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Ubisoft's Rocksmith: The new school of rock

James Batchelor
Ubisoft's Rocksmith: The new school of rock

Rocksmith was an odd announcement. Barely a month after Activision scrapped its fallen giant Guitar Hero, Ubisoft unveiled this seemingly similar game that took the genre one step further.

The premise is simple: play along with classic rock songs – but rather than a plastic guitar controller, you use a real electric guitar or bass.

It’s an ambitious concept but one that some worried could not catch on given the decline of its forebears.

Then, in October 2011, Rocksmith won over both critics and consumers alike when it launched in the US. Naturally, the developer was pleased – and a little surprised.

“At a time when people said that rhythm and music games were dead, it’s been kind of amazing that people have found success and a place of growth in this game,” Rocksmith’s note tracker lead Brian Adam McCune tells MCV.

“There is a sense of personal attachment that you don’t quite get with Guitar Hero or Rock Band. I love playing those games, but with Rocksmith there’s an emotional tie to what’s happening.”

This tie comes from the use of a real guitar. Rocksmith is packed full of lessons and mini-games that help users learn how to play in real life.

The title also features an adaptive difficulty that increases or decreases the number of notes on screen based on how well players keep up.

And yet McCune is reluctant to call it a learning tool: “People don’t like educational software. We’ve tried to remove as much of the hand-holding as we could so people could just start playing. It was a tough balance to strike.”

ROCK OF ALL AGES

Ubisoft reports it has received consistently positive feedback from US gamers, all thanking the firm for helping them master the guitar.

“The feedback has been wonderful,” says McCune. “I’m seeing all kinds of stuff on the Facebook page like ‘I had my guitar in the closet for 12 years and I ignored it. Thank you for rekindling my love for music.’

“It’s been tremendously positive and we’re happy that we’re putting music in people’s homes.”

McCune has been particularly pleased with the range of people hooked on Rocksmith.

“It really is for all ages,” he says. “Kids under the age of 10 are playing the game. Then, and this is the most amazing thing that I’ve seen, there is an older audience coming to gaming for the first time and buying consoles because of this game.

“I think our key demographic is basically everyone who loves music. It really does transcend age. We’ve seen gamers who are over 50 playing the game and it’s amazing. I wasn’t expecting that at all.”

Rocksmith finally arrives in the UK on September 28th, and you can guarantee Ubisoft will be doing all it can to ensure the game’s US success is recreated when it lands.

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Tags: Ubisoft , rocksmith

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