By now you've probably heard about Disney's new entry into the music/rhythm category, "Ultimate Band," which comes out in the fall. If not, check out my story from yesterday's Daily Variety.
You probably know the basics: It's a music game for Wii and DS that uses their motion sensing / touch screen to play the instruments, so it doesn't come with any extra peripherals. It's being developed by Disney Interactive's Fall Line Studio in Utah, which DIS established in 2006 to make Wii and DS games. Though the development house has contributed to some other projects, this is the first game that's being made entirely at Fall Line.
But I learned a lot more that I wasn't able to fit in the story. So here, direct from my interview with Senior Game Designer Derek Dutelly, are all the details on "Ultimate Band"
-The DS version will use the same technology as the "Hannah Montana" music game for Nintendo's handheld system that Disney Interactive put out last year. It's basically the same game with all new visuals. That means in addition to playing instruments by tapping them on screen, players can also create original compositions and share them with friends via the DS wireless connection. They can also play in a virtual band together via bluetooth.
-By using the Wii peripherals, Disney wants to make "Ultimate Band' much easier to pick-up-and-play than "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band." "We're 'Burnout' and they're 'Grand Turismo,'" Dutilly said to illustrate the difference.
-The drum-playing mechanic doesn't use any pointing. Instead, "Ultimate Band" utilizes the Wii-mote accelerometer to tell how and when players are tapping an invisible drum kit. How can you get more than two notes out of the Wii-mote and nunchuk? By swinging either controller to the side, instead of just up and down.
-For guitar, players strum by moving the Wii-mote up and down. Different notes are played with combinations of the "c" and "z" buttoms on the nunchuk, which players hold up like the neck of a guitar.
-"The bass is not just a dumbed down version of the guitar," Dutilly promises, taking on a common complaint about "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band." In addition to the basic notes and strumming from the guitar mechanic, bass players can move the nunchuk up and down to simulate sliding along the neck of the bass. That gives them a range of extra notes.
-There's no singer, because Disney didn't want to include (and charge for) a microphone with the game. Instead there's is what Disney calls the "front man." That's the person whose job it is to move around and get the crowd riled up. No, I'm not quite sure what that means either, but it sounds like it'll either be innovative and cool or the really lame position for the person who knows literally nothing about videogames.
-That concept of riling up the crowd is important throughout "Ultimate Band." Beyond the "front man," other players have the ability to get the crowd roaring. That's what the "a" button letting the guitarist "grandstand" in the above screenshot is, I assume. And the drummer has the ability to swing the sticks in his or her hands between notes to excite the audience (the audience is easily excitable, it seems).
-Songs already announced include "Steady as She Goes" by the Raconteurs, the Who's "My Generation" and "Fell in Love With a Girl" by the White Stripes. They're all covers, which Disney says is because the game is designed to not have any long stretches without one instrument playing (which can get annoying in "Rock Band"). I'm sure the lower cost of covers may have influenced a budget-conscious company like Disney a bit too.
-Visual design and song selection will all be pretty tame. Disney is targeting an E-10 + rating.
I didn't quite have the chutzpah to ask Dutilly what seemed like the most obvious question to me: Couldn't you guys have come up with a better name than "Ultimate Band?" Was "Super Rock Band" already taken by someone?