Opinion: The Future of Guitar Hero

Before the Hero series was “axed” (February 9th to be exact) I was writing this article about how the next incarnation of Guitar Hero might be improved. You’ll notice that I avoided the true solution to “save Guitar Hero” which is clearly to make a game with just Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet For My Valentine, and Slipknot songs. Whether there will be another Guitar Hero is something nobody knows for sure but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of discussion, right?

– Elliott

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After the game journalists chewed Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock up and spit it out the GH Community was left wondering if there truly was anything that Activision (with help from a developer of course) could do to re-invigorate this wonderful round note based franchise.

I have been playing and been part of the community of Guitar Hero since it’s inception so I have been there for all the up’s and the very many downs. It almost seemed like every sequel Guitar Hero released came with a new kind of complaint, some justified and others due to an enlarged growing sense of self-entitlement.

At it’s core right now Guitar Hero is perfect. Now when I say at it’s “core” I mean the actual gameplay. Not the setlist, not the user interface, and certainly not some obscure scoring glitch that only tick-hording monsters on Scorehero care about.

Aside from perhaps a better calibration system and maybe a tad more lenient strumming engine I have next to no complaints regarding Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock’s engine for plastic guitar, drums, bass, or vocals.

So then what can be improved? Let’s explore a few of the options that run through my head as I type this:

Look at The Competition

Pro Guitar

One of the huge deals for the blogosphere with Rock Band 3 was the inclusion of Pro Mode. Whether you bought a Pro Guitar or not was a totally different matter but the fact is that when even PowerGig has a six stringed guitar it may be time for Guitar Hero to follow suit. The main challenge of course will be to not only develop a comparably cost efficent set of peripherals for Pro Guitar but also to make the interface for Pro Guitar comparable to the work Harmonix has done while keeping the circular notation we are so familiar with in Guitar Hero.

Another challenge of course will be maintaining the momentum of difficult guitar songs from Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock in a new game which gives you an option of learning the song on real guitar. A lofty problem indeed.

Rock Band Network

It’s been a growing trend among the hardcore to spend more “points” on the RBN marketplace than the actual DLC that Harmonix offers them. Many of the bands offered by RBN have high difficulty levels for most instruments and many extreme metal bands have been brought to the platform thanks to this. Driven by super fans of the genre the RBN has brought forth amazing content while not depleting resources or time from the official charters. This seems like a perfect and obvious solution to Guitar Hero’s reluctance to release a consistent schedule of downloadable content weekly.

Multiplayer

Online Lobbies

It worked in Guitar Hero 3 but for some reason we never saw it come back. Imagine how much easier it would be to find a game if you could simply see a list of rooms if you so desired. You could simply scroll to a “Band Room” that had 3/4 people and click join while having it take into account what instrument you had selected. Of course the option we have now is fine but this would probably fix many of the “why can’t I find a pro face off game!” woes.

GHTracks™

GHTracks (formerly GHTunes) have been around since Guitar Hero World Tour, and over time our community has become better and better at creating either amazing covers of existing songs or fun original compositions for everyone to play. Why not allow players to experience these songs online? They would only take 30 seconds to download if someone didn’t already have the song and it would definitely make for some great videos on youtube.

While we are on the subject it would be great if PS3/360 shared the same GHTunes! I understand why Wii can’t join the party as their are certain differences with their Studio/MIDI sounds.

Battle Mode:

I bet you are reading this and thinking? Wait a second he wants “BATTLE MODE” back in? Well not exactly. I think that there should be a competitive mode which has a number of original compositions for Guitar/Bass/Drums/Vocals of differing genres. This would in a way be much like DJ Hero 2’s “Battle Mode” where you trade off to see who is the master of your instrument.

Just imagine a crossroads-esque duel between you and a worthy opponent with each coming solo getting more intricate and challenging.

Of course I haven’t put much thought into vocals although I think a “Scat Battle” (get your mind out of the gutters) would be quite amazing.

More Options (Online)

Restart Song: seriously? This isn’t an option yet? COME ON ALREADY

Change Difficulty (after failing): This is a serious problem for drummers that may enjoy playing Expert+ on “Been Caught Stealing” but not so much on “If You Want Peace… Prepare for War”

Venue Select: Or maybe just a way to blacklist certain menus from online play… I’m looking at you Wormhole!

Hyperspeed: We have it in Party Play so why not Quickplay+ ?

Out with the Old…

Graphics / Art Style

I think it’s time we say goodbye.

Goodbye to Axl, Judy, Lars, Pandora, Izzy, and Eddie Knox.

Goodbye to over-the-top fantastical venues that look inspired by World of Warcraft.

It’s a major complaint of most reviews that the graphical style of Guitar Hero is well… Ugly. Personally I don’t see it that way but there’s nothing wrong with taking some constructive criticism to heart after nine games right?

I’m no art director, and I’m not saying to make the game look like the competitors, but I do think that the menu system should take some cues from DJ Hero 2 with it’s sleek minimalist approach for future Hero related endeavours. Especially when it comes to the setlist screen which while Warriors of Rock had a good start on navigation it could still benefit from obvious fixes.

Create-A-Character

The CAC feature has been built off the Guitar Hero World Tour model for far too long. How about we go above and beyond with customization? A wide variety of color palletes, sliders to adjust everything under the sun, and some pre-made faces for those too lazy to go through the trouble.

Perhaps a Kinect integration which scans you into the game while allowing you to record a victory/fail “dance” and possibly several taunts (think Street Fighter II continue screen).

Instant Gratification

Nobody wants to play the whole setlist to unlock that one song anymore. Don’t make that mistake again guys.

Hardware

HEY! We have Double Bass now!

Shouldn’t Guitar Hero be selling single drum bass pedals in stores/online? I mean Expert+ drumming is a huge draw for Guitar Hero and yet the only way to buy them is by purchasing a whole new drum kit? A common practice unfortunately which brings us to our next issue.

“Premium” Drumset

Wouldn’t it be nice if Guitar Hero had a premium drum set akin to the Ion Drum Rocker that had nothing to do with Logitech? One can dream but it seems like we are stuck with the official kits and their seemingly endless slight downfalls of crosstalk and sensitivity issues that can turn a fun day of rocking out into a frustrating rage session.

Not everyone can afford a Roland kit!

Slow Your Roll

Let’s face it, Guitar Hero will never be as popular as it used to be. Therefore it’s very likely many people aren’t going to go out and pick up a Full Band kit every time there is a new game. Activision should consider slowing down the peripheral updates to every two years, or only sell them online or select retailers. Seems like that stack of Band Hero full band kits hasn’t moved at my local EB since November 2009.

New Game Mechanics

Effects/Distortion Pedals

Imagine if there was a mode of play where you had to push the correct combination of pedals to match the effect for Guitar/Bass. Of course this would come with a new peripheral but the idea of a fake plastic pedal board sponsored by Line6 and POD makes me smile a bit.

Forced Whammy

No more charting whammys as trills. Now you have to match the whammied sustain exactly or you lose points. This would be perfect for my ideal game Guitar Hero: Slayer!

Rhythm Guitar

Don’t get me wrong, I love bass as much as the next guy, but what if we had the option to choose rhythm on tracks where it was applicable? Take a note from GH2 and GH3 Activision, especially if we ever get Jessica back in the game.

Community

The Official Guitar Hero Forums

For one thing there is no reason why Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero, and Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock should have their own separate sub-forums. It only further divides the small community for no particularly good reason I can think of? It’s not like any new content is coming to GH5/BH so why the segregation?

There needs to be a much MUCH bigger official presence on the forums. Even if no questions are actually getting answered it wouldn’t hurt to have people from Beenox (DLC Charters for GHWOR) Activision, or even Neversoft to answer questions. This would be much appreciated to the dwindling community as opposed to a faceless singular entitity called “GuitarHeroDevs” or “GuitarHeroNews” that seems to constantly disappear only to be replaced with a new general account.

Consistency

Why can’t we find out about Guitar Hero DLC before it actually comes out? I understand not everyone cares as much as us but waking up at 5 AM EDT to find out we have nothing some weeks gets old after awhile. How great would it be to get a Press Release maybe a week prior to the release of Downloadable Content as opposed to the day of!

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In conclusion, there are many different ideas other than “OMG BEST SETLIST EVER” that can bring new life to Guitar Hero. However if your solution is to take away my vocals and drums then I will be happy for once that such suggestions fall upon dead ears.

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24 Responses to Opinion: The Future of Guitar Hero

  1. CharginMahLazer says:

    I’m telling you, Elliott, Guitar Hero Frank Zappa would completely revitalize the genre. MAKE IT HAPPEN, GUYS!

  2. Cicabe says:

    I agree with needing forced whammying. I’ve actually been wanting it since GH3. Rhythm guitar since GHWT (although I am a dedicated bassist). Vocals and drums should not goe. I’ve never found the argument that “It’s called GUITAR Hero” as legitimate for not having those instruments in there. For online, I don’t have many opinions, but as a Wii user, I think RB3 did a crap job with online play. GH5 and BH worked fine. There was frustration, but it actually worked.

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  4. Ty says:

    I’m fine with a new art style but KEEP AXEL! he’s been my main character since gh2

  5. JayJay says:

    My main problem with this article instantly is that I don’t want them to get rid of the art style. One of the things I like the most about Guitar hero is that it has some quirk or personality. I DO want the to re-work some things and smooth areas out, but generally when I play Warrior’s of Rock I actually get into it a little with all the over-the-top rock references. Rock Band feels so… soulless in comparison; the characters are charmless and boring and the in-game graphics don’t give me the same sense of awesome like I’m pretending to be a real rock star.

    Half of what made games like Elite Beat Agents so fun was the characters and crazy missions.

    I haven’t played or seen DJ Hero 2 so I’d have to see about that.

  6. kyle says:

    Im expecting the Red Hot Chili Peppers rumer to be true, but for this to be a flop and turn into the next great game up with the cod’s they would have to do a major spring cleaning, everything real, no fantisy venues instruments but all real characters. And they would have to do it good. But after Rock Band 3’s new instruments it will be hard to get back with a good game. And yes, I am writing this while I am asleep on Tylenol.

  7. Michael says:

    @ Your Out with the Old:

    NO! Why destroy the face of guitar hero because of what a bunch of one sided jaded ass game reviews think of it? NO! Those characters ARE Guitar Hero, that’s like taking Mario out of a Mario game, it shouldn’t be done.

    Why have the game change it’s most recognizable identity? I am not a big fan of character creation either but whatever about that, as long as the cast of characters aren’t removed then all is well.

    So you wanna do away with the over the top venues and replace them with what? The same old clubs and hotels and other bullshit we’ve seen in previous games? Back to the same old song and dance of a “let’s work our way to the top of the charts and become famous” angle? Hell no, I am sick of that, GHWOR had me excited for it’s single player story and setup and it was fresh and fantastic, the most enjoyable story in a music game.

    I vote no on those semi-blasphemous shenanigans. -_-

    • Mark says:

      So you’re saying that every single review that has criticized Guitar Hero’s art is “one sided” and “jaded”? Want to prove that? Absolutely outrageous claim. And no it’s not like taking Mario out of a Mario game. Guitar Hero is about playing songs on a plastic guitar, not about Axel Steel or Johnny Napalm. It’s recognizable identity is the chart flowing down the screen. Seriously, look at We Made You, that’s a good example of what people see guitar hero as, a chart. No characters, a chart. “Let’s work our way to the top and become famous” is how the music business works pretty much…hell AC/DC even wrote a song about it. I’d personally love to try and play GH again if they made these changes.

      • Michael says:

        Have you even read reviews for GH 5, GHWOR, BH, & GHVH? When you have outlets like IGN making a complete mockery of the entire franchise in a recent article. You have Giant Bomb completely dismiss GHWOR with a 2 star rating because they are tired of GH? Review outlets have been constantly taking turns bashing GH since GH 5, people saying GH should have stopped after GH 3 even, pfft.

        So are you saying that if Acti released the next GH with nothing but a black background and a highway then it would be alright? I seriously doubt it. Also, sure that’s what the music biz is about but this is a video game, not an entertainment industry simulation, jazz that shit up with video game fantasy.

        Why have 2 of the exact same game stories on the market? We know Rock Band will not stray from the “Getting Famous” angle so why can’t GH go in another direction? Why?

        Lastly, yes, it would be like removing Mario from a Mario game, I think Elliot should go poll Scorehero and GHC about this subject and see how many people would rather not have these characters, I have a feeling it would lean heavily towards leaving them in, hell you had people wishing their favorite chars were in GHWOR, from Izzy to Eddie to the left out in the cold Midori, people from both Scorehero and GHC, so yeah, I think the characters matter a great deal.

        • Ospero says:

          Seriously?

          Pretty much everyone in the world, including non-gamers, will recognize Mario. The Guitar Hero characters are nowhere near as iconic as that – and you can tell that even the devs thought that, since no two games have the exact same set of characters. And asking around on sites like Scorehero will obviously get you the desired result – because the people on there are already into the franchise, and people like to stick to what they know. Also, people who don’t want them will probably not even bother to vote. You need a few shake-ups every now and then, otherwise you will eventually have a player base of old-time fans. And then, once you make the slightest (perceived or real) mistake, THOSE players will jump ship, and you’ll be left with nothing. Every new installment needs to draw in new players, not just pander to the old.

          As for the criticism: Part of the dismissals certainly came about because GH stuck to the same formula for all the games since World Tour. Part of it was jadedness on the part of the reviewers (another GH ALREADY?).

          Story-wise, have you actually played RB3? The story has gone so far into the background that it might as well not be there anymore. The whole game is slanted toward making you explore all the new stuff that was added.

          I personally think that GHWOR was a good concept marred by absolutely horrible execution – all of the advanced characters except Pandora looked like arse, for one thing, and I can’t believe that was intentional. They weren’t cool, they weren’t exciting, they were just lame and cliché (or so far off the wall that you needed a telescope to see the wall). The venues were laugh-out-loud bizarre, but your mileage may vary on all that. And of course, the setlist was not exactly the best the series has seen. OK, folks, a few insanely difficult songs are a given, but an entire venue of them? And not Free Bird-difficult, more like TTFAF-difficult? Too much. And don’t get started on the genres – focusing the series a bit was alright, but as with the characters and the venues, it was overdone to the point of ridiculousness. A middle ground between GH5 and GHWOR would probably come across better.

  8. leon x says:

    I think since the third game, the game’s art has been increasingly dark, gothic and bizarre. I think a change is necessary. Most people do not like that.

    Guitar Hero has a near-perfect gameplay, much better than Rock Band. I would like to add a second chart guitar (second guitar or instrumental or Rhythm Guitar) and add two more players to the game (6 total)

    • Ospero says:

      The “dark” art has only really kicked in with GHWOR. Before that, the venues were a nice, varied mix (and if you wanted lighter and softer, there was always Band Hero).

      As for the “near-perfect gameplay”: Um…in what way, exactly? I personally find RB to be much more enjoyable to play, so where is GH “much better”, exactly?

  9. Rab says:

    I think a good way to reinvent Guitar Hero might be to change it into more of a sporting title.

    Make the game all about competing against the best players…and watching and learning from them if you aren’t an expert.

    Monthly contests with small prizes or just internet fame…etc….

    But this idea isn’t going to sell a gazillion copies…I think those days might be over forever for this generation of nondancing music games.

  10. Nerd42 says:

    My salvation for Guitar Hero:

    Make a “Pink Floyd Guitar Hero” with a magical rainbow guitar that lets you play through “Dark Side of the Moon” with no gaps in it’s entirety in sync to the Wizard of Oz. Also include all of the “Wish You Were Here” album and a good selection from “The Wall” in the on-disc content and surely that cannot fail.

    Then get more prog bands like the Alan Parsons Project, Electric Light Orchestra, Kayak and Spock’s Beard on DLC.

    BTW I just love prog, in real life this would probably fail epicly

  11. Douchebag says:

    GH needs moar muse 2 save teh series

  12. Maztuhmind says:

    speaking of the background and character designs of the recent guitar hero games, i would not mind at all if they reserved all of that to desigining more in the style of the Tool backgrounds in GHWT. beats the hell out of looking at those fugly character designs.

  13. The D says:

    Some of those ideas i have thought of myself….

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  15. Sophmorejohn says:

    One thing that I would like to see changed is the ability to pick either guitar or bass after the song has been chosen like in rock band I really hate having to back all the way out of the song selection screen the choose an instrument then have to go back and find the song play it and then have to go back and do it all over again if I want to play guitar and the same goes for the difficulty. I love that about rock band being able to choose the song and the choose guitar or bass and my difficulty I think this would help a lot in online play as well.

    • Elliott says:

      Agreed on the instrument changing but you can change the difficulty from the pause menu in local games… It’s the online I am talking about specifically in that section of the article.

  16. William manuel says:

    I think Gutiar Hero is the GREATEST GAME I EVER PLAYED, IT”S ADDICTING AND WELL GRAPHIC. I REALLY LOVE PLAYING THE GAME SINCE DAY ONE. GUITAR HERO JUST SIMPLY BLOW”S MY MIND , I LIKE CHALLENGE”S AND TRYING TO EARN POINTS AND NEW SONGS AND GUITAR AMPS AND STRING. THE SONGS ARE AMAZING I LOVE THE SONGS THAT ARE ON THE GAME IT JUST PUMPS YOU UP ONCE YOU START AND FINISH THE GAME. IF ANYTHING HAPPEN”S ABOUT ANOTHER GAME I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR, KORN DISTURBED, FEARFACTORY,STAIND,BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE,AVENGE SEVENFOLD,SLAUGHTER -ANGELS, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY,KILLSWITCH, PANTERA,SALIVA, FILTER ,NINE INCH NAILS, MOTELY CRUE, ROB ZOMBIE ,MUDVAYNE, HELLYEAH,LAMB OF GOD,HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD,DEF LEPPARD. THOSE ARE THE ARTIST I PERFER BUT GUITAR HERO INVINTERS ARE DOING A GOOD JOB SO YOU GUYS AND GALS DO YOUR BEST AND YOU ROCK. FROM A FRIEND WILLIAM =)

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