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IMG Interview: Guitar Hero III
October 24, 2007 | Michael Phillips

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I've seen it and I don't get it; people crowded around a tv mashing Fisher-Price style buttons on a silly guitar-shaped plastic controller tethered to an XBox 360. For so many, the Guitar Hero series is wildly appealing. They focus intently on the game's 3D musicians, mimicking chords to all manner of classic rock songs. It looks ridiculous. It sounds ridiculous. People love it.

Soon, people will no longer require a tv to fulfill their wannabe rocker dreams. Soon, people will be able to gather around their Apple Cinema Displays and MacBook Pros, grinding their imaginary whammy-bars. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (GH3) is coming to Mac OS X.

The Guitar Hero series has heretofore only been a fixture of console gaming, but thanks to Aspyr Media, such is no longer the case. Recently, I had the chance to chat with Glenda Adams, the lead developer behind GH3 at Aspyr. Can she help me understand the craze that is Guitar Hero? Read on, find out.

Michael Phillips: Hi, Glenda!  So, could you tell us your role on the Guitar Hero III project?  Tell us, what do you do?

Glenda Adams: I'm the director of technology & development here at Aspyr, I manage the engineers working on our various games, and give overall technical direction to the projects Aspyr is working on.

MP: First off, what kind of machine will it take to run Guitar Hero III?

GA: We're still setting the minimum system, but it is going to be Intel only, and unfortunately can't run on the Intel integrated graphics chips (Mac Mini and MacBook).  But I believe most if not all of the other Intel iMacs, Mac Pro's, and MacBook Pro's will be in our final specs.

MP: This is one game I never thought we'd see on the Mac.  Has it been a challenge converting a console title to Mac OS X?  

GA: This is the first Xbox 360 game to be ported to the Mac, which presents quite a few technical challenges.  The 360 has 3 CPU cores, and to take advantage of that Guitar Hero III is very multi-threaded.  Getting all of those threads to work well on the normal dual-core Intel Mac has been a challenge.  There are also lots of graphics effects that the game relies on special 360 video hardware to perform (shared video memory primarily) that have had to be re-written for the Mac & PC.  At first you'd think that Guitar Hero III would be a very simple game - you watch the notes come down the fret board on screen and hit the buttons accordingly.  But the extra action going on (the band, the crowd, pyrotechnics, etc) and the fact that the game has to run at a very consistent and high frame rate, because it is so timing dependent, adds up to a lot of work.  And on top of all of this, we only started development in May/June, so we've had to do quite a bit in a very short time. 

MP: Could you tell us what is new in Guitar Hero III, as opposed to its

GA: The goal for Neversoft in Guitar Hero III wasn't to reinvent the game, but to add new features and gameplay tweaks to the already solid foundation.  The graphics engine definitely got a huge boost, the characters have tons of detail and animations, the venues look great, and there are lots of special effects to add to the environment.  For music, there are a lot more master tracks (original recordings by the original artists)- 70% or more of the 70+ songs are master recordings.  And the lineup of music is amazing, from the The Rolling Stones and Guns N Roses to Metallica and Tenacious D.   For gameplay, the main game mechanic is familiar, but there is a new multiplayer mode called Guitar Battle.  In this mode, you can earn powerups to use against your opponent to make it harder for them to play.  It adds a whole different strategy to multiplayer, rather than just trying to hit all the notes right.


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