Yeah, the title of this post is directed at the Rock Band franchise, even though this is a general music game blog. I’ll explain why later. But first, do you remember the music video for the song “Take On Me”, by A-Ha? If you don’t, go on and check it out right now. It’s awesome. Did you know it won 6 awards at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards? Including Best Concept Video and Best Special Effects. And it deserves it.
Music videos, as I’m sure you’ll agree, are very cool. Generally. Not all of them of course, but at the end of the day it’s all a matter of taste anyway. What matters is that if you’ve ever been young, a fan of music and had access to MTV, chances are you have fond memories of at least a dozen music videos that you cherish to this day. Am I right?
Well, Harmonix has timidly introduced the concept of music videos in Rock Band. Activision hasn’t, ergo the title of this post. What happens in Rock Band is that sometimes you’ll choose a song and then, as a surprise opportunity, a fan or maybe your producer will present you with a chance to shoot a video of another song. If you accept it, a different animation happens and it’s really cool actually. It’s as if you’re playing your own music video.
In the game, one of the videos looks a bit like this:
Notice all the colorful “ghosts” of your character, as one of the effects. Of course, it looks MUCH better in motion, but you get the idea. What really matters is that it’s a really fun moment, and if it’s your first time experiencing it, you might even miss a few notes because you’re trying to pay attention to the effects of your video.
But here’s what happens afterwards: you gain more fans… and that’s it. You don’t get to shoot it again, you don’t get to view your video, you don’t get a review for it… nothing. It fades into oblivion and the game continues.
Can you smell the opportunities for innovation?
Alright I’m sure you all own the Beatles: Rock Band game. If you don’t, you should. REALLY. But I’m gonna assume that you do. Well, for that game, the developers created a set of “dreamscapes” for several songs. Those “dreamscapes” are actually artistic interpretations of the songs’ meanings and “vibes”, translated into graphic animation. So, for example, when you play “Here Comes the Sun”, the game looks something like this:
Which looks amazing. Actually, it looks so good that it’s almost a REAL music video, in the sense that it would be very enjoyable just to sit back and watch it on TV.
Do you see where I’m going?
The current Rock Band implementation of music videos is still very crude. But we know that Harmonix has shown a lot of talent and competence at creating amazing “dreamscapes” for Beatles: Rock Band. Why not put it to good use for Rock Band 3? What if you could ACTUALLY create your band’s music video?
Imagine this: you choose your song. Yeah, you should actually get to CHOOSE it, and not let someone else do it for you. And then, once you’ve cleared it, you’re presented with a timeline of the song, and you can choose from a myriad of special effects, themes and scenarios to make your video with.
Alternatively, the game could automatically generate a video matching the style of the song you chose. The game already does that with the normal gigs you play. For example, I was playing “White Unicorn” by Wolfmother (from the new DLC that was released yesterday) and there’s a section of the song that’s really psychodelic. And the game reflects this by adding a lot of blurry effects to the screen. That same logic could be used for music videos. So if you’re a bit lazy and just wanna try your luck, just go and automatically generate your video and see how the game creates it. On the other hand, if you’d like to get your hands dirty, the game would hand you the tools to make it yourself.
I mean, this is the videomaking generation, isn’t it? The world is filled to the brim with young talented players who WILL surprise us if we just hand them the tools. And this brings me to my second idea. Two words: VIDEO SHARING.
Of course, once you spend some time making your own music video (for your fake, virtual band, no less), you’ll want to keep it so you can watch it again. You’ll probably also want to show it to your friends, right? Now imagine if you had the option to… generate a file that you could actually save in your computer, to upload it to Youtube, Vimeo or whatever? Actually I don’t predict it being too huge a technical feat. In my mind, your console would send the details of the clip (what effects, dreamscape and each character’s antics, each second) to the Harmonix website, which in turn already has your band’s profile. Then, you’d enter your band’s page at www.rockband.com and just download your videoclip. The website would communicate with a server equipped with the automatic generation of the video, and just send you the final file.
If this idea actually proves itself to be too difficult to implement due to the data traffic involved in the procedure, Harmonix could choose to charge a small fee (maybe the equivalent to 80 Microsoft Points, in XBOX360 terms) to let you download your video. This would limit the traffic substantially, I imagine. And I think people would work harder on their videos before choosing to pay for them as well.
There are also many other possibilities derived from this awesome tool. Harmonix could launch contests around music videos, for example. It could also launch additional effects and dreamscapes for download (for a price), for the videomaking enthusiasts out there. After all, if people will pay for avatar clothing, why not for cool add-ons for music videomaking? Maybe even user generated content in the same vein of Rock Band Network? Who knows?
Of course, I might be going too far with this idea, and I’m not asking for the ability to make my own “Take On Me” award-winning video. But I feel that making music videos could be really cool and that the current music simulation games haven’t explored this idea satisfactorily yet. There’s certainly much room for improvement and innovation here.