By Count_Zero 26 Comments
So, recently I was listening to the most recent installment of the Giant Bombcast when the discussion came up on the show on what other games the Rock Band: The Beatles formula would work with. Jeff, Ryan and Brad actually did a pretty good job of running down what the criteria. However, for those who didn't listen to the episode, I'm going to give the basics:
- It needs a good narrative: The band's story either needs to have some degree of drama to it, or the band's style needs to have some sort of metamorphosis and general change to it. For example, over the Beatles career they went through a variety of musical styles, from the poppy, to the psychedelic. As an example of what not to do - Guitar Hero: Van Halen is limiting their Van Halen content to the material from David Lee Roth's time in the band, and only depicting the band's current lineup.
- The music needs to be recognizable: We not only need to be able to recognize some of the band's songs, but we need to be able to recognize most of the songs on the game (with a handful of exceptions). After all, this is a Rock Band: $NAMEOFBAND game, so all of the music is going to be from that band, instead of some of the music being from that band, plus other bands that they toured with.
- The band's history needs to be visually interesting. This doesn't necessarily mean that we need the dreamscapes of The Beatles: Rock Band. However, variety is the spice of life, and having a variety of venues to progress through helps provide some visual variety to the gameplay experience, and would also allow the game to have a sense of progression to it.
- The band needs to fit with the Rock Band format, particularly in terms of the music. This one is a no-brainer.
- Pink Floyd: The band's narrative works very well - the kind of narrative that books and movies are (and have been) made about - Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Syd Barrett, Richard Wright formed the band and became successful through a mix of 60's pop ("Arnold Layne", "See Emily Play"), and psychedelic freak outs (Interstellar Overdrive, Astronomy Domine). At this point, the fame became more than Barrett could handle and he went spectacularly mad, with David Gilmour (who knew most of the other members of the band earlier) being hired to help finish the band's next album Saucerfull of Secrets after which Barrett left the band. The events leading to Barrett's departure ultimately ending up being one of the top 2 influences of everything the band would do after that (the rest of it being Roger Waters' childhood). Ultimately, the band nearly dissolves spectacularly after about 6 excellent albums (Atom Heart Mother, Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall), and two iffy ones (Ummagumma & The Final Cut), after Roger Waters nearly sets an example for Axl Rose and tries to fire everyone else in the band/dissolve it. After a bitter legal battle, Gilmour & Mason get the rights to the band and re-hire Wright (who had previously been fired by Waters), and do one good album (Momentary Lapse of Reason), and one mindblowing album (The Division Bell).
This gives us our narrative, in terms of he band's history, but also a musical narrative as well. From the more psychedelic/60s stylings of Syd's time with the band, to the "classic" Pink Floyd of the Early Waters & Gilmour era (Meddle, DSotM, WYWH), to the later, darker, more Waters heavy stuff (Animals, The Wall & The Final Cut), and finally, the more emotional guitar stuff after Waters departure/ouster. Additionally, the game will have a visual progression, from the smaller clubs to larger arenas of Barrett's time, to the larger arenas with full orchestra of Atom Heart Mother, to the Pompeii Ampitheater, to the more elaborate sets for the Animals Tour (complete with the now iconic giant pig) - to the now famous Wall Tour (there was no live performance for the Final Cut material), and possibly using the P*U*L*S*E concert for the "Momentary Lapse of Reason" and "Division Bell" material.
However, using Pink Floyd will not be without it's difficulties. Nick Mason has spoken out against Rock Band, as he feels (wrongly), that the game lures kids away from learning music. Further, to be honest, the band's material is not conductive for a teen rating - particularly when you get into The Wall and its accompanying visuals, which are as much a part of the live show as the music. Between the goose-stepping hammers, the images of people getting curb stomped, the Freudian flowers, and the judge during "The Trial" who is deliberately meant to look like a naked man with a large butt bending over, with the anus meant to represent the man's mouth, and the genitals to represent the man's chin (they took some liberties with anatomy), I'd say it's reasonable to assume that if the game was as authentic to Pink Floyd as they were to The Beatles, they'd have difficulty dodging a Mature rating (at best).
- Rush: The band, I must admit, doesn't have the personal narrative that The Beatles or Pink Floyd has. The biggest piece of drama in the band's history is the death of Neil Peart's wife and daughter in a car accident and he doesn't like to talk about it (and doesn't particularly do public appearances outside of the concerts in general), having basically covered everything in his second book and in the song "Ghost Rider" for the Vapor Trails album. However, the album would have a musical narrative, going from the band's earlier, more heavily Prog Rock days, to some of their later, reggae and ska influenced stuff from Signals and Grace Under Pressure, as well as the general increase and decrease of synth in the band's new materials (hitting it's peak in those previously mentioned albums), while having less and less synth from Counterparts on, with almost no synth at all on their latest album, Snakes & Arrows. However, the main problems is (aside from having to track the Synth), that Rush just doesn't have a lot of really distinctive visual concerts, except maybe Rush In Rio. They've got stuff like screen videos and everything but it's not quite the same.
Unfortunately, after those two bands, I don't have much. Maybe it's because of my limited musical vocabulary, in terms of bands I known enough about to be able to know if they fit or not (and to know if a band would work for this you have to know a lot about the band, even if you haven't listened to every album). That said, there are a few more bands that have popped into my head as possible candidates, but I don't know enough about them to go on at length:
- Black Sabbath: The shift from the more political subject matter with Ozzy in the band to the more operatic stuff with Ronnie James Dio.
- Emerson Lake and Palmer - To be specific, not only covering the band's original material, but when the band broke up, the members went on to form other notable bands, from King Crimson to Asia, so including some of their material might be a good idea.
- Jefferson Airplane - Rather, Jefferson Airplane to Jefferson Starship to Starship
Finally, just as an aside, there's one other little project that I wouldn't mind seeing. You see, I'm a fan of a dark swords & sorcery series called The Chronicles of Elric of Melnibone. They're written by a British fantasy author named Michael Moorcock. They're very dark, and more than a little violent fantasy stories about the albino sorcerer-prince Elric, wielder of the soul-eating (and sentient) rune-sword Stormbringer, who finds himself as a pawn in the struggle between the forces of Order and Chaos (with neither side realizing at first that Elric's role is probably closer to a Bishop, Knight, or even the Queen). Yes, this may sound cliched, but that's because Moorcock created the cliches. What does this have to do with Rock Band. Well, Moorcock, who was (sort of) a contemporary of Tolkien (he was alive while Tolkien was alive - and he hated the guy), collaborated with Blue Oyster Cult and Hawkwind to write a series of songs about the character, covering most of the series. I wouldn't mind a Rock Band project - basically an elaborate track pack, with ultra elaborate visuals (ala the Beatles dreamscapes), with the tracks covering various portions of the Elric saga - possibly with Moorecock working with those two bands (or other bands which he likes) to cover the bases of any holes in the narrative). It could be called, I dunno, Rock Band Presents: The Chronicles of the Black Sword or something. Similar projects could be done in the future on similar themes - it could be the Metal Space Opera project Star One getting a similar treatment, or other concept albums being done in Rock Band, with the format being used to present visuals that complement the subject matter of the music.
That's just my two bits, and I'm looking forward to seeing what you think.