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Dance Central

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I was both excited and scared when I learned Harmonix would be swinging by the studio last week to show off some of Dance Central 3's new Story mode. Excited at the prospect of upholding my reign of internet humiliation...

Preview: Dance Central 3 WILL teach you how to Dougie

Aug 21 // Abel Girmay
Dance Central 3 (Xbox 360)Developer: HarmonixPublisher: MicrosoftRelease: October 16, 2012 New to this year's game is the inclusion of a story mode. Yes, a story mode. The plot follows you as you attempt to join the ranks of the Dance Central Intelligence (DCI). You see, the evil mad scientist Dr. Tan has been building an army of evil dancers and sending them through time warps in order to learn the dance crazes of each decade in an attempt to use those moves in the ultimate dance off that will forever stop the party. Being the super saver defender of all dancing crime that you are, you will go back in time as a DCI agent to learn all the dance crazes dating back to the '70s and combat Dr. Tan to make sure the party never stops. If it's not already clear, the story is balls-to-walls insane and not at all taking itself seriously. As a means to move you along the main campaign mode, it isn't really needed, but it lays the cheesiness on so thick that you can't help but give in and crack a smile or two. More than just serving as a crazy plot point, time travel brings with it a few key changes to Dance Central 3. The biggest, of course, is the addition of dance moves from the 1970s onward. Your main task, apart from high scores, is to find five dance moves hidden within the routines that you will be performing through the decades. Once you nail each routine in a given decade, you decipher then perform the completed dance craze -- in our 1970s demo, for example, we unlocked the Hustle. Perform it correctly, then its on to the new decade. Story mode is all fun and well, but the crux of the Dance Central experience has always been its multiplayer modes. The first mode shown off was a interesting twist on the traditional Dance Central experience, called Strike a Pose. As the name suggests, Strike a Pose has players striking individual poses in a routine rather than performing a full dance move. So instead of actually dancing, you would just hold a pose for a few seconds at a time. An interesting addition, to be sure, but a welcome one for those with two left feet. If you suck at Dance Central (like Dtoid's very own Max Scoville and Tara Long proved during their time with it), Strike a Pose is a great way to get acquainted with exact positioning. Of course, if you just want say "to hell with learning choreographed dances" and instead create your own, you now have that option in the Make Your Move mode. As obvious a title as "Strike a Pose," Make Your Move gives players the chance to flex a bit of their creative muscles and hopefully make their friends look like an ass in the process. In this versus mode, players take turns adding new steps to a routine while the others must match the additional steps. When a total of five steps have been created, the game mashes them up into one routine that both of you perform together. While the main purpose of this mode seems to be to encourage creativity, what struck the most was the back-and-forth dynamic. With both players making their own moves for the other the match, it feels about as close to a dance battle as we've seen in the series so far. The final party mode shown off was also aptly named: Party Time. Party Time is built as a customizable experience -- the default mode when playing Dance Central 3 in an actual party environment. You start by simply having two players walking into Kinect's field of view and high fiving each other to start a match. From there, the game throws various modes and songs from a preset playlist, which can be customized beforehand in the options menu. The best thing about Party Time is its accessibility. Being tailored to a party environment, it's a seamless experience to walk in, play a song or two, and back out until the next pair of would be b-boys step up and high five.  Simply put, if you have played and enjoyed any game in the Dance Central series, there is plenty here to be excited about. And of course, you will be able to import all the songs and from the first two games as well as the DLC tracks. Haters gonna keep hatin', as there may not be anything to win you lot over, but if your Kinect has been getting little love lately, Dance Central 3 could be just what you need to put that spark back in the romance.
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With a mostly sorry launch lineup, Kinect's first-year appeal came almost entirely from Dance Central. Since then, it too often feels like this series is solely providing the legs for Microsoft's motion platform. Less than a ...

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Dance Central 3: Release date, new tracks unveiled


Jul 23
// Dale North
Do you like to dance in front of a robotic eye bar in your living room? The best way to do that is with the Dance Central series, and it looks like Dance Central 3 will top its predecessors with a story mode and several hot t...
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As co-host of The Destructoid Show, I consider it my prerogative - nay, my mission - to embarrass myself on a near daily basis. It's not something I typically take issue with, as long as I can say that at the end of the day,...

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Dance Central 2 Facebook app lets you track your scores


Feb 03
// Dale North
The new Dance Central 2 Facebook app lets you check your high scores, compare leaderboard rankings and see how you stack up against your friends (or the world) on individual songs. Go here, get the app, link your gamertag, an...
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Dance Central 2's February DLC lineup: Cee-Lo, LMFAO


Jan 30
// Jason Cabral
Whether you're a part of the old school or the new, fresh beats are always something to get excited about. Harmonix has just announced their new tracks for Dance Central 2, kicking it off with Cee-Lo Green's "Forget...
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Dance Central Dance*Cam is available now for free


Jan 20
// Brett Zeidler
As if dancing in front of a camera in the comfort of your own home didn't make you look silly enough already, Harmonix has released an app for iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices today to take the humiliation to the next ...
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Ne-Yo's 'Closer' is coming to Dance Central 2 tomorrow


Jan 09
// Brett Zeidler
Been getting enough of the dance game craze yet? Well, I'm sure some of you out there aren't because the dancing games are still selling like crazy. As a result, new DLC is on the way for Dance Central 2 tomorrow and this tim...
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More Lady Gaga coming to Dance Central 2 tomorrow


Nov 21
// Conrad Zimmerman
More Dance Central 2 DLC is on the horizon and tomorrow's bounty brings more Lady Gaga tunes to shake your groove thing to. "Edge of Glory" and "Marry the Night" from her recent album Born this Way will be available for...
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Update: This contest ends tonight!  Good luck! News-wise, people are going nuts for Modern Warfare 3, Skyrim's got a bitchin' soundtrack, Sony's cutting down on game sharing, and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Patriots got a...

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Getting jiggy with Dance Central's Marathon Pack 01


Nov 05
// Maurice Tan
Today is the last day the entire Dance Central DLC song catalogue is on sale so if you completely forgot about it, but still want that sweet DLC, you better get on it fast. The thing with these DLC songs is that even if you l...
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Dance Central DLC catalog discounted for Kinect birthday


Oct 24
// Dale North
It's Kinect's birthday! I...I didn't get him anything. My week got so busy -- you know how it is.  There is some kind of celebration going on, though. Dance Central's entire song catalog has been discounted on XBLA. Son...

Review: Dance Central 2

Oct 21 // Dale North
Dance Central 2 (Xbox 360)Developer: Harmonix Music SystemsPublisher: MicrosoftReleased: October 25, 2011MSRP: $49.99 Harmonix knew they had a good thing going with their Kinect showcase title, Dance Central, so they didn't mess with the core game formula much for the sequel. You still follow the moves of an on-screen dancer, trying your best to keep up with a dance routine created for each of the game's songs. For the sequel they've improved the technology, added more options and modes, and then topped it off with some great new tracks. With this, again, they've become the premier showcase for Microsoft's Kinect technology. Once again, a Dance Central title is the good Kinect game. Just like the first time around, Dance Central 2 has you shaking your stuff in front of Microsoft's Kinect sensor. The star with this franchise is some really accurate in-game body-seeing technology. Other dance games have you simply mirroring on-screen dancers, and they're light on feedback as they can't really "see" what you're doing. DC and DC2 actually see your body and limbs and can accurately see how well you're matching the on-screen dancing. This tech is powerful enough that I feel that sometimes it sees my moves too well, so much so that I want to ask the game to cut me some slack via a voice command. Maybe they'll put that into Dance Central 3.  The instructional Break It Down mode of Dance Central 2 had me moving in ways I never thought I would. Looking at this mode's feature set, it's clear that Harmonix really thought about the beginner. Players are now able to pick individual moves to learn. You can select exactly what you'd like to learn or spend more time on now, skipping over the easier moves of each routine. Voice control lets you re-run segments you didn't quite get the first time around, or cue up a highly embarrassing live video feed that shows you dancing along with the on-screen dancer. When I flubbed a move, the game told me so, and made me do it again. When I really didn't get it, I loved being able to tell the game to slow down the move with a voice command. After a few days with Dance Central 2, I'm convinced that its Break It Down mode could teach anyone at least a few dance moves. I liked that I could turn on a fitness tracker to give me a rough idea of how many calories I burned in each session. It was always amusing to finish a dance exhausted, panting and sweating, only to see a low number of calories burned pop up. If you're the type that wants to push even further, Dance Central 2's fitness-focused playlists will give you a solid cardio workout.  The career mode is called Crew Challenge. It's really just a way to move through the song list, as there's not much of a story. It's still fun to move your way up through dance crews by working through songs of steadily increasing difficulty. Beginners like myself will do well to preface each dance off with a run through Break It Down. By doing so, I was able to steadily move up the ranks with no issue.  The other big change with this sequel is the cooperative play. It was hard to find someone to dance with me in the game's two-player Battle Mode, but when I finally did, I felt pretty good about myself, as I had been practicing. Two-player dancing is a blast, especially when it comes to dance off sections where one player watches the other dance it up to catch up. When you're up, expect to be heckled. New free segments during a battle let each player try to catch up by spamming one of the prompted moves. My moves were never to the point of being smooth, but with the time I spent with Break It Down mode, I was able to make my opponent look silly in comparison. Drop in/drop out is also supported for a second player, meaning all songs are open for joining at any point.  Dance Central 2's almost 50 songs are all appropriately dance-y. There's something here for everybody, with plenty of modern hits from the likes of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and others. I was especially impressed with the nod to J-pop fans with the inclusion Exile's "I Wish." Even with the slick playlist and the ability to import all of the first game's tracks, I kept coming back to two songs: Digital Underground's "The Humpty Dance" and Montel Jordan's '90s party hit "This is How We Do It." Have I dated myself? Don't laugh. Again, Dance Central 2 is the best game you can get for Microsoft's Kinect device. You won't find a game with better body tracking tech, and that brings Dance Central 2 far above its peers. The first game set a new high bar for dancing titles, but this one adds solid multiplayer, a career mode, great new songs, and a deep instructional mode that can even teach a lanky games blogger some moves. Do you have a Kinect unit and want to move? Get Dance Central 2 -- you won't find a better dancing game.
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I'm not a dancer. At all. I dance about as well as you'd expect someone that blogs about games for a living to. That said, recently I've seen more and more of my peers dancing at events and other industry functions, and I've ...

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Dance Central 2: Demo today, song list announced


Oct 18
// Dale North
Are your feet already twitching for Dance Central 2's October 25 release? Then you should check out the full-featured demo, dropping today on Xbox 360. You'll get to try out Dance Battle, voice commands, a new Break It D...
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The Glitterati gets an attitude in Dance Central 2


Oct 03
// Liam Fisher
If you're a Kinect owner, odds are you own Dance Central. After all, it is, arguably, the best piece of software for the device by a mile. Harmonix did a wonderful job of bringing the well-traveled dance  genre to Kinec...
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Dance Central 2 nabs 'The Humpty Dance,' more


Aug 29
// Jordan Devore
A handful of new tracks were announced for Dance Central 2 during the PAX Prime festivities. As it turns out, developers, your dance game only needs to reference Humpty Hump to get us to write about it. We go through a checkl...
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Dance Central 2 dated October 25, new trailer and screens


Aug 16
// Dale North
[Update: We had originally reported Dance Central 2 would be launching on October 21, and while that's true for Asia and Europe, folks in North America will have to wait until October 25. Sorry for the confusion.] The headli...
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Dance Central DLC: James Brown, Lloyd and Sean Paul


Aug 11
// Maurice Tan
Three new songs for Dance Central are hitting Xbox Live on August 16th, with the common theme being "Songs that start with 'Get'" this time around. I thought James Brown was dead, but later on it turned out he was still alive...
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Dance Central DLC is only gonna break break your heart


Jul 18
// Maurice Tan
Now listen to me baby, oh oh-oh! There's new songs for Dance Central, oh oh-oh! They're out to-morrow, oh oh-oh! You might not really care much, oh oh-oh! Here's what's on offer: Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force &...
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Dance Central 2: The Hamza edition


Jun 16
// Hollie Bennett
I love Kinect even if I do only use it for impressing my Mum and playing lots of Dance Central. So what else do you do when you see the Dance Central 2 booth at E3? You grab the most metrosexual guy on staff and play Usher. 
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E3: Dance Central 2 is an on-rails dancer


Jun 06
// Jim Sterling
Dance Central 2 has been officially announced with voice control additions and simultaneous multiplayer dancing. With all songs from the original being imported, the game will boast over 100 songs at launch, which Harmonix sa...
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E3: Halo 4, Halo HD, Dance Central 2, and more official


Jun 06
// Nick Chester
A few hours ahead of its E3 press conference, Microsoft has leaked the existence of some of its biggest announcement. Earlier, Xbox.com updated very briefly with a mention of Halo 4 and the rumored high definition update of H...
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E3: The rubbish MS will announce for Xbox 360


Jun 04
// Jim Sterling
Microsoft has been pretty quiet in the run to E3, and it was speculated (by me) that we'd get a lame press conference from the Xbox 360 maker, for the third straight year. According to the list of games it's due to announce, ...
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Rejoice, 'Wild Thing' comes to Dance Central this week


Apr 18
// Nick Chester
Every game should, somewhere, have Tone Lōc's "Wild Thing" in it. This goes for Mortal Kombat, Portal 2, and whatever Quantum Dream's next game is. But I guess Dance Central will have to do for now. Tone Lōc &ndash...
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Dance Central character sketchbook: A robot, a ninja


Mar 30
// Nick Chester
[Recently, Dance Central developer Harmonix Music Systems was cool enough to give us a sneak peek behind the curtain of its artist’s workshop. Over the course of the past few weeks, we've been taking a closer look at th...
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Dance Central character sketchbook: Oblio and Dare


Mar 16
// Nick Chester
[Recently, Dance Central developer Harmonix Music Systems was cool enough to give us a sneak peek behind the curtain of its artist’s workshop. In the coming weeks, we’ll be getting a closer look at the game&r...
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Dance Central DLC: Fatboy Slim, Paula Abdul, more


Mar 14
// Nick Chester
If you're lost in a dream and don't know which way to go, a good start might be downloading tomorrow's new Dance Central downloadable content. Fatboy Slim - "Weapon of Choice" Gwen Stefani - "Hollaback Girl" Keri Hilson - "T...

Dance Central character sketchbook: MacCoy and Taye

Mar 02 // Nick Chester
MacCoy’s slightly odd look falls right in with the design team’s notion of there not being one "look" for dancers; diversity in aesthetic is as important as the moves and dance moves found in the game. The clean, almost preppy outfits of MacCoy drive home that there’s not one style that defines dance or hip-hop. While not as creepy as Perlot may have originally visualized, there’s still something completely unique about MacCoy’s design: “He’s got a strangeness to his style, for sure,” the lead character designer adds. Taye -- Dance Central’s resident homegirl, with her name emblazoned on her golden earrings and belt buckle -- in tap shoes? It almost happened. Early on, the designers considered putting tap shoes on her feet, “as if her mom made her take lessons.” Another early option: a bulky letterman’s jacket. “I had envisioned her as like a very early high school-aged girl,” explains Perlot. “I drew her with an oversized letterman’s jacket, as if she had borrowed it from her boyfriend.” But as the team polished Taye’s design, the tap shoes were replaced with more urban kicks, and the letterman’s jacket tossed for a tighter garment that seemed to better fit the character’s personality. “She’s got her own style, and is very much her own person,” says Perlot, although when it came to her sound, Senior Writer Hellen McWilliams heard a familiar voice: Missy Elliot. “I actually really wanted her to have this smooth, laid-back voice,” recalls McWilliams. But when the team started mingling with one of the game’s choreographers, Chanel Thompson, her big personality seemed like a more appropriate for the evolving Taye. When it came to casting, the directive was clear: find an actor that reminded them of the spirited choreographer. [For even more details on MacCoy and Taye, be sure to check out Harmonix’s official Dance Central blog later this week.] Previously: Dance Central character sketchbook: Mo and Amelia Dance Central character sketchbook: Angel and Aubrey
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[Recently, Dance Central developer Harmonix Music Systems was cool enough to give us a sneak peek behind the curtain of its artist’s workshop. In the coming weeks, we’ll be getting a closer look at the game&rsq...

Alex Rigopulos talks Harmonix's past, present, and future

Feb 28 // Nick Chester
Destructoid: So there have been some pretty big changes at Harmonix -- not just over the past month, but I think over the past year -- the most recent being the split from Viacom and the eventual closure of MTV Games. Had you seen this coming? This wasn’t a shock, was it? Alex Rigopulos, CEO of Harmonix Music Systems: It was not a shock. I think that Viacom had been weighing [options] in the videogame space for some time in dialogue with Harmonix and whatnot. So this was a conclusion that I think they came to after some analysis and contemplation. No, it was not a shock. Had you been doing anything to sort of prepare for that split? Well... I’m not really sure how to answer that question. I mean, Harmonix as a studio has been for the most part, I mean, making the games. So we’ve been hard at work building the games for the holiday season and as soon as we were done with our games for the holiday season we rolled immediately onto the next set of projects. So, you know, for us there were a lot of almost back-office considerations in terms of, like, management and [things] which had to be attended to, which are a challenge in any transition. But in terms of most of the studio operations of making games, a big part of my job is in trying to keep those [operations] largely intact and unaffected by the transition. Back in 2006, when Harmonix was purchased by MTV Networks, what were you hoping to gain from that partnership, both business-wise and creatively? And looking back on it, now that it's over, did that go how you expected it to? Well, yeah, I think that one of the things that lured us to Viacom and MTV Networks in the first place -- as opposed to, say, a traditional game publisher -- is that they seemed to get what we were trying to do from the point of view of not just videogames, but for music entertainment. And our hope was that they could bring a lot of resources and relationships to bear, particularly in the domain of the music industry and those relationships, to help us accomplish what it was that we wanted to. I think in that regard, the relationship absolutely was what I hoped it would be, in that MTV was instrumental in laying the foundation for Harmonix's partnerships in the music industry that I think were critical for what we were trying to accomplish with Rock Band in the last several years. You know, a great example, The Beatles: Rock Band, which was an amazing project that I think would have been impossible -- it never would have happened -- if Harmonix would have tried to make that happen as an independent studio. It was really in large part the MTV relationship that brought that together. So looking forward, now that you don't have that relationship with MTV, are you concerned with those sort of partnerships and licensing concerns with musicians going forward?I'm not, actually. Because if you rewind the clock four or five years to the time when they acquired us, at that point, the music game phenomenon had not yet happened in the [United States]. So back at that point, 2005, it was actually hard to get record labels or music publishers to even return our phone calls. So MTV was hugely helpful in building those bridges over the subsequent couple of years. But at this point, videogames have blossomed into a significant new profit center for our music partners -- for record labels and music publishers -- and so now, after what's transpired over the past several years, Harmonix does have the relationships and the standing with these parties to continue to conduct our business. Do you find it's almost sort of like when artists launch their career or even a new album, it's just something they do, trying to get their music into the game? They want to be on iTunes, they want to get radio play, they want their shirts in Hot Topic, they want their tracks in Rock Band. Yup. Yeah, certainly yeah. We're at the point now where we get constant interest in recording artists who either want to be in one of our games, either Rock Band or Dance Central, or they have ideas about collaborations. I mean, now it's as much an inbound dialogue with the recording artists. You don't see that cooling off at all, especially considering the "gloom and doom" surrounding the music or band game genre? People aren't wary about partnerships now? No, not in the least. I think there's as much enthusiasm as there ever has been from the artists community to get in games. Because I think, as you pointed out earlier, most artists recognize that videogames are a vitally important medium in which they can reach their fans and get their music to their fans in new ways. And it's also not just about reaching their fans, it's also an important business opportunity. So Harmonix has "owners," but is considered independent now. Is that the best way to look at it? Yeah, we're an independent studio again, yup. What does that mean for you creatively, in terms of studio growth, now that you're on your own? Well, first of all, it feels great. It's a really exciting time at Harmonix; it's a new beginning for us, and people are very excited about the opportunities that that affords. Creatively, actually there's not much that much of a difference versus where we were previously with MTV and Viacom. You know, Viacom's an actually incredibly supportive parent company and gave us the creative freedom to pursue more or less whatever it was that we wanted to pursue. So there aren't creative constraints that have now been lifted. There are other kinds of factors. As with, not Viacom in particular, with any large company there were all of these other considerations. You know, bureaucratic considerations or political considerations or systemic considerations that tend to slow down action and decision-making, again by the nature of large companies. Again, a lot of those factors really just disappear when you're a small studio that can make decisions; you can act very quickly and nimbly. That freedom of action and that feeling of being in command of one's own destiny again is actually a very exhilarating feeling for the staff here at Harmonix. Talking to folks at Harmonix over the years, I've always gotten the sense that you've been an indie spirit anyhow, even with Viacom. The way you put it, that kind of spirit never went anywhere. But there has to be a great feeling, sort of like the corporate-overlord pressure has been lifted off your shoulders. Does that change the culture at all? Was there a big celebration? [Laughs] I wouldn't say that exactly. Certainly, I mean, for 95% of the staff at the studio, their connection to the mothership was actually minimal. They were actually focused on making games all day, every day. But for those people at the studio who were involved with interfacing with the mothership, [they were] sort of dealing with the aspects that all big companies have. So I think that for some of those folks, definitely there's a great feeling of relief at being able to make decisions and being able to have that freedom, as I said. But for the most part, I think we did a great job over the last four years of preserving that, as you said, "indie spirit" while being a division of a really large company. So are gamers going to notice any change? Well I guess what I will say -- and this is something that really has nothing to do with the split from Viacom and MTV, and everything to do with this moment in time at Harmonix -- right now, the environment here at Harmonix is really a kind of cauldron of creativity. There's a ton of creative engagement and creative excitement around a number of things. First of all, I'd like to talk a little bit about Rock Band. You know, we continue to be fully supportive of Rock Band 3; we think there's a ton of potential left in the title. It's a gigantic title with a lot of opportunity. There are tons of people still playing Rock Band 2 that haven't tried Rock Band 3 yet, and we're excited about that opportunity. Following the news of the future of Guitar Hero recently, we think there are also a lot of devoted Guitar Hero fans -- who have probably never given Rock Band a try -- who actually have a delight coming [to them] when they try Rock Band 3 for the first time. We think that the [potential of] Pro functionality in Rock Band 3 has not yet been fully tapped. And you know, the Squier Stratocaster Pro from Fender is actually shipping [this] week, which we're incredibly excited about. There's also a ton of amazing music content that still has not yet made its way onto the platform that we're still actively pursuing and continuing to bring on to the platform. So as a first point, we continue to be very much devoted to Rock Band 3 as a platform and continuing to nurture and cultivate that over the course of the year. As a second point, and of greater creative interest, I think that the contraction that's taken place in the band game category -- and people often equate music games with band games, which is something I'll come back to -- the contraction that has taken place, in our point of view, really provoked us to think about how to reinvent this category, in particular the Rock Band franchise. And you know, the marketplace is clearly demanding something very new. It's clearly demanding a dramatic evolution of the Rock Band franchise, I think, and I think that's actually exciting for us. That's a demand we welcome with great enthusiasm, and there's a lot of creativity here at Harmonix being devoted to a reinvention and refactoring of the Rock Band franchise for the future, beyond Rock Band 3. So that's one big bucket worth touching on. The third, of course, is Dance Central, which has been tremendously successful for us out of the gate at retail. We're very excited about Dance Central, and the creative opportunity that that franchise affords. The idea of millions of people dancing with our game [who] otherwise wouldn't be dancing is incredibly gratifying for us. So obviously, a lot of our creative attention is being devoted to the future of Dance Central as well. And then finally, it's just worth pointing out that we have a ton of new game concepts in development, as well. Our new owners are actually being incredibly supportive in that regard, in terms of of new creative development and new IP cultivation, and we have a lot of very cool new ideas in the works right now, looking out beyond both Rock Band and Dance Central. Going back to the whole sort of death of Guitar Hero, at least for the foreseeable future: You talked a little bit about reaching out to Guitar Hero fans this year. How do you plan on doing something like that, pulling in these new untapped users this year? Well, a number of different ways. Ultimately, it's a communications burden. Particularly if you're dealing with users who have been kind of habituated into another product franchise over a number of years, you know it's incumbent upon us to reach them through various communication channels and let them know that Rock Band 3 is worth giving a try to. I think we have such a compelling offering -- and not just in terms of functionality, but this insanely diverse library of content -- that I think we have something quite strong to offer that audience. I'm hopeful that some of them will give us a try. Certainly, Rock Band 3 was a strong offering when you guys released it last year. So there's still a lot there. Does this mean we're not going to see another Rock Band this year, [and that] you're just going to focus on supporting the Rock Band 3 product? In the short term this year, I think we're going to be focusing on cultivating Rock Band 3, which means reaching out to new audiences, [and] bringing some really compelling new content onto the platform. Running with the Rock Band Pro functionality, which can really start to be fully realized now that the Squier is coming to market. There's a lot of development to be done over the course of this year, with new content for Rock Band 3. So that's what we're focusing on in terms of what's in the marketplace this year. And then beyond this year, as I touched on, there's some far more fundamental reimaginings of the Rock Band franchise that we're thinking about right now. When Activision recently put the Guitar Hero franchise to bed -- you guys were doing stuff prior to Guitar Hero [and] you were very successful, but that was kind of a turning point -- what was your gut reaction to hearing that news? Honestly, the very first reaction was that of, you know, feeling sympathetic for the folks that were being put out of work that day. We went through a reduction of force ourselves. It's a very painful thing to let people go, and it's a painful thing to see people lose their jobs. So that was kind of the first reaction. You know, the second reaction, of course, was that I think it's further evidence that [this] game category is in need of evolution and reinvention, and as I said previously, we take that at Harmonix as a rallying call, and I think we're excited to rise to it. And of course, on some other level, it's an invitation for us to reach out to those Guitar Hero fans and give them an opportunity to try something new. With that in mind, it's obvious that the band category is certainly cooling off, at least as far as consumers are concerned. Have you looked at other avenues and opportunities, especially for those Pro modes, like educational opportunities? We have very much thought about that. There's not so much I can say about it today, but suffice it to say we think there's a ton of untapped opportunity along that [route]. Right, I've recently been playing with the Squier Fender Pro guitar. As a guitarist myself, a self-taught one when I was in my teens, that kind of stuff would have been a blessing. I know, I agree. I'm picturing that being in schools or universities, so it'll be interesting to see where you go with that. Agreed. So Dance Central... that was more commercially successful than Rock Band 3, right? Yeah, to date it has outperformed Rock Band 3 at retail. It's one of the top-selling titles for the Kinect, and the Kinect is one of the most successful products in the entire videogame industry right now. So we're thrilled with how Dance Central has performed out of the gate. It's a pretty big risk when you think about it, going back to last year. It was a new IP on new, unproven hardware. Did you feel that was a big gamble? It was a gamble. There was a moment where we had to take a big leap of faith as a company to devote ourselves to Kinect, which was an unproven peripheral. That said, you know, we had actually been doing [research and development] on a dance game before we even knew about Kinect. We had been using a variety of different [motion] sensing technologies out there to prototype this dance game. At some point early on, Microsoft showed us the Kinect, and at that moment we realized that it was the perfect technology for this application, and we felt very, very strongly about the potential for dance games. And when we saw the perfect technology for the app that we wanted to make, yes it was a leap of faith, and yes we also felt that it was the right technology coming at the right time for the game that we wanted to create. Suffice it to say, we're really happy that we made that decision. Considering that success, is Dance Central the main focus of the studio right now? Well, I wouldn't say -- I mean, look: it's our top-selling product right now, and I would say the largest single development team at the studio is hard at work on Dance Central, without being able to be too much more specific than that. But, we do continue to have significant resources devoted to Rock Band -- both in near term and far term of Rock Band -- and we also have significant resources devoted to a number of new IPs and new game concepts in development as well. So there's actually quite a lot of work underway here on a diverse variety of projects. You are working on a 3DS project, right? Is that correct?[Laughs] I can neither confirm nor deny!You mentioned something earlier about how you don't feel that music games are the same things as music band games. There aren't many music games out there right now. Do you think it's time for a resurgence? Well, so I guess the point that I was trying to make was, very generally speaking, I take the term "music game" to refer very broadly to any kind of game that depends the player's connection with music, where the gameplay is connected to the music in some meaningful way -- not just from an atmospheric standpoint, but from a functional standpoint to what's going on in the game. And from an emotional standpoint. You know, of course, the first music game that became a commercial force in the United States were these band games -- Guitar Hero and Rock Band. But rock music performance simulation is one take on what music games can be. The one interpretation of that that is now on the ascent is dance games, which I also lump into the category of music games, because those games are entirely connecting you with the music in a new way. And I guess my general point there is that label, "music games," I think that encompasses an extremely broad set of additional experiences that still remain largely untapped, and of course that's a very intriguing new frontier of creative [research and development] for Harmonix as well. Are there any developers out there that are sort of doing those music games that are intriguing to you? Because I don't see that many right now. There are not that many on the horizon right now, which, frankly, I consider an opportunity for us. It's also worth pointing out that for the first time, I see Harmonix potentially evolving past exclusively focusing on music games. That's been -- for our entire history -- our reason for being, basically. We've been focused on interactive music since the company started; we've been focused on music games for over 10 years now. But I have to say, we're incredibly creatively motivated by motion gaming. Of course, dance games are a special intersection of music games with motion gaming. Harmonix has developed a competency and quite a passion and interest, generally speaking, in the area of motion gaming. So I think one of the things that you may see coming out of Harmonix in the future is more activity in the area of motion games. But we're not going to see Harmonix's Gears of War, right? [Laughs] [Laughs] Unlikely. There are plenty of companies in the world making excellent [first-person shooters]; the world doesn't need Harmonix to be in [that genre]. That kind of leads into my next question. I mean, you guys have been making music games for 10 years. The original vision was sort of always to get non-musicians the chance to experience, play, and connect with music in new ways. I feel like you've accomplished that. Obviously, you feel there's more work to do in that space. But what? I mean, where do we go from here? We do feel that there's more to do in that space, and that doing more involves reconception of what music games mean, and what other ways there are to connect people with music -- and to connect with other people through music -- that haven't really been explored yet. So it's an important frontier of creative [research and development] for us. You said that now is a good time to reinvent Rock Band, but I think that was a big message with Rock Band 3 last year, especially with the Pro modes. You tried to shake things up a little bit. Do you feel that you were successful in that? I feel like [we were] creatively successful. I feel that paradigm for merging instrument learning with gameplay was successful from a design standpoint. I don't think that we have yet achieved the full potential of that in terms of its distribution into the world. And I think as I said earlier, we expect that's something we'll cultivate over a long period of time through multiple different channels, including alternative channels, like you touched on. I think we'll continue to build on that in [a] kind of slow-burn and slow-growth way for quite some time. When Viacom announced publicly its intentions to sell Harmonix, there was a lot of speculation as to where you would go. Was the independent route always your goal? Did you even consider any of the big players? I would say that we were considering all options. We were certainly considering that as a possibility. You know, we had some opportunities along those lines, but I think our preferred outcome was exactly the one we were fortunate enough to achieve, which was finding a financial partner who could bring us back independent again. So if Activision came to you in three years and said, "We need you to revive the Guitar Hero franchise," would that be something that you'd be interested in doing?"Well, I mean, you'd have to ask me again in a few years, depending on the way the world looks at that point. I mean, I will say the fact that we have been competitors with Activision in the band game genre in the past would not close our minds about the opportunity to work with them on the right project in the future. Do you think maybe you could have "saved" Guitar Hero, had you continued to work with Activision? Do you think maybe they handled that series wrong, or that Harmonix could have done better to help nurture that series over the years?Well, I don't know about that. I'm not inclined to critique Activision's management of the Guitar Hero franchise. I think that Harmonix had its own opportunity to manage a rock performance simulation franchise, and we're for the most part happy with what we were able to accomplish creatively over the last couple of years. We'll leave it at that. In hindsight, has what they [have] done with the Guitar Hero series had any impact on sales or the perception of the Rock Band product? Yeah, it's possible that it did. But as I said again, I'm not inclined to go there in terms of, kind of, critiquing the competitive dynamics between the franchises over the last few years. What can you say definitively about what we can expect from Harmonix over the next 12 months? I think, yeah, definitively, there's not too much I can say. What I can say is that we absolutely remain committed to the Rock Band franchise, and in the short term that definitely means remaining committed to Rock Band Pro and to bringing really compelling new content to the platform. Without being able to be specific, I'll say that we of course remain very much committed to the Dance Central franchise. And there's a hell of a lot of new creative work being done on new IPs that we're pretty fired up about. [Photos of Alex Rigopulos courtesy of Harmonix] [Special thanks to Andrew "power-glove" Benton for his input for this interview!]
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To say the least, the past few months have been a tumultuous time in the history of Boston-based Harmonix Music Systems. Despite releasing two critically acclaimed games, Rock Band 3 and Dance Central, its owner, Viacom, anno...

Dance Central character sketchbook: Angel and Aubrey

Feb 16 // Nick Chester
"Initially, she was very, very haughty," adds lead character artist Matt Perlot. "We had her wearing these almost outlandish couture pieces that were mixes of business and ballet attire. She was more extreme." Ultimately, Aubrey ended up being one of the most conventional looking characters in the game. And while many fought to keep her blonde locks, Perlot made the final call, "partly inspired" by a wide-eyed, ginger Blythe doll that sits on his desk. With Angel, on the other hand, the Dance Central team had a vision from the start and stuck through it. The smooth, Latin dancer was always thought of as the "V.I.P. type" from the start. "He's that guy you see at clubs who steps to the front of the line and goes inside to his reserved table," says Perlot. "You know, everyone knows him." Everyone loves him, too -- he's suave, handsome, and while he acts tough on the outside, he's all soft in the middle. "He's the guy who stays out all night at the club and then takes his grandmother to mass on Sunday," explains McWilliams. Nailing the look and the character wasn't an issue -- it was finding a voice actor that could bring the character to life that proved to the biggest concern. After auditioning dozens of actors, nothing felt right; it turned out their Angel was right in front of them the whole time. "Every audition we ran, we found people forcing or faking these really weird artificial accents," remembers McWilliams. "Marcos, our own [Dance Central] choreographer, ended up being the voice behind Angel." [For even more details on Angel and Aubrey, be sure to check out Harmonix’s official Dance Central blog later this week.] Previously: Dance Central character sketchbook: Mo and Amelia
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[Recently, Dance Central developer Harmonix Music Systems was cool enough to give us a sneak peek behind the curtain of its artist’s workshop.In the coming weeks, we’ll be getting a closer look at the game’s...


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