Guitar Hero 2 Q&A with Red Octane

by Jeff Seamster

Guitar Hero fans are chomping at the bit with anticipation for the Playstation 2 release of Guitar Hero 2 on November 7th in the U.S. and November 30th in Europe. Red Octane associate producer Ted Lange was able to take a break from the pre-release sound check to answer a few of our questions about Guitar Hero 2.

Turns out GamersHell and Guitar Hero have the same initials, so I'll use our personal initials to avoid confusion.

J.S. - The obvious new features in Guitar Hero 2 are the new music tracks and new 2-player modes of gameplay. Are there other subtle changes that you hope will improve the player experience?

T.L. - We added a lot of new things that we feel will be great for the player as well as your buddy who’s asking for his turn. We added a bunch of new venue effects that go along to each of the music tracks. You will see a ton of really cool lighting effects that really add to the feeling of playing at a big show. We also added new crowd animations so when the mood is right the crowd pulls out their lighters or goes nuts and throws up the devil horns (the true sign of ROCK).

J.S. - One of the most impressive aspects of the original Guitar Hero is the set list that you put together. The assortment of popular music seems to reflect a tremendous amount of legal and licensing footwork. The recently released set list for Guitar Hero 2 looks to follow in the same footsteps. Do you find that you've turned a corner where bands are now actively seeking *you* out for inclusion of their songs, perhaps without the need for sound-alike artists?

T.L. - Actually that did happen to some degree. Certain bands actually preferred that we use the master recordings. We also had a lot of bands that really just wanted to be in the game. We actually went to a couple of Warped Tour shows and found out that so many bands had Guitar Hero on their tour busses. It was pretty surreal.

J.S. - Playing the demo for Guitar Hero 2, it feels like the hammer-ons and pull-offs are a little easier to, uh, pull off. Did you guys change the action a bit? Maybe the string gauge?

T.L. - Yeah, Ernie Ball hooked us up with some Hybrids and we also drop D tuned the game, but seriously we did rework the action of hammer-ons and pull-offs. A lot of people had a hard time with them before so we widened the window. Now you can hammer-on and pull-off like a pro. It’s really great for some of the insane solos in Guitar Hero II. I’m sure we will see a lot of people showing of their hammer-on and pull-off skills on YouTube. If you nail them right, there are times you can hammer-on full sections of a solo.

J.S. - Since future sequels are not only a foregone conclusion but even already announced, is there a drive to turn Guitar Hero into a Madden-style yearly franchise, and how does the Xbox360 release, with the potential for updates via Live, play into that scenario?

T.L. - The great thing about Guitar Hero is that it’s all about the music. We can keep making versions as long as there are two things available. More great rock songs to put in the game and fans of the game that want more and more songs to play. It’s really that simple. We really listen to what the fans want and the main thing is always more tracks. We also read all of their track requests and try to come up with great set lists that make everyone happy. So far I think we have been able to do that. With the Xbox 360 we really see tons of potential with downloadable content. Imagine having genre specific downloads like a full Punk download pack or something like that. It’s really open to whatever we think people will like. Next Gen consoles are really going to add to the franchise in a big way.

J.S. - We want you to settle a long running dispute: does it really help to use the whammy bar AS FAST AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN, or are you just sending your SG to an early grave?

T.L. - Using the Whammy as fast as you can during sustains on the star power sections really does help. You can fill up your star power meter really quickly that way. Other times you might want to give your whammy bar a rest unless you’re going for style points. You get +50 style points for using it as much as possible.

J.S. - Do you know of anybody using Guitar Hero in music education?

T.L. - We haven’t heard of anyone yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if some people were using it for musical education. I’ve heard multiple times from parents and musicians that this game really does help with basic rhythm and fingering which are two basic principles of learning real guitar. Who knows, maybe one day Guitar Hero will be a class at your local college. I can see taking Guitar Hero 101.

J.S. - What color will button 6 be? :)

T.L. - That would be Puce. I mean does any color rock more than Puce. I mean the word alone just screams rock. Rock consists of three things. 1) Guitars 2) Groupies 3) The color Puce. I think we have a winning combination there.

Well there you have it, our most pressing questions answered by the Vatican of Virtual Rock. Our thanks to Ted Lange of Red Octane for taking the time to fill us in. Stay tuned for our full review of Guitar Hero 2, that is if we can stop playing it long enough to write one.