[Below, Gamasutra presents
an excerpt from Iain Simons' recent book, Inside Game Design, courtesy
of publishers Laurence King. Filled with interviews and graphics that
illustrate exactly how top minds approach the design question, the book
offers a look at everything from little-known indies to massive success
stories, as with the interview we reproduce a portion of below:
Guitar Hero and Rock Band developers
Harmonix Music Systems has
a mission. Lots of videogame developers have them, but they are in most
cases relatively non-specific intentions to make innovative, original
and brilliant new videogames. Harmonix is rather more specific. MIT
alumni Alex Rigopulos (CEO) and Eran Egozy (CTO) didn't even start the
company to make videogames; their aim was "to create new ways for
non-musicians to experience the unique joy that comes from making music."
The studio developed music-led
interactive attractions for a variety of theme parks before moving into
game production with the critically acclaimed Frequency in 2001.
Global recognition hit with
the release of Guitar Hero in 2005. This perfectly executed title
made rock stars of anyone who wanted to step up to the PlayStation and
grasp the guitar controller the game shipped with. The coverage and
acclaim the title received were extraordinary, and it was adopted into
that hallowed (and small) group of titles that even people who don't
like videogames are allowed to like.
Along with Buzz and Singstar,
the videogame became a welcome addition to many a house party. It shared
a lot with these titles, mainly the ability to bring about extraordinary
transformations in whoever played it. The space in front of the television
was transformed from being the place where you play the game to the
place where you perform.
The design of Guitar Hero
was led by emigrated Englishman Rob Kay, who discussed the experience
of making the game over the phone.
[the Guitar Hero] project concept emerge?
RedOctane had been talking
to Harmonix for a while. It was a rental company and then they made
dance mats for DDR [Dance Dance Revolution]. It ended
up selling a bundle of these dance mats and wanted to progress that
side of its business. The company was interested in making a guitar
game as they'd seen Guitar Freaks, which Konami had done. So
they came to Harmonix with the request, "will you make us a great
guitar game for our new piece of guitar hardware?"
The peripheral led the project?
Yes. At that time, Konami hadn't
released Guitar Freaks in the US, and I don't think RedOctane
had any particularly grand ambitions other than needing a game. Relatively
speaking, it was a pretty low-budget game -- about a million dollars,
which is pretty tiny as a game budget.
We had a team that had just been
freed up, as we'd just finished AntiGrav. This seemed like an
awesome project. Everyone here was really psyched to work on a rock
guitar game; it really fitted in with people's interests here. No one
had any notions about it being a massive success; we all just thought
it would be fun to do.