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 Rock Band 2  Adds Open 'Rock Band Network' Song Creation
Rock Band 2 Adds Open 'Rock Band Network' Song Creation
July 17, 2009 | By Chris Remo

July 17, 2009 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC

Rock Band users will soon be able to record and sell their own music tracks through the game's online store. Developer Harmonix has unveiled its plans for The Rock Band Network, which will work with the existing Rock Band 2 Xbox 360 release in concert with Microsoft's XNA Creator's Club.

Tracks must be mixed according to certain Harmonix specifications, outfitted with MIDI gameplay information, then peer reviewed before being put up for sale on the Network's store. As with Xbox Live Indie Games (formerly Xbox Live Community Games), authors will be paid royalties on a quarterly basis.

According to the official Rock Band Network website, closed testing will be underway until August. That month, Harmonix will open up the creation utilities to the public, and at an unspecified date this year the store itself will fully open.

Although the system is native to Xbox 360 and it appears that the majority of the songs will only be available on that system, certain "stand out tracks" will also be sold to PlayStation 3 and Wii users.

The move is reminiscent of developer Neversoft's song creation utility in Guitar Hero World Tour, but is considerably more ambitious. While the Guitar Hero solution was limited to synthesized and sampled music, Rock Band's allows users to record their own material from scratch using a version of the Reaper audio workstation as well as Harmonix's own Magma tool for PC.

When Neversoft and Activision launched their tool, Rock Band 2 lead designer Dan Teasdale heavily hinted at Harmonix's own efforts -- while not-so-subtly slamming the competition's. "We actually want to find a way to for people to create music and express themselves, but when we do we want to make sure that people can sing, or the songs can be longer than three minutes, or that you can have more than 1200 notes, or that youíre not tied to some dodgy sample somewhere," he said late last year.

"You canít do it half-arsed. If you want to do a way to let players create and distribute music, you have to go all-in, not just do it as a bullet on the back of a box."

Said Harmonix co-founder and CEO Alex Rigopulos, "Our goal with Rock Band has always been to go beyond making music games and create a true music platform. With the Rock Band Network, we've evolved the platform to its next logical step, giving players access to an incredible amount of new music by putting the professional tools we use in the hands of the artists themselves."

[UPDATE: Interestingly, it's not just bedroom music creators who are intending to sign up to this service - Sub Pop's head of A&R Tony Kiewel is quoted by as saying that the label is expecting to submit songs from its upcoming fall releases as well as its bigger releases from the past two years.]

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Amir Sharar
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This sounds much more flexible than the setup found in GH.

It sounds like this means I can take the masters from my brother's band and convert them to RB2. So rather than sounding like the MIDI stuff found in GH we have the same quality as recorded audio.

Also, this includes vocals whereas GH did not.

It'll be interesting to see the challenges of peer review found on Xbox Indie Games on this service. Though I would think that it's a much simpler process in this case.

Tom Newman
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Interesting. Nice to see indie labels taking part, other than that I don't see the appeal, but I could be wrong. The whole point behind these music games to me is playing the part of your musical heroes, and both RB and GH do a great job of this. Playing along with some amature bedroom musician seems pointless, but at least they are expanding this feature from the one offered in the GH series, which I feel is not only unnecessary, but far too limited to do anything worth the time it takes to do.

John Flush
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The 'Update' is what I was expecting to see sooner than later. Big labels, putting up songs and not just indie devs. The one problem I see with this is between the DLC I currently have and all the tracks from RB1 and RB2, I have so much stuff I need a way to sort through it. Maybe a personal rating system or something, which can then also reflect somehow on the distrubution service.

Jamie Mann
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This is highly impressive and ambitious - it's effectively the next MySpace, but I have to admit that I have some doubts about how well it's going to work.

First, people want to play songs they already know, not songs they don't. Secondly, the in-game interface for finding songs is awful (and only getting worse as the number of tracks grows) - for instance, you have to manually preview each individual song, there's no rating mechanism, filtering and tagging capabilities are minimal, etc. Thirdly, you can't actually listen to songs you download with Rock Band: there's no jukebox or mechanism for transferring the songs to other platforms.

Some of these problems can be addressed via software patches, but I suspect this is going to be a very niche sideline for Rock Band.

Overall, I can't help but feel that more than anything else, this is a "checklist" feature intended to show that Rock Band is comparable to Guitar Hero.

Sean Parton
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@ Tom Newman & juice uk: There are many among those who play Guitar Hero (not Rock Band) who enjoy the wide variety of music, especially extremely talented indies like An Endless Sporadic. I've bought music through iTunes and the Guitar Hero Store because I found indies that have a really good sound, and I highly doubt that there aren't others like me (even if we're far from the majority). A move like this is actually making me consider buying Rock Band when I otherwise wouldn't.

Jamie Mann
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@Sean: I don't dispute that there's a niche and potential market for this - as I (badly) stated, this is the next phase of evolution for the MySpace model.

I've also found more than a few new tracks, thanks to GH/RB - Freezepop, Maps, Black Label Society.

However, the fact is that this is very much a niche product which is liable to have a small active userbase (though to be fair, the stats for the usage of GH's midi thing surprised me, albeit this was likely driven by the fact that achievements are available for both uploading and downloading).

Also, a key difference from MySpace is that the songs will be chargable - not surprising, given the additional bandwidth and processing costs - but they'll have to offer a better preview system than the one currently implemented.

Overall, I like the idea - it complements the Xbox Indie Games (nee Community Games) system nicely. However, just like XBIG, I don't think it'll take off commercially and I suspect it'll be used mainly as a checklist item in the marketing wars.