Harmonix reveals Rock Band Music Store along with other updates


While the question remains as to how long Harmonix and MTV Games will continue to support the current iteration of Rock Band, it’s evident that they’re committed to providing additional game content on a frequent basis. Prior to the game’s release, I was told -- in so many words -- that there would be no "f**king around" when it came to downloadable content, and there’s no question that they’ve delivered.

With weekly Rock Band content flooding the Xbox LIVE Marketplace and PlayStation Store, the amount of songs and available selection is quickly becoming unmanageable, and Harmonix admits as much.

"We’ve been pushing the whole 'Rock Band as a platform for music' thing for a long time, and we love Xbox LIVE and the PlayStation Network," Harmonix’s John Drake told me from their swank penthouse suite at this year’s GDC. "They’re great, and they’re really wonderful for [downloadable content]. We’ve got so much DLC that it’s beginning to become a bit ungainly with all of the stuff you have to sort through."

It was then that he revealed to me the Rock Band Music Store, a menu-driven iTunes-inspired store-front that will be available from within the game. I’ve been salivating over it for close to a month, and now it’s finally becoming a reality -- the Rock Band Music Store, along with other semi-significant software updates (for both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) will be coming this week.

Hit the jump for the full details.

Making it easier to spend your money: The Rock Band Music Store

For many, the Rock Band Music Store is what gamers have been asking for, and it’s a key indication that Harmonix are serious about this for the long-haul. Fully accessible from the game menu (it appears as a new option on the game’s main screen), the store lets you view and purchase songs in a manner that’s more streamlined and far more convenient than futzing around Xbox LIVE Marketplace or the PlayStation Network. Outside of a dashboard blade popping out on the Xbox 360, you’ll never have to leave your game to purchase new content.

Songs can be sorted in a number of ways, including: alphabetically by song, alphabetically by artists, genre, and year released. Songs can also be sorted by difficulty (you can narrow down songs to just the "Blistering" category, for instance), but more importantly, Harmonix have also rated the complexity for each instrument on individual songs. Wannabe Michael Angelo Batios can now ensure that the guitar part on a given song will put their fingers to work by checking the newly implemented abacus-like difficulty ratings for each instrument. Rated on a scale of one to nine, this new system is also used to rate overall difficulty for a full band.

Additionally, selecting each song will bring up its corresponding album’s artwork and -- are you sitting down? -- you’ll also have the ability to preview songs before you purchase them. No more hopping on iTunes or YouTube to jog your memory of a song; a small sample of the tune will be cached on your hard drive for easy reference. New songs will appear on the store’s front page and will be tagged throughout the store as well. And so no one gets screwed by double-dipping, songs that have already been bought will have an obvious "Purchased" tag, and if a song is also available in a pack, this will be indicated as well (and you'll have the option of going directly to said pack).

The Music Store looks like it’s going to be a great addition for fans of Rock Band's DLC, and a good indicator of the game’s potential longevity. As Harmonix’s Sean Baptiste told me, the store was designed with the future in mind, and is built to handle the "hundreds and hundreds" of songs Harmonix will be providing for a "very, very long time."

"Loading Additional Content" is for the birds, lengthy load problem addressed (Xbox 360)

A problem mainly on the Xbox 360, gamers who have purchased a sizable amount of additional content may find themselves growing old while they wait for it to load in game. From experience, I’ve waited upwards of five minutes on the game’s menu screen while the game informed me it was "Loading Additional Content." Then, it loaded my wife’s additional content (the same content, by the way) for another minute.

The issue, as it turns out, was with how the game caches news songs on the Xbox 360’s hard drive. The problem has now been fixed, and additional content loading will happen much quicker after this week’s patch. As Drake put it, they didn’t want to "punish people for really liking to buy new songs." Baptiste shares another thought.

"I mean, we thought it was funny," he jokes, "but [gamers] didn’t like it so much."

In Band World Tour Mode, "pop cap" isn’t the dudes who made Bejewled, and it’s been raised

The patch will also bring a revision to the game’s Band World Tour mode in the form of what Drake kept referring to as a raised "pop cap." What he was referring to are the number of fans that can be obtained on easier difficulty levels before hitting a ceiling. This allows players on Easy, Medium, and Hard difficulty settings to progress further and with more ease, open up a wider range of venues. It also allows players on Hard to obtain the "One Million Fans" achievement.

More diverse songs in Band World Tour means not having to play "Blitzkrieg Bop" seven times in a row

One of my complaints in our review of Rock Band was song repetition in Band World Tour mode, a problem that reared its ugly head very early on. In my original play sessions, I was stuck playing "Blitzkrieg Bop" and "I Think I’m Paranoid" ad nauseum.  Harmonix have tracked down and sorted out the issues that caused these repetitive moments.

"F**k you, I sound just like Mike D!": Improved phoneme detection

Maybe you don’t just suck -- Harmonix have improved detection and scoring for phoneme recognition. This will help with performance in songs with a lot of "talking" bits and tracks like "Timmy and the Lords of the Underworld."

Microphone latency improvements on PlayStation 3

Your disc, your microphone, and your television are not broken, so please stop bothering Electronic Art’s customer support. Harmonix’s audio team has found some extra milliseconds in the space-time continuum, and has improved microphone latency on the PlayStation 3.

Band logos to rock Xbox 360, finally visible through Xbox LIVE

Weird issues with parental controls prevented band logos from being visible over Xbox LIVE. With this new update, that vagina with teeth you fashioned out of a snake and skull tattoo can finally be seen by the world … and 9-year-olds.

If you notice this, you need to get out of the house more often

Some adjustments to in-game text has been made. Don’t tell me if you actually notice this and we can continue to be friends.

The software update should be available "this week," and seeing as how today is Thursday, it should only be a matter of time. No word on whether or not we'll finally get the promised album downloads once the Music Store is live, but I'm crossing my fingers and you should be doing the same.

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Nick Chester
Nick ChesterFormer Editor-in-Chief (2011)   gamer profile

Editor-in-Chief @ Destructoid.com nick at destructoid.com  more + disclosures



Filed under... #PS3 #Rock Band #Xbox 360



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