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Rock Band Analysis

Page history last edited by Richard Chen 10 years, 6 months ago

Release Date: November 20, 2007

Genre: Music

Publisher: MTV Games

Developer: Harmonix

Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2



"Rock Band allows up to four players to simulate the performance of popular rock music songs by playing with controllers modeled after musical instruments. Players can play the lead guitar, bass guitar, and drums parts to songs with "instrument controllers", as well as sing through a USB microphone. Players are scored on their ability to match scrolling musical "notes" while playing instruments, or by their ability to match the singer's pitch on vocals. Players with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions can interact through both online and offline multiplayer capabilities. In addition to the 58 core songs included on the game disc, over 750 downloadable songs have been released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii versions, with more added each week."



Game Walkthrough

Rock Band players use peripherals modeled after musical instruments to simulate the performance of rock music. Players use these instruments by playing scrolling musical "notes" on-screen in time with the music.


Rock Band has up to three tracks of vertically scrolling colored music notes, one section each for lead guitar, drums, and bass.  The colored notes on-screen correspond to buttons on the guitar and drum peripherals.  For lead and bass guitar, players play their notes by holding down colored fret buttons on the guitar peripheral and pushing the controller's strum bar; for drums, players must strike the matching colored drumhead, or step on the pedal to simulate playing bass drum notes. Along the top of the screen is the vocals display, which scrolls horizontally, similar to Karaoke Revolution. The lyrics display beneath green bars, which represent the pitch of the individual vocal elements.  When singing vocals, the player must sing in relative pitch to the original vocals. A pitch indicator displays the singer's accuracy relative to the original pitch. The remainder of the screen is used to display the band's virtual characters as they perform songs. 


During cooperative play, all players earn points towards a common score, though score multipliers and "Overdrive" are tracked separately for each player.  Each band member can choose the difficulty at which they play (Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert).  Players earn points by corresponding falling “notes” with an action on their chosen instrument.  They also receive points for playing in unison and for completing the “Big Rock Ending”.  Players can gain score multipliers by successfully playing a series of notes.  Players can also fill their “Overdrive” meters by playing all white notes within a section.  Once an overdrive meter is half filled, players can activate their overdrive mode, which increases the point value for each note played.  Overdrive mode can be used strategically when playing in a group.  Activating overdrive “saves” all failed players, putting them back into the song.  However, one a player fails three times they can no longer be saved.  If a player does not play well enough and falls to the bottom of the Band Meter, they will fail out of the song and their instrument will be muted from the audio mix.







Game Objectives

  • Complete songs without emptying the band meter and failing
  • Reach 5 star ratings
  • Set high scores for individual songs
  • Successfully play as many notes as possible
  • Perform longer streaks of successfully played notes
  • Save failed band members
  • Complete World Tour mode by obtaining the total number of stars needed to progress through a venue


Motivational Elements

Stars and points

     The points and stars received can be seen in the top right with the band meter on the left

During gameplay, players seek to complete songs with as many stars and points as possible.  Multiple players can also coordinate their overdrive in order to initiate a team score multiplier.  During specific points in a song, certain parts will have solo modes where players are rated based on the number of notes they play successfully.  Throughout a song, players must keep their band meter (located on the left side) from emptying.  Players can increase their band meter through playing successive notes and going into overdrive mode.  Although each song can gain a maximum of 5 stars, players can gain more points after achieving 5 stars.  



     Analysis received after completing a song

After completing a song, players receive analysis on their playing which includes a percentage of successful notes played, longest streaks, and a title such as “Longest Streak” or “Band Savior” to signify significant gameplay.  Whether playing alone or with friends, players will continue playing a song until they successfully play as high percentage of notes in the song as possible.  Although the World Tour mode has a nonexistent storyline, the mode motivates single players and groups of players to improve their skills by gaining higher ratings and completing more difficult levels.  


World Tour Mode progression

     Rock Band's World Tour Map

Beyond the entertainment aspect of playing Rock Band among friends in social settings, the game’s World Tour mode provides some replay value.  Whether playing alone or creating a group, the World Tour mode presents similar incentives.  First, players create their own characters which they can customize physical and outfit appearance.  As players complete more songs, they receive money which is then used to buy new outfits and instruments for their characters.  During the tour, players complete songs in order to unlock new venues, cities, and gain more songs for their collection. 


Learning Objectives

  • Improve speed and recognition in synchronizing notes and playing on instruments
  • Recognizing optimal times to go into Overdrive mode


Educational Outcomes

By playing Rock Band and its large collection of songs, many players learn songs that they were originally unaware of.  Rock Band’s collection includes a mix of classic, modern and mainstream rock songs.  Players can further their song collection through the game’s downloadable content. 


Similar to many rhythm-based music games, players are able to improve their hand-eye coordination as they must play the notes on their peripherals as the note falls into the target zone.  When players first play Rock Band, the falling notes often serve as the most difficult gameplay element, but as players play more songs and gain experience, they improve in their ability to time their instruments and play more notes at once. 


The ability to transfer the musical skills you learn in Rock Band to the real world has yet to be proven.


Similar to many singing games, Rock Band does not require players to sing the correct words to a song; instead the game measures how well players match the pitch of the song.  Since players match a bar on screen, they do not learn the actual notes and tones of singing.  This means that players will not improve in their ability to sing sheet music, but they gain experience in mimicking and singing along with songs. 


As with Harmonix’s first instrumental videogame, Guitar Hero, Rock Band’s guitar peripheral, with its frets, strum, and whammy bars, is loosely based on a real guitar.  Rock Band also added five additional fret buttons closer to the body to allow for hammer-ons and pull-offs without the need to strum.  Using the fret buttons, player may learn some elements of finger placements when playing a real guitar.  Although, at the time of the release of Guitar Hero, the guitar peripheral was viewed as one of the most accurate portrayals of an instrument through a peripheral, replicating the feel and technique of a real guitar is very difficult.  Although playing Rock Band and Guitar Hero may not improve a player’s ability to play a real guitar, my experience has shown me that players who have played guitar are able to learn to play the guitar peripheral faster than those who have not.  The two games have also had residual effect of increasing interests in learning to play the guitar. 


Rock Band’s primary advancement to the music game genre was its drum peripheral.  The peripheral was simpler than the one created for Drumscape, while accurate enough for players to be able to translate the basic elements to a real drum set.  Although the peripheral lacked elements of an actual drum set, such as symbols, the rhythm and timing players learn through gameplay is more applicable to drums than any other instrument.  As players progress through Rock Band they learn the common rhythms and sequences which makes playing the drums easier and allows players to progress to harder difficulty levels. 

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