Newest 'Guitar Hero' lets you create music

By: CNN
By: CNN

(CNN) -- It has fed the dreams of millions of air guitarists, headbangers and rocker wannabes. It has exposed a new generation of fans to classic rock and metal while helping the slumping record industry boost sales.

"Guitar Hero World Tour," the next installment in the blockbuster franchise, hits stores October 26.

Now, for an encore, the wildly popular "Guitar Hero" video game franchise has a new, more ambitious goal: It wants to help you record original music and share it with other fans around the world.

"Guitar Hero World Tour," the fourth major installment in the gaming series, hits stores Sunday, October 26. Unlike past "GH" games, which came only with a guitar-shaped controller, "GHWT" also includes a drum kit and microphone, so gamers can tackle bass, vocal and percussion parts, too.

The game's new studio mode will allow players to use the instrument controllers to record music tracks. Through an online service called GHTunes, players also will be able to upload their songs, download others or collaborate to create music together.

The 86 songs in "Guitar Hero World Tour," all master recordings, include such riff-heavy classics as Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze," Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" and Bon Jovi's "Livin' On a Prayer." But the game also ventures into such new "GH" genres as country (Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again") and even dance pop ("Beat It" by Michael Jackson).

CNN spoke with "Guitar Hero" creators Charles and Kai Huang of RedOctane about the new game. (Some of their answers have been edited.)

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CNN: What were your goals in developing "Guitar Hero World Tour?"

Charles Huang: One of our goals was to create a great social gaming experience, so that four people can get together and play. The other was. . .the new feature we call GHTunes. In a music studio in "Guitar Hero" you can actually use our instrument controllers, create your own original music, upload it onto the Internet and . . .other people can download your music and play it in "Guitar Hero." You can lay down a drum track, stop, then pick up a guitar and lay down a guitar track. And then you can go into an editing studio and edit your song and put the finishing touches on it. So there's going to be almost an unlimited amount of original music. . .that people will explore.

Kai Huang: With GHTunes, once we launch that, it's going to be the biggest open platform for online distribution of music. That's something that's never really been offered before.

You've added other instruments to the game. How influenced were you by the success of "Rock Band?"

Kai Huang: We started with guitar. But our ultimate vision had always been about putting all of the instruments together and creating a band product. It was about waiting until we had what we thought the gamers were really going to want. With "World Tour," we have all new instruments.

CH: The guitar controller is slightly larger [than before].

KH: And we took a lot of time to make sure our drums were as authentic as possible. We've actually put the velocity-sensing technology in there, so the harder you hit the drum head, the harder it's going to sound, and the softer you hit, the softer its going to sound.

How does the game score players' vocals? That sounds tricky.

CH: The guitar and the drums work on a rhythm, a beat matching. And the vocals work on pitch matching. You have to match the pitch of the notes as they scroll by.

Why did you add a beginner level?

KH: Our whole objective with "Guitar Hero" is to make it as broadly accessible as possible. By adding this beginner mode, we can get even young kids, who are 5, 6, 7 and who maybe can't coordinate pressing a button on the guitar and strumming at the same time. . .to make it really easy for them. All they have to do is strum.

CH: My 7- and 9-year-old daughters play. And there are times when my 70-year-old dad plays. You want to give people of all ages and all sizes the ability to play "Guitar Hero" and have fun.

What about compatibility across formats? If I create a song on a Wii console, for example, could other people play it on an Xbox?

CH: I believe GHTunes is compatible across all formats.

How did you choose the songs for this game?

KH: We're looking for music that connects with people. When they hear it, they go, "Wow, I love that song and I have to buy this game." We start with a list of maybe 200 or 300 songs we would love to license. And from there we work with the labels and the artists themselves to see which ones we can actually get.

CH: We try to cover a lot of different genres and different eras. "Guitar Hero" has always been known for classic rock and metal. But we also look for songs that have great instrumentals and are fun to play, like "La Bamba," by Los Lobos, which is surprisingly difficult. We put in [new] genres like the Beastie Boys. Michael Jackson is in there. What's great about "Beat It" is that a lot of people forget that Eddie Van Halen played the guitar solo on that.

When you guys were first developing "Guitar Hero," didn't you have a hard time convincing artists to let you use their songs?

KH: Yeah, with "Guitar Hero 1," it was an unknown game. We went out and tried to license music and frankly got turned down for about 97 percent of the songs we asked for. They didn't know what this game was. We didn't have enough money to play them anyway. So it was a real challenge at the beginning. It's become much easier for us.

Do you have a preferred console for playing "Guitar Hero"?

CH: We try to take advantage of the uniqueness of each console. They're all very different, and we try to tailor our games to match the strengths of each.

KH: Yeah, we love all of our children. How do you choose?

What do you think has been "Guitar Hero's" biggest impact on the music industry?

CH: We actually saw...song downloads go up the week after "Guitar Hero III" was released -- for every single song that was included.

KH: Aerosmith generated more money on royalties for their game ["Guitar Hero Aerosmith"] than they did on each of their past two albums. So they [the games] are truly bringing artists to new audiences, and much bigger audiences.

So the new game will be in stores October 26? That's a Sunday.

KH: It is. It'll give you a whole day to play. You won't have to cut work.


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