At the E3 2013 press conference Ubisoft unveiled Rocksmith 2014 and showed off the brand-new, mind-blowingly innovative Session Mode, which puts players in control of their own jam band. Session Mode lets you select the style of music, pick the instruments, and set the tempo – along with a dozen other parameters (many of which this editor doesn’t understand…yet). Luckily for aspiring musicians (like me), Rocksmith 2014 will teach you everything you need to know. We caught up with Creative Director Paul Cross to get all the details on Session Mode – including its remarkable ability to jam along to absolutely anything, including Norwegian death metal!
How did Session Mode come about?
When we started making Rocksmith we looked at what playing guitar means. We define that as playing songs, right? With the first game you could say: Look, I can play the guitar. Look I can play a few songs. That’s great! So having done that, we started looking at what else we could do. We have this amp mode where you can just play, so we started talking about what would happen if we stuck a click in it. Now you’re playing along to a click, but that’s boring. This is a game. It should be fun. So then we thought, What if we add a drum machine or background tracks? But you can get that for free online. Why would we charge you for static background tracks? That’s silly. We started thinking: Well what if we built A.I. that could play instruments? That would be pretty awesome.
We got A.I. that would play the drums and then we built A.I. that plays the keys, rhythm guitars, bass. So then you build up your virtual band. Playing with a band – a band that listens to you and reacts to you – is very different than just playing with a recording. You’re going to need to use all the techniques that you learn by going through the lessons and the tutorials and the songs. Then you can put them together the way you want. This is the way guys like Keith Richards learn to play guitar. They emulate their favorite musicians and refine their technique by matching them note for note and understanding how to play multiple notes at the same time or bend multiple notes together. On top of that, you get to see the scales and the fret board, and you get to see how all these pieces connect. We put all this information together in one place. All that pulls together in the live jam-band experience we see here.
If you don’t know anything about anything when it comes to guitar, we make sure we teach you every step of the way
Will Rocksmith 2014 teach me about scales, tempo and all the other details involved in playing guitar?
The game teaches you about everything. We missed the little things in Rocksmith. We assumed too much, I guess. Some people wanted to go faster, some people wanted to go slower. Rocksmith 2014 is going to be customizable to set up the way you need it. So if you don’t know anything about anything when it comes to guitar, we make sure we teach you every single step of the way, and that includes everything on screen. You’re going to be told what all that is and what it’s good for and how to use it.
What genres will we be able to play around with?
You can customize your band to whatever you want and change all the settings. If you want to do a jazz band thing, you can do that. If you want to do some crazy Norwegian folk death metal, you can set it up that way. You are the band leader and you are in control.
But what if I change my mind halfway through my Norwegian death metal session and want to go try out some ’70s soft-rock?
When you’re communicating with the band it’s a two-way communication. You’re playing and they’re playing. The A.I. bandmates are going to make choices. They’re not just going to lock into one thing. What’s going to happen is they’ll listen to you and if you’re playing a certain way they might slow things down or shift a verse and break it down. As they’re doing that, you’re learning. You’re learning by doing, and that is really, really important. Not only are we telling you what everything is, but you’re actually experiencing it and spending time with it and completing missions. We have missions that tell you, Hey, you should try putting these things together. You get to discover it, but you also get something to hold your hand a little bit as you’re discovering.
What other modes can we hope to see in Rocksmith 2014?
Lessons have completely been revamped and are fully interactive. We have Learn A Song, which will teach you the songs you want to learn from your favorite artist, like Aerosmith, Oasis, Alice in Chains, Smashing Pumpkins and Bob Dylan, to name a few. On top of that we got Nonstop Play, which we’ll talk more about in the future. Then there’s multiplayer, and of course we bring back Guitarcade in new and exciting ways.