In case you hadn't noticed, the new Guitar Hero Live guitar's undergone a few changes. Gone are the five coloured buttons, one per fret, and replacing them are a new three fret, split button arrangement. The reason? According to creative director Jamie Jackson "more than any other category" played the original game at a medium level - a setting that favoured the first three frets.
Speaking in the new issue of Edge, on sale Thursday the 7th of May, Jackson explains the reasoning behind the changes. The Freestyle team went through mountains of player data Activision had collected during the life of the original game to find out "who played Guitar Hero?" In the early stages of development the one question the team wanted to answer was who actually played the old one? It was “one of the big things we wanted to know," Jackson explains, "was it just expert players, who wanted to play [Dragonforce’s] Through The Fire And Flames? Or was it a broader group of people?"
The stats revealed one clear fact: "There were a lot of people, more than any other category, that played on medium”. In the old Guitar Hero that meant largely playing on the first three frets. Realistically, it's the party setting. The 'maybe you had a few beers and just want to have some fun' option. As Jackson says: “as soon as you use your pinky, or move your fingers down the buttons, then re-find your position... for so many people, that’s where it fell apart. I was one of them, definitely".
Because of that medium playing majority, Freestyle wanted to make a layout "that really spoke to that group of people" but Jackson makes it clear that the new Guitar Hero “couldn’t just be a game for [medium]". Jackson and the team haven't forget about those who loved the crushing pursuit of metal perfection: "We worked really hard to ensure that, although we changed the guitar, there are still those combinations of phrases that will give you the feeling of doing those five-button runs, but in a totally different way.” That new button configuration is designed to appeal more to the casual player initially, but also to have "more depth than the old configuration did”, mirroring chord shapes and more guitar-like fret work.
The new issue of Edge is out Thursday the 7th of May with with Guitar Hero Live on cover, looking at the development of the new game and talking to the team behind it. Download it here or subscribe to future issues.