CHORD CHANGE S
While attention will naturally focus on the new peripheral’s six-button layout, it’s equally important to appreciate what hasn’t been changed. One of Freestyle’s goals was to have what players do with their left hand feel as natural as their right; the strum bar has always felt right, the tremolo arm sits within easy reach, and the Hero Power button can be pressed with the heel of a hand. The distance between strum bar and buttons is also the same.
The multicolour buttons are gone, and keys now sit flush with the fretboard, the bottom row with a cross-hatch texture so that fingers can distinguish between it and the smooth top row. The result is a peripheral that looks less like a toy than before, appropriate given the emphasis on realism.
That, however, isn’t such a concern when it comes to mapping out notes on the highway, a process Freestyle calls ‘markup’. “We tried replicating exact chord shapes,” Matt Flint, lead MIDI designer, tells us. “But because the majority of players won’t understand – they won’t hear a chord and go, ‘Oh, that’s a D,I know that shape’ – they don’t get the connection. It’s not about making it as accurate as possible. It’s about making it as fun as possible.”
Freestyle’s dozen-strong markup team work in software that enables them to place a note on the highway with a click, and their layout is playable with just a few clicks more. They start on Veteran, where the player has to perform an action for every note in the music, then dial down from there, where rule-sets dictate how frequent note and row changes should be on lower difficulties. A peer-review system sees tracks bounce back and forth between staffer and reviewer until both agree that it feels right.
“None of the [markup] team have worked in the game industry before this,” Flint says. “They are all primarily musicians; they have a passion for games, but never got into programming or art. Because they’re all gamers, they understand the difficulties games have in trying to translate certain things to players. It’s amazing how many times you’re marking something up, going, ‘That’s perfect, it’s exactly what the guitarist’s doing’, then you play it and it just feels wrong. It’s about getting that balance, I think, between musical accuracy and playability.”
01 Freestyle’s creative director, Jamie Jackson.
02 Jon Napier, projects director, joined in 2012 from Brighton studio Relentless Software.
03 Lead MIDI designer Matt Flint is head of the markup team. 04 GHTV uses music videos for its backdrops. 05–06 The final design for Guitar
Hero Live’s controller. Early prototypes had raised, coloured buttons