Guitar Hero III Aspyr-ing on PC, Mac

Associate producer Chance Copeland talks about the two new platforms recently added to RedOctane and Activision's setlist for GHIII.

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Belying its humble roots as a Kentia Hall diamond at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo, the Guitar Hero franchise has grown to become a pop-cultural juggernaut. That's in part due to the ever-growing reach of the game, which expanded onto the Xbox 360 with Guitar Hero II. For the third iteration in the series, RedOctane and Activision have already planned on doubling the number of platforms the series will appear on, with versions for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, and Wii having already been announced. (A Nintendo DS Guitar Hero game is also planned.)

Today, Aspyr Media announced a partnership with Activision and RedOctane to bring Guitar Hero III to two more platforms: the PC and Mac. While Tony Hawk studio Neversoft handles the console versions of Guitar Hero III, Aspyr will be independently developing and producing the two new editions of the game. However, the two new platforms will feature an experience similar to that described in GameSpot's coverage of the console versions, including more than 70 songs in its setlist as well as online multiplayer modes. Rated T for Teen, the PC and Mac versions of Guitar Hero III will be available this fall.

We had a chance to speak with Chance Copeland, associate producer for Aspyr Media, at this year's Austin Game Developers Conference to get more details on Guitar Hero III for the PC and Mac.

GameSpot: Tell us why Aspyr decided to make PC and Mac ports of Guitar Hero III. After all, isn't this the kind of game that's best played in the living room?

Chance Copeland: Currently, the music-game genre has very little representation on the PC and Mac platforms, and we think it's past time someone blew that wide open with a powerful franchise like Guitar Hero. Another concept we're trying to transmit to gamers is the idea of "Guitar Hero on the go." Take your laptop with you in the car or on an airplane, put on your headphones, and rock all you want using one of our keyboard configurations for the game. Consoles just aren't travel-friendly the way a good laptop is.

And I'd also like to point out that more and more people are integrating PCs into their primary entertainment system, so playing Guitar Hero III PC in your living room isn't hard to imagine.

GS: Give us an overview of what we can expect from Guitar Hero III for the PC and Mac.

CC: We'll assume that the majority of your PC gaming readers are familiar with the Guitar Hero franchise. With Guitar Hero III, the idea was to make incremental improvements that would make the gameplay better and provide an experience that gives the closest feel to playing a real guitar, without actually playing a real guitar, ever. Hammer-on and pull-off functionality has been improved. The timing window for hitting notes has also been increased slightly so there are fewer clinks when notes are missed by the smallest fractions of a second.

Of course, the one thing most people will notice is that the game looks incredible. The new engine created by Neversoft makes everything pop with tremendous detail, and this time around you'll notice that the drummer, bassist, and singer's lip-synching all match the song that is being performed. The new venues are stunning, crazy to watch, and all react uniquely and in real time to the song that is being performed.

And of course we have to talk about the music. Guitar Hero III's setlist features more master tracks than the previous iterations--more than 70 percent, in fact. These master tracks make a huge difference, and gamers will notice right off the bat when they are playing along with Metallica, the Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, or any of the other legendary acts. The songs are a great sample of almost every era of rock and are a fantastic mix of genres.

Finally, let's not forget online play, the new boss battles, and guitar battle mode. There will be so much rocking to do, gamers won't know what to do with themselves.

GS: Will the two new versions have their own unique guitar model?

CC: The PC version of Guitar Hero III will ship with a USB Guitar Hero guitar controller. We'll be able to talk more about the exact model soon.

GS: Will the game's content be essentially identical to that of the console versions? All the songs intact, for instance? Assuming Guitar Hero III for the Xbox 360 is later supplemented with downloadable songs via Xbox Live Marketplace, how will the PC/Mac versions "keep up" with content updates?

CC: We're certainly dedicated to making sure PC/Mac gamers get just as much content as the console crowd. From launch, the songs available will be identical. As for matching Xbox Live's extended content, we're exploring a few different delivery methods to access downloadable tracks for our PC/Mac guitar heroes and keep them rocking in step with console players. Stay tuned for more on that.

GS: Is there any chance of exclusive content for the PC and Mac versions, such as new or different songs?

CC: That's the first thing we started talking about internally when we got brought into the Guitar Hero family. But for now, we are only focused on delivering the absolute best PC/Mac version of Guitar Hero III possible. Including exclusive content in our version is still a very exciting idea, and something we hope to look at more once we get the game on shelves.

GS: How, if at all, will players be able to use a traditional Guitar Hero controller? For instance, will they be able to use the Xbox 360 guitar controller with a USB adapter? Are any other considerations for control schemes being made for the PC and Mac? How will people who don't own a guitar controller play the game...with their keyboard and mouse, perhaps?

CC: A USB Guitar Hero guitar controller will be included with the game, and the title will work with any USB Guitar Hero guitar controller.

Since this is a PC title, we have of course created some fun and creative keyboard and keyboard/mouse configurations. We'll have a keyboard/mouse configuration and a keyboard-only configuration as presets, but players will also have the options of binding their own keys for gameplay.

Having so much flexibility with the keyboard and keyboard/mouse lets gamers play however they would like. It also allows players to take Guitar Hero III "to go" on their laptops and play in cars, on planes, at that boring relative's house during the holidays, or wherever. In addition, it makes two-player gaming on the same PC possible if there is only one guitar controller available.

GS: Could you tell us about what plans you have for the game's multiplayer? Will it support local network play? Will the game use a third-party application for online play, or possibly Microsoft's Live Anywhere technology?

CC: For online play, we are using Demonware's networking technology. Since multiplayer features two players competing on the same screen, we didn't think a local network play option would be essential.

GS: One of the most well-known and popular advantages of the PC and Mac as game platforms is how malleable the games end up, given that enthusiastic fans create modifications and custom content to extend the life of their favorite games. Are there any plans to build in any tools to let players get creative with the PC or Mac version? Any concerns that enthusiasts might get a little too creative with the game's content, such as using the game to distribute unlicensed songs online, or posting gameplay videos with unlicensed songs to the Internet?

CC: As gamers ourselves, and a company that has roots in the Mac and PC market, we appreciate the incredible skill and creativity that gamers display when digging around inside certain titles. But right now, our only focus is porting Guitar Hero III to the PC and Mac and making sure that both meet the standards of high quality set by the franchise. We are not building any tools into the game that will allow users to mod or create tracks, and we definitely do not support any altering of the game or the songs contained within.

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