By http://www.1up.com/do/my1Up?publicUserId=5379718 07/05/2007 With E3 right around the corner, people might be wondering what's going on with http://www.1up.com/do/gameOverview?cId=3158413, the upcoming music game from Guitar Hero's original developers. At a recent press event, we got to talk with Harmonix Co-founder and CEO Alex Rigopulos about the game, as well as his thoughts on its direction and ambitions.

http://www.1up.com/do/media?cId=3158413&sec=IMAGES
SCREENS: Click the image above to check out all Rock Band screens.

1UP: In your offices somewhere, is there the Konami 3 arcade machine set up with Keyboard Mania and all these games connected?

AR: Not in the office. I mean, of course we've played all those games to death. It was the Japanese music games in the late '90s that pushed us in this direction, and we've really played those games to death. But, we wanted to kinda take things in a fundamentally new direction in terms of the visual impact of the experience, the music, the original masters that we're using, the visual design, the quality of the peripherals -- all of that. We really are actually trying to jettison as much of the past as we possibly can.

1UP: Now you say that, but then the visuals to me seem very Guitar Hero -- at least the characters.

AR: Well, I mean, there are canned characters that were in there today [in the demonstration version at EA's pre-E3 press event], but actually one of the important things we're doing in Rock Band is there's a whole character creation system where you can build a character from scratch, adjust their physique, adjust their clothing, change their face, change their hair, put jewelry, tattoos -- there's actually a custom paint editor in the game, like a 2D paint editor, so you can make custom tattoos and put patches on clothing. So there's actually a very high degree of customizability in the character design.

1UP: Do they all kind of look like rock stars or can you go way out there? Can you make, like, you know, that guy [pointing to a random guy]?

AR: You can take them pretty far out if you want to, although most people end up building rock stars. But there are some people who always like to make things that are kind of crazy.

1UP: Let's run down the different types of gameplay. To start, how does the guitar play vary from Guitar Hero's?

AR: Well, first of all, we've introduced some innovations into the hardware itself. So, in addition to the basic five fret buttons, there's also an extra five fret buttons for solos. And most of the time they function the same way, but in the solos, there's a special functionality where basically you can go to one-handed technique and just hammer on all of the notes. So, you can just do show-boating with the freehand, or you can actually start using two hands and doing everything with hammer-ons, which is great for really fast solo passages.

There's also the Fender Five-Way Switch, which we use to control the sound of the guitar. If you deploy a power-up and a sound effect kicks in, you can actually change the sound effect that's associated with that -- from like a flange to a chorus -- so you can actually change your guitar sound on the fly as well.

http://www.1up.com/do/media?cId=3158413&sec=IMAGES
SCREENS: Click the image above to check out all Rock Band screens.

1UP: What can you tell us about the drums?

AR: The drums are built from the ground up. Basically there's a kick pedal and there's four pads. The kick pedal's for playing the base drum. Four pads: one is for the snare and the other three do double duty. Some of the time they're the cymbals, hi-hat, ride, and crash, but when you get to fills they turn to tom-toms. Some of the fills are pre-authored, but you can also do free-form fills where you can improvise them, and you hit a crash at the end to deploy your power-ups as well.

The amazing thing to note about the drum game is that, you know, unlike the guitar game -- where you can become a master at the guitar game, but then can't pick up a guitar and start wailing on Ozzie Osbourne or whatever -- in the drum game you start out on easy, you work your way up to the advanced difficulty levels, and by the time you get to the end, you're actually drumming. And you can take someone, sit them down at a real drum set, and they can start playing drums, which, as a pay-off for playing a videogame, is kind of amazing.

And then finally the singing -- how does that vary from a Karaoke Revolution kind of game?

AR: Well, one big change is that we're actually doing phoneme detection now, so that in addition to singing all the pitches and rhythms correctly you need to actually sing the lyrics correctly as well.

1UP: Do you see your audience being everything from little kids to adults? Or are you kind of focusing it in a certain direction?

AR: When we first built Guitar Hero, we thought that it was going to be much more focused at a narrower audience and we've been surprised by just how broad the audience is. I mean we get e-mails everyday from like a 55 year old mom who's playing with her teenage son, or the 40 year old dad who's playing with his seven year old daughter, so it's really both genders, all ages, across the spectrum. And that's something we've really taken to heart in the design of Rock Band actually. We've gone out of our way to make the game playable by people at a very wide range of difficulty levels so that people like the mom and her teenage son can both play even though their capabilities are so different, and they can both have a great time doing it.

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Thanks to http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/1up/ALLPS3/content/~3/131006005/previewPage for sharing the news with us!