Harmonix Responds to Your PAX East Questions

Photo from HarmonixCommunity Flickr photostream

So as many of you remember, the week prior to PAX East, we solicited the community for questions to pass on to Harmonix while we were there. These posts are unsurprisingly very popular, with this one fielding well over 200 comments/questions. I culled through the questions and tried to eliminate the duplicates and combine as many as possible, and ultimately got them down to a somewhat reasonable amount.

Because a large quantity of the questions were either technical in nature or asking why “X” feature was not included or if “X” feature can be included in future title updates, my thinking was that we may get more detailed responses by having the most eyes at Harmonix take a look at the questions as possible. Instead of cornering Harmonix’s Public Relations Manager John Drake or any of the other community members at PAX East, we chatted and thought it would be a better idea if I sent the questions over and allowed the Rock Band team to take a crack at them afterwards back at the office. I sent the questions shortly after PAX East, and received responses last week. Below is the communication between John and myself.

RockBandAide: Why were the following not included in Rock Band 3? And could any of these be added via patch in the future?

  • “Subgenre” filtering and/or sorting
  • Filters by ratings (lighters)
  • LEGO style auto-kick pedal
  • Local or online score duels
  • Ratings of songs per instrument and for normal/Pro modes instead of one rating per song
  • Crowd sing-alongs
  • Simultaneous duplicate instrument charts a la Guitar Hero (more than one person playing the same instrument at the same time)
  • Enable “shuffle” within a created playlist
  • Import characters from previous titles
  • “Purchase date” sorting improvements
  • Increase the number of allowable custom characters
  • Delete a single song from your library that was purchased in a pack or export
  • Jukebox mode
  • Freestyle Play mode for all Pro-instruments similar to how it exists now for drums
  • Venue select
  • Modifiers and filters preferences saved by default instead of reset at restart
  • Shared custom characters in multiplayer

John Drake: Overall, the answer to these requests is “Game development is a series of complicated choices. Interrelated systems all have to work together towards the ideal design for a game, and we never get to incorporate everything that we want into a title. A lot of these suggestions are excellent ones (and some of them were even proposed or worked on during development), but the game is developed on a finite timeline with a finite budget. We hope that, even great suggestions aside, you appreciate all the thought and care that went into the features that we did put into the game”. Beyond that, we’re don’t have any more title updates on the horizon for Rock Band at the moment. While that’s subject to change based on new information, most features of this scope wouldn’t be able to be added in a patch anyway.

A few things to address specifically:

– Local or online score duels – Our live data from RB2 showed that very very few people were playing these competitive modes. We put leaderboards and our “battles” functionality in the game for folks who want to duke it out, but the simultaneous competition wasn’t used much in RB1 or RB2 based on our analysis and would have been time-consuming to put in, putting other features at risk.

– Simultaneous Duplicate Instrument Charts – We addressed this a fair amount during the launch of other competitive titles – It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have multiple people playing the same track and same instrument. Not only does it not reflect the band vibe of Rock Band, it also would challenge our “make the audio track stop when you miss a note” mechanic.

– Importing characters from previous titles – There are a LOT of reasons why this is a challenge for us to do. The most important challenge is that we overhauled our art assets pretty extremely between RB2 and RB3…while we kept a lot of your favorite outfit options around so you could rebuild your characters and that may result in an “up-rezzed same character” from the player perspective, on the back end, it’s very much a new set of assets and data.

– Delete a single song from your library that was purchased in a pack or export – Oh, you mean “Visions syndrome”? We’ve heard you on this one and we wish there was an easier solution. The long and short of it is that there are some things about file management on a console that we control as the game, and some things about file management on a console that the console manufacturer controls. We’re sorry that you can’t delete these songs for the more OCD fans out there, but we recommend you just rank them lower with our lighter system to prevent them from coming up as often.

Hope that that explains some of our design choices. For the rest, I get where they’re all coming from, but they’re unlikely to change in the near future.

RBA: Have there been any artists that have come around to allowing their content now that Pro mode features have been added?

JD: None that we can discuss, though every artist we show Pro to has been extremely supportive of our technology and the way we integrated learning and skill development into a title that’s focused on fun.

RBA: And have there been any artists/labels now more willing to talk about content now that MTV is gone?

JD: MTV was a really valuable partner in securing bands. They were crucial in getting bands like The Beatles involved with music games. That being said, Harmonix is doing well with our licensing efforts. MTV not being involved doesn’t (positively or negatively) impact our plans for ongoing content.

RBA: Will disc-based track packs continue in the future? If so, will they be based on the RB3 engine and have keys, harmonies, and Pro-Guitar/Bass?

JD: We don’t have any more disc based track packs planned at the moment.

RBA: We heard last year at PAX East that there was a possibility of J-Rock coming to DLC. Any updates on this?

JD: We’re still excited about the possibility of J-Rock coming to Rock Band, but with the launch of RB3, the sale of Harmonix and all of the other excitement, this hasn’t moved along much. If there are any J-Rock bands out there excited about Rock Band or RBN, get them in touch with us!

RBA: Has community feedback impacted your decision to create more “RB3 Versions” of DLC?

JD: Somewhat. We’re glad that folks are excited about the upgrades and are educating themselves about the process so we can stop having the “stop charging us twice” conversation. While it’s TOTALLY UNDERSTANDABLE as a gut reaction, the reality of the situation is that we have to submit separate files with additional work done on them to enable harmonies, keys and pro instruments.

That said, we’re trying to primarily focus RB3 DLC efforts on new tracks, with only really amazing keys/vox/pro songs from the catalog offered in both ways. We hope to have more information for you guys in the future about your requests for RB3 versions. Stay tuned.

RBA: Muse?

JD: My muse when I’m working on games is writing to fans who ask the same questions over and over, as if there is only one band in the universe capable of being a fun experience on a rhythm action instrument simulation game.

RBA: Is there a chance of getting the buttons on the Squier to work on the Xbox 360? Is this a “Microsoft thing?”

JD: Without going into too much detail, no we can’t enable the faceplate buttons on 360, and yes it’s related to controller standards, which vary by console.

RBA: Are there any other Pro-Guitar/Bass peripherals planned outside of the Mustang and Squier?

JD: We don’t have any other Pro Controllers planned at this time. Get your Mustang/Squier on!

RBA: Has there been any thought to making the Pro Guitar/Bass tabs readable without having a Pro controller?

JD: We haven’t setup an autoplay style play along, but we get where the request comes from. While our transcriptions are spot on, you can find lots of player videos and fan tablature for most of these songs on “the internetz”.

RBA: Is it technically possible to give title exported songs (RB1, RB2, LEGO) Pro-Guitar/Bass upgrades?

JD: There are a handful of issues that make giving Pro-Guitar/Bass upgrades to exported songs very complicated. Never say never, but it’s unlikely that these tracks will be upgradable in the short term.

RBA: When playing certain songs on Pro Guitar with the Squier, after you complete the song you’ll be given 0 stars, regardless of how well you played. Will this be fixed? (http://www.rockband.com/forums/showthread.php?t=212533) [Asked prior to most recent title update.]

JD: We fixed this on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 with our latest title update!

RBA: Will there be a new Rock Band title this year? Is there a timetable on when to expect something new?

JD: While we’re hard at work on supporting the Rock Band franchise with DLC, the Squier launch and ongoing development work, we haven’t announced another Rock Band title for 2011 at this time.

RBA: Any Harmonix/Rock Band games planned for the 3DS or NGP?

JD: We haven’t announced titles for those handheld platforms at this time.

RBA: Any chance that the Platinum Icon will make a return in RB3?

JD: If it hasn’t made an appearance yet, it’s unlikely we’ll add it in now, sorry to say.

RBA: Will RB1 or LEGO: Rock Band ever be exported to the Wii? And why is it not possible to patch the Wii?

JD: We’re focused on bringing robust library support to the Wii, but haven’t announced plans to export those titles at this time. There are multiple reasons that we can’t perform title updates on the Wii and, if you search around the Rock Band forums, I’m sure we’ve explained it a few times.

RBA: With MTV out of the picture, is there any chance of future Beatles DLC? What about a Beatles export into Rock Band?

JD: To reiterate, MTV not being in the picture doesn’t change any of our DLC relationships (for better or for worse). We still haven’t announced anything re: more Beatles DLC or Beatles export at this time, though we know the fans are hungry for more great content from The Fab Four. Almost as much as Muse.

RBA: Has there ever been talk about adding in a feature in the game or via a PC/Mac/mobile interface that would export your DLC library for karaoke-style song books?

JD: We run into similar problems with our touring consoles (which are updated with ALL the DLC), but there isn’t a game-side solution to this. We just keep a sexy excel spreadsheet updated and export that into a PDF…(we’ve recently found that putting it on an iPad or a laptop helps save a few dozen trees…)

RBA: In retrospect, was the clothing/accessories unlocking option something you would do again?

JD: Providing players with a reason to play through the game and earn experience is a pretty common mechanic in games. While some of the die-hard rhythm fans may have groaned to grind for their favorite gas-mask or skull-ring, having fun playing music games is a small price to pay for your band member to look their best.

RBA: Is the Pearl Jam project dead?

JD: We’ve put out a lot of great DLC from Pearl Jam, who remain one of the best live bands in the world and one of our favorites in the Rock Band franchise. We don’t have any news on a “band-centric” title for Pearl Jam.

RBA: What is the outlook like for band-centric titles?

JD: Our objective with the Rock Band franchise is to deliver artist catalogues to the fans in the most effective way possible. At this point, it’s safe to assume that we’re focused on the digital expansion of Rock Band in lieu of multiple disc releases. We’re hoping to bring all the artists you know and love to the Rock Band platform in due time!

RBA: What is the state of the artists whose songs were exclusive to Guitar Hero now that Activision has ceased production? Can we expect bands like Aerosmith, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Van Halen, and Soundgarden to make a return?

JD: We’re in ongoing talks with all of the major labels, managers and groups. Changes to Guitar Hero’s future release plans don’t necessarily change agreements with specific artists, but we’re hopeful to include great bands from the pantheon of rock that have traditionally appeared on other franchises.

RBA: With GH becoming “dormant,” has this changed Rock Band’s strategy for new releases and/or projects?

JD: Nope. Rock Band is about delivering the same amazing weekly DLC, constant RBN content and community oriented support that we’ve always been focused on. We welcome rhythm gamers of any ilk and will continue to innovate and develop the best in rhythm gameplay!

RBA: Why isn’t double bass pedal part of standard DLC?

JD: In short, very very few RB players in the world have double-bass pedals for their kits. If we put out DLC that was effectively unplayable for the overwhelming majority of Rock Band players, we would be hard pressed to explain to them why they couldn’t play the content they paid for.

RBN “Double-Bass” tracks are a new and unique work around for this. We hope fans of that kind of run-in-place drumming are finding their fix in those tunes!

RBA: Will older DLC be offered in more countries that never had them in the past?

JD: DLC + New Territories = a lot more complicated than you’d think. Combining issues of production and submission with the world of music licensing and payments means that our hands are often tied with respect to some international areas. We hope you understand.

RBA: Is there a patch in the works that will address the PS3 version’s occasional crashing and shifting instruments issues?

JD: HMXPope has been working on this, but at this point we don’t have a fix. He posted the following over on the forums:

“This isn’t an issue that is readily reproducible. That is, while we have no doubt many are indeed having this problem, there are no set of steps anyone has been able to provide to make it happen reliably.

I can tell you that we’ve committed a ton of development man-hours to this one issue since it was first reported. Further, we’ve even had a local PS3 user with the XMB-boot issue bring his personal console in for us to test with. Unfortunately, none of this led us to a fix.”

From: http://www.rockband.com/forums/showthread.php?t=204558&pagenumber=

We’re continuing to talk with fans on the support forums in attempts to identify what’s going on, but we’ve sunk a lot of dev time behind the scenes into this problem and made very little progress. Without a clear “repro”, we can’t deliver a fix.

RBA: “Total Rock, Total Rewards” contest gone for good now?

JD: We had a blast with our partners at Harrah’s doing TR,TR for a while. We haven’t announced plans to continue that contest, but stay tuned to RockBand.com for the newest ways to play and win within Rock Band.

RBA: Any possibility of offering packs of songs on the RBN?

JD: Not right now. Bundling content is a bit more challenging when that content is submitted via UGC/XNA channels. For now, the tracks will remain standalone.

RBA: Thanks, John!

118 Responses to “Harmonix Responds to Your PAX East Questions”

  • Whizzer says:

    So, not a lot of definitive answers. Not that I expected that. I’m glad they don’t outright say that ‘exlusive GH’ artists won’t come to Rock Band in due time and that there are indeed bands that have come around since Pro mode.

    • Andy says:

      “We’re in ongoing talks with all of the major labels, managers and groups. Changes to Guitar Hero’s future release plans don’t necessarily change agreements with specific artists, but we’re hopeful to include great bands from the pantheon of rock that have traditionally appeared on other franchises”

      On the subject of GH artists, this answer makes it seem like there are still legal issues to work out but that Harmonix is trying

      Wouldn’t expect anything soon but hopefully one day we’ll get some more of the GH bands

      • Whizzer says:

        That’s what I read in that response too. At least some may still be tied to Guitar Hero, but not indefinitely. As for others, we may not know until the DLC is actually there (or perhaps a lonely on-disc song at first).

  • Brian says:

    There’s alot of repetition in the questions. How many times do people have to be told “No”, or “There is no further available info at this time” before they finally get the hint.

    • RockBandAide says:

      You would be amazed. That is exactly why I left repeat questions in here. People need reassurance, even if it’s from official sources.

    • What’s your beef? “No further info available AT THIS TIME” means that it might be available at a later time. Asking the same question at certain intervals isn’t SUCH a bad idea, right? Sooner or later certain questions WILL be answered.

      • Brian says:

        It’s not really a beef perse, just an annoyance. Especially where the Beatles and Muse questions are concerned. You can really sense it in John’s responses.

        It’s still very much possible to ask a whole new legion of questions about the game without resorting to constant repetition.

      • RockBandAide says:

        I understand, but certain questions like Muse and Beatles DLC/exporting are asked at every possible instance, crossing over the line from inquisitive to pestering. Items like these have become a parody of themselves at this point, clearly insinuating that the message has been received. If they CAN do something about it, they will, and will make the announcement at the opportune time.

  • Jason2087 says:

    I have a feeling Led Zeppelin is coming. He said “Every artist we’ve shown Pro mode to have been very supportive of our technology.” with that being said I find it very difficult to believe they wouldn’t show them Pro mode. Just my gut feeling.

    Also Beatles export was mentioned by him only when asking about DLC, and he mentioned announced “at this time”. Again just another gut feeling.

    • daniel says:

      It’s not that they won’t give their masters away because they want kids to play real instruments. It’s because they are really careful with them, and they don’t want anyone handling them.

  • Doom878 says:

    Great interview

  • pancho says:

    It seems that the Legacy vs. RB3 version song filtering won’t appear anytime soon.

    Oh well.

  • Croq says:

    Great read, thanks RBA for getting with John and HMX on these questions.

    I, for one, really appreciate your (and their) efforts!!

    I lol’d at the Muse response… 🙂

    • T says:

      I also lol’d. The Muse crowd has gotten to be almost embarassingly vocal. For no reason. There are so many bands that are underpresented (or not in) that to focus on Muse time and time again is laughable.

    • Purely Purple says:

      Im all for getting muse on rb, but Im pretty sure that HMX gets the hint and they will put it up in due time. So I say lets drop it for now. I know that if I made a product and people kept telling me the same thing to add to it over and over again… Id get a little annoyed. Its kinda like when you keep bugging your parents for something and they say if you dont stop asking you wont get it.

  • Wii60 User says:

    This interview has probably brought many a fan down from the clouds and tamped down their wishes of RB3. Time to look forward to RB4 then…

    • RockBandAide says:

      A better point is why many a fan had their head in the clouds in the first place.

      • folkeye says:

        Simple optimism of things getting ‘better’ in RB3, which now we know nothing else will be done.

        Hope is for RB4 and seeing some of these tid bits of play come back, and hearing about it sooner than later (or whatever they call it).

      • Purely Purple says:

        We just got this game. Yes it has a few things you dont like but so did RB1 and RB2. Right now Im gonna enjoy RB3 and see what happens in the future. As far as RB4 is concerned im not ready to be hyped up about a new game. I will eventually but not anytime soon.

        • folkeye says:

          I wish I could be the same. RB3 has had the opposite affect on me. I might play every few weeks, if even. The game really destroyed my interest day one, and I hope by the time the next rendition comes out (or we start getting news) that I might have new interest again.

          Good innovations, weak game. I can’t imagine them NOT improving on it, but we’ll see.

  • Spidermaniac says:

    A pretty consistent thread in the answers seems to be that they consider Rock Band 3 a done deal and are not looking at making anymore fixes or changes. Combined with the repeated emphasis on DLC and digital (instead of on-disc) content, about 80% of the discussions on the game’s forums requesting or debating changes/fixes/modes is pretty much spinning wheels. Basically, RB3 is what it is and probably what the Rock Band platform will be for the foreseeable future. I imagine this is good news to some but not so great to others.

    • RockBandAide says:

      Feature-wise, I definitely wouldn’t hold out for anything else. With respect to the sporadic PS3 “crash” issue, they are actively working on that, but have been unable to isolate the bug thus far. If they can fix that, they will.

    • folkeye says:

      I sure hope not. If this was it, I’d sadly be done. Really need more than what this game offered. Need more ‘game’.

      • Joe Shredder says:

        Agree completely. Pro is great, but the gaming side is weak. Gonna need more than just new DLC to keep the existing players, let alone attract new ones.

  • Ash says:

    “- Local or online score duels – Our live data from RB2 showed that very very few people were playing these competitive modes. We put leaderboards and our “battles” functionality in the game for folks who want to duke it out, but the simultaneous competition wasn’t used much in RB1 or RB2 based on our analysis and would have been time-consuming to put in, putting other features at risk.”

    Bollocks. I went on there most days and as i soon as i search i always find someone. And when I search again, someone else comes up!

    • Jet Wolf says:

      It’s not bollocks, it’s relativity. Even if 100 different people were playing Score Duel at any given time, if 100,000 never touched it, it’s a niche feature. If it was something that truly drove the majority of gameplay, do you honestly think HMX would’ve cut it? And if so, why? What motivation do you think they have? To screw you personally?

    • RockBandAide says:

      So your evidence to the contrary is that you found two people to play with?

    • JohnDrake says:

      It’s definitely not bollocks. It’s from actual data from RB2. It’s a bummer for fans of that feature, but it’s not a lie.

      • SatansBestBuddy says:

        Can I say a couple of things?

        1) Online data does not count those people who play offline, I know more than a couple of buddies with Wii that weren’t hooked up to the internet (I mean, really, who’s gonna buy a wireless router solely for one Wii game?) who were pretty peeved that RB3 didn’t have dueling anymore and decided not to get it because of that.

        2) The only way to not get beaten by every punk with a plastic guitar is to practice, and most people practice single player then hop back on to score duel to try to beat some more people, the small number of people on doesn’t mean lots of people don’t use the feature, it’s that lots of people don’t use it exclusively.

        3) http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/extra-credits/3006-Metrics (it’s cool that you have the data to back up these decisions, but culling a niche feature for being a niche feature seems like an improper interpretation of your data)

        I bring these points up because I was a big fan of score duels, it’s what I played more than anything else in the first three Guitar Heros, but when I moved to Rock Band I found that I was suddenly a lot better than my couch buddies, who really only play on hard when stoned anyway (note to self, get better Rock Band friends), so I had to compete online, which is and will always be a little frustrating (though you guys helped a lot with the patches for it), but still, I played it, it was THE reason for me to get better, and with it gone it’s a noticeable hole in my list of reasons to play.

        • Paul says:

          “the small number of people on doesn’t mean lots of people don’t use the feature”

          No, that’s EXACTLY what it means.

          Look, Harmonix has all of the data anyone could ever want on who plays what modes and for how often. I don’t care what anecdotal “evidence” you have – if they say people weren’t playing that mode, they weren’t playing that mode.

          The game still has leaderboards that fulfill THE EXACT SAME PURPOSE. Use those and get over it.

  • Thepuffytaco says:

    Terrible about the lack of JRock…. are they showing jrock artists pro mode?

    • RockBandAide says:

      I don’t think it’s an issue of JRock artists not being shown Pro Mode.

    • RickC says:

      I don’t know if JRock has enough mainstream popularity to become official DLC. Most of the post-RB3 DLC has been from household names, and even if when it is not Billy Joel or John Lennon or Bon Jovi, it is still artists selling millions of records.

      I think JRock would probably be more of an RBN thing. Write to your favorite JRock artists, or post on their Facebook page, or contact their management company, or whatever. Tell them to get onto Rock Band Network. Include links to some of your favorite authoring studios.

      • JohnDrake says:

        Especially if their music has English lyrics or no vocals…since we technically don’t support Japanese language lyrics (cause we have to ensure the lyrics aren’t profane etc…)

        • jimpbblmk says:

          I was kind of hoping for some of the instrumental “classic DDR” songs, like those by Naoki and DJ Taka. I left a similar comment on their Facebook page, hoping that there is still a business relationship between Harmonix and Konami that would be able to pull something like that off.

          • pancho says:

            *Harmonix and RedOCtane plagiarize Guitar Hero 1 from GuitarFreaks.
            *Konamni sues and loses lawsuit
            *Ask Konami artists to hop onto the Harmonix wagon

            I lol’d a bit. It would be great to play some songs from there, but still, I lol’d.

  • Elitro says:

    I was happy with the answer about the exclusive artists from other games 🙂

    But i still don’t buy that double bass pedal argument. I mean if they know we will pay so much for instruments like a squire what’s so wrong about expecting us to aquire an extra pedal to play on a expert+ mode…

    Still, thank you for your effort in getting these questions to them!

    • RickC says:

      I think the issue is return on investment. It might have taken time and money and effort on the developers parts to get double-bass drumming native to RB3. They felt that time and money was better spent elsewhere. For example, every song has cymbals, but only a small subset of songs (especially of the official DLC) has bass drumming too fast for one foot.

      I love metal and would have loved double-bass drumming native in RB3, but I guess they have to pick their battles.

  • Blibbles says:

    Thank you for asking all those questions! I was hoping for less cagey answers this time around in regards to DLC. If Harmonix is tired of people asking for Muse, simply tell us why they refuse to add more tracks as DLC. Either Harmonix can’t afford it or Muse won’t license their music. It has to be one or the other. I assume the same goes for Radiohead. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying “These bands are asking for too much $$$” or “They refuse”. The demand is obviously there for these artists.

    • RockBandAide says:

      I have a feeling it’s somewhere in between. If Muse’s record label isn’t completely inept, they probably see the demand for DLC, and are leveraging that against Harmonix to justify a much higher price tag for licensing rights. And if Harmonix is “playing the game,” they’re probably negotiating based on certain industry forecasts to bring that price down.

      If it was a situation where Muse (or more appropriately, their record label) said “Thanks, but no thanks,” Harmonix would pass the buck on to them.

      • Blibbles says:

        Good point. If there’s any silver lining in the decline of music game sales, perhaps it’s that the labels will realize they should take whatever money they can get from Harmonix.

      • Toad3000 says:

        If Harmonix is “playing the game”, it’s one hell of a long game. It’s been nearly 3 years since we got Hysteria (heh, how appropriate), and people have been clamoring for Muse in RB since before then. Obviously Activision had no problems getting Muse songs on-disc and in DLC over the course of the last few years…so much so that it would be safe to assume there was/is some kind of exclusivity deal.

        • Blibbles says:

          I think that it was more like Activision was willing to spend whatever amount the label was asking for.

          • Toad3000 says:

            And EA/MTV Games wasn’t, particularly given the clamoring by the RB fanbase? I sincerely doubt that. For starters, look at the fact that we DID get a Muse song, way back in 2008, so apparently the RB franchise reached an agreement with their label then.
            I think an exclusivity deal is far more likely – GH had Muse songs in every game since GH3, a Matt Bellamy likeness, and a decent bit of DLC (including an aggravatingly 360-exclusive song for GH:WoR which still hasn’t come to the other consoles), whereas RB hasn’t gotten a Muse song since RB1. Likely reason? Activision locked them down during GH:WT negotiations.

    • T says:

      HMX has never, and will never, comment on DLC negotiations. That’s been their business line from Day 1.

      • Purely Purple says:

        I understand that motive. I think that telling people what dlc is coming ruins the suprise. Not to mention im sure artists might want to keep it on the downlow. Plus, if something falls through someone is gonna get yelled at. Id rather wonder why a band doesnt have any music on RB then hear about all 5 botched attempts to secure licensing.

    • darkbhudda says:

      It is standard business practice that even just basic discussions are confidential – let alone any serious negotiations – so Harmonix cannot legally tell you why.

      • Brian says:

        And even in the rare times they HAVE been able to post DLC coming down the pike, it has only backfired because everybody gets all “BAAAAWWWWW! My band isn’t coming out next!” every single week until that DLC does get released.

        I miss those announcements, but oh well. I’m just glad HMX is still able to release stuff, and has survived all of its competition.

  • Dorkmaster Flek says:

    Glad to see they didn’t seem totally put off by the backlash over the RB3 upgrades. Now where are the Boston upgrades!? 😀

  • folkeye says:

    So….yeah, no reasoning for some minus time. Oh well, some of that really, really killed the RB experience for me. Can only hope some of the stuff (mainly player choice that was taken away) will come back in the future if they have another RB game.

    I don’t appreciate much of RB3’s changes, but will hold out and see where it goes.

  • folkeye says:

    Still fully disagree with the punishment of the unlock system. I don’t care for playing all instruments, and I have a hand injury that’s preventing me from doing anything minus singing (for months now). So that’s in no way shape or form fun or motivation for me. Thanks HMX.

    So that is no ‘small price for characters looking their best’.

    • RockBandAide says:

      It’s not “punishment.” The feature was explained. You don’t like the answer based on your own situation and choose to take it personal.

      • SatansBestBuddy says:

        It’s not a feature, it’s a poorly designed system of keeping people from being able to customize their characters without sinking hundreds of dollars and thousands of hours into the game, and you can’t say otherwise unless you have everything yourself.

        • RockBandAide says:

          I prefer the old way better myself, but calling it “poorly designed” doesn’t make sense. The currently designed system awards players for completing specific achievements through accessory rewards. In the era of immediate gratification, sometimes things take a little hard work to get, and claiming it takes “hundreds of dollars and thousands of hours” may not be the best choice of words if intended to be constructive criticism.

          • folkeye says:

            I think it has a lot to do with lack of interest in playing all the insturments, or feeling forced to. To take away going through the career (via RB2) on instrument of choice turned me off. I don’t care for pro guitar, I don’t care for plastic axe much for that matter. I’m not a good drummer, and keys don’t interest me much but I’ll play them. I don’t want to grind an instrument I have little interest in through trainers, and every single RB3 song to gain some sort of satisfaction. Just doesn’t make sense.

            We want to play for fun, relaxation, not for a chore (yeah it feels like one). The way to play for rewards could be more open ended if HMX wanted. It could be Play x amount of songs(songs, songs on a particular level, certain genre…), get an unlock of choice. Play longer get more unlocks of choice. As mentioned on the forums someplace, this system tends to benefit those playing for a challenge, not caring much for character customization. Those, like myself, that play to be more immersed in the fictional band aspect, it feels like punishment. Its an area we care about, but can’t have, and those that do get it, don’t care about it. So all in all its a poor reward I guess.

            I still back the idea of trophies or something more ‘lasting’ then avatar clothing. Or implementing an unlock system achieveable however you play. It might just take longer, but in the end you earn the reward.

          • SatansBestBuddy says:

            It’s poorly designed because there’s no way to fix it without out-and-out replacing it.

            It completely removes any choices in what you can have your avatar wear, it’s only what you’ve unlocked.

            It’s… urgh, it makes me MAD is what this does, nothing but RAGE at the fact that I can’t wear what I want because I can’t afford the real life money I need to spend and the real life hours I need to waste in order to get that one guitar they decided you need a pro guitar to unlock, and what REALLY makes me mad is the fact that they ALREADY HAD A PERFECTLY GOOD SYSTEM IN PLACE IN THE LAST GAME!!!

            The money system they had before was perfect, an incentive to play some more for a goal you’ve decided on yourself, with more expensive guitars and shirts and such simply needing another few songs before you get them, and while fans are, and have always been, pretty pointless after you get about a million of them, there’s always something else you could get with just a little more money, so it BAFFLES me why HMX would keeps fans, an utterly useless that only goes up when you complete an objective now, and get rid of money, something that’s both useful and a great way to make players want to play the game even longer.

            Just… I don’t pretend to be a games developer that knows exactly how to fix every game I see, but this is one problem I know, KNOW, would have been better off just keeping as is.

          • RockBandAide says:

            Calm down… using words like MAD and RAGE when talking about a video game is probably taking things a little too seriously.

          • HundredDollarHeadache says:

            For the select few players who care about their characters, who have the ability to become masters of all the instruments, and who only make a few characters, this system works great.

            I’m a Completionist, thanks to my great skill on Pro Guitar/Bass and passable ability on the other instruments. I still hated having to hone my drum skills just to get men’s underwear that doesn’t have idiotic “punk” tattoos. And, I have a second profile thanks to the ten character limit, so it’s no fun to grind the goals all over again all because my characters need those clothes.

          • Beckett says:

            Just to throw in my own anecdotal non-evidence, I can say that I’ve been a big fan of playing “Pretty Princess Dress-Me-Up” with my characters ever since RB1, but in RB3 I haven’t bothered at all because the unlock system is so lame. I’m still using the stock characters that came with the game. I just don’t think grinding goals to unlock stuff is fun at all even though I play all instruments on at least hard (except pro keys which I can only do on medium or so).

          • folkeye says:

            Change JUST for changes sake is a mega bummer. More negative has impacted players in this game than the previous title.

            Like I said above. Great innovation, weak game.

          • RockBandAide says:

            But it’s NOT just for “change’s sake.” You don’t have to like it (I’m not the biggest fan either), but you can’t seem to accept the logic Harmonix has stated multiples times now about HOW the decision to change was made based on player habit and performance metrics. I’m not debating that the change was a good one, I’m debating the fact that you consciously choose to ignore official correspondence explaining WHY the decision was made.

            Statements like “more negative has impacted the players” are also debatable considering how much they HAVE added to Rock Band 3 when compared to previous titles, but I’m not arguing that point because you clearly feel differently and I doubt I will convince you otherwise.

            A franchise like Rock Band has an ENORMOUS scope. There are FIVE different instruments that can be played (TWO simultaneously at most), and based solely on personal preferences of the individuals playing the game, it is the exception rather than the norm that everyone will be happy with what is currently going on in the game.

            As a company, Harmonix wants to make a game that is fun and engaging, but ultimately the game must be profitable, and the best way to ensure this is to sell as many copies as possible over the long term. Because of this, they have to make thousands of careful decisions to balance pleasing both a HUGE, but casual, audience and a TINY, but diehard and dedicated, group of fans. There is no possible way that every single person who plays the game will be happy with everything. Because of the scope, someone will not get “what they want.” Not every decision is meant to cater to hardcore fans, nor is every decision meant to satisfy the casual gamer. The answer ultimately HAS to lie somewhere in between.

            We ALL need to remember this: Not a single design decision was made based on MY (or YOUR) personal preferences, rather the aggregate perceived preferences of ALL players. Regardless of what some in the community might think, Harmonix is NOT out to screw you, and do NOT have a personal grudge against you.

          • folkeye says:

            I know it’s not personal and I need no convincing as to why a company wants to sell. I’m just sad my favorite game is no longer even close to my favorite game. I don’t need to be 100% happy with all the features and changes in the game, I don’t think I own a game like that. I really want to love it again, but that I have to keep my eyes forward to see what happens. I do hope there is a future for the RB series. I can’t imagine the game getting any worse in the next rendition. At least I hope not.

          • NV_Mathemagician says:

            There may be a valid point that the current unlock system is poorly designed. I don’t mind unlocking clothing myself, but what I think makes it poorly designed is that old items, that existed before RB3 require pro instruments to unlock. I think it would be a better design if pro unlocks were for new items that didn’t exist before RB3.

  • QuestionMark says:

    So no truly surprising answers, but I appreciate them staying engaged with the fans.

    They sound like they are pretty comfortable with RB as a digital platform now, and as long as they can keep a great DLC pipeline flowing, so am I. The few gripes i have with the game are minor and mostly cosmetic or issues of convenience. I appreciate the effort that’s gone into honing what they have.

    That said, I’m a bit puzzled at the lack of questioning relative to forwards compatibility with the next console generations, though I know it would have gotten a stock “at this point in time we are focused on providing content for the current generation of consoles and have no announced plans for future systems” response.

    • BravoGangUS says:

      Well how could they even THINK about generation consoles when they aren’t even here yet?

      Plus if Microsoft/Nintendo/Sony changes the way things work in terms of dlc, then how can Harmonix eve do anything about it? The answer is they can’t.

      Here’s hoping the next gen consoles stay the same in terms of dlc so we don’t lose all our purchased stuff.

      • Paul says:

        “Well how could they even THINK about generation consoles when they aren’t even here yet?”

        Developers do get consoles well before they’re publicly announced…

        • BravoGangUS says:

          Still. The fact is if Microsoft, Nintendo, or Sony change the way DLC works on their next console then Harmonix can’t do anything about it. period. Doesn’t matter if they “get consoles well before they’re publicly announced”.

      • QuestionMark says:

        I was referring to the question that I and a couple others asked about DLC forwarding to hypothetical gen systems. It’d at least be nice to get a philosophical statement of support.

  • CashOD says:

    Good Work RBA. Got an answer from John on the hot topics. Basically we’ll just have to wait for the RB4 announcement for any future fixes/enh to the game.

  • Crunk Posby says:

    I was disappointed to not see a response about Squier availability. I never got my Best Buy pre-order and I have no idea how to get it. Where or when will it be available? (Note: I refuse to get it from Best Buy at this point, so I’m really hoping it will become non-exclusive…)

    • Wii60 User says:

      It became not exclusive after 1 month… so 2 weeks ago. Should be able to find it online now. I think Guitar Center might be getting it/have it.

      • Crunk Posby says:

        I have not found this to be the case. When I search for it, all I find are people re-selling it for 400-500 bucks on Ebay and Amazon.

    • RockBandAide says:

      That’s because it wasn’t asked. If Best Buy didn’t honor your pre-order, that’s an issue you have with Best Buy and has nothing to do with Harmonix.

      If you are looking to get it anywhere else, contact your local music instrument retailer and have them order you one. The exclusivity period has ended, so other places should be able to get their hands on them now.

      • Crunk Posby says:

        Not true. I called my local Guitar Center and they don’t carry it and can’t order it.

        The reason I asked that question is because Harmonix has touted their support for the Squier but it’s unavailable. Yes, the pre-order business is Best Buy’s fault (although someone originally, either Harmonix or Fender gave them that exclusivity in the first place…), but I also can’t buy it from Fender, Harmonix or anyone else.

        I disagree that this issue has nothing to do with Harmonix. Don’t they want people to buy the Squier and play their game with it?

        I would love to hear from anyone who was able to get the Squier from somewhere other than Best Buy (or resellers). (Even the Fender page still lists Best Buy as the only place to buy it…)

        • RockBandAide says:

          I’ve listed multiple places on the site that claimed to start selling it after the exclusivity period ended. There’s even a independently owned place a few blocks from me that claims to be selling it.

          If Guitar Center claims they don’t and won’t carry it, they’re lying to you. I just called the one in town (Brookfield, WI if you want to double check what I’m saying) and while they don’t yet have any in stock, he said that the model number is in the system, and stock will be arriving soon.

          I also called Fender’s corporate headquarters (480.596.9690) to ask about availability. They said that any national (Guitar Center or Musicians Friend) or independent retailer should have the ability to place an order for the guitar for a customer.

          The reason you can’t find someone who bought it from elsewhere is because everyone that wanted one bought one from Best Buy, unlike you. I’m not trying to sound condescending (I dislike Best Buy, too), but maybe you should just suck it up and buy one from them instead of trying to lay blame on multiple parties (Harmonix, Fender, Best Buy). Demand for a hybrid controller for a rhythm game isn’t exactly busting down doors, so retailers aren’t keen on stocking their shelves with what could arguably be called a niche product in the eyes of the general consumer. If you don’t want to purchase one from Best Buy, you’re going to have to do some leg work, just as I did above.

          • Crunk Posby says:

            For the record, I did try to buy it from Best Buy, despite my dislike for them. They didn’t fill my pre-order and they sold out of the ones they had in stock.

            My refusal to buy it from them now is basically meaningless, since they don’t have them anyway!

          • RockBandAide says:

            Where did Best Buy leave you at this point? Did they just say “tough luck?” Did you cancel your pre-order?

            I saw on their website that they are backordered online. It may be an issue of supply scarcity, unfortunately.

  • DJ-MAT says:

    So, no question about if there is a bug or it was done on purpose that our characters don’t have tattoos and designs when you play online whit friends?

    • ReginaldVelJ says:

      interesting…i wonder if that is intentional. probably is since people could potentially make “profane” tattoos using the letters and images available. that makes sense.

    • RockBandAide says:

      See the last bullet point of the first question.

  • samjjones says:

    Thanks for the interview!

  • Joe Cam says:

    Great interview, but i’m VERY disappointed at the fact that nothing was brought up about the fact that there is no way to filter songs based on group availability when playing online.
    It’s a real bitch to play with friends when they have 200-300 songs and I have 1900. I’m pretty sure I posted this question in the thread and I was really hoping it would be addressed to add a filter so that my setlist only shows what EVERYBODY has when playing online. It sucks when I spend more time looking for a song to play than actually playing the song…

    • Choz says:

      It was brought up, in a sense. Harmonix is not interested in the cost of developing any patch to improve filtering at this time. Sadly, it would probably be trivial to do, and similar to hiding (not deleting) individual songs from packs.

  • LunaticSoul says:

    Good job, good reading overall. He didn’t reveal practically anything, though!

  • SatansBestBuddy says:

    Yay, we get answers to our questions!

    But I noticed that there were more than a few questions that weren’t asked, namely:

    – Will the animations not syncing with music/instruments and camera shaking bugs ever be fixed? (from the sound of it, I’d say no)

    – Will we ever get a filter for DLC when playing with people online so that we can only see DLC we ALL have? (currently, people like me, with over 1000 songs, are stuck scrolling through endless lines of grayed out, unplayable songs, while the people on the other end see nothing wrong and ask what’s taking me so long to pick a song and OMG YOU DON’T HAVE EVERYTHING BY AX7 WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!?!?!)

    – Is HMX encouraging labels/artists to seek out RBN authouring groups? (well, I wanna know the answer to this at least…)

    • SatansBestBuddy says:

      Actually, now that I think on it, is there some kind of agreement HMX made to with artists to make sure that, after we buy a song, it it always to be seen at all times?

      I ask because I also noticed that, while we can downvote a song to a rating of 1 lighter, we can never make a song disappear from the list, no matter what, even in online play, when the game KNOWS you can’t play that song but will display it anyway.

      That’s actually the biggest reason I don’t (want to, but do anyway) buy RB3 versions of songs, because short of deleting the first one, I can’t make it disappear from the list, and it’s always a pain during parties when people start asking, “Okay, which version of Livin’ On A Prayer do we play?”

    • RockBandAide says:

      – Will the animations not syncing with music/instruments and camera shaking bugs ever be fixed?”

      Never asked in the original submission thread: http://www.rockbandaide.com/11195/send-us-your-rock-band-questions-for-pax-east-2011/

      – Will we ever get a filter for DLC when playing with people online so that we can only see DLC we ALL have?

      Three bullet points addressing filters in the first question.

      – Is HMX encouraging labels/artists to seek out RBN authouring groups?

      I think John addressed that question with “If there are any J-Rock bands out there excited about Rock Band or RBN, get them in touch with us!” Also, I know for a fact that this happening on an informal basis.

  • fcmlefty says:

    Its kind of nice to know that the game “is what it is” at this point. No more wishing and waiting.

    My only beef is the “library clutter” from the RB3 versions of songs – which I personally would have solved myself if there was just a filter for lighter ratings. Definetly not a game breaker, so I’ll soldier on as I have for the last 6 months.

    Little bummed by no new game in 2011 most likely – what the heck am I going to spend my money on this fall without Guitar Hero OR Rock Band to buy? 🙂

    • SatansBestBuddy says:

      DLC, naturally.

      Also, there is a way to sort by ratings, it’s under the sorting screen, first option, sadly cannot be combined with other sorting arrangements but it’s there.

      • fcmlefty says:

        My DLC habits will be unchanged, rest assured! I’ll still end up with about 1/2 of whats released. Thats been my average since the beginning.

      • fcmlefty says:

        the sort doesn’t accomplish what I’d like it to do. Need a filter for it. Bad songs = 1 lighter. 2 lighters = duplicates. I’d then filter those two lighter tiers out and have a “clean” library, still sorted by artist (my prefered layout) Again, not game breaking by any stretch. Just would have been a nice little touch.

    • RockBandAide says:

      There’s no Rock Band game in 2011?! I haven’t seen that anywhere!

      • fcmlefty says:

        Thats why I threw the “most likely” disclaimer in that sentence! 🙂 I’ll just chose to be pleasantly surprised if we get a new game, instead of pining for a new game and being disapointed if we dont get one.

        Besides, I have lots of stuff to do on RB3 yet anyways. I’ve sang one song, haven’t played drums yet at all, and have played only the easy tier on Bass. Still working on logging a guitar score for all my songs first. This is definitely a game that requires a large amount of time to get through. And thats cool with me.

        • RockBandAide says:

          I hope they release Rock Band 4 this year where they address all the features people seem to take issue with. It would be nice to see Harmonix continue with their “innovate, then perfect” mantra.

          • fcmlefty says:

            I wouldn’t be opposed to that at all. You’d think we’d start hearing whispers by now though if it was coming this year, wouldn’t you?

          • RockBandAide says:

            Yes and no. We had rumors that a Rock Band 3 was coming, but nothing concrete until the splash screen at the end of the Green Day: Rock Band demo. The week running up to E3 (June) spilled the beans on the game. If E3 comes and goes with no mention though… that’s another thing. :\

          • folkeye says:

            In response to not hearing anything at E3…I wonder if that’d be a truly bad sign, or just ‘we’re not ready yet’. We know there’s nothing this year, and they seem hush hush about the future of RB (be it for the good or bad). Just that they’ll continue to support RB3.

            I’d hope to hear even a whisper of a future.

          • Toad3000 says:

            I think this is probably where things are headed. Why else would they be done releasing patches for game that’s less than 6 months old, when there are so many things the community has identified that still need work? The only other reason I could think of is that the financial situation is such that they can’t invest the time and capital into it.
            Also, note the difference between “We don’t have any more disc based track packs planned at the moment” and “we haven’t announced another Rock Band title for 2011 at this time.” I could be reading too much into it, but this IS PR-talk, and you know John Drake was giving us carefully chosen words…

  • Dogmatic says:

    Am I the only one who’s disappointed you can’t see character art work online?

    • folkeye says:

      No, I am too. Guess they figured too many ‘naughty’ things out there. So the answer (as to a lot of things from RB2) was to remove it.

    • pancho says:

      Practically, yeah.
      Blame the wisecracks that thought posting the Nazi Swastika in the artwork was cool.

      • folkeye says:

        Thankfully if I was band leader they’d be kicked so I didn’t have to look at it. Or if I joined a band with an offensive avatar, I had the power of choice to leave if I wanted. Thankfully it was rare I saw anything offensive.

  • Michael Prachar says:

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together on our behalf. Most of the final answers are a bit disappointing (don’t let Rock Band die!!) but that isn’t your fault…

  • JAM Renaissance says:

    I think many, MANY questions were answered; we just didn’t like the answer.

    There are no more title updates planned.

    There are no more tracks packs planned.

    There are no plans for another Rock Band game in 2012.

    Put all of that together and you get:

    My favorite feature/adjustment that I may have wanted for Rock Band is NOT happening.

    Take that for what you will.

    • JAM Renaissance says:

      ACK! Mistyped. “No plans for another Rock band game in 2011”. Oops.

      Maybe there will be one… but I personally would not hold my breath until we see a weirdo ad with a picture of a saxophone in a circle or something.

      • Joe Shredder says:

        That would be awesome! I’d love to see wind-controllers added to the pro instruments. It could also be a great segue to an educational spin-off product.

  • Colin says:

    I agree with folkeye that locking costume bits and instruments behind requirements is a bad idea. It would be far less so if all the unlockables were new to RB3. That would make them shiny new prizes to work for. But taking items that were part of our old characters and locking them away kind of bites. My main character will never look the way he used to in RB2, because some of his old stuff is locked behind doors my skill set will never open. I’d be very happy if they released a cheat code that unlocked all that cosmetic stuff, but without crediting your career with the goals they were tied to.

    I was curious to see if he’d address the lack of crowd sing-alongs, because I miss them. I have suspicions as to why they’re gone (namely saving the money required to record them), but hearing the real answer would’ve been intriguing.

    While I’m very glad that Drake took the time to respond (and that Tommy compiled the questions), I wish some of the answers had a little less official PR caginess and were more direct. But then his job is to spread the official company message, not spill the nitty gritty details.

    • Joe Shredder says:

      I think that’s the major problem right there – HMX locked away the clothes we had already made part of our online characters. If they had left the existing outfits accessible, while creating new unlockable outfits for the new goals, moat people would have been fine with it. Sequels should expand functionality, not take things away.

  • Plutarch says:

    Good interview overall, but I wish Drake had commented directly on the “filter by lighter rating” suggestion. He did talk about the “delete one song from a pack” and I am totally understanding of how hard that would be to implement. But the lighter-filter would solve that problem by hiding the unwanted tracks and would be much easier to pull off. Oh well.

  • MyGGGo says:

    Is there any word on more achievements coming with future DLC?

  • BonE74Me says:

    Nothing planned for random setlists? I am disappoint. Like, seriously disappoint

  • 291j says:

    Although they weren’t the answers I was hoping for (sigh)
    I must admit the answers had a lot more substance to them than what most marketing people in the games industry would give.
    In all seriousness, the guy has to pick his words carefully. It is his job to try and please all factions and put a positive spin on what may be a negative. He did well not to resort to the standard PR answers as much as he could have.
    Like I said, it didn’t play out how I wanted (or some others from the look of it) but thanks all the same to both interviewer and interviewee for the info nonetheless.

  • Bandaddy says:

    No mention of the online play mode issues, which were for sure mentioned in the thread.

    Score duel and other features eliminated due to lack of use….but tons of time spent on pro instruments, which just by the fact that hardware availability is so limited, it can’t have be showing anything BUT very limited use. Understand I’m not saying there shouldn’t be pro instruments, but don’t eliminate/sacrifice pre-existing features. Less is never better.

    Very few “results” from all the posts in the thread, but at least now it’s been answered that there won’t be, so I don’t have to hold out hope for any.

    Please, just take your time with RB4. Don’t rush it. Don’t short change it. Deliver the Mother of all Rythm Games, and I’ll glady pay double price. I mean, what’s another $140 after the $4,000 I’ve spent on this.

    Oh….and there’s another flaw in your system of observing data. Maybe a low percentage of players that use certain features are those of us funding 95% of the business.

    • RockBandAide says:

      Online play mode issues… see the first question, fourth bullet point, and John’s response.

      And while the hardware availability issues are obviously frustrating, isn’t that a sign that demand is greater than anticipated supply, thus proving the feature is being utilized (or at the very least explored)?

      “Maybe a low percentage of players that use certain features are those of us funding 95% of the business.” This may be probable, but when I see data coming out of Harmonix that looks like this (http://www.rockbandaide.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/RB1DrumChart.jpg), I tend to think that the hardcore fans like us are REALLY outnumbered by the casual player, unfortunately.

      • Bandaddy says:

        Online play mode issues… see the first question, fourth bullet point, and John’s response.

        I was referring to the online band play. The song selection method, picking multiple songs per person, etc., that was bantered about in the forums, but thanks for the response to everything.

        Oh, I agree the pro instruments are being utilized. I’m assuming that was originally projected as a smaller percentage of use anyway, since there was more demand than product, but it’s (we) still a minority, to which was given as answers for other questions.

      • Bandaddy says:

        And definitely we are outnumbered by the casual player. Just saying we probably out spend all of them combined. Which, as pointed out in the interview, is good reason for balance between hardcore and casual. Re-implementing the stage kit was a great example of answering the call of a small percentage that pony up the dollars.