RockBand 3 Impressions

I almost didn’t make it to the show. At about 10:12 a.m., I learned that I had been sitting in a car queue for a parking lot that was closed. Some aggressive driving later, I was sprinting across the L.A. Convention Center’s South Hall concourse, hurdling up stairs and past security.

That’s when I hit the shag carpeting in front of Disney’s Tron booth. Catching rubber on grippy white fabric, I did a header onto the convention floor. As I hit the ground, I pushed the question of just how clean the purple field in front of me could be. I pushed my hands out, tucked, rolled to the side and spent a moment admiring the pretty lights above my head.

Sitting in Harmonix’s faux-auditorium, replete with heavy velvet curtains, a small stage and fancy old-timey theater chairs, I wondered if RockBand 3 was worth all this trouble. But when the house band (composed of developers, producers, and other assorted Harmonix personnel) hit the stage, they made one thing very, very clear to me.

Harmonix does not bring weak sh*t to E3.

That’s all it really boils down to. Their RB3 walkthrough was full of heart and the kind of honesty that only comes at the end of a three-day convention slog. (There may have been hangovers involved as well. It’s hard to tell when it’s 10:30 a.m.). Our presenter made it clear that the team was proud of their creation – that it wasn’t just another cash-grab meant to keep the brand name in the presses or on the shelves. They talked us through the reasoning behind their “Overshell” menu system, the tweaked filtering of song titles (with close to 2,000 songs estimated by year’s end, it’ll make strumming through a menu quite the chore), the ability to drop in and out or modify settings on the fly, and the tiny improvements that turn it into a much better party game (Dave, the asshole drummer, can no longer kick you back to the menu screen).

Now, it remains to be seen if the community can get into this the way that Harmonix wants them to. Pro mode is a huge gamble, and an even bigger investment. The game supports seven simultaneous players, which adds up to a lot of instruments. (And, of course, that assumes that you have that many friends around).

But really, nothing compares to having an actual musician, a dude who can play an actual guitar pluck his way through a White Stripes song. It really communicates that these folks are looking to share their love of music, and not just create a rockstar experience as communicated through tiny plastic instruments.

And even if you’re not into the whole “learning an instrument through the magic of games” aspect, the party shuffle mode they’ve included guarantees this to be a social staple: no more slogging through menu screens after every song, because the game will keep you in a continuous rotation of musical bliss. Don’t like what you’re playing? Skip it, at any time.

I’m sitting here, aching from the fall I took two hours ago, rubbing the carpet-burned skin on my palm, in utter awe of the way this game has improved on so much. I’ve gone from lukewarm on the whole franchise, to a Day One convert.

Oh yeah, it was totally worth it.

Comments

So, does it have the #1 feature missing from RB2? That is the ability to blacklist songs you hate so you never have to play them on random tour sets. (my least favorite tour song is "Let There Be Rock" -- difficult enough to fail, too long, and musically, a total bore)

This sounds like it would be covered by the "skip it at any time part" but I wonder if that affects your score....

Good stuff, good stuff.

Any comment on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the stringed guitar and Pro mode actually being able to teach people to play?

TsuDho, I can't imagine how it could hurt since your score is by individual song. If you don't even try it, it shouldn't subtract or anything.

Yeah, Harmonix has my wallet in an iron grip, and I've got a neighborhood and a house full of hype-sensitive houseapes all plotting and planning. You guys have a problem getting seven people together; I have a problem limiting it to that.

I'm going to need to set aside more room for the Rock Band area. I'm seriously thinking about moving the big TV.

TsuDhoNimh wrote:

So, does it have the #1 feature missing from RB2? That is the ability to blacklist songs you hate so you never have to play them on random tour sets. (my least favorite tour song is "Let There Be Rock" -- difficult enough to fail, too long, and musically, a total bore)

This sounds like it would be covered by the "skip it at any time part" but I wonder if that affects your score....

It does indeed! Sort of. It has a rating system whereby you rate songs in your library from one to five lighters. One lighter songs will rarely show up in random setlists; five lighter songs will show up often. I'm not sure if you can put zero lighters and have it never show up.

Hot damn, I cannot wait for this! The pro guitar mode has me seriously intrigued, and keyboards and vocal harmonies just plain rock. I've had my Roland e-drum kit hooked up to my Xbox via a cannibalized Rock Revolution drum controller spliced into a MIDI receiver board for a couple years now, but the official MIDI box looks even better. RB basically got me into drumming. If they can do the same with an actual guitar, I am sold.

DorkmasterFlek wrote:
TsuDhoNimh wrote:

So, does it have the #1 feature missing from RB2? That is the ability to blacklist songs you hate so you never have to play them on random tour sets. (my least favorite tour song is "Let There Be Rock" -- difficult enough to fail, too long, and musically, a total bore)

This sounds like it would be covered by the "skip it at any time part" but I wonder if that affects your score....

It does indeed! Sort of. It has a rating system whereby you rate songs in your library from one to five lighters. One lighter songs will rarely show up in random setlists; five lighter songs will show up often. I'm not sure if you can put zero lighters and have it never show up. :)

That is exactly what I want. Anything that moves RB's library management closer to iTunes' style. Goodbye, crappy songs I can't delete.

Clemenstation wrote:

Any comment on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the stringed guitar and Pro mode actually being able to teach people to play?

The dude on the Squire was a pretty competent guitarist, so it's hard to say.

One thing the spokesdude mentioned was that the Pro mode for the keyboard should train folks (through muscle memory) to play a semi-competent rendition of a song. Specifically, he mentioned that he'd been doing Bohemian Rhapsody on keys for like a week at PAX (or some other event). One of the producers sat the dude down on a baby grand and had him go at it, and after a while there was a semblance of the bridge ringing through the place.

SO there's that.

The real treat (one that I forgot to mention in my quick writeup) is in the Squire guitar. While they're allowing you to hook up any POS through the MIDI Brain, using the Squire guitar enables instantaneous visual feedback as to which fret you're hovering over. Since the Squire has sensors along the neck, you'll be able to tell if you're on the mark without having to constantly look down.
The PRO gems have a little number (i.e. 5) over them to indicate the correct finger placement. If you're using the Squire, you'll get a notification right where the game's visual fretboard ends (the termination point where you're supposed to strum to the gem). It's basically a little bump with the fret # you're on (so, say, 1 or 7) that lets you quickly adjust.

It'd be like placing your finger around the green button (for a classic guitar) and seeing a little glow around the green fret on the game screen.

I'm doing a terrible job describing it, so see if you can catch a youtube of it or something. It honestly blew my mind when they described it, because it's such a small touch (but an extremely intuitive and brilliant design element) that you hit yourself on the head for not thinking about it. When you see it, you just know it's right.

And really, that's what Harmonix brings to the table. They're just so spot on when it comes to bringing progress to the platform.

Clemenstation wrote:

Any comment on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the stringed guitar and Pro mode actually being able to teach people to play?

Without seeing any of the tutorials Harmonix is putting together, it's impossible to say. What was obvious though was that the tech in the Squier guitar works *really* well and pro mode is going to be intense.

I walked out of this completely stoked for Rock Band 3, then super sad that I'm gonna drop so much money on it.

What we *didn't* see was the Intermediate controller in action. They showed the MadCatz Mustang controller with the hordes of fret buttons, but I didn't see anyone play it.

Was there any mention or rumor of price for the Squier? Just wondering how much premium the extra tech will bring to the guitar.

I will buy this day one if I have to sell one of my children to afford it. Actually, if I sell them, I have more gaming time. Win-win.

Spaz wrote:

The real treat (one that I forgot to mention in my quick writeup) is in the Squire guitar. While they're allowing you to hook up any POS through the MIDI Brain, using the Squire guitar enables instantaneous visual feedback as to which fret you're hovering over. Since the Squire has sensors along the neck, you'll be able to tell if you're on the mark without having to constantly look down.
The PRO gems have a little number (i.e. 5) over them to indicate the correct finger placement. If you're using the Squire, you'll get a notification right where the game's visual fretboard ends (the termination point where you're supposed to strum to the gem). It's basically a little bump with the fret # you're on (so, say, 1 or 7) that lets you quickly adjust.

It'd be like placing your finger around the green button (for a classic guitar) and seeing a little glow around the green fret on the game screen.

I'm doing a terrible job describing it, so see if you can catch a youtube of it or something. It honestly blew my mind when they described it, because it's such a small touch (but an extremely intuitive and brilliant design element) that you hit yourself on the head for not thinking about it. When you see it, you just know it's right.

And really, that's what Harmonix brings to the table. They're just so spot on when it comes to bringing progress to the platform.

Absolutely 100% agree. I caught this detail on one of the interview videos where they were showing off expert pro guitar on Rainbow in the Dark. Aside from the insane solo, I noticed how he was explaining about the notation system they created. Not only do you have numbers to indicate the fret on the string, the chord language shows you the bar/power chords if you want carefully during the main riff.

In addition, I noticed that the numbers on the single note gems are in slightly different positions during the licks and solo. I thought this was just for readability, but he mentioned something about the gems/notation actually being slightly different shapes to indicate exactly how you're supposed to be fretting it with your left hand, like what fingering to use or something I guess. It seems they've developed a really dense language for concisely describing these charts. I can't wait to try this out! This just blows everything Guitar Hero is doing out of the water.

Sounds like great stuff. RHCP, Boston, Green Day, STP and Pearl Jam are all getting five lighters from me.

Nice work after the fall. Way to take one for the team.

DorkmasterFlek wrote:

I caught this detail on one of the interview videos where they were showing off expert pro guitar on Rainbow in the Dark.

For those of you, like me, who shrieked and grasped maniacally at the mouse looking for this -- BAD DorkmasterFlek! -- here's that video.

Rock band Three Great idea and it looks so awesome, but im not sure how well it will sell and how high the cost will be

I have never cared about Rock Band. I was out of the plastic instruments game after guitar hero 2. I knew, for certain, that Rock Band 3, if and when it came would be irrelevant.

God damn them, I am utterly intrigued by this game. Give me a chance to be a show-offy douche-bag with my real-guitar-playing abilities in the context of a video game? Eff yeah! With a single stroke they've annihilated any excuse for snobby musician types to sh*t on this game.

Clever guys, those guys. (and girls, obviously)