Rock Band Network is Harmonix's
user generated song creation platform. Using Harmonix approved tools and custom built plug-ins, the Network allows for anybody to author tracks and publish them. Rock Band Network currently has 1300 songs available.
Prior to the creation of the Rock Band Network, Harmonix had been releasing additional songs as DLC since the original release of Rock Band back in 2007. However, Harmonix wanted to expand the amount of DLC they were publishing each week. Realizing they couldn’t do this internally without expanding the development team they decided to form Rock Band Network.
After deliberations and discussion with Microsoft, the team decided on a peer reviewed route, modeling it after the XNA submission process. This would allow artists and labels to author their own tracks and publish them on RBN. Initially, songs were going to be published for PS3 and Wii owners; however, due to limited demand from Wii owners, Harmonix discontinued RBN support on January 18, 2011. Additionally, a few new songs are being released for the PS3, but the majority of songs are not released on the platform.
A private beta was started in September 2009. Harmonix continued adding features throughout the beta such as an “Audition” mode which allows for beta testing of songs. Enhanced development tools and documentation were released in October 2009. An open beta was released January 19, 2010. The RBN store became available for Rock Band 2 owners through a patch released March 4, 2010. Over 100 songs were available at launch.
Rock Band Network 2.0 was announced after the release of Rock Band 3. The second iteration of the network added support for features in Rock Band 3 such as vocal harmonies, keyboard support, and Pro modes for both the drums and keyboard. Pro guitars and bass are not available at the initial launch with Harmonix stating the difficulty of authoring Pro guitar and bass parts. Changes also included improved authoring tools and better audition sessions for reviewing authored tracks. RBN 2.0 went live February 15, 2011. With the launch of the new network, only Rock Band 3 players will be able to purchase new songs that are published through the network.
The authoring process utilizes a digital audio creation tool called REAPER. Using custom built add-ons developed by Harmonix, authors will use REAPER to analyze the tempo of the song and distribute notes along the highway for the song. Easy, medium, hard, and expert tracks must then be created by the author, but for the drum track, REAPER will automatically track the drum note placement. The track author must then go through the song and tune the placement of the notes.
A second tool used in the process is called Magma. This program is used to convert song and note track information into a playable song in Rock Band and creates a primary animation structures such as close ups on the guitar player during solos. More advanced animations can be programmed into the song using REAPER.
Harmonix estimates that for new track creators, it will take anywhere between 20 and 40 hours to author a single track. After the song is completed it is submitted through the peer review system. During this other people will be able to evaluate the songs based on difficulty and gameplay. If the song passes the reviews then it will be released on the Network. Song prices range from $1 to $3 with artist receiving 30% of the track profit.