Somewhere in the back of my mind, whether or not I knew that part of me actually existed, I knew Rock Band was going to eventually end even though I was always hopeful that it wouldn't. I mean, why would it die now? It's been strong for so many years. There's always going to be music they haven't released that people will want to buy. Rock Band is still in the public mind. It could keep going if it wanted to!
Like the best of relationships ending after so much built-up history, love and respect, this hurts me dearly.
But I'll always love and respect you, Rock Band. And you, Harmonix. Because you guys were the reason I took the plunge into my first guitar (and a bass that I quickly put down, sadly). You guys are why I love music as much as I do. I read so much more into every song now that it's essentially positively affected every aspect of my life, making the harder times that much easier.
.. why now?
Sure, I could keep playing. Easily. And I will. But, it's not gonna be the same. With no Rock Band's on the bill for the foreseeable future and the now discontinuation of weekly DLC from Harmonix, this is the end of an era of epic greatness.
When I first popped in Rock Band, something was different. It was more serious. A bit less wacky. And that was fine. Up until the present, Rock Band has been like Guitar Hero's younger, yet more mature cousin who has better taste in music, has a better social life, and always stays healthy and active.
Every note played felt more solid and satisfying to hit, the character creator let me spawn and personalize my very own chibi Kirk Hammett, and there was now a mouthwatering amount of replay value added thanks to the focus on not just guitar, but the entire band. We could now do just about anything. Guitar, bass, drums and vocals.
Not only that, but the somewhat underwhelming quality of the tracklist would be rectified by new songs being put out for purchase EVERY WEEK.
Mother of God. What am I going to do with all that?! Somebody get me some concrete and re-bar, because I've officially shat bricks.
One of the first bits of DLC was a pack of Metallica tracks. The first DLC I ever bought. I had to buy it. It was Metallica.
Think you can handle Enter Sandman? Scrub. Weep at the hellish glory of Blackened on Expert Drums!
Actually, Expert anything for this song was a challenge. But, more specifically, Blackened on Expert Drums was one of the songs to beat back in the day. Mmhmm. To just beat it gave you such a huge feeling of accomplishment, and you wanted everyone to know about it. So you posted a YouTube video.
As an avid player of Rock Band, to say the least, I found myself deeply involved with looking up FC's ("full combos") of some of the hardest tracks. When there was a new FC, we heard about it on the forums. Everyone watched/listened, cheered on the poster and then actively tried to FC it themselves. First runs of the day were mostly a reminder that you just couldn't do it yet, but just maybe... eventually.
Not only that, some YouTubers went as far as (usually) buying every song per week, even when they clearly had no interest in the DLC for themselves, just to give fans a taste of the content. Or, rather, a good hard suck. Those charts were a large chunk of that DLC, naturally.
I also remember when the forum mods used to come with up DLC "hints" on the Wednesdays leading up to the Friday announcements.
One hint could be a picture of the letter "R" posted twice, which may refer to the pirate phrase "Arrrrrr!". But there's two of them... maybe it's referring to the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie? So... is it something to do with pirates? Nope. Just a little deeper. The lead in the movie goes by the name of Jack Sparrow. No, not "Jack" referring to Jack White. We already have plenty of him! Rather, it's "Sparrow", referring to the type of bird. What's another type of bird?
Sometimes they were so vague, you'd be incredibly lucky to even be half right. But it was a thrill, nonetheless, to work together with the community to decode those befuddling teasers.
Brought together by good music and good gaming, the Rock Band community thrived unlike any other. Friendly (or totally serious) get-together's, song wishlist threads and developer antics abound.
Fans love Harmonix not just for their games, but for the developers themselves. As if you and your best buds just got together one day to make this videogame that took off, but still found the time to latch yourselves from your piles of precious, stinking, sweaty cash and active development obligations to goof off, have fun and/or just... have a little talk with your fans via the forums/Twitter/Facebook/etc.
That's Harmonix for ya. They have personality. And they love you. They don't care who knows it or how they show it. Loads of fancy giveaways? Sure! Free DLC? ALL RIGHT! Whatever this is? Why not. Yeah.
With each week of new DLC, there was potentially something I had never heard before. And back when Rock Band was just starting out, that was pretty damn often. Never had I heard the impressive metal swooning of Judas Priest album Screaming for Vengeance. Never had I heard the insanely out there but so right Gay Bar.
Enter Skullcrusher Mountain, brought to us by geek/folk artist Jonathan Coulton. Previously I had heard him on Code Monkeys (which was cancelled far too quickly) of G4 fame. It was refreshing to say the least. The arrangement was definitely indie/folk, but there were tiny little specks of tropical island slide guitar with lyrics that croon of an evil genius trying to win the innocent heart of one (I would assume to be a) beautiful young lady.
I made this half-pony, half-monkey monster to please you But I get the feeling that you don't like it What's with all the screaming? You like monkeys, you like ponies Maybe you don't like monsters so much Maybe I used too many monkeys Isn't it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?
That's what it's all about, right there.
I loved it so much that I decided to look more into his catalog of releases and found one awe-inspiring, modern-day Einstein of music. The dude writes the vast majority of his music all by himself, including his Thing-A-Week project where he wrote a new song every single week for an entire year. Every one signature to itself and hardly, if at all, showed a lack of creativity.
Even before that, he had written plenty of music and he has at least several more albums of music after, still writing to this day. And all still good.
And, oh, how could I forget: two of his biggest hits were Portal 1/2's infectiously charming Still Alive and Want You Gone.
If that's not hardcore musicianship, then I don't know what is.
Not only had Harmonix introduced me to playing guitar back with Guitar Hero (which then greatly influenced my love for music in general), but they had introduced me to my personal favorite musical artist of all time. They also taught me that The Beatles weren't just some lame, overrated pop group with hardly any worth for a whole damn game, which I've neglected to mention up until this point. There's almost too much I could go into about what they've done for me.
Suffice to say, I owe a humongous deal to Harmonix. A developer that goes beyond merely making a videogame is a developer worth praising and then some.
Rock Band and Harmonix have been the one thing I've found myself endlessly going back to when it comes to videogames. To this day, at least twice every week or so, I slap on Rock Band 3 and play a few, hop on the forums, browse the Rock Band Network for new stuff because there's always at least something great there that I've missed, or any combination of those things and more.
No game has taken up more of my time than Rock Band has. I love it so much. And to read such news of DLC riddance I've been seeing from multiple sources all morning honestly leaves a big lump in my throat. A couple times while writing this blog, I nearly shed a tear or two. It opened my eyes and reminded me how frail the franchise is these days. Pretty soon, we'll see the end of the Rock Band Network as well. And then what?
Perhaps me and so many others are over-dramatizing this whole thing. Who knows. Maybe they'll make a comeback next generation with a Rock Band 4 and show the world that peripheral music games are still cool, man.
Hopefully. If anyone can do it, it's certainly not anyone else but Harmonix. I just hate watching the franchise potentially die a very slow death from here on out.