Coming as no surprise to anyone, USAToday reports that Guitar Hero: Metallica will be coming to a system near you in 2009. Complete with DRM, we assume. Check out the full interview with Metallica’s Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett and GH:M lead designer Alan Flores.
Guitar Hero World Tour Creation Mode Woes November 9, 2008
Some snags this week for users of Guitar Hero World Tour’s Creation mode.
User-created versions of existing, copyrighted songs are disappearing. This comes as no surprise, as Blactivizzion warned that content would be monitored for infringement. That being said, I think there is a significant legal argument to be made that what people are creating in World Tour is not copyright infringement per se.
A little law first, from the U.S. Copyright Office:
One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 118 of the Copyright Act (title 17, U. S. Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of “fair use.” Although fair use was not mentioned in the previous copyright law, the doctrine has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years. This doctrine has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.
Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered “fair,” such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:
1.) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
2.) the nature of the copyrighted work;
3.) amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4.) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
Making your own version of the Green Hills Zone available for free download in GHWT is not “commercial”, at least for users. You don’t expect to realize a dime on it. Blactivizzion, however, may.
Kotaku is reporting that the company is considering a fee-for-service model for user-created content. That sounds like foul play, as users were not warned about this possibility before buying the game. Why should we create content for the company to sell and not realize a dividend? And what, then, is the effect of the use of these tunes on the potential market for the copyrighted work? I would think it would encourage people to enjoy the original, whether that be playing Sonic or picking up a song on iTunes. These three “instrument” versions of songs are NOT the original. The nature is substantially different. No one is going to mistake your lyrics-free version of Bohemian Rhapsody with Queen’s magnum opus. And no one who wants to sing along with Freddie is going to miss their chance to do so with the actual song.
The implications for your own creations of original material are different, and possibly worse. If Blactivizzion does what they are proposing, you will be creating new music and handling them the licensing fees. Moreover, it is unclear how this structure would affect your own copyrights in the future. All in all, this seems bad bad bad bad and bad. Fun, fairly used tunes are being taken out of play and it seems that they are to be replaced by play-for-play wholesale acquisition of your music. It’s enough to make me want to stick to Rock Band.
Excuse me now, I’m going to exercise my right to reproduce this piece over at GamesLaw.net.
Beatles Rock Band Compatibility is Questionable November 3, 2008
Curiouser and curiouser. More details keep leaking out in the wake of last week’s announcement. Today’s snippet comes from Joystiq, who reports that MTV Games won the Beatles video game licensing duel because they showed “more flexibility” than Guitar Hero publisher Activision Blizzard. By “flexibility”, they mean “willingness to not brand the game as ‘Rock Band’ or ‘Guitar Hero’. Apparently the Beatles are still worried about name recognition.
Review: Guitar Hero World Tour October 27, 2008
This is not Rock Band.
I need to get that out of the way right now. I also need to state that we are playing this game on Xbox 360 with the Rock Band 2 drums and microphone, but the Les Paul Guitar Hero III guitar. I have to admit that I went into GHWT thinking of it as a Rock Band 2 expansion pack. I quickly learned how wrong I was.
The art style of GHWT is animated and over-the-top, and each instrument and type of play has a series of hysterical cutscenes that just scream “rock”. The characters, both the pre-made type and the ones you can create are the colorful distorted, exaggerated “Judy Nails” types you’ve come to expect from GH. The venues, both real and imaginary, are fully rendered and complete down to the broken chairs and half-eaten wings. Maybe the venues are a little TOO realistic, as they are festooned with in-game advertising for real world brands. I understand having Sabian cymbals and Marshall amps, but do I need to be told which fried chicken to eat while playing?
The controls and setup are so-so. Despite promises to the contrary, the Rock Band drums do not map perfectly onto the GHWT songs. Drummers are encouraged to hit silver-topped notes harder for more points, but the velocity sensitivity is variable at best. It is nearly impossible to deploy Star Power, as the regular set requires you to hit the Green and Orange cymbals together, and those two notes don’t usually show up together in the drum track. The tutorial is not available for drummers that aren’t using the GH set, either. We aren’t using the GHWT set because having tried them both at PAX, we found the Rock Band 2 set to be crisper, quieter, and more responsive, with a good spring in the pedal. The GHWT set we played was mushier, louder, less accurate, and just all around not as good as the Rock Band 2 set, though it was an improvement over the original Rock Band drum set.
Vocals are a nightmare. There is no “Tambourine Hero” fill section during long instrumental solos. Instead vocalists have fills which seem to be randomly inserted passages of swirls in which you can earn multiples of 9 points by saying “la” over and over and over. Vocals Star Power can only be deployed through hitting your microphone or holding your controller the whole time and hitting a button. It lasts for about five seconds, and then you have to go back to hitting buttons like a rat hoping for a food pellet. There is no musical staff guiding your pitch adjustments, but rather one line for you to follow the whole time through. The accuracy level and pickup are just plain bad. I scored about 15% lower in GHWT on songs that I have completed perfectly on Hard in Rock Band 2.
All of that being said, if you’ve enjoyed Guitar Hero before, keep on keeping on. You’ll probably enjoy this game. The Guitar and Bass work just fine. If you are new to GH, or are trying it after Rock Band, keep in mind that GH is significantly different, and don’t count on the manual or the early tracks to help you find your way. The manual is eight pages long and barely goes farther than “turn the game on and play”. If you are eligible to play a tutorial, good luck finding it. You have to search around through stacks of menus to find the tutorials or anything else in the game.
I was disappointed in Guitar Hero World Tour. I guess I expected more after I saw the excellent track list. I did enjoy the cameos from rock icons such as Jimi Hendrix and Zack Wylde, and the game is fun to watch in general, but I’d almost rather watch than play, and that’s a bad sign. Maybe they’ll get it right on their inevitable next time out, but on their initial foray into the full band genre Activision has put too much focus on being different for difference’s sake and not enough on streamlining and gameplay.
Review: Rock Band 2 September 16, 2008
Rock Band is back (as if it ever left). The new disc offers about 100 new songs, including Bob Dylan’s first foray into videogames and Harmonix in-house band Speck’s dork ode “Conventional Lover”. For folks who have been rocking out since last year, its more like a huge song pack than a sequel, and that’s just fine.
It’s getting better all the time. The visuals are a bit shinier, the band members a bit more customizable, and the interface a little more streamlined. For example, you can switch between instruments with the same character without having to do a restart. For folks who want to just rock out and have fun, there is a “no fail” option. For those who complain that the nerf bat was used too liberally in Rock Band 2, there are now options to speed up tracks or take out the visual lines entirely.
The updated instruments are the real coup here. The new drumset is a sea change from the day of release set I’ve been rocking since last year. It is solid where the original was flimsy, generally quiet where the original was loud, and provides a better, more satisfying play experience. I’ve been excited about these skins since we tried them at PAX, and I am glad to have them home.
The guitar is likewise excellent. Gone is the “mushy” strum bar of Rock Band 1. Here to stay is a great feel and wireless rock. An improved accelerometer picks up Overdrive cues nearly without fail. This is a great plastic instrument.
The microphone is much the same as the original. It does the job, and picks up as well as it should. Harmonix still hasn’t implemented phoneme recognition, though, so you can recite the Declaration of Independence and still get 100% on the Beastie Boys’ “So Whatcha Want”.
All in all, though, Rock Band 2 is a lot of fun. And, because the Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour instruments are now interoperable with their respective games, you can pick and choose whose sets you like best and enjoy the loads of content on the discs and beyond.
Now if you will excuse me, Gwyddia, The Stig, and the rest of Pathological Monsters! are playing for our airplane in a few minutes.
For listening to their fans and cleaning up what needed to be cleaned up, plus providing a ton of excellent songs to enjoy (500 by Christmas, they say), I am giving Rock Band 2 five weiners out of five.