I'm just this guy, you know? A thirty-something and probably the quintessential Sino-American geekster, with the only significant difference being I live nine hours ahead of Los Angeles.
My preferred game genres are music/rhythm games and the occasional FPS/action RPG (Bethsoft RPGs, Mass Effect, etc.). Rock Band 3 and variants of Rock Band probably inhabit 90+% of my gaming time, with the rest mostly devoted to things like the latest Bethsoft release or whatever game du jour happens to be out there. Before Rock Band, there was Guitar Hero and DDR. Less so nowadays, although I'm still happy to play HVAM on singles expert since apparently I don't quite have the muster for HVAM doubles anymore.
I currently don't buy Activision games because I don't like the publisher, even if I like the games or developers. I actually enjoyed what I've played of Guitar Hero 5 and DJ Hero, but I'm adamant about not purchasing their games. Possibly used. Maybe next time I'm in the States, I'll go to a GameStop or something, I dunno.
Apologies for last night's post; I'd just sat through the hour-long Harmonix telecast regarding the end of the official Rock Band DLC pipeline and wanted to put up something, anything, acknowledging the official broadcast, but it was 1am and I'd rather be awake when I spoke about it at length.
I know I haven't made waves as a commenter or contributor to Dtoid, or any gaming community. I don't try to make myself a well-known guy, I just try to subsist and make sure that anything I discuss either has the right punchline or has the right amount of actual depth in it to justify the post. So let's see if I can make up for last night with this entry:
I'd been a fan of Harmonix's from the moment I bought a used copy of Amplitude for my PS2. Early in its release cycle, I played Guitar Hero at a Best Buy on a controller and thought, "hey, not bad; it's like a simpler Amplitude!"
Then I tried it again with a guitar at what my memory is telling me was a Fry's, but it may have been another Best Buy. My mind was blown, and I was completely psyched at how much the controller changed things.
Then there were all the industry shufflings, with Guitar Hero and RedOctane going to Activision and Harmonix going to MTV Games. While I was excited at the idea of the Tony Hawk guys getting Guitar Hero (I was! The soundtracks to those games were the stuff of legend!), my mind was blown at what Rock Band was bringing out. Drums! Four-player coop! I lapped up every screen, video, and morsel of information I possibly could possibly consume, and fueled my thirst for the game more and more in some whirlwind cycle of desire.
This peaked the first time I got to try drums, playing Suffragette City, with two complete strangers, at a Best Buy demo. My memory is debating whether it was in California (visiting my parents) or Texas (visiting my grandmother). At that point, I was beyond addicted. People who knew me in real life were annoyed at the earfuls they were getting from me. This was made worse because I live in PAL territory, which meant that I wasn't getting the game in November like all the people I followed were. Every. Single. Morsel. that I saw, every article, Chris Kohler's liveblogging of his first Rock Band party, I wanted everything. And I wouldn't get it for half a year.
Fast-forward to April 2008 or so, where one of my friends got hospitalized. He and I were already playing a lot of Guitar Hero II and III co-op, and were both looking forward to Rock Band together. When he got out, we pretty much played nothing but Band World Tour from then on out. The game helped us bond even more solidly, and that's the time I'll remember the most. There were so many times I'd play with friends and others when I'd play alone, and all of them were a blast.
Times change. Since Rock Band came out, some of my closest friends have moved away, others have formed families, others have found new careers or moved up in the ones they already have, I've become a homeowner, and the one thing that has been my constant the past five years and change is coming to an end the week before my birthday. On the upside, as a 360 player with a US account, the Rock Band Network lives on, but it's a cold, and it's a broken, hallelujah. But at least it's still some sort of hallelujah.
And given how much I still play the old DLC--and I do--I think even after the release cycle is broken completely, I'll be playing this for ages to come.
Nearly two years ago, I wrote a basic state-of-the-genre post that discussed Harmonix's sale to Columbus Nova and the shuttering of the Guitar Hero franchise.
Over the last year or so, we've seen DLC through the official Harmonix Channel slow down drastically, dropping to a rough median of three songs a week (an average not seen since Year 1), with Pro Guitar support no longer a weekly guarantee. The one bright spot on the release calendar was the love-it-or-hate-it Rock Band Blitz, which was $15 for 25 songs ranging from Kelly Clarkson to Living Colour to Maroon 5 to A7X. The songs were released at the end of August in lieu of standard DLC. Which was fine, since it was immediately exportable and as such fulfilled most people's definitions of "new DLC every week."
Tomorrow, the announced DLC is three songs from Rock Band Blitz, and nothing but three songs from Rock Band Blitz. Two if you're a Wii player, since one of the songs was already available at the end of August in lieu of the game proper.
The first thought to race to my mind was that Harmonix has finally broken their DLC release streak. This is the first week in which brand new content isn't released for the Rock Band platform through official channels (because the Rock Band Network still has stuff published; as a matter of fact, though it doesn't "officially" release until Thursday, Jerry Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire"--as in Charlie and Maverick cruising on a motorbike "Great Balls of Fire"--is available on RBN, which counts in my book as a significant win), and at 1790 songs over five-plus years (267 weeks of non-stop DLC!) through its official downloadable channel, that's one hell of a streak.
Others are treating it as doom and gloom for the Rock Band franchise, which, who knows, it may very well be. The official party line on this appears to be "look, a lot of people asked for Blitz as singles, and the Wii never got these songs in the first place, and let's be honest, business ain't doing so hot." This is one of those things anyone who ever really followed the plastic instrument genre will hear and go, "well DUH." Blitz was a Hail Mary pass designed to give all your DLC extra mileage, and to encourage you to purchase more of it (consider the coin bonuses when playing songs you haven't played before, for example). The sale on all legacy content was also meant to, surprise!, encourage you to purchase more DLC. I can tell you that I definitely leapt at the chance to pick up some songs I hadn't before, and my Twitter feed was abuzz with tons of people who were spending every last penny they could on legacy DLC. There's no doubt in my mind that DLC sales were starting to flag, as instruments become rarer and the fatigue of the casual player worsened.
But the question remains: Is this really the end? Aside from the fact that the Rock Band Network folks are still lining up--if not prime acts--former legends (again, I repeat: JERRY. LEE. LEWIS.) and import acts (Dir en Grey, for all you J-Rock fans) alongside their standard big-in-the-scene metal bands, Harmonix is still pointing out that they have DLC scheduled for the upcoming three months (because they've had to plan around alternate Rock Band Blitz single release weeks), and still more to come. But how much more?
I don't know, personally. I've spent somewhere in the quadruple digits on this game, and do not regret it for a second. If they'll allow me the opportunity, I will spend even more. Still, even if I hope to be griping-slash-cracking-wise about how it's 2051 and Harmonix STILL hasn't released any Muse, I think, even if it does end by March, that it's been a wonderful run. I won't say my thank yous, though, until the fat lady avatar sings.
So a lot's happened since I last released a wishlist. Between putting Guitar Hero on ice and the recent announcement of Ubisoft's Rocksmith, the music game industry has been shaken pretty hard. (I'm waiting on more detail about Rocksmith to come out before I comment on it, but short story is, I'm optimistic.) However, most relevantly for my wishlist posts, RB3 was released.
When I started on this wishlist, it was intended for something to put on-disc, which meant a balance of mainstream artists and songs both well-known and slightly more obscure that could cater to all instrument players and vocalists. (Since then, two of the songs were confirmed as on-disc, with two more having been released as DLC. Four for 56... I could do better than that.) This list...isn't all that different, in that way. In choosing songs this time around, though, I further narrowed down the criteria, to groups that haven't been on the RB platform before, nor been on my list previously. It's getting a lot more difficult now, but I think I've managed a list that the few of you who read this will enjoy.
57. "A Song About California" by Hey Ocean! (It's Easier to Be Somebody Else, 2008) "Write a song about California, he said," croons lead female singer Ashleigh Ball alongside a simple, cheery bassline. This simple command is repeated, and promptly ignored. The moment she declares, "but I think I'll write a song about him instead," the drums and guitar kick in, and the song proper begins. The song is rife with backing vocals and horns, which we've seen now are charted to keyboard. Gameplay-wise, this song goes to the rhythm section. The drums are varied and heavily syncopated, making for a fun if not incredibly difficult track. Meanwhile, doesn't that bassline make you want to jump around?
"The Beatboxer Who Broke My Heart" would be interesting, just to see how the beatboxing gets handled.
58. "My Interpretation" by Mika (Life in Cartoon Motion, 2007) I figure Mika's a like-him-or-hate-him kind of guy. If you like him, this would make a fantastic tri-pack with "Grace Kelly" and "Love Today." Even if you don't, this song has a wonderful jangly guitar that's not "Kung Fu Fighting"-quick, a simple-but-elegant bassline (and equally simple/elegant backing choir), and THOSE KEYS. Not just that piano loop, but the organ. Either one is fantastic key fodder.
59. "The Ghost Inside" by Broken Bells (Broken Bells, 2010) One of the more chilled songs on this list (particularly since I swapped Wallflowers songs), the real reason I put this one up is because I think everyone should listen to it at least once. It's very simple and straightforward, but still sounds ethereally fantastic. It definitely isn't everyone's cup of tea, particularly seeing as it's not a very complex song, either, but the harmonies and piano/keysynth make this song worthy for RB3.
60. "Left Behind" by CSS (Donkey, 2008) I wanted to put CSS on my other lists, too, but was sidetracked by all the other songs and bands I hadn't gotten to. Plus, Xzyliac already made a fantastic suggestion with "Let's Make Love and Listen to Death from Above," and I didn't think I could better that. However, I want a hypothetical three-pack comprised of this, "LMLLDFA," and "Let's Reggae All Night," which was my original intended candidate for this list.
"Left Behind" is one of my favorite CSS songs, for its fantastic use of the wall of sound--the way the guitar line carries you away after the chorus just gets me every time. Playing it on a plastic guitar will be awesome. Playing it on bass will be awesome. Playing it on keys will be awesome. Playing it on bass will be awesome. Singing it will be awesome. Playing it will be awesome.
The only thing I ask is that whoever ends up charting this--as CSS is SubPop and they're contracted to bring out singles by a bunch of artists is that they mix the guitar stems so that the player gets to try a little bit of everything. There's a lot there that can be played, and all of it is fantastic.
61. "The Difference" by The Wallflowers (Bringing Down the Horse, 1996) Last-minute switcharound; "One Headlight" is fantastic for the crooners, and maybe if they decide to release a "cheer up, '90's emo kid!"-themed DLC pack, they could throw that in with "The Freshmen" by The Verve Pipe and maybe "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve and holy crap there's my high school years right there.
Back on point, both "One Headlight" and "The Difference" have fantastic organ parts and harmonic vocals, but the former is maybe a little too much of a downer for Rock Band. Plus, "The Difference" has much more energetic guitar and drum lines. I'd also accept a tri-pack with these two songs and "Three Marlenas," or alternately, a cover of "Heroes" that doesn't suck as much as the original Bowie cover (because it is Bowie, I am obliged to say that the Wallflowers version is significantly inferior to the original, but we ARE dealing with a cover as opposition).
62. "Ready to Go" by Republica (Republica, 1996) Moving from "bright and cheery" to "hard driven," "Ready to Go" is probably one of the better one-hit wonder songs of the 90's, with a pulsating energy underneath that makes it seem like it'd be a fantastic if easy (on G/B) song to play, unless that IS a guitar solo I hear at the very end. While the 2010 re-record also has a meatier key part to accompany it and thus would be acceptable, the original version is still the preferred one (the new vocals are...squeakier).
63. "It's Your Thing" by the Isley Brothers (It's Our Thing, 1969) Really, I'm assuming licensing, maybe technical, difficulties are the only thing (or things) standing in the way between us and this song on Rock Band, because seriously, they couldn't have NOT entertained this song as an idea. The question is: do you chart the keys to the piano, or to the horns?
64. "The Way" by Fastball (All the Pain Money Can Buy, 1998) Popular in its time, still a catchy song, could be popular amongst the 30+ demographic, covers all the bases in terms of instruments (straightforward piano chords, harmonies, crunchy guitar with two solos, the rhythm section). Not much more to say than that.
65. "Marquee Moon" by Television (Marquee Moon, 1977) Someone on the RB forums once asked what television was best for Rock Band, and one of the responses was "Marquee Moon." I don't know whether they were referring to the album on a whole or the title track--a ten-minute epic with fantastic, winding guitar solos, a noodling bassline, and widely-varying drums--but after listening to the entire album, I think the title track would be fantastic to play in-game. Unless I were singing, I suppose, in which case I could make a sandwich or something during the solo. Then the people I was playing with would be huge douches and play this alongside Working Man, GGHT, and probably Bodhisattva, and I'd be all "screw this" and storm off Noel Gallagher style.
66. "I Wanna Be Your Limousine" by Black Kids (Partie Traumatic, 2008) Dance Rock is one of my favored genres, and Black Kids gets it right. This song is chock full of spunk and catchy hooks built on crazy awesome harmonies. Two of their singles, "Hurricane Jane" and "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You" are also good candidates, but I don't believe they'd work as well. I mean, come on--this song has harmonized Wizard of Oz chanting! Can you get more awesome than that?
67. "Love Letter to Japan" by The Bird and the Bee (Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future, 2009) Pretty, pretty, pretty. Just listen to the track, and take stock: pretty harmonies, pretty keys, pretty guitar and bass lines, and drums. (Not everything has to be pretty for a song to be pretty.) It's one of those songs that catches easily in your head, and can keep you in a happy dance-y place for some time. No?
68. "The Next Attraction" by The Potentials (A Whole New Brand of Hero, 2007) These guys attracted some attention on the RB forums when they filmed their music video on Rock Band instruments in a reasonably authentically RB-like manner (the drummer even factors in disco flip!), and the world looked on in horror as they trashed the then-rare controllers into little pieces before continuing on actual instruments (at least, I did; instruments in Europe were crazy expensive). This pop-rock single has a fantastically catchy hook, a guitar solo, and a background synth. I've actually wanted this song in Rock Band since I first saw the video, instrument-trashing notwithstanding.
69. "We Share Our Mother's Health" by The Knife (Silent Shout, 2006) Because I'm now talking about DLC/RBN 2.0 releases and not Rock Band disc proper, I get to include stranger songs. This song is creepy in all the right ways, with haunting-but-engrossing hooks, a simple keys/bass hook, the computerized drum section, and off-kilter harmonies and counterpoints that add to the atmosphere. A fair warning: if you think the song is creepy, the music video is way creepier.
70. "Dita Dimoné" by Pop Levi (Never Never Love, 2008) This song has a fantastically cool feel to it that I can't get enough of. It's the bass/synth line that speaks to me here, although the crier-style harmonies are also a large draw. The drums also change up a fair amount if you listen, and brief as it is, the ending is the kind of thing the rhythm section wants/needs. A tri-pack with "Wannamama" (my original choice, since I discovered this artist through the song being used on an episode of "Chuck") and "Mai's Space" would be fantastic.
71. "Young Blood" by The Naked and Famous (Passive Me, Aggressive You, 2011) Speaking of "Chuck," I haven't been able to get this song out of my head since the mid-season finale closed on it. Artful use of a fantastic song, and check out the synth line and the disco-beat drums.
Apparently the album dropped internationally this past week. Think I'm gonna check it out.
72. "Devil Town" by Tony Lucca (Friday Night Lights Original Soundtrack, 2007) One of the longest shots I can possibly think of, being a cover of a cover (it's a cleaner-sounding cover of the Bright Eyes arrangement of the song, as the original Daniel Johnston version was strictly vocals...well, a vocal) licensed specifically for a television show that never found an audience but whose critical acclaim is--you know what, just watch FNL already, will you? It's five seasons, three of which are thirteen episodes, and all of it watch-worthy, even its aggravatingly soap-opera-like second season, and you won't regret it.
Anyway, that this version of "Devil Town" was written specifically for the town of Dillon, Texas (or its fictional counterpart, anyway) is evident, starting out clean and simple and building, building, building to a fantastically understated climax of a simple guitar solo. It's not the most complex track by any means, but it is a beautiful one, and I don't doubt it would be a joy to play in Rock Band. Unfortunately, it being a cover means no RBN, and being a television show licensee means increased difficulty in licensing (one would assume, anyway), and being a licensee from a television show that never gained significant popularity means it's got an ice cream scoop's chance in hell. But a guy can dream.
So, the last time I made anything remotely resembling a proper post on this blog, it was a very, very brief statement about the sky falling around the time Harmonix was put up for sale by Viacom. That post, probably because it was short and vague (you'd have to be up to date on Harmonix news when I posted it, plus remember that this blog is mostly about Rock Band), shortly turned into an image macro post, which I thought was hilarious, so whatever.
* Harmonix has been sold to Columbus Nova, and thus technically gone back to being an indie developer,
* Because Harmonix was crucial to the games business they were so eager to get out of, Viacom also shuttered MTV Games after Harmonix's sale,
* As a result of Harmonix having to restructure in the hands of Columbus Nova, they've just been hit with another round of layoffs, and
* Yesterday at Activision's Q4 meeting, they basically said that Guitar Hero is out. No title in 2011, and the GH Twitter account clarified that no new DLC will be forthcoming. DJ Hero's Freestyle Games is also on its way out, apparently, and probably no more DLC or upcoming installments for that, either.
Now, I think it's accepted by all but the most die-hard deniers that the salad days of the plastic rock genre are gone, and none of the attempts to revitalize it (GH:WoR's more game-like structure and mechanics; RB3's focus on more authentic instrument simulation; Power Gig's...something) have managed to do more than tread water. I love RB3 with all my heart, and still play it on a weekly basis (when I'm playing games at all; it's been a pretty busy time in my apartment), and I firmly believe it's as groundbreaking as it can possibly be, but I'm still mildly traumatized by some of its release bugs (shivers run down my spine when I see roadies unloading an amp from a truck, and it may quite possibly carry over to real life). GH I haven't really cared about for a while, but Neversoft did good on GH5 and Metallica (and there will always be a place in my heart for GH3, thanks to Cliffs of Dover). I got to try DJ Hero, and just on account of being able to mash-up Rick James and Gwen Stefani and make it sound AWESOME, they get tons of credit from me.
Now DJ Hero's gone, and Guitar Hero's gone, to that farm where they get to run around and play all day long. Harmonix is still up and running, but a sizable amount of credit goes to Dance Central being the Kinect killer app right now (it still hasn't been able to teach me how to jerk properly, dammit), though it does sound like RB DLC sales have been stable, if not spectacular.
Harmonix doesn't have any viable competition now (does anyone really expect Power Gig to be a thing?), but the plastic throne they're sitting on isn't a particularly ornate one. Also, they're walking with a bit of a limp. I expect Rock Band 4 will probably come out sometime in 2012, but I don't think we should expect any more band-alone titles anytime soon. (If they do, it'll have to be something huge, like Zeppelin or Floyd.) Dance Central titles will probably get an increasing amount of the spotlight in the future to come, until Harmonix develops another IP (maybe they'll create a new iteration of Phase for the iOS/Android/Win7Phone platforms?), but Rock Band will remain quietly in the background, but never completely out of the spotlight.
I don't intend to mourn either the plastic rock genre or the Guitar Hero franchise today. If there were any time where it was clear that Guitar Hero was dead, it was almost a year ago to the day, when Activision shuttered RedOctane--the original Guitar Hero publishers--for good, and further neutered Neversoft. Still, as Activision Social Media Guy Dan Amrich was quick to point out, "dead" in the games world (or, in fact, any franchise IP, be it game, movie, TV, or whatever) is not "dead" in any sort of literal sense of the word. Unlike your dog, that farm has the chance to be revisited. As the previous link suggests, the You Don't Know Jack franchise was put to pasture years ago; fans pounced on the weekly web show when it came to fruition a couple years back, and a new YDKJ title, the first in nearly a decade, came out yesterday. For all we know, we'll get Guitar Hero: Revival/Resurrection a few years from now, complete with a new set of plastic instruments for everyone who hawked off their old ones (instead of using them to play Rock Band like they should). And it may very well be the glorious return that could hope it will be.
(Dtoid apparently missed this article when restoring old blog articles; I'm reposting it again for posterity! Thanks for keeping tabs on it, Flixist!) Originally dated November 4.
Minutes ago, John Drake confirmed that RB3 will not play either "Rock 'n' Roll Star" or "Hier Kommt Alex," independent of source (either exported off the RB PAL disc or downloaded off of the XBL marketplace).
While people are running around worrying that this will allow licensing issues to disable any and all DLC at will, I'm certain that's not the case. Rather, the explanation he intimates (that it was licensed specifically for RB PAL--well, he mistakenly says RB2 PAL, but we get the point) suggests something that I'm actually kind of afraid of: that the only way of guaranteeing that your favorite song will not disappear from future iterations of Rock Band is by making sure its original license wasn't for a specific RB title.
I don't know if this applies to Track Pack exclusives or not, but as we've seen, it definitely applies to the main games, what with two other tracks exported from RB1 ("Dani California" and "Black Hole Sun") not showing up in RB3. There's also the slightly more immediately obvious songs excluded from the original exports ("Enter Sandman" and two covers from RB1, additional RHCP and Soundgarden songs from RB2 on top of the AC/DC, Journey, and Metallica tracks, "Monsoon" from RB EU*) proving that no on-disc song is safe, but with RB3 we're beginning to see the exact extent of that.
* Surprisingly, "Monsoon" as DLC still works in RB3, despite not being exportable in PAL, making it the one song NTSC LIVE account holders are and have been able to play and PAL players can't beyond RB1.
The side games are the most questionable territory here. Band-alone games (like GD:RB) are pretty much going to be an all-or-nothing deal (and let's face it: discs like GD:RB have probably been negotiated so that exports of their track list will work in all future installments), but then you have titles like Lego Rock Band, where they didn't confirm 100% export until the last second because they were still in the process of negotiating it at the time. Were they able to secure exports for all future titles at the time, or just for a limited period?
Then there's Rock Band: Unplugged. The initial reports during that period when people started getting pre-release-day copies of RB3 suggested that "Rock Your Socks" was missing from the RB3 set list, which is when I first formulated this theory of mine. (We discovered later on that pretty much all of that week's DLC was bugged for the 360, which made me drop it, before this came back with a vengeance.) There were a good number of tracks initally released for RB:U that later ended up as DLC on the RB Marketplace. Were they originally contracted as DLC and then subsequently negotiated for RB:U (the way the non-exclusives were), or is there a clause in there that will keep me from playing "ABC" sometime in the unspecified future?
I hate it when questions get asked that we quite frankly are never going to get an answer to, due to the high opacity of negotiations in music licensing, but now I'm more convinced as ever that, should there be a particularly awesome song you're looking forward to, keep checking for the Friday DLC announcements.