How Neversoft Took Over Guitar Hero


Earlier this year, it was revealed that Tony Hawk developer Neversoft would be handling future iterations of the Guitar Hero franchise instead of series creator Harmonix. At the time, it seemed like a somewhat odd choice, especially since Neversoft was not known for its expertise in the music genre. To make matters worse, there was to be no code shared between Neversoft's efforts and Harmonix's work--the crew at Neversoft had to recode the entire game, from scratch.

Meanwhile, Harmonix was working on the far more ambitious Rock Band, which has players emulating vocals and drums in addition to guitar and bass. At this point, many assumed the writing was on the wall for Guitar Hero.

However, once the press actually got their hands on the next Guitar Hero, a realization swept over the gaming media. While Rock Band was no doubt more of a full-fledged band simulator, the crew at Neversoft had managed to nail the core Guitar Hero gameplay that had transformed Harmonix from niche developer to one of the industry's biggest names. Furthermore, working alongside the team at RedOctane, they had acquired some of the biggest and most demanded tracks, songs from Metallica, Guns N' Roses, Slayer, The Rolling Stones, Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys, and more.

Still, how exactly Neversoft ended up at the helm of the Guitar Hero franchise remained a mystery. That is, until Neversoft president and co-founder Joel Jewett took the stage at a Guitar Hero event earlier this year, telling the story like a loving, if slightly inebriated, father relaying a heartwarming bedtime tale. An exact and unedited transcription of Jewett's statements follows.

"A question I get asked a lot is how the hell did [Neversoft] get involved with Guitar Hero? Here's the way it happened.

"E3 of last year, I spent most of the day in the demo room hanging out with a bunch of you guys--I recognize quite a few of you...

"So I had a good buzz and I went to the Activision party at the end of the day. And of course, I was pretty much looking for [RedOctane founders] Kai and Charles Huang. I was really stoked that they were now employed at Activision and I wanted to tell them about the impact that Guitar Hero had on Neversoft.

A question I get asked a lot is how the hell did [Neversoft] get involved with Guitar Hero? Here's the way it happened

"We were kinda up against it last year on [Tony Hawk's] Project 8, we had a whole bunch of shit to rewrite. People pretty much discovered Guitar Hero and then they started working for the weekend. Right? Loverboy?"

At this point, Jewett leans over the mic and croons out a brief rendition of Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend."

"[On] Fridays, these guys all started quietly gathering in the back, in the mo-cap area. Next thing I know, I come waltzing through there one day, they had huge stacks of speakers, Guitar Hero's on the wall, kegs of beer and fucking Jack Daniels.

"After a few months, I get a phone call. 'Joel! Joel! We need someone to work on Guitar Hero. You guys interested?'

Fuck yea dude, we are all over that shit

"'Fuck yea dude, we are all over that shit.'

"So there is a moral to the story, and it's that people that fucking rock and drink Jack, good things will come to them."

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock arrives on PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, and Mac October 28. 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.

Chris Faylor was previously a games journalist creating content at Shacknews.

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