Interview: Bryan Lam on Guitar Hero

Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s has less than half the number of tracks as Guitar Hero II for the PS2 yet carries the same price. Why wasn’t a lower price sought at launch?

Well it’s something we definitely took a careful look at. Comparing GHII to GH 80s, there were different timelines, licensing agreements and other logistical parameters to work within, though we strongly feel we put out a title that felt and played just as well as the other GH games. And just to put it into perspective – and from what the media is saying – Rock Band is only going to have forty songs available on the disc, yet it’s going to cost gamers a whopping $200 to play.  As reference, Harmonix worked on both of these titles. What are your thoughts on that?

Although Harmonix’s new game will cost over $200 to play with the full experience, it must be said that it is a richer experience. At best, Guitar Hero allows for two separate instruments at once while Rock Band will allow four inputs simultaneously. It’s like comparing apples and pears: they’re close, but still different fruit.

It’s also important to remember that while GH 80s price per song is about $1.30 compared to the 360 version of GHII, which had a price per song of $0.88, the downloadable content is priced at a whopping $2 per song: double the price per song of the Xbox 360 GHII. Incidentally, at a $200 price point Rock Band comes out to about $5 per song.

Red Octane is a peripheral maker foremost; will you be making any drum or mic accessories for Harmonix’s Rock Band?

It’s definitely an idea we had thought of before the announcement of Rock Band, although at the moment, it’s still only an idea. With the number of guitar controllers we’ve sold through, we’re now one of the leading hardware manufacturers in the industry and we’re currently focused on continuing to make the best guitar peripheral out there. In GHIII, we’re offering Gibson Les Paul wireless guitars available on all next-gen platforms, and the Kramer shape for the PS2 version. With breakaway necks, customizable faceplates and finally cutting the cords, these are going to be the absolute must-have battle axes for all Guitar Hero fans.

The current Guitar Hero controllers are already compatible with Konami’s Guitar Freaks, and Harmonix has stated that current model Guitar Hero controllers will be compatible with Rock Band.

Red Octane is also the top manufacturer of peripherals for rhythm games, although they primarily create only dance pads and guitar controllers. They do not make microphone inputs (unless you count the one in the Wii Guitar Hero controller) and the closest they make to a drum controller is a Taiko controller that has four inputs (compared to five) and lacks the verisimilitude of the Rock Band drum controller.

According to, Guitar Hero III will be made up of more than 50% master recordings.  How important is it to you to be able to use those masters, and how hard are they to get?

Actually, GHIII is going to have about 70% original recordings this time around and over seventy songs on disc as well. That’s an incredible percentage considering how far the Guitar Hero franchise has come. We try to get all the original recordings whenever possible, many times these masters just aren’t available to us because either they’re so old they’re lost in someone’s basement, or they’ve been destroyed. The experience of playing one of your favorite band’s original tracks is really incredibly mind blowing. All the bands and artists are super stoked to be in GHIII and, for example, Living Colour even went back in the studio and rerecorded their track just to have it sound and play better in the game. Their guitarist, Vernon Reid, absolutely went nuts while recording the solo section, and now it’s going to be much harder than the original track. Good luck, fans! This set list is going to totally kick so much ass and melt your face off. Seriously.

There are more than seventy songs in the game and over 70% of them will be from the original master recordings of the songs, which means at least forty-nine songs will be from their original recordings. Only twenty-one of the thirty-one songs announced so far will be from the master tracks; that leaves at least twenty-eight more master recordings to be announced.

It should be noted that GHII had twenty-six bonus songs that were all master recordings (up eight from GHI’s eighteen). If the remaining twenty-eight hypothetical master tracks are all bonus songs – and that allows for a bare minimum of growth – that leaves a minimum of ten mainstream songs yet to be named, very few of which will be master recordings.

Can you confirm the October 28, 2007, launch date for Guitar Hero III, and do you have any prices set yet?

The launch is currently scheduled for October 28, though no confirmed prices have been set yet. lists the release date as October 21, 2007, for all versions and lists the Xbox 360 version as $59.99 for the stand-alone and $99.99 for the bundled version. Game Stop lists their release online as October 28 but has the same prices for the different games. At seventy songs, this comes out to $0.91 per song for the stand-alone version.

Can you tell me more about the Boss Battles in the game?

These boss battles are going to feature real-life guitar legends you’ll have to trade licks with after shredding through certain sets – and after you defeat them, they’ll become unlocked and playable as characters in the game. It’s the same concept at the new multiplayer mode, Guitar Battle, with two players cutting heads and attacking each other with different power-ups such as lefty flip, broken strings and whammy bars, difficulty up, amp overload, double notes and other amazingly fun attacks.

Slash is the only confirmed boss in the game. Another possible boss is Midori, a fictional character revealed by the team at Aside from the fact that there will be two “real” bosses and one fictional boss, nothing is known about the identity of the other boss characters.

There will be a total of thirteen playable characters in the game, including all of the previous playable characters, with the exceptions of Pandora and Clive Winston. There were rumors from USA Today that Bret Michaels of Poison would be in the game in pixilated form performing Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me,” but it should be stressed there was no mention of him being a playable character or one of the boss characters.

Finally, are there any new tracks you can announce for the game? (Please say Led Zeppelin, please say Led Zeppelin…)

You’ll just have to wait and see…

I think we all want Jimmy Paige to be the next boss announced, along with a few Zep tracks.