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Guitar Hero Live Interview with Jim Norris


With the excitement of EB Games Expo 2015 taking hold of gamers this coming weekend at Sydney Olympic Park, I took the time tonight to interview Jim Norris – the designer behind Activision‘s Guitar Hero Live.

It’s nice to meet you Jim. I’d like to hear more about Guitar Hero Live and why you feel like it was a good time now to bring it back?

So it’s been roughly 5 years since the last Guitar Hero game was out and we kind of felt like it was a good time to bring another one out. People seem to be ready for another rhythm action game, we’ve got the next gen consoles that came out, and so we thought that it would be a good time now to do it. And as freestylers, we of course wanted to do something different, so that’s why we went with the whole new controller, GH Live Performance and GH TV concept as well. So we thought it was the right time and we made some pretty cool innovations to it.

Yeah, I completely agree, I’m really excited to play the game. Out of the two playable modes, which one do you prefer – Guitar Hero Live or Guitar Hero TV?

I mean, that’s like forcing me to choose which one of my kids I like the best (laughs). But I like GH TV, just for the plain fact that when you are on one channel, you know that everyone else in the world who is playing on that channel is playing in the exact same song, at the same time as you are. And I find that sort of unifying thought, as a designer, just really pleasing. So I think GH TV is my favourite.


I was reading a little bit about how the songs are different on GH TV then they are with Live, and that if you get a certain trophy or award you get to play songs or you can buy your way to play the same songs again. Is that correct?

So the way it kinda works is when you’re playing GH TV, you can earn what are called “plays” and use those plays to go into your on demand catalogue. Let’s say you hop on to GH TV and you’re in the middle of a song and you actually want to play the whole song, you can go into on demand and you can use one of your plays to play that song.

With the audience, are you expecting more new players or previous players who were part of Guitar Hero games back when they were released?

I think both, because it’s been long enough that there’s probably a lot of gamers who maybe never played a single rhythm action game in their life. So they’ve got their PS4, they’ve never played a Guitar Hero before, so we’d like them to play. And we also think that there’s gonna be a lot of stuff that old GH fans are going to appreciate, you know. The new controller works in such a way that if you were awesome at Guitar Hero in the past, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re just going to be able to pick it up and play on expert right away. It’s easy for new players, because the new three by two button layout.

The fret board?

Yeah. You got rid of that pinky finger, so there’s no need to use the pinky anymore, which we call the danger pinky in the office because it . . .  from our research it actually turned away a lot of players, like they would get up to medium and they’d have to start to use that pinky on hard and they just, they found it too difficult. With this one, you start out nice and easy, you sort of transition to that top row, then on to advanced difficulty you start to do some chord shapes, some bar chords, which is a new shape that we can do with the new controller and all the way up to expert mode, which is going to provide a new challenge for all GH players.

I feel like the new controller that you made looks a lot more comfortable and also, I would say it’s more realistic when you’re playing a Guitar Hero game.

It’s a sexy controller, it’s a really good looking controller.


Do you feel like it’s been a limitation that players’ can only use that controller to play the game, and they can’t use the Xbox controller or the Playstation controller? With the previous Guitar Hero games, you could actually use the controller as opposed to the guitar.

Yeah, we just wanted to make sure that this Guitar Hero Live was all about the guitar, that’s the main focus here. So that’s why that’s the only instrument, we’re focusing on the Guitar and we feel that the new button layout makes it accessible. Whereas, in the past maybe that’s why people used the controller, because they couldn’t get up to that pinky, maybe they wanted to play all throughout the difficulties. So we feel like this one is a better way to sort of step you up through the early difficulties all the way to the end.

Are you going to be releasing any other colour guitars, or are you just going to keep the same one?

We are just focusing on this one, because we think it is so gosh dang beautiful, that nobody else will want any other colour. It’s the perfect colour. It’s the best guitar we’ve ever made.

That’s good to hear, that way I won’t have to invest in another guitar. 

You can paint it though yourself, kinda customise it. Mine at the office has all sorts of weird stickers all over it.


So which one is your favourite song so far in the game from the song list?

A band I didn’t even know about until we put it in the game. They’re called the Marmozets, a song called ‘Move, Shake Hide’ and the lead singer is a young gal and when she gets screaming during the chorus, it’s just like the most exhilarating thing that I’ve heard in a really long time. So I’d say that’s my – I just got goosebumps right now talking about it – that’s my E3 sorta get pumped song, so Marmozets ‘Move, Shake Hide’, if you haven’t listened to that song go check it out.

No I haven’t, but can’t wait to! Alright it was great talking to you, thanks so much for your time. 

You too Vicky, thanks very much.

Can’t wait to play the game, can we try it out now?

Let’s do it.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to play Guitar Hero Live at EB Games Expo this weekend, before the official release of the game on October 20th!