar Hero quality." Obviously this guy has no idea what he's talking about. Rock Band = Guitar Hero if you choose to play a solo career. You play guitar straight up by unlocking songs in sets of 5 at a time just like GH. Only in Rock Band you can also play a solo drum career and a solo singing career. That adds A LOT of depth to the game. Guitar Hero simply can't match that! Not to mention that you get to create your own character(s) rather than choose from... what... 8 different characters in GH3? Oh yeah... and you can actually play as a full 4-person group in Rock Band where you get to create your own set lists and tour all over the world earning more fans and more money that you can use to buy new instraments and new clothes. How many people can you play with in Guitar Hero? Two. That pretty much proves that Rock Band is TWICE the game that Guitar Hero is!

Rually
Rually

I've never owned any of the GH games. I was about to buy GH3, but then Rock Band hit the shelves. I've yet to decide which one to get. I like Rock Band's song lists more, so I'm leaning towards it.

Blazius2
Blazius2

Man I've never bought any guitar hero games but i've played em all and enjoyed them. However, if they get some floyd and zeppelin, and throw in gimme shelter by the rolling stones, there's no doubt i'll buy the next one.

z3dd1cu5
z3dd1cu5

After getting Rock Band I'm finding it very difficult to go back to Guitar Hero III. Rock Band is just all around better.

oshaun123
oshaun123

yeah this series definitely needs some floyd and maybe some ARCH ENEMY, personally i think there just needs to be a european metal version of guitar hero with bands like in flames, bullet for my valentine, ARCH ENEMY, meshuggah, and more dragonforce.

Fuzzen
Fuzzen

Guitar Hero 3 ROCKS, one of the best games I ever played. It doesn`t look like Rock Band has the Guitar Hero quality.

powerframe8
powerframe8

"and what are you going to do when no one wants to play with you? That's right, you'll play GH3." Ya. when im not playing rockband with friends, im playing rockband alone. Like the drums. And the guitar? I see no point in buying guitar hero when rockband gives you so much more. And BS about the pricing. Its 70 bucks more for a better guitar (in my opinion), drums and a mic. Plus the songs on rockband are pretty good.

edub272
edub272

I want floyd, zepp, doors, acdc, hendrix, the who, and the beatles all in the next game. Is that too much to ask? haha

joshneff
joshneff

Post-mortem is the correct term for this kind of thing, don't try to argue with me about it, argue with a standard industry term. Also, Neversoft- you guys are idiots if you believe your ideas on DLC are even remotely desired by anyone playing your games. Come on, why are you trying to get around an issue?

xTalkative_Mime
xTalkative_Mime

Not for me! I play hard no problem. There is still some songs that I can't play on expert, but hey do we want it like rock band, where everyone can play expert out of the box? No. We want something to keep working at or else the game will get boring quick.

FraserAlexander
FraserAlexander

the jump from med. to hard has always been too big, even when harmonix was developing.

Lord_Midas
Lord_Midas

GH3 is great but hard. Even on Medium i'm all fingers and fingers! maybe it's because i'm getting old or something. Rock Band hasn't made GH3 a footnote Killer2401, because not everyone want's to spend masses of money on a game and a load of peripherals that are difficult to store. and what are you going to do when no one wants to play with you? That's right, you'll play GH3.

fallensymbols
fallensymbols

Quote: "AF: Well, we focused more on delivering songs to the player on the disk. We shipped with significantly more songs because we made that our focus. I suppose we could have held some content back and then delivered it via DLC at an additional price. But why? We figured it was better for fans to get it on the disk so everyone, even Wii and PS2 players, could enjoy them. " Yeah buddy, all the GH3 songs are cover songs, where rock band they're almost all originals. How does that affect pricing? Nice try though to change the subject on the question: "why is GH DLC so expensive?"

diddyj
diddyj

Guitar hero 3 was good...not great. So i think that all the improvements they are already working on for the next game are going to set the next guitar hero above any other game out.. plus, people are complaining how hard the game is, (on expert) the only song that is even close to hard is TTFAF; but only because of the intro. So i'd like to see them improve the difficulty of the game.. Can't wait for the next installment!

davedouble16
davedouble16

"Post Mortem" isn't really the right title to use, after all GHIII isn't exactly dead yet. Far from it.

Elkoman
Elkoman

post mortem means anything that comes after death

einsteinking314
einsteinking314

hopefully, they will eventually get led zeppelin in the mix, in the form of a free DLC pack of course. I already paid for the game, I don't want to pay for even more stuff, for my addictions.

LedZeppelin1234
LedZeppelin1234

I know how Led Zeppelin songs are hard to get. It took a video to get the Immagrant Song into the School of Rock, but if a movie that hasn't been in a series of movies can get them then why not an extremely successful video game that it is all about rock get them. All I'm saying is that Guitar Hero is about Rock, and how can you have a game about rock without Led Zeppelin.

WizzyKid
WizzyKid

What does "Post Mortem" mean? I've seen it used in a number of interviews.

stofio
stofio

I'm glad they're keeping strong with guitar hero. I hate rock band as the only difficult thing about the guitar songs is using the guitar they gave you, and i want to see more of the strong ending songs. who cares if there hard i dont here anybody bragging about five staring any of the first tier songs.

Killer2401
Killer2401

Rock Band has made GH look like a foot note in music gaming. Still, GH for DS looks really cool, I just hope that they can add a guitar attachment.

psycomantis_32
psycomantis_32

Please guitar hero gods, please put Tool in the game!

Coolvetica
Coolvetica

This was a great read. Many hints towards what we could expect from the next GH installment. As for the hardware, i wouldn't be the least surprised if they introduce a new guitar controller with "actual" strings as the method of input; that would be super sweet.

DZBricktop
DZBricktop

Is this an interview or an advertisement?

NintendoWarrior
NintendoWarrior

I think people focus too much on the highest 2 tier lists, as theyre the worst part of the game. Also not only do Rock Band and GH2 not have free DLC, but they're also really fun

Generic_Dude
Generic_Dude

Paul_TheGreat: ...and killing it as well. It's abundantly clear to me that all of the talent behind the first two Guitar Hero games jumped ship and made the Rock Band game. I particularly like the snipe he makes at Rock Band about how they held back content and how Wii and PS2 users are getting screwed. Maybe it's because they didn't recoup costs by making the game a giant deodorant advertisement, or because they just decided to include much better songs?

xlxhalo2
xlxhalo2

They should have more metallica on GH. Metallica is god.

w4rgasm
w4rgasm

sweet. free aerosmith

ibanezdropd
ibanezdropd

i love the free downloads they are awesome. so much more than anything that GH 2 DLC ever had

mecabreraus
mecabreraus

It would be cool if they put at least one Iron Maiden song as DLC. Im a noob with this game , just started playing last saturday and I have to say that it really rocks.

snoopy248
snoopy248

I'm glad they don't feel like they're finished. They always want to add more, and that's what is going to keep Guitar Hero rocking. (No pun intended)

Rockingtime75
Rockingtime75

"Personally, I do feel the game is a bit too hard. " I hope they don't tone down IV, I loved the difficulty of III which is why I play it more than II.

dukebd699
dukebd699

Led Zeppelin416 I would rather have a Aerosmith GH then release their songs DLC because if you take how much DLC costs and then calculate how many songs there are in GH3 if GH3 had just been DLC for GH2 the songs would've cost over 150 dollars and thats without the new features graphics guitar etc..

sgtzim
sgtzim

jon_wolfy: The detachable neck is the sole reason why so many GH3 guitars have been returned for replacements. The connection between the neck and base isn't very snug, causing issues like buttons not registering or the wrong button registering due to the metal pins not touching the connectors firmly.

LedZeppelin416
LedZeppelin416

anyone else feel like GH is going to be the next tony hawk series with a game being released every year? look at GH: aerosmith. wtf is up with that? why not just release their songs in a DLC pack? i have a feeling this series is going to be stuck in the ground for a long time.

liketv
liketv

What they should do is ask the fans what songs should be in the game.

liketv
liketv

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

d_ano
d_ano

free dlc??? thats only half true and not fair. the free dlc was only for the us and it wont work on an eu console

XBadNewsX
XBadNewsX

sgtzim: What's wrong with the detachable neck of the guitar. It makes carrying it around and storage so much easier.

Mush_Mouth
Mush_Mouth

oh yeah, great DLC like the Halo theme...because you know, there were tons of times that I was playing GH III and thought to myself "you know what I'd really love to play on here, is the Halo theme or We Three Kings..." At least Rock Band releases music made by actual rock bands and not some hired game dev's string ensemble, or a 2000 year old song meant to honor the birth of Christ, and not be meant to rock out to. "It's a way to give back to our fans." - well crap, what the heck did we do to deserve that!? it's like giving a child an apple in their treat bag at halloween without telling them there's a razor blade inside.

simonromano2007
simonromano2007

i hope more songs from the who, acdc, guns and roses, jet, the rolling stones, the clash and boston appear in guitar hero 4

sgtzim
sgtzim

cow_hammer: The title of the article isn't misleading at all. A Post Mortem is a term used for an internal meeting some companies have at the completion of a project. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss how the project went, what the biggest chalenges were, and what lessons were learned that can be applied to future projects. In the case of GH3, the topic of the crappily made guitars would come up. They'd find out who came up with the detachable neck idea and they'd throw him out the window.