Vicarious Visions talks about revamping the online code, getting rid of friend codes, and including DS/Wii connectivity in Guitar Hero 5.
In 1991, Karthik and Guha Bala formed the development studio Vicarious Visions. The developer first gained notice in the gaming community with their technically impressive port of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 for the Game Boy Advance. In recent years, Vicarious Visions has become well-known for their work on the Guitar Hero franchise on both the DS and Wii. Nintendo World Report recently had the opportunity to join a roundtable chat with Vicarious Visions' CEO and Chief Creative Officer Karthik Bala. During the roundtable, Bala discussed the Wii version of Guitar Hero 5.
While Vicarious Visions was "pretty happy" with the online functionality in Guitar Hero:
World Tour, Bala explained that the team wanted to create "a much more robust online experience similar to what you'd find on Live on Xbox 360." In order to add new online features the team "ripped out all of the online code" that had been in place since Guitar Hero 3 and started again from scratch. One of the improvements the team achieved was the ability for eight separate Wii consoles to join together for an online band session.
Another new online feature is that Guitar Hero 5 will support the Wii system's friend list instead of having its own unique set of friend codes. Bala revealed that the first time the game is run you will be asked if you would like to import your friends list from your Wii address book. From then on, the game will always be connected to internet and you can easily see what friends are online.
When asked if the pioneering use of the Wii system address book as the in-game friends list was a great moment of discovery, Bala responded, "Nintendo actually made that feature available for quite some time now. It wasn't something that we could implement in time for World Tour."
As development on World Tour finished Bala and rest of the team came to a conclusion. "We are rewriting all of this online stuff, we are totally revamping this to make it super streamlined, and we're going to take advantage of it and we did."
Along with working closely with Neversoft to make sure the Wii version of Guitar Hero 5 had the full-feature set present in other versions of the game; Vicarious Visions also devised unique additions that could only be done on the Wii, such as DS/Wii connectivity. The most exciting example of interoperability between the DS and Wii is the new 2 vs. 2 mode called Roadie Battle, in which players will form teams consisting of a guitarist and a roadie. Using the stylus and touch screen, each roadie will need to wreak havoc on the opposing team's music equipment while protecting and repairing their own. One example of destruction that Bala cited was a roadie can "destroy the effects board," which will cause the opponent's highway to catch on fire, obscuring the upcoming gems. Bala stated that this mode will be extremely frantic and crazy and that "there is a lot of strategy and depth" involved with deciding when to attack and when to repair.
In addition, Vicarious Visions brought DS/Wii connectivity to the new and improved Mii Freestyle mode. Not only can players rock out on their guitars and drum sets to improvise their own musical creations, now one person can use the DS and act as the stage show manager. During a performance, the stage show manager can control the lights, camera angles, and special effects. Basically the stage show manager is in charge of creating a music video and they have the ability to save it, share it with friends, and even tinker with it later.
Bala revealed that the reason they decided to add the DS connectivity stems from the team being surprised by the great "percentage overlap of Wii and DS owners." Vicarious Visions has been able to focus so much time on exclusive Wii content because they have a dedicated design, engineering, and art team within their Guitar Hero 5 team. Bala believes that players will be impressed by the graphical fidelity displayed on the DS while playing Guitar Hero 5. Without a dedicated team, it would have been difficult to pull off the extra features.
When asked what graphical improvements were made to the game, Bala responded, "the rendering quality has significantly improved this year." Furthermore, Bala explained that the team "changed the lighting model" so that the number of lights on objects and characters could be vastly improved while maintaining a high frame rate. The developer also spent time on improving animations with better motion capture and animation fidelity.
Guitar Hero 5 will also feature the ability to stream music directly from an SD card. Players no longer need to have space available on their Wii in order to play downloadable tracks. They will also be able to create their own custom play lists on their SD cards and play the music in game as if it were right on the game disc. Furthermore, Bala revealed that they are including a feature known as the Rock Archive so that players can easily manage their music. The Rock Archive will be useful for people who want to see their entire music collection and transfer songs from the flash memory to an SD card from within the game. The game is also the first on Wii to support high capacity SD cards. Vicariously Visions successfully fit over 700 songs on a 32 Gigabyte SDHC card.
Guitar Hero 5 will hit store shelves on September 1.