Guitar Hero III PC Interview

Last week, Aspyr Media announced it would be bringing Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock< to the PC and Mac. At the time, further details were lacking, but Shacknews has since learned that the game will be available in bundle form only, packaged with the white Gibson Xplorer-shaped USB guitar that came with the Xbox 360 edition of Harmonix's Guitar Hero II.

In addition to the guitar, the game also offers a keyboard control scheme that, since your fingers are facing down instead of up, reverses the key mapping as to be more intuitive. As with every other aspect of the game's control, this can be customized.

For more on the PC and Mac editions, I spoke with Aspyr Media producer Jay Gordon.

Shack: Are the PC and Mac versions of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock based on any particular console edition?

Jay Gordon: We have ported the Xbox 360 code from our friends at NeverSoft.

Shack: Are you working closely with the Xbox 360 team at Neversoft?

Jay Gordon: The producer and engineers at Neversoft have been incredibly helpful, particularly in light of their own tasks finishing the console SKUs. We have a wealth of experience at Aspyr porting games but it's been crucial to confer with Neversoft throughout development to make sure that this is the best port possible.

Shack: Will the game support the existing Xbox 360 USB Guitar Hero controller? Will it somehow support the wireless guitars coming for each platform? Will it come bundled with a wired or wireless guitar of its own?

Jay Gordon: Guitar Hero III will support any USB Guitar Hero guitar controller, including the Xbox 360 model. As of right now there is no official support for the new wireless controllers. And yes, our title will come bundled with its own USB guitar controller.

Shack: What kind of control options are provided beyond the guitar? A plastic guitar isn't really feasible for, as the press release puts it, playing with a laptop "on the go."

Jay Gordon: There will be quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to playing Guitar Hero III "on the go." Right out of the box, in addition to the guitar, we'll have default keyboard/mouse controls whereby the game will use the keyboard (CAPS LOCK, A, S, D, F) as fret buttons, left mouse button to strum down, right mouse button to strum up and the third button to activate star power. Shaking the mouse side-to-side will serve as your whammy bar.

If a player doesn't like the default scheme, we've added the option to map out the in-game keys to personal preference.

Shack: Will the PC and Mac versions support downloadable content?

Jay Gordon: We are having some big discussions behind the scenes about how we're going to deliver downloadable content. We hope to have an exciting announcement out there in the near future.

Shack: Any chance of a custom track creator or tool in the game?

Jay Gordon: We're so busy right now trying to make this the best possible Guitar Hero III port for PC and Mac, and get it out before the holidays, that we don't have time to focus on anything else.

Shack: Any exclusive features or content in the PC and Mac edition?

Jay Gordon: Gamers will find the same great content and tracklist in the PC and Mac versions as they'll find in the console versions. Other than the keyboard/mouse options listed above, one unique feature will be the ability to compete online across both the PC and Mac platforms.

Shack: Are you aiming at a simultaneous release with the console versions?

Jay Gordon: We're definitely aiming for a simultaneous release, and we'll be able to talk more accurately about our ship date soon. We're certain you'll see Guitar Hero III for PC and Mac before the holidays.

Shack: What are your expectations for the required system specs? Will it be a technically demanding title necessitating the latest in gaming hardware, or will anyone with a decent 3D card or chip be able to play?

Jay Gordon: The Guitar Hero franchise has a much broader appeal than most games, so we're working very hard to make sure the widest possible audience will have access to the title on PC and Mac. We're currently working out our system requirements and should have more for you in the coming weeks.

Shack: How did Aspyr come about handling Guitar Hero III for PC and Mac?

Jay Gordon: Aspyr has a long relationship with Activision porting many of their titles to PC and Mac. The two companies are always communicating to assess the best opportunities and Guitar Hero III came about during the natural course of those discussions. We honestly couldn't be more excited, and it's a great move that will benefit both companies and of course PC and Mac gamers.

Shack: How long have you been working on the port?

Jay Gordon: We began porting in late May, so it's quite remarkable that we're in a position to launch before the holidays--our engineers Rock! It's a testament to the collaboration between Activision, RedOctane, Neversoft and Aspyr that we could pull it off.

Shack: Are you concerned that the PC and Mac editions won't provide the same social experience of gathering around the television as the console editions?

Jay Gordon: Well, more and more PCs are making it into the living room every day, and those machines are often hooked up to big, fancy TVs--so those people who have integrated their entertainment systems will get the same experience. But yes, Guitar Hero has a magnetism drawing people together in front of the TV and kicks a party into another gear.

I don't think it's realistic that we can completely recreate that experience with a PC and Mac version, but I think we can create different kinds of social experiences around this powerful franchise. For example, a young child may not be able to grip a guitar controller. But young kids are so used to keyboards and computers these days, they could play the game on their keyboard and jam on some co-op while an older sibling or parent uses the guitar controller.

The game is also more "dorm friendly"--not every college kid has a game console, but they all have a PC or Mac. And now that Guitar Hero III is more portable, there will be gamers showing it off to their family over the holidays or even taking it on the road to pass time on long plane rides or in a hotel. There is tremendous flexibility with this game and we believe that Guitar Hero III for PC and Mac is only going to make the franchise bigger by enabling even more gamers than ever before.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock arrives on PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, and Mac this fall. The PS3 and X360 versions are handled by Neversoft, with Budcat on the PS2 iteration, Vicarious Visions on the Wii edition, and Aspyr Media bringing it to PC and Mac.