Gaming for Grown Ups
8th October 2012 12:00:00
Posted by Luciano Howard

Rock Band Blitz - Interview with Harmonix

After becoming obsessed by the excellence that is Rock Band Blitz we were lucky enough to have Nick Chester answer a few questions for us. Nick is Harmonix's Publicist who has been working together closely with the development and publishing team for the past year leading up to the game's release.

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Rock Band Blitz happens to be an addictive piece of gaming brilliance, as our review indicates. What made you move from the Rock Star party atmospheres of Rock Band with instruments to what is a score-attack rhythm game that keeps folk up at night planning their next run?

The original Rock Band was designed with that party atmosphere in mind, and in order to keep that party going for five years, we’d offered gamers a ton of content on our Music Store… over 3,000 tracks! Given we had such an extensive library, we wanted to give players a brand new way to experience that great content… instrument free. The instrument simulation continues to be incredibly fun, but we know the challenges there: instruments take abuse after years of rocking and stop working; it’s sometimes hard to get folks together for Rock Band parties; noise can bother your neighbors; or you want to play your music content without having to lug out the drums or other instruments.

So with Rock Band Blitz, we stripped all of that away, and focused on delivering an awesome, addictive controller-based music experience that uses the great content we’d already authored for Rock Band. The idea was never to replace the full instrument gameplay of Rock Band 3; the songs that come with Rock Band Blitz are playable in Rock Band 3, and most of the great content we’d previously released is playable in Rock Band Blitz, as well. So we think Rock Band Blitz’s fast-paced, arcade action is a great complement to Rock Band 3.

Do you see yourselves as developing a Rock Band 4 in the future, or is that it for new ‘platforms’?

We’re currently focusing on Rock Band Blitz, Rock Band 3, releasing new tracks for both games weekly, and adding new goals weekly to Rock Band World… in addition to releasing and then supporting Dance Central 3 this October. You can say we’re a bit busy, so beyond that, we don’t have anything to announce right now.

How do you think you’ll progress the Blitz structure? Track packs with trophies, sequels with campaigns, or something else entirely?

With Rock Band World and our DLC Music Library, we can continue to grow Rock Band Blitz in some pretty cool ways, including expanding Rock Band Blitz with new music and weekly goals as part of Rock Band World. As you may have noticed, we were able to make some tweaks to the game’s coin economy after gathering player feedback. We have no plans to release any downloadable updates to the core game, though, and it’s a bit early to talk about a sequel right now… there are nearly 4,000 songs you can play in Rock Band Blitz, and I don’t think any one player has played them all yet!

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What is your favourite track from all available sources to play on Blitz and/or Rock Band 3? Why is it your favourite?

Personally, my favorite might be Spongebob Squarepants’ “Best Day Ever.” Don’t judge. (It makes my daughter smile, and that’s enough for me.)

Any plans for new handheld versions of anything Rock Band based given the recent Vita launch, continued growth of iOS/Android and the 3DS’ maturity?

We all love and use those devices, but don’t have any plans to release any titles on those platforms at this time.

Harmonix’s back catalogue is entirely rhythm action based. Is this where you expect to keep focussing, or is there opportunity to branch out? Would any change be a complete change, or something similar to the innovative Retro/Grade by 24 Caret Games?

Harmonix is full of some of the most talented developers in the business, across all disciplines, and while the focus has been on music games, they could easily apply those skills to other genres. We’re always looking for ways to innovate, and while music is part of the DNA of the studio’s culture, we certainly don’t want to limit ourselves. That said, folks like 24 Caret, Queasy Games (Sound Shapes), and even Zen Studios (Kick Beat) are doing some cool stuff with music and gaming, and that’s really exciting. There’s definitely room to grow the genre in new, exciting directions, and we’re always looking to explore new ways that players can interact with music… you never know where that could take us.

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What’s the team’s highest score on ‘Shout’, the track which seemingly gave the most trouble to the community? What have we all to aim at?

You’re aiming for just a little under 400,000. It’s a tough one, for sure – try using the Jackpot Power-Up in tandem with Super Guitar; there are some nice, double sustain guitar notes in “Shout” that, when combined with Jackpot, will give you mega points that should get you close to gold. As for what the highest score on the team is, that’s hard to say. I will say that my personal high score is 521,835… and I’m ranked nearly 400 on the leaderboards. I need to step up my game!

Why did you choose facebook integration versus more typical functionality such as being able to challenge a friend from within PSN or XBL? What benefits - and compromises - did it bring?

As a social network, it’s an understatement to say that Facebook is massive. By giving players a way to link Rock Band Blitz with Facebook, where Rock Band World lives, we opened up a ton of really cool possibilities you don’t have on the console alone. Specifically, allowing players to challenge friends and family members they might not be connected to on their console, and allowing them to participate in goals together. Those goals even work cross platforms, so folks rocking on the PlayStation 3 can team up with their friends playing on an Xbox 360!

Have you considered free to play gaming longer term? The way Rock Band 3 and Blitz work now is effectively free to play whereby micro transactions for DLC change the game. Would you completely move to that model, and provide things other than just songs for folk to buy?

A lot of folks say the “free to play” model is the future for games, and that certainly has been a successful model for folks for a lot of platforms like mobile and social. With Rock Band 3 and Rock Band Blitz, we’re operating on home consoles, which is a completely different environment right now, so we don’t have any plans to move in that direction with these titles.

When can we next expect a big announcement from you all?

I’d like to think all of our announcements are “big announcements.” ;) Just make sure you’re following us on Twitter, @Harmonix, @Dance_Central, and @RockBand… you won’t miss a thing. And you wouldn’t want to, would you?

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