Published on October 7th, 2015 | by admin

James Norris Interview (Freestyle Games – Guitar Hero Live)

Welcome to Impulse James and can you tell us what inspired you to become a games designer?

Well that is kind of a long story, I’ll do my best to shorten it. I grew up in sort of a gaming family, my Dad bought an Atari the day it came out, so from the first moment I was able to wield a joystick, I was playing games. I am from a family of four boys, and we were always playing outside, board games, console games, PC games, whatever we could get our hands on. Flash forward to my mid 20’s and I landed a job testing games for Activision, where I eventually met the guys at freestyle while working on DJ Hero and became great friends with them. I left Activision for a short while to pursue my dreams of becoming the world’s best janitor when I got a call from Jamie and Dave asking me if I wanted to come help Make a new Guitar Hero in the UK and I said hell yes.


It’s been awhile since Guitar Hero graced the gaming world so when you received the official word to commence creation, what were your thoughts?

Really excited, Freestyle have always been innovators when it comes to the rhythm action games so I knew we would come up with something fresh for all the GH fans of the world, but we also saw an opportunity to show GH to a lot of new gamers that had maybe never played a GH game before.


So how did you become involved in Guitar Hero Live?

Kind of answered this in my long winded designer story but, I was working for another developer by day, and cleaning an art gallery by night, I think I got the call from Jamie when I was just finishing work one day asking if I wanted to move to the UK to work on Guitar Hero.


As a designer, what were some of the challenges faced in creating Guitar Hero Live?

Well there are a bunch of Guitar Hero lovers of the world, and we had to make sure that we made a game they would enjoy but we also wanted to do something new and unique. Changing to live video and putting you in a position to rock real crowds was a big step and took a lot of trial and error to get right, but we have done it and it’s a lot of fun. Most of the folks at FreeStyle Games are musicians so we just tried to transfer what it’s like to perform on stage into the Live portion of Guitar Hero. In addition to this we took a look at how people nowadays access music and wanted to create a platform to allow gamers to discover new music as well as have access to it whenever they want. With the controller we tried several different button layouts and combinations, we knew we wanted to change it up, and it took us a while to settle on the six button (3×2) layout, originally they were still different colours until somebody suggested that we make it black and white, at first we thought that was a crazy idea, the colours were such an iconic GH thing, but we tried it out and turns out it is much easier for your brain to process with just black and white.


So far, what’s been your favourite aspect about Guitar Hero Live?  

Obviously I love it all, but if I was forced to choose one thing I really like the idea of everyone playing GHTV on the same channel in the world at the same time, just the thought of millions of gamers jamming out to the same track puts a smile on my face.

Why do you think the Guitar Hero series has become so popular since its launch?

Not everyone has the patience or ability to become a rock star, Guitar hero will make you the rock god of your living room.

Can you let us know your top three songs in Guitar Hero Live?

Marmozets – Move, Shake, Hide – This song will make you move

Biffy Clyro – Victory Over The Sun – really fun to play with new controller

Carrie Underwood – Before He Cheats – because you can take the boy outta the country, but you can’t take country outta the boy.

Tell us a little about the gameplay and how it differs itself from previous games?

The new button layout is key here, you start out using just one row of three buttons, and as you become more comfortable with the new layout and increase the difficulty you introduce the top row of three buttons gradually.   We add in different chord shapes and patterns as you get into advanced and eventually veteran mode. If you were awesome at the previous guitar hero games this version will challenge you in different ways.

In terms of “wow” moments in the game, can you delve into some of these elements in relation to games, graphics or music?

The first time you step on stage in GH Live and look out at the crowd, it feels amazing, just don’t mess up. Also nailing a solo on a song you have been trying to perfect is one of the greatest feelings I have ever experienced in video games, and we will have hundreds of tracks for you to master.


As a designer, is it hard creating cross-platform games?

Well I don’t really focus on the platform, just creating a game, and the more platforms we can release it on, the more people get to enjoy it.

How will this game work on the new Apple TV?

Stay tuned, we’ll be announcing more soon.


What do you think gamers will enjoy most about Guitar Hero Live?

Choice, there is a bunch of music when you take the game home, and we will be updating GHTV regularly with new music. There are also a bunch of different ways to get to number on GHTV with guitar upgrades, and different types of hero powers. Also with customised player cards and highways you can change the look and theme of what you and others see when competing online.

Thanks again James and all the best for the release of Guitar Hero Live!

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