Activision and FreestyleGames are done having mercy on its players. If there's any Guitar Hero Live player that feels the game's tracks may be too easy, the game's developers are looking to up the challenge tenfold. And when the call comes for intense, face-melting challenge, that means it's time to shine the Dragonforce symbol.
Yes, as part of a special Shred-a-Thon marathon set to air on GHTV's third streaming channel, FreestyleGames is welcoming back Dragonforce and the notoriously difficult "Through the Fire and Flames." Kicking off today and running through Monday, February 8 at 7AM PT, the Shred-a-Thon will push players to their absolute limits, pitting players in asynchronous battle across some of the hardest songs imaginable.
Getting "Through The Fire and Flames" for Guitar Hero Live is a point of pride for Freestyle, which recognizes the game's place in series history. With that in mind, Shacknews briefly spoke with the game's Senior Game Designer, Nathan Coppard, to get the team's mindset, ask about the transition to six buttons, and learn more about the process of bringing "Through the Fire and Flames" to a new generation of GH players.
Shacknews: It's exciting to see "Through the Fire and Flames" back in Guitar Hero. What has that song meant to the Freestyle team, given its place in Guitar Hero history?
Nathan Coppard, Guitar Hero Live Senior Game Designer: The track itself is a huge kind of legacy of Guitar Hero, with the skill that it takes to beat it. In my mind, it's the "boss" of Guitar Hero games. You didn't even get to play it until you beat all the songs in Guitar Hero III. You have to do that just to unlock it. And then it went on to reach legendary status amongst the players, in terms of becoming the ultimate track to try and beat. Initially, people thought it was impossible, then you saw people start to full combo it. It just became a real good benchmark and challenge for players with its really high difficulty. Of course, it's just a great song to play, as well. That, combined with the crazy high epic skill required to master it, have helped make it really popular, even to this day.
Shacknews: You've dealt with classically tough Guitar Hero songs in the past, most notably "Cult of Personality." Did your design approach change with "Through the Fire and Flames" based on any player feedback to that song or did the team's approach stay mostly the same?
Coppard: The approach we've taken would be the same as with "Cult of Personality." We've totally re-approached the note tracking and the gameplay within the song to best suit and make the most out of all the cool stuff that we can do with the six-button guitar controller. Although the song itself obviously is well-known from Guitar Hero previously, the actual gameplay within it with the note tracking is brand new and laid out for the six-button guitar. It's a completely new challenge to master. If you've played it before, it's not going to play exactly the same.
The intro is a great example. That was notorious in GH3, because if you couldn't play the intro, you wouldn't even have a chance to see the rest of the song. The way the intro is note tracked, where you could strum and jump in-between the two rows of buttons, it's a completely fresh challenge and that goes on through the rest of the song. The riffs have a lot more detail when using two rows of buttons, playing slash chords and power chords. And then when you get to the crazy shredding, doing it across two rows is a whole new challenge to play. Ultimately, those six buttons give us a type of extra connection to what's going on in the music. We're really hoping players are going to get sucked in and have something to master with this track.
Shacknews: Walk me through the note tracking process for this song. In particular, how difficult was it to make that transition from the classic five-button layout to the new six-button guitar?
Coppard: I mean, the music's the same, right? The track hasn't changed. So it comes down to how we interpret it and how we match it up with the buttons and the actions on the controller in-game. So that's goes to our MIDI design team. They will create an Expert markup first, hitting the highest difficulty, where it matches note-for-note. Then they'll spend a lot of time playing it and potentially arguing about what's the best way to do it, what's the best way to interpret it, what's the most fun way to follow what the music's doing. Once the Expert markup has been locked down and everyone's happy with it, then the difficulty reductions are done.
With a track like "Through The Fire and Flames," we try to maintain a challenge through all the difficulty levels. Obviously, it's really, really, really hard on Expert, since you're playing note-for-note with what Dragonforce plays. But even on Regular, we want to give Regular difficulty players that same kind of relative step up. Even if it's the Regular gameplay you're used to, this track is still going to be a real challenge for you. That's another part of the note tracking process and the attention to detail that the MIDI design team keeps in mind.
The Shred-a-Thon will include "Through the Fire and Flames," as well as these tracks:
- Alter Bridge - Cry of Achilles
- Megadeth - Hangar 18
- Lamb of God - Ghost Walking
- Trivium - Strife
After the marathon ends on Monday, "Through the Fire and Flames" will hit the game's regular rotation, both on-demand and across the game's GHTV streaming channels.