Interviews

Sid Meier

One of the biggest names in the development business discusses his new title Railroads, the state of gaming on PC and next-gen console and his appreciation of Guitar Hero

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CVG: Have you been playing Guitar Hero recently?

Meier: I have! I spent quite a bit of time playing Guitar Hero in the spring and had a great deal of fun with it. My 16-year-old son also enjoys it, we play it together - actually he got to be very good at it. Great idea, great execution, and when those two come together it's magic. It's a very well designed game from the progression of difficulty to sticking with fantasy - in so many ways a game can go wrong by taking itself too seriously or by becoming too complicated and get off track.

I think that game knew what it was about and stuck with that. I'm sure making the controller was a great risk but it added a lot to playing the game so I think they made some very good decisions in terms of design and gameplay. It turned out to be a great, fun game! I think it's one of those games we'll look back on in a few years from now and see the influence, how it influenced other games in a positive way.

CVG: Has Guitar Hero influenced your development in any way? Do you want to venture into something similar?

Meier: I think they've done a great job but when we play a game that we really like we're not tempted to copy it. We prefer to look at what elements make that game unique, what makes it as fun as it is and how can we apply those principles to our game. What I see in that game is a real commitment to the rock star, air guitar fantasy. There's a vision and it carries through the whole game; I think that's powerful. The way it progresses from easy to very difficult is very well done. One of my hobbies is music, as I guess everybody's is, and I understand what they had to do behind the scenes to create that technology.

Essentially they had to record every note individually and create these sounds that sounded like the original but actually had to be totally re-recorded to be able to break everything up so that if you played the note wrong they could sneak in the 'thwang' sound. The technology, I appreciate, is tricky but it feels natural when you play it. And that's a great lesson in games - if you have a tough problem, don't make it seem tough for the gamer. We did the hard work to make the game play easily.

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