Codex Gamicus

Rock Band is a music-based rhythm game for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 2. It was developed by Guitar Hero creators Harmonix Music Systems and published by Electronic Arts and MTV Games.

The game is available in two configurations: one is simply the game itself; since (at least on Xbox 360) Guitar Hero guitars work with it, those who have already purchased Guitar Hero can simply pick up the game. The second is a Special Edition which includes one guitar (wired on Xbox 360 and PS2, wireless on PS3), the drum kit, a microphone, and a 4-port USB hub to connect all of the peripherals to the system. This still leaves the buyer one guitar short if they wish to take advantage of the game's four-player setup (since the fourth player would be the bass guitarist).


In Rock Band, players use peripherals modeled after musical instruments to simulate the performance of rock music. Players must play these instruments in synchronization with musical "notes" as they scroll towards them on the screen. Rock Band offers gameplay for drums and vocals, in addition to lead and bass guitars.The game features a single-player career mode for three of the instruments (lead guitar, drums, and voice) called "Solo Tour Mode," and a band career mode for 2-4 local players called "Band World Tour.

Rock Band has three tracks of vertically scrolling colored music notes, one section each for lead guitar, drums, and bass. The colored notes on-screen correspond to buttons on the guitar and drum peripherals. Along the top of the screen is the vocals display, which scrolls horizontally, similar to Karaoke Revolution. The lyrics display beneath green bars, which represent the pitch of the individual vocal elements. If any instrument is not being played, its interface will not appear on-screen. The remainder of the screen is used to display the band's virtual characters as they perform in concert.

The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game support both local and online players for multiplayer modes (except for Band World Tour), while the PlayStation 2 version only supports local play. In the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game, players can create and customize their own in-game avatar, complete with adjustable hair, body physique, clothing, tattoos, onstage movements, and instruments. Each character is permanently locked into a specific instrument. Using cash earned within the game, the player may purchase items at the in-game "Rock Shop," with which they can customize their rock star. Players can also use an art maker to create custom face paint, tattoos, clothing designs, instrument artwork, and band logos

During cooperative play as a band, all players earn points towards a common score, though score multipliers and "Overdrive" are tracked separately for each player. The bass guitar player can raise his/her multiplier to 5-6x achieve "Bass Groove" because many individuals had mentioned that bass can get a little dry sometimes. There is also a Overdrive option on the guitar which will double the player's score multiplier when deployed.

Overdrive is collected during select portions of a song by successfully playing all white notes within that section (and for guitarists, by also using the guitar controller's whammy bar to extract Overdrive from white sustained notes). Once the meter is filled halfway, players can deploy their Overdrive, resulting in the "Band Meter" (which tracks how well each player is doing) changing more dramatically. This allows players to strategically use Overdrive to raise the Band Meter and pass portions of a song they otherwise might have failed.

In multilayer Overdrive increases the band's score multiplier by two, rather double the player's score. Additionally, players can now deploy Overdrive independently of each other (previous Guitar Hero games required players in Co-Operative mode to deploy Star Power simultaneously), as well as collect additional Overdrive while it is deployed and draining (previous Guitar Hero games hid additional Star Power sections while Star Power was activated).

Each band member can choose four difficulty levels spanning from Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert, which they can play from. If a player does not play well enough and falls to the bottom of the Band Meter, they will fail out of the song and their instrument will be muted from the audio mix. However, any active player can activate their Overdrive to bring failed players back into the song. However, a band member can only be brought back twice; after the third failure, they cannot be brought back for that song. A failed player will continuously drag the band's Band Meter down until he/she is saved. If the player is not saved before the Band Meter reaches the bottom or when the song ends, the band will fail the song.

Special portions of songs are labeled as "Unison Phrases," which reward the band with a score and Overdrive bonus if each player can play their parts perfectly during the phrase. Select songs will end with a special "Big Rock Ending," which gives the players a chance to improvise and earn extra points. If each player successfully plays the final notes of the song following the freestyle portion of the "Big Rock Ending," the band will earn all of the "Big Rock Ending" points. Otherwise, the bonus is lost.

Downloadable content[]

Main article: Rock Band downloadable content

While Guitar Hero II for Xbox 360 famously promised to have "more online content than anyone has ever seen in a game to this date",[1] a statement which quickly came back to bite publisher Activision, Rock Band has easily surpassed that which is available for its' rival. Weekly updates typically consisting of three to six songs have occurred since the game's US launch, with content available on both Xbox 360 (usually on Tuesdays) and PlayStation 3 (on Thursdays, when the PlayStation Store is updated) for approximately the same price. Individual song prices range from US$0.99 (80 Microsoft Points) to $1.99 (160 Points), with three-song theme packs going for $5.49 (440 Points).


Rock Band was first announced on April 1, 2007 by Harmonix CEO Alex Rigopulos. Harmonix parent company, MTV has been providing both financial and creative support to the development process, leveraging its stature to facilitate deals with record companies for licensing rights to songs and several record companies also have pledged their support by offering master recordings. Due to lack of office space, Harmonix was forced to move its offices in the middle of Rock Band's beta period in order to support the company's 130-person staff.

Rock Band was later featured at the 2007 E3 convention and provided one of the exhibition's highlights; Harmonix employees and Microsoft executive Peter Moore played the game on-stage, performing The Hives' "Main Offender." Moore infamously paused the game twice when he accidentally hit the guitar's Xbox Guide button.

Although the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game were developed in-house, Harmonix outsourced development of the PlayStation 2 version. Additionally, the PlayStation 2 version will not support online gameplay or downloadable content. Harmonix faced difficulty in making the Xbox 360 guitar wireless, as developers are charged a licensing fee to use Microsoft's wireless technology. If Harmonix chose to pay the fee, the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 bundles of Rock Band would have sold at different price points. Instead, Harmonix elected to choose a wired technology for the Xbox 360 bundle's guitar.

Activision/Harmonix feud[]

Rock Band developer Harmonix formerly developed the Guitar Hero series of games, in cooperation with RedOctane, who provided the guitar peripherals. In May 2006, RedOctane was purchased by GH publisher Activision, and in September of that year, Harmonix was purchased by MTV Games. After completing Guitar Hero II for Xbox 360 and Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s, Harmonix broke ties with RedOctane, and development of Guitar Hero III was handed to Tony Hawk developers Neversoft, while Harmonix continued work on Rock Band.

In the run-up to the game's release, Harmonix and MTV stated multiple times that existing Guitar Hero guitars, and new guitars for Guitar Hero III, should work with Rock Band. This is indeed the case on Xbox 360. However, on PlayStation 3, the guitar from GHIII does not work with Rock Band.[2] On December 12, 2007, Harmonix stated that a compatibility patch had been developed and certified by SCEA, but Activision was blocking its' release.[3] The following day, Activision shot back, claiming that Harmonix/MTV "are unwilling to discuss an agreement with Activision [about the use of our technology in Rock Band]".[4] Many took this to mean that Harmonix and MTV were unwilling to pay to license the technology necessary for interoperability. Sony, for their part, claimed neutrality, stating that an issue "needs to be resolved...regarding Intellectual Property...We encourage MTV, Harmonix and Activision to discuss this among themselves so there can be an amicable resolution in the best interest of the consumer.[5] As of early January 2008, no public progress has been made on the issue.



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