Editorials and Features
Article by: MrCHUPON
Feature: E3 2007: Eww, Eh, Excellent #3 - Rock Band [Written 2007-07-19]
Rock Band: "Eww"
What a rotten disappointment. Just kidding.
Rock Band: "Excellent!"
This one's an easy one for me. As a self-proclaimed loser who knows nothing about playing the guitar or the rock genre in any way shape or form, Guitar Hero allowed me to live out a fantasy I never knew I wanted to fulfill - rock out. With it, I could (pretend to) play songs that I could never play in real life while still applying some modicum of skill - at least on Expert difficulty. It even somehow made me feel less dissatisfied by the fact that I never attained a cello-playing skill level proportionate to the number of years I played.
Then, Rock Band showed up on the horizon - and the promise of learning how to legitimately play the drums by climbing up the difficulty ladder with the game's mock drum set became even more enticing. All the information that poured out before and during E3 2007 increased my fervor for this game with each and every web page refresh. Leaked promo videos. Snapshots of the instruments. Full album downloads of songs to play. Track list announcements, so that I can look up the songs and preview how to play them by ear. The once tight-lipped EA and Harmonix were now giving us pieces of the puzzle.
Peter Moore - bless his heart - tried to step in with Harmonix at the Microsoft presser at E3 2007 to demo this wondrous game. We saw the leaked video. We knew of its potential. But here was the erstwhile Microsoft exec Moore (now heading to EA Sports), pressing pause at the most inopportune moments and almost resetting the entire song. Sitting in our chairs and glaring at the screen, a lot of us probably wanted another demo since we couldn't see it for ourselves.
Enter Gamespot.com's live feed, which capped the entire week off with a live proper demo of Rock Band on its Santa Monica Pier stage, and the romper room performance of Bon Jovi's "Dead or Alive" by Joystiq.com staff captured by 1up.com. Now things were heating up.
At Gamespot's event, the Harmonix team stepped up and delivered a performance that allowed us to witness the joy of playing a videogame in perfect (ok, almost perfect) musical harmony. We got an up-close-and-personal view of the drum set, taking a pounding from Harmonix CEO and co-founder Alex Rigopulos, and how it really - and I mean, really - looked like he was playing a real drum set. No, not just wailing away on five frets and one "string" - but four drum pads and a bass drum pedal, the same as most real-world drum setups. And did you notice how comfortable Gamespot associate editor (and drummer) Alex Navarro was when he took his try at the drum set? Never even touched the thing before this, and already he looks like he's playing comfortably on his practice pads at home.
Sure, Rock Band isn't for everyone. Some people feel that they'd rather play a real instrument in a real band with songs they wrote than play with (admittedly, good-looking and well-constructed) toy instruments with a predetermined set of songs. Duly noted. But come on - it looks like a hell of a lot of fun with your friends after a brew or two. In 1up's Gamevideos.com clip of Joystiq staff playing in a Harmonix room full of happily buzzed cronies, the entire audience - drinks in hand - sang along, "I'm wanted... WANTED! ...dead or alive!" That's a party game if I ever saw one.
Joystiq and Crew, dead or alive
The bigger thing here - as far as conventions and product demonstrations are concerned - is that Harmonix and EA successfully showed off Rock Band to both the press and the consumer (at least those watching the Gamespot stream or the 1up video) in smashing fashion. This is important in the face of the juggernaut that is Activision's Guitar Hero III, which boasts the brand recognition that gets the attention of Everyday Joe. Regardless of whatever features there are that may push Rock Band over Guitar Hero III, you'd have to explain Rock Band - if only slightly - to the casual passerby gamer. Mention Guitar Hero - "Oh yeah, I love that! When's the next one coming out?"
Now it's time for Harmonix and EA to spread the word past the enthusiast gaming consumer - that is, past E3 press events and website streams - and truly into the public's eye. For once, I feel that the spectacle created by E3 events of old would have helped to truly push Rock Band in front of everyone's eyeballs. Maybe, just maybe, "From the Creators of Guitar Hero" on the box would help.
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