Tuesday 15 January, 2008
While the first time I played I only fooled around on different songs, this time I decided to start a career, which involves passing each song on every level with an encore at the end of each “show.” While exploring career mode, I was forced to play a few of the songs which I really didn’t like, or just didn’t care for. This is a bit tedious, especially if the songs are difficult and I didn’t pass them my first try, but after getting through them there is still a sense of accomplishment in having mastered everything.
Career mode also involves choosing a band name and an appearance. There are several characters to choose from in the game, and new outfits and guitars can be purchased for money earned from the shows. I had a little fun with this.
Having warmed up in my first session, I felt a little more skilled this time, and a little better at using the guitar. This makes the game a bit more fun. In some games, the challenge is the most interesting part, and the fun is in surviving and getting through it; after this is achieved, the game loses its value. In Guitar Hero, mastery of each song is just as fun, if not more. It is rewarding not just to play a song, but to play a song better. My goal this session, though, was just to simply get through everything.
The best feeling while playing the game was probably whenever I accidentally played a hard part of a song well, when more muscle memory than thinking was involved and I was amazed at my own skill. The worst feeling was being just a little bit off which meant missing the notes completely, and then having to find my place again.
The design of Guitar Hero is interesting, as it involved a completely new controller made just for the game. Therefore the design of the “guitar” had to be set up to make it challenging but not impossible to master each song within a period of time that keeps the player entertained for just long enough not to get bored or fed up. The five note buttons to be played with four fingers and the strumming button to be played with the other hand was quite clever. It makes learning how to exploit the controller feel like learning an actual instrument.
One of the design aspects which was sometimes painful was that the notes have to be played almost perfectly to count at all. It is an all-or-nothing situation, unlike real guitar where there is much more creativity and freedom, and a melody can be played slightly slower or a little different and still have the same effect on the audience. Guitar hero is not about being creative but about playing something right or wrong, and this can be frustrating. It also separates the exploitation of the game itself from the reality of the fantasy it is trying to emulate.
The graphic design of the game is set up to help build the fantasy. There is a lot of visual effort that goes beyond a player simply playing notes. Behind the flying notes a band can be seen playing onstage in relatively detailed animation. The whole setup is constructed to fulfill a variety of clichés about the image surrounding rock music. The player can choose a guitarist from a selection, as well as guitars and costumes, so that they can select their own visual guitar hero which plays along with the music. The guitarist is accompanied by a full standard rock band. The stage changes for each level that the player achieves, getting more complex and (it would seem) expensive as the levels advance. Beyond the songs themselves even, the menus and transitions are made in a style that is meant to appeal to the same crowd. I didn’t like everything about the design, but I felt that it contributed to the overall fantasy of the game, and I understand how it would appeal to other people. It was definitely better there than not.