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September 17, 2007 // 9:18 pm - Rock Band, as the name implies, expands on the music rhythm game genre by adding more players and more instruments alongside the guitarist to create an entire band. The complete Rock Band ensemble consists of a vocalist, a lead guitarist, a bass guitarist, and a drummer. The new instruments are a microphone, a drum set, and upgraded Fender Stratocaster guitars for the lead and bass guitarists.

The extra peripherals will set the price of the game close to the $200 mark, but the success of Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero II makes the pricing easier to accept. If players are willing to pay $70-$90 for a single-player guitar game, $200 doesn't sound unreasonable to get the full four-player band experience. We caught up with Harmonix producer Daniel Sussman to find out more about the Rock Band hardware.

GameSpot: Will I be missing out if I use an older guitar model such as the Gibson SG or the X-Plorer, or will I be able to retrofit it with new accessories? Perhaps through the X-Plorer effects-pedal port?

Daniel Sussman: I don't know about specific guitar models, since that's something only the manufacturer can answer. But I can say that Rock Band is designed to work with the open-controller standards of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms, and should therefore work with third-party controllers that are also based on those standards. However, we've worked really hard to raise the bar with our Fender Strat controller by adding features like the 5-way toggle switch and extra fret buttons, which allow you to show off your gameplay and style in new ways.

GS: Does the new Strat have a built-in tilt sensor?

DS: Yes, it does. With the Fender Strat, you will find all of the features that people are used to, plus some added bonus features never before seen on a guitar controller.

GS: Can you explain how solos work with the lower fret buttons? How will the game get players to use the new buttons?

DS: A lot of the inspiration for the lower fret buttons came out of the fun factor of playing solos up there. They provide a really nice opportunity to showboat. When you get to a solo section in Rock Band and play on the upper frets, we make every note a hammer-on/pull-off. This means you don't need to strum at all. You can do two-finger tapping; you can raise your strum hand to the heavens; whatever you want. Or you can always strum along as you normally would. We've been careful to make sure that you are not punished by the game if you're not using a Fender Strat--you just miss out on some of the fun stuff.

GS: Did you test out any new guitar features that didn't make the cut?

DS: Yes, we did. A lot of our early design was centered on an abstract tenet of "guitariness". We really wanted to deepen the simulation of playing a guitar. In that vein, we had a lot of ideas on the table that were meant to make our Fender Strat controller feel less like a game controller and more like a guitar. We were able to keep some of these (for example, having the buttons flush with the neck and a clickless strum bar), but we lost a handful as well.

GS: What kind of challenges did you have to overcome to add wireless instrument support?

DS: We didn't experience many technological problems in our efforts to go wireless. The PS3 Strats are all wireless, and we've been working very closely with Microsoft on our wireless technology for the Xbox 360 Strats.

GS: Four peripherals and only three USB ports...will the Xbox 360 package include a USB hub?

DS: Yes, the Xbox 360 Rock Band Special Edition bundle will include a USB hub.

Rock Band Hardware Q&A

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