PAX 08: Harmonix panel reveals two Rock Band-related announcements

Harmonix drew a pretty sizable crowd today at their Penny Arcade Expo panel, entitled “History of Harmonix: The Rockening.”

The panel was packed with veterans of the Boston-based studio: Dan Teasdale, Dan Schmidt, Ryan Lesser, Heather Wilson, and Sean Baptiste. The five talked about Harmonix’s earliest project (the Epcot Center installation piece “What if music were in the air?”) to designing their current blockbuster, Rock Band

At the end of the panel, Dan Teasdale revealed one of Rock Band 2’s most brutal achievements, “Bladder of Steel.” This achievement from hell requires players to not only play through the game’s endless setlist (comprised of all of the game’s tracks, back-to-back), but to do so without pausing … or failing. 

Heather Wilson then revealed next week’s Rock Band DLC, the “PAX Pack.” Each track is 99 cents apiece (or 80 MS Points), or you can pick up the entire pack for $3.00 (or 240 MS Points). A portion of the sales go directly to the Child’s Play charity. The pack includes:

  • “Skullcrusher Mountain” – Jonathan Coulton
  • “Livin’ on the Corner of Dude and Catastrophe” – MC Frontalot
  • “Shhh….” – Darkest of the Hillside Thickets

I’m working on finding a solution for uploading and streaming audio of the entire panel; in the meantime, hit the jump for a few interesting tidbits that came out during the hour-and-a-half session.

  • One of Harmonix’s earliest pieces of software was called The Axe, which allowed users to manipulate musical solos using a joystick.
  • They also made an early Eye Toy-like game called Cam Jam. Players would move their arms and “touch” different cartoony instruments to created sounds and music. The tagline: “Make music with your body!”
  • It took nearly 2 years to design and develop the PlayStation 2 title Frequency.
  • Harmonix developed the original Karaoke Revolution in roughly five months. 
  • Rock Band has turned Harmonix into one of the largest third-party peripheral manufacturers in the industry.
  • Likewise, they also produce far and away more drum sticks than anyone else in the world.
  • Nine Inch Nails (Trent Reznor) was one of the first artists to approach Harmonix about including its music in Rock Band.
  • The version of “Ace of Spades” that in appears in Rock Band 2 is a re-recording made specifically for the game.
  • Dan Teasdale actually cheated in our arm wrestling bout. Expect video proof soon.
Nick Chester