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PAX and Tour Challenges

We'll be at PAX this week! If you're there, be sure to come and say hi to us at the booth, and/or come to our 90 minute panel of awesomeness.

On that topic: It has come to my attention however that "big name" gaming celebrities always make these outrageous claims and stunts in order to get press time from the gaming blogs. Therefore, as a D-list gaming celebrity who's trying to make sure that Team Harmonix isn't talking to an empty room on Saturday, I am making the following proclamations:

  • I challenge Kotaku's Mike Fahey, Wired's Chris Kohler, and Destructoid's Nick Chester to an arm wrestle. Mike is allowed to substitute for Crecente if he can't make it, but in that case I'm allowed to take my elbow off the table and Brian isn't - Crecente looks like he works out, so I need any advantage I can get.
  • I challenge 2K Boston's Ken Levine, Epic's Cliff Bleszinski, and Hothead Games' James Mouat to a thumb wrestle, to determine once and for all the title "Best Designer with a Right Thumb." If multiple designers accept the challenge, I will do 2v1.
  • I challenge any members of the Guitar Hero: World Tour, SingStar, and Rock Revolution development teams to a manly hug/compliment off. First person to pull away or stall on a compliment loses.

The only condition - the challenge needs to take place immediately after the "History of Harmonix" panel finishes up. If you don't show up, I win by default. If you've been served and want to bring it, then give me a yell ahead of time so that I can put myself into intensive arm/thumb/hug/compliment training.

And now, your regularly scheduled programming: Tour Challenges

When we started developing Rock Band 2, we had a bunch of goals for progression:

  • We wanted to update Solo Tour. Progression is an important part of playing the on-disc songs, but the whole "play a list of songs" is stale, and World Tour is more focused on exploration than progression.
  • We wanted to include DLC into the campaign mode. At the end of the year we'll have over 500 songs for people to play, and we wanted to integrate it properly, not just as a "Downloaded Songs" list.
  • We wanted to solve the problem of people getting stuck on one song and not progressing (Freyaism/Reaperism). Just because I suck on one song out of 84 doesn't mean I'm not good enough to play the final songs.
  • We also wanted to make sure every song played during the progression was the best for that instrument. Singing "So Watcha Want" is an awesome experience, but playing bass on it isn't as good as playing some of the other bass songs. At the same time, everyone should be able to play every song - mode-exclusive songs suck.

After messing around with different ideas, we came up with Tour Challenges!

In the Tour Challenge mode, players play increasingly difficult sets of songs known as "Challenges", represented as your band's discography.

Unlike Solo Tour in Rock Band, Tour Challenges follow a tree structure rather than a linear path - beating a challenge unlocks multiple other challenges for you to beat. This way, you are never 'stuck' on a song when progressing, since they can jump around between various challenges.

Let's give a quick example. I start up Rock Band 2 for the first time on guitar (and with a friend on drums), and jump straight into Tour Challenges.

My first choice is to select the difficulty of the challenges that I want to play at. Since it's my first time, I only have the first tier of difficulty available to me: "Local Upstart." Jumping in, I see all of the "Local Upstart" challenges that are unlocked by default:

Since I haven't played anything yet, I have four options available to me:

  • "Band Warmups" - which is the 3 best easy band songs in the game
  • "Fender Warmups" - which is the 3 best easy guitar songs in the game
  • "Drum Warmups" - ...3 best easy drum songs...
  • "Vocal Warmups" - ...noticing a pattern here?

There are also some locked ones that we'll see more of in a minute.

 

Now, since I have a guitar and drum band, it means I can't play the "Vocal Warmups," since I need a vocalist to play those. I can, however, play the guitar, drum, and band challenges. Yes, that means you can have a friend on drums still help you out when you're playing the "guitar-specific" challenges! Let's play the guitar challenge!

Pretty simple, right? Well, if we beat this, we'll get three more challenges! Let's do it!

 

Like I mentioned in my last blog post, you can pause and save your progress any time. So, if you need to leave before "New Kid in School," you can just save your position in the set and come back to it later.

Not this time though - we played through and won!

Note that we unlocked three new challenges that we can play in, just by playing one challenge!

  • "The Guitar Apprentice" is the next level up of the "Guitar" challenges.
  • "The Bass Apprentice" is the first challenge of the "Bass" campaign! Yep, you can go through and play a full bass campaign!
  • "Warmup Marathon Part 1" is the first marathon challenge, and it's for people who want to play the game the old way - if you follow the "Warmup Marathon" path, you'll play all 84 disc songs in a single path. Note that you don't have to play these at all, because Tour Challenges lets you pick and choose the songs and challenges you play to get up to the top.

 

If I had any easy DLC on my console, these challenges would also show up!

Oh, and hey, I've unlocked another tier! I now have 15 challenges I can choose between to decide how I'm going to progress. They aren't just instrument based, either. Take this screenshot from a few blogs back:

  • "'00s Hits" are the 5 best songs from the '00s in one challenge. Playing this unlocks...
  • "Infinite '00s Challenge". This is EVERY song that was released this decade, regardless of whether it was on disc or DLC.

The cool thing about this is that it grows and shrinks with your library. If I beat this challenge, then buy "Girls Who Play Guitars" by Maximo Park, the challenge acts as if I saved and resumed just before that song was added. Essentially, I can re-complete this challenge just by playing that song.

This same system also applies for genre - you could have a "New Wave Challenge" that opens up into an "Infinite New Wave Challenge."

"Touring Harmonix Bands Challenge" is one of the three challenges that the Harmonix Bands are in in Tour Challenges. We've broken them up into three categories: Breaking (which includes bands like Speck), Touring (which includes bands that are on tour right now, like Bang Camaro), and Impossible (which includes the absolutely ridiculous song "Visions" by Abnormality).

"The Who Challenge" is a DLC artist challenge. This appeared because I have some Who DLC on my Xbox (which, frankly, you all should have).

New DLC challenges show up in this order:

  • If you've purchased three or more songs from an album, an album challenge shows up ("Screaming For Vengeance Album Challenge")
  • If you've purchased three or more songs from an artist, an artist challenge shows up ("The Nine Inch Nails Challenge")
  • If you've purchased a pack of multiple different artists, a pack challenge shows up ("(Arguably) Punk Pack 01 Challenge")

"Harmonix Rock Band Tracks Challenge" is a challenge comprised of all the Harmonix bands from the Rock Band 1 disc. When you export your Rock Band 1 disc, challenges are added into Rock Band 2 for those songs, based on the groupings that they had in Rock Band 1.

Oh, and one last thing - Tour Challenges give away "Ultimate" outfits if you play a specific path all the way to the end. These outfits are things that are so amazing, that we couldn't attach a price to them or justify selling them in the store.

One that we've talked about is the live snake, which you get for beating one of the Impossible Tour Challenges:

One that we haven't talked about is the assless chaps. I won't spoil what you get this for.