There are strings on the newly unveiled Power Gig guitar, which is coming, with a brand-new music game to video game systems in the second half of the year. But you won't have to be Jimi Hendrix to play it.
In advance of this week's Game Developer's Conference, Kotaku had the opportunity to witness a live demonstration of the guitar controller for a new Rock Band and Guitar Hero competitor, Power Gig: Rise of the SixStrnig. The game's controller is a real electric guitar, built at three-quarters scale and containing, in one of its developers words, "a rocket ship" of technology in the device.
This guitar subtly transforms from a real musical instrument that can be plugged into an amplifier to a version of the popular button-and-flipper guitar-shaped controller used for Rock Band and Guitar Hero's. But Power Gig's controller has strings.
The Power Gig guitar comes from a new Boston-based development team called Seven 45 Studios. The company is a subsidiary of First Act, a company that claims to sell the majority of real electric guitars at major retailers such as Walmart. This is their first game.
More about the game in a moment. The main attraction, for now is the guitar. It will come bundled with the Power Gig video game for an as yet undisclosed competitive price comparable to other music games, the developers told Kotaku. Played with an amp, it is a real electric guitar. But slide a piece of plastic under the strings near its base and sync it to a console and it is a game controller.
A Guitar Hero guitar has no strings. In place of a fret it has five coloured buttons. Instead of a strings to strum, it has a flipper. These inputs emulate the feel of playing guitar without requiring the dexterity to manipulate a real electric guitar's six strings. The power gig controller has coloured markers that indicate where those buttons would be, but it does not have buttons. You use the strings. Sensors in the neck of the guitar can detect where the player is pressing down. So, just as the cascading on-screen note indicators in Guitar Hero will ask the player to press the red button and then the blue button, the cascading notes in the Power Gig game will compel the player to press the any of the guitar strings in that coloured area. A Guitar Hero player would have to strum a flipper switch. A Power Gig gamer strums strings.
What's unusual about the Power Gig guitar, in the context of a Guitar Hero-style game, is that players can be required to press any string in a specified region of the guitar fret, or press the exact proper string. They can be allowed to strum any string on the guitar or be required to strum a specific one. Because of that, playing Power Gig is expected to feel more like playing real electric guitar than playing other major music games.
Different difficulty levels of Power Gig will require different levels of specificity and dexterity. A Chord Play mode, which will require that proper strings are pressed will essentially teach players how to play the real chord structure of the song they are playing. It won't teach notes, but, in an indirect way, you'll be learning how to play.
The Power Gig guitar does not have a whammy bar or a tilt sensor. The game it plays with will support its own version of adrenaline-rush star power. But a button or knob will activate it.
Seven 45's guitar will also be compatible with other music games - and vice versa - though only to the level of depth the other games allow. In other words, you won't be able to do Chord Play mode with a Power Gig guitar that controls Rock Band. While Seven 45 Studios is located near Rock Band-maker Harmonix, the two companies don't have any developer overlap. There may be no ex-Harmonix creators at Seven 45, but the Rock Band creators do know about the game. It's a small community, the Seven 45 folks told Kotaku.
The game itself was shown in pre-Alpha state. The developers are pushing the idea that the game has a narrative with heroes and villains, but short of showing a little bit of it in action while demonstrating how the guitar controller works, the defining fiction of the game is being kept secret. Just nuts and bolts for now. The game will support three-player offline co-op, with a mic, guitar and still unrevealed drum controller. It is set to ship for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this fall.
Music games have struggled in the last year to attain the sales glories of the original Rock Band and Guitar Heroes. "The genre is in decline," Seven 45 vice president of marketing told Kotaku, "But this will be the shot in the arm the genre needs."
The Seven 45 Studios folks say that they have already secured commitments for the inclusion of music from musicians who were apprehensive about getting involved with other music games. For now, though, they're not naming names.