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How Things Work: Rock Action Games

How Things Work: Rock Action Games


Ever wondered how ordinary songs get immortalised as videogame songs? Of course you have…

First of all, every song has to be licensed. This used to involve a lot of effort on the part of the game developer, but on the back of the success of Guitar Hero record companies are queuing up to get their artists into games.

Once all the licensing deals are arranged and the track list set, the next step is to get cover versions produced of whichever songs won’t be based on original masters. This process has pretty much been phased out now, but we’re guessing you’re curious about it anyway.

Most of the covers you’ve heard and played in Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Karaoke Stage were produced by the same company, California’s Wave Group. As Wave Group CEO Will Littlejohn explains:

“Our goal is to capture the energy and greatness of these songs, while making them playable in the game. In many cases, we’ll add additional guitar parts and even entire solos in order to make the songs more interesting to play. I’d have to say that we’ve used pretty much every recording technique out there at one time or another. When we finish up the recordings, we create specialised audio files called submix sterns.”

These files are then delivered to the developer where they are divided up and distributed among the relevant departments – guitar parts to guitar guys, drum parts to drum guys and vocal parts to vocal guys. First they do the Expert version of each track as, for them, it’s the easiest part to do. Every note, chord and beat gets used on Expert, so every one gets pulled out and added to the code. The tricky, and unfortunately most secret, part is dumbing it down for the easier levels, while still ensuring it feels like you’re playing what you’re hearing.

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