10 Things I’d Like In Rock Band 4

As mentioned in my post last week, I’ve had fun getting back into Rock Band 3, but it’s also reminded me how many things I’d like fixed. With the future of the genre cloudy at best, we can only wonder if the next game we get might be the last, so this seemed like a good time to put together a list of improvements I’d love to see in case the franchise fades into the sunset

10) Better Calibration Tools. Calibration has always been a bugaboo of rhythm games. You run the in-game tool over and over, it tells you your offset should be around 40ms, but you keep missing easy notes for no perceivable reason. More confusing: the problem magically goes away when you lower the offset to 15-20ms. Which leads to the basic issue: the numbers the game gives you can’t always be trusted.

How do you solve this? I’m not sure there’s a magic bullet, but I can think of two things that would help: (A) Include an option to strum faster in the calibration tool; strumming once every two seconds doesn’t really simulate Hard or Expert play. (B) Include an option for a “precision” meter, either in-game or at least in practice mode or the calibration tool, that shows exactly how far ahead or behind the notes the game thinks you are. Even Tap Tap Revolution for the iPhone has this. Get it done!

9) More Forgiving Note Windows. In a similar vein, you could alleviate calibration problems to some extent by relaxing note windows a bit, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Some people argued that Neversoft took this to the extreme in Guitar Hero 3, but I always felt that more forgiving note windows made it easier for players to hit more “impossible” sections, which in turn, made you feel like more of a rock star. And to some extent, wasn’t that part of the point: to help simulate the feeling of pulling off an amazing solo, rather than tasking people with pressing buttons with more accuracy than an actual musician?

8 ) Adjustable Highway Options. Hyperspeed has always been a big deal for Expert players in Guitar Hero, and the latest versions of the game have 5 different speed settings. It was great when Rock Band added their own version in Breakneck Speed, but it would better to have a few speeds to choose from, as well as the ability to adjust the transparency of the highway so the backgrounds don’t give you a seizure.

7) Score Area Tweaks. Guitar Hero is actually way out in front here, with all sorts of options that would be great for Rock Band: (a) a note-streak counter; (b) the option to display your current high score (or a friend’s high score) under your current score; (c) a meter that displays how far you are through the song. These could easily fit into the current score area, at least for solo play.

6) Full Band Play! A lot of people don’t even know this is an issue, but flip when they find out: RB3 doesn’t allow you to have bands with a guitarist, bassist and keyboardist at the same time; you can only have 2 of those 3 in any given band. The general reason given is because the animation system was built to always have a singer and drummer, and whenever there’s a keyboardist, they replace a bassist or guitarist. Before Rock Band fades off into the sunset, this needs to be remedied.

5) Show Scores on the Scoreboard! In all the early Guitar Hero and Rock Band games, the main setlists had minimal into: song name, current high score, and a star rating for that score. That’s all we needed. In Rock Band 2, Harmonix loaded up the song selection screen with other stuff like album artwork and difficulty ratings, which was fine, but to the outcry of many, star ratings vanished from the setlist.

In a perplexing response, the main scoreboard for Rock Band 3 was expanded to include an avalanche of data, including star ratings, but – no scores! To find your current high score, you needed to pull up the leaderboards, which required being connected to Rock Central, which was routinely down during the weeks following RB3‘s launch.

So how about for the next game, we get back to basics? The main scoreboard needs to list: name of song, high score, and star rating. Cram in all the other stuff you want, but keep the high scores and star ratings on the main screen and easy to find, as opposed to on an online service that’s had a shaky history.

4) Journey’s Greatest Hits. Since the keyboard was announced as a peripheral, we’ve been waiting for this. It’s gotta happen eventually, right?

3) Pro Keys Tweaks. The new keyboard peripheral added for Rock Band 3 is great fun, but the Pro aspect leaves a lot to be desired. The interface is hard to read on the fly, the horizontal-scrolling interface is disorienting, and the practice mode is a disaster. At the Pro Expert level, with no easy way to pause charts and figure out all the notes flying by, it can take hours in practice mode to decipher a song with hundreds of subtle chord changes. RB3‘s Pro Guitar has an option to display chord/note names; Pro Keys needs it as well, along with more practice mode options to speed up the process of translating the game’s weird chart notation.

2) A Keyboard Controller with Sound. I’m not asking for a professional-grade MIDI controller with weighted keys; just take the current keyboard and add a speaker and a small bank of sounds (piano, organ, strings, synth, etc). There’s a weird disconnect between playing the controller and what you see on the screen, and if would be awesome if you actually made music when you played. Yes, I know you can hook up a real MIDI keyboard if you want, but most beginners aren’t going to do that; putting a cheap keyboard controller in the hands of players will encourage them to keep making music after they turn the game off.

1) Bring Back Score Duel! I miss this feature SO MUCH. I know the majority of players ignored Rock Band‘s competitive modes, but I spent months playing Rock Band 2 online slowly improving my TrueSkill rankings (I believe I’m still in top 10 on the leaderboards for both Expert Guitar Score Duel and Tug of War). It would be great to see this return with full support for all instruments, including Pro Keyboards and Pro Guitar.