The Next Generation Approaches! Woo!

So, it's September, and both Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock and Rock Band 3 are almost upon us!

Obviously, each new release of a music game that contains a new peripheral is of interest both to users of Armchair Guitarist, and to me as its author. The biggest and most obvious question is "Will the new hardware work?". The next question is "Will this hardware let us do anything we can't do already?"


I'll answer these questions as best I can without having access to the hardware yet. First, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. Now, like I said, I don't have access to the hardware yet, and its likely to be a couple of months before I can afford to get it. But, that being said, this controller doesn't appear to have anything new - in fact, it's a step back in terms of technology. Being compatible with the older games as well, it's unlikely that they've changed much.


So, pending confirmation with an actual controller, there is no reason whatsoever why a Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock controller shouldn't work just fine with Armchair Guitarist. Obviously I don't know this for sure yet, though, so if any users get a chance to use one of these before I do, please let me know how well it worked!

Next, Rock Band 3. There are three types of controller to take into account here: The new versions of the old controllers that MadCatz are producing, the Fender Squier and the Fender Mustang. Like the Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock controller, the rejigged old-style controllers aren't bringing anything new to the table, and so should work just the same with Armchair Guitarist as the existing controllers.

The Fender Squier and the Fender Mustang are an entirely different kettle of fish. These are completely unlike any other guitar controller that has been produced so far. The good news is that the potential for what these instruments could be used for is huge. I can't state that strongly enough. Several people have asked me whether I think these controllers are the death knell of Armchair Guitarist, what with being real guitars and all, and the answer to that is emphatically no.

I have something slightly different to what I'm already doing planned for these controller, and that revolves chiefly around the fact that most of the people who buy these instruments will not have MIDI ports on their computer. Armchair Guitarist will cater to those people by providing a bridge, so that those instruments can be used as if they were MIDI instruments without having to use anything other than a standard USB port, and the MIDI box that is required to bridge between the guitar and the console.

This MIDI box is key to a bunch of things. Its job is essentially to translate MIDI signals from the Squier or the Keyboard Peripheral (or any MIDI device, it seems!) into messages that can be understood by the console. The handy thing about this is that if it can be understood by a console, then it can usually also be understood by a PC - almost always with USB devices for the PS3, and definitely always with USB devices for the XBox 360. That makes Harmonix' MIDI box a staggeringly useful bit of kit - with a bit of coding, I can turn this device into a MIDI interface for just about anything - if your machine didn't have a MIDI port before, then it effectively does now (or will have, by the time I'm finished).

One piece of excellent news we've had from Harmonix / MadCatz is that there will be only one model of each new guitar, rather than a seperate one for each console - it'll be the MIDI Boxes that are different. Given that the MIDI Box is supposed to retail at $39.95, and the instruments themselves are likely to be somewhere north of $250, I call that a pretty good tradeoff!

Okay, what have we got so far? We've got support for GH:WOR - check. We've got support incoming for the Rock Band 3 pro instruments, and anything else you care to shake a stick at. What else?

I've been beavering away in my room since the release of Armchair Guitarist 1.5 designing the next version. So far it is spiffy, and it is funky. It has chords. It has Hammer Ons and Pull Offs. You can bend notes with the slide bar, and even control it without a guitar controller. Gosh. Additionally, it has actual architecture and planning (both of which are missing from 1.5 ;)), a consequence of me using it for my Solution Architect training in my day job. It's also been redesigned from the ground up to support just about any sort of peripheral the games industry cares to throw at it.

it is, however, going to take a a little time to finish. I'd be surprised, at this point, if it were done before Christmas - there's a lot to do. This is compounded by the fact that the hardware I need to base it on is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination - Christmas may be what I have to rely on to get the instruments I need, such as it was with the PS3 instruments last year :P

I may be forced to stick a thermometer widget on this page soon, and do a donations drive. Basically, I need to rustle up at least a Mustang and a Squier and one of the new Guitar Hero axes. Some day I hope to implement built-in support for the SixString, the Peavey, and the YouRock guitar, but these are not the cheapest things in the world either.

Stay tuned... I may be quiet over the next few months, but only because I'm working furiously :)


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