Crispy Gamer

Rock of Ages

It would be understandable if Wii owners were offended. After all, Rock Band is only now coming out for the Wii when it's been out on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 since last November. Heck, even the PlayStation 2 got its first. But it's obvious that the guys at Harmonix and EA recognize that patience is a virtue, since they've augmented the Wii version of the musical challenge with five songs not originally included in the other versions (though they are available for download), including such rock classics as "Roxanne" by The Police and "Rockaway Beach" by the Ramones. But while this is the final version of the original Rock Band to be released, this is clearly not the end of the Band. We spoke to producer Matt Kelly about the state of the Band and what we can expect from future releases.

Crispy Gamer: Okay, first off, my upstairs neighbors borrowed my copy of Rock Band months ago and they won't give it back. What should I do?

Matt Kelly: That's cold. Well, if you're feeling particularly vindictive, you could invite them over for dinner, drug their food, and take back Rock Band before they wake up. Alternatively, you could just admit defeat, form a band with them, and start rocking out together. I would probably go with the latter option.

Crispy Gamer: Are you guys surprised at how well the game has done, or were you guys worried the price might keep people away?

Kelly: We're humbled and relieved. Since no one had ever done something like this before, we weren't sure how people were going to respond. We've always believed that Rock Band provides this totally awesome experience, and is a great value. Judging by its success, I guess we were right.

Crispy Gamer: Now the game is finally coming to the Wii. Is there anything different about this version?

Kelly: We've added five of our favorite songs to the disc as a bonus. The real thing that's different is that the fit for the audience is so perfect. We see the Wii as the ultimate social console and we'd like to think that Rock Band is the ultimate social game.

Crispy Gamer: The game, like Guitar Hero, has become a favorite of musicians. Is there anyone who, when you heard they were big on Rock Band, just really blew you away?

Kelly: We've heard that Pete Townsend of The Who plays with his family. How cool is that? And now that it's coming out on the Wii, which is such a great family console, I'm sure they'll be a lot more stories of family bands popping up -- which is still cool, even if, you know, your dad isn't Pete Townsend.

Crispy Gamer: It was recently announced that Guitar Hero might add vocals and drums. Do you guys view this as a victory or as a slight?

Kelly: Neither really. We were happy to be the first to bring a full band experience into your homes, and we're incredibly excited to keep pushing the rhythm genre further and further.

Crispy Gamer: Has there been any thought to challenging the Guitar Hero guys to a game of Dance Dance Revolution, with the loser agreeing to stop making games?

Kelly: Oh boy. Well, here's the thing: I really love making games for a living. I'm also probably the worst Dance Dance Revolution player on the planet. What if we just each agree to keep making games, and then no one has to see me flail spastically on a DDR pad? Pretty please?

Crispy Gamer: They've also already announced that new Guitar Hero: Aerosmith Edition. How come you guys haven't announced Rock Band 2: Electric Boogaloo yet?

Kelly: We have some announcements in the works, stay tuned?

Crispy Gamer: Has there been any talk of doing a band-specific version of Rock Band?

Kelly: We're excited we've been able to provide deep musical experiences with specific artists through DLC of full albums. As for future plans, we haven't announced anything at this time.

Crispy Gamer: Now at one point there was a lot of talk about Metallica doing something with Rock Band, and while they've had a couple songs in the game, nothing bigger ever materialized. What happened with that?

Kelly: As previously announced, we are working with Metallica to bring some amazing rock to Rock Band fans.

Crispy Gamer: One thing you are doing that Guitar Hero isn't is full albums, the first of which was Judas Priest's "Screaming for Vengeance." First off, who's the big Priest fan on the team that pushed for it?

Kelly: I work with so many Judas Priest fans here at Harmonix, I honestly have no idea who suggested it first. I'm just ecstatic we were able to get the band involved.

Crispy Gamer: What are the other full albums you're planning and when might they be out?

Kelly: To date we've put out "Screaming for Vengeance," "The Cars" by The Cars, and "Doolittle" by The Pixies. We have a lot of big plans for albums in the near future, stay tuned.

Crispy Gamer: Is there one group you guys have been chasing after but they just won't return your calls?

Kelly: We're talking to a lot of people, and the labels and bands have been really receptive.

Crispy Gamer: Is there a group who keeps calling you but you keep ducking them because you just really hate their music?

Kelly: We have really diverse musical tastes here. We're completely open to anything that fits the four instruments -- guitar, bass, vocals, and drums -- and would be fun to play.

Crispy Gamer: There is also, I've heard, going to be a retail release for the Wii and PS2 called Rock Band Track Pack Vol. 1, which will have 20 songs that were previously available for download from Xbox Live and the PlayStation store. Who decided which songs would be included?

Kelly: Our Audio Team assembled a list of some of the best songs that we've put out to date. We're excited to share those tracks with fans on the Wii and PS2.

Crispy Gamer: Obviously, since it's called Vol. 1, there are plans for a Vol. 2. Any idea when that might be out?

Kelly: We're excited to offer ongoing content to all the platforms, but again we haven't announced timing for future releases.

Crispy Gamer: Now when the Halo guys released their most recent map pack, they made the previous one free, and they're not the first to make their downloadable content gratis after a while. Are there any plans to make the downloadable songs available for free anytime soon?

Kelly: We released our first free song, "Still Alive" by Jonathan Coulton of Portal fame on April 1. We're hoping to do more gratis content in the future.

Crispy Gamer: So has there been any thought to doing Soft Rock Band with the music of Chicago, James Taylor and Paul Simon?

Kelly: We're fans of all kinds of music here at Harmonix, and we've got a ton of projects in the works. You'll just have to stay tuned for future announcements. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.