Rocksmith Developers are “Asked Anything” by Reddit

About a month ago Rocksmith Developers Nao Higo (@naohigo) and Paul Cross (@crossieRS) did an IAmA (I am a / Ask Me Anything) on reddit.

There were some good questions and some bad questions, but in the end there was a lot of good information collected. and thanks to Rocksmith forum member “MASTERHOLMES” we can post some of the tidbits that were left in the 724 comment thread.

On “Rocksmith’s History”

  • Ubisoft actually purchased a company that was originally making the tech (GameTank). The largest problem is that guitars are analogue – they don’t output a pure sound (generally the better the guitar, the more pure the sound) so the tech has to figure out how to ignore the garbage sounds and acknowledge the right one… it’s voodoo magic from my p.o.v! Chords quadruple that problem as well, but we had to do them, so our boys found a way. They recorded lots of people playing the same chords to work out an averaging system to get the game to listen properly. We then found that asking for 5 out of 5 notes to be sounded perfectly every time was too harsh for most average players so we eased off on the precision so that you can be a little off without being punished.
  • The basic note detection tech was from Guitar Rising, which has been refactored and refined further for Rocksmith. Pretty much everything else was built from the ground up.
  • The tech was in development for >4 years. The game side took around 18 months – this was pretty darn fast for a new game, but we were super focused. We quickly identified the elements that needed to be addressed (dynamic difficulty, interface, notation) and attacked them head on.

On “Dynamic Difficulty: Why can’t full difficulty be unlocked right away?”

  • It’s one of those things that we’ve heard a few times, but we are still uncomfortable with the idea. The idea of the dynamic difficulty system is to ramp you up on the song so you have time to understand the notes that are being thrown at you, then slowly increase the number of notes so that you have mastered/memorized the previous set of notes before getting trickier and trickier.Going with the highest difficulty from the get go is kinda like playing an action platformer from the 80-90s starting with the final level. You don’t know what the rules are, what you’re supposed to do and BAM! Here you go, push you off the deep end of the pool and you’re dead. You’re not going to be able to sight read all the notes at once (until you get VERY comfortable with the interface), and you’ll be quickly overwhelmed. But as a compromise, in a near-future update, we are planning on raising the start level of the songs for people who’ve achieved higher levels so they start the songs off at a much higher difficulty.
  • We hear you – we tried a number of things and what we shipped with seemed to be the best solution to many problems people were having. As mentioned before there will be some improvements made for the advanced guitarist because we definitely skewed to the beginner, then in the future we may look at letting you max out songs on demand. Unfortunately that has it’s own tech ramifications (because of the way things are tracked) so need to figure out solutions to that too…
  • “when we tried dynamic difficulty off most new players couldn’t play at all… too hard or too easy / boring (remember if you set it to easy it would stay easy until the end of the song and THEN you switch and play it again… so you still have to repeat but 1 time is guaranteed to just be a test effort) We’re going to make some adjustments for advanced players that allows them to start at much higher levels and level up faster soon.

On “Pick Direction”

  • Pick direction is something we contemplated displaying, but it’s one of those things that we ultimately chose not to display because of the amount of clutter it added to the interface. But for future iterations it’s something that we may include once we figure out an elegant way to display it so people do not become confused. As for technique, there is a limit to what we can detect from just listening to the note that is being played, which is why we included technique videos to help reinforce how certain techniques are performed. The information is available in the game, but we didn’t want to shove it down the player’s throats either by forcing them to watch it.

On “Colour Blind Guitarists”

  • We actually have a guy on our team who is color blind and consulted with him on some things we can do to provide additional information for color blind folks. For example, on Super Slider, we incorporated different textures for each block so that if you can’t tell the colours apart, you can tell from the textures which block is which. We also have height information on the notes (the stems underneath the notes) to help provide context of which string it belongs to. We also tried not to put colours that are typically hard to tell apart for color blind people on adjacent strings. In the future, however, it is a good idea to give people the ability to adjust the color range. Thanks for the idea!

On “DLC Wishlisting”

  • We’re going to be bringing lots of new songs and new genres over the next year… Acoustic dlc is not a bad idea at all
  • (Re: Varied Difficulty Content) We are trying to make sure that we have some insane dlc alongside some much less hardcore and more accessible tunes. We are well aware that every song does not need to be hard as nails to be fun to play!
  • If you look at our current track list and see glaring omissions with some artists, believe us, we’re probably talking to them or have spoken to them to get their songs in the game. Some artists were a bit wary of our product when we first approached them because they’ve seen other games and didn’t want to be involved in a game where you “pretend” to play. So despite our promise that it’s the real deal this time, they shied away. Others had signed multi-year exclusive deals, so they are untouchable for the time being. But believe me, we are talking to even the folks who denied and we’re hoping to turn them around.
  • (Re: Pink Floyd) Definitely a band we’d love to see/play in the game too, so stay tuned
  • (Re: Led Zeppelin) You’re not the first to ask… let’s just say we’re working on it  sorry to not have anything more specific.
  • (Re: Steve Vai) Awesome – Vai is nuts.
  • (Re: Female Artists) Yes – we’ve noted we have a much larger female audience than we may have anticipated and know there is demand will definitely make notes of these artists (ed – omitted) (can’t promise, but they do get to go on the big list if they weren’t already!)
  • I can’t name names… but some people just flat out denied (without even hearing what we were doing), one band asked for $4million for 1 song (not in our budget thanks!) and some are tied up in exclusivity. About a week after release a few bands that previously denied contacted us about getting into the game… more on that another day though

Regarding Bass

  • We had to concentrate on getting 6-string guitar right first. That took our team all of our development time…. we’re working on bass now tho!
  • We are planning on providing a full add-on

Regarding Europe Release

  • Our game is new and scary to some. It was super important to prove that it’s not rubbish and get people excited. Now that we’ve done that over here, it’ll be a lot easier to secure a firm release date in Europe.

On “The Future of Rocksmith”

  • We already have a few things in mind for expanding the Rocksmith experience through DLC, the biggest one being bass guitar support. We also have other plans in the works at the moment, and we’ll announce them when the time is right (well, more like when Marketing lets us)

“We make the game for you guys ultimately not just for ourselves! the team follow our facebook http://www.facebook.com/rocksmithgame and @RocksmithGame and naturally don’t reply to everything but really think it’s important to listen to all of the opinions of people who ultimately pay our wages. Only that way will we be able to make something that captures hearts and imaginations  (sounds gushy but it’s true!)”