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Engine Details


Before leaving for the event, we solicited questions from the ScoreHero community to find out what people wanted to know. A vast majority of questions were asked about the gameplay engine and how it compares to previous games on the market. Despite the immediate temptation to hop on GHWT set-ups and rock out for 6 straight hours, we put aside time for testing and paid attention to detail to breakdown the game and return to you with comprehensive answers.

This section will objectively state our findings based on both normal gameplay, and numerous tests specifically designed to further understand the game's engine. Most of the information below is technical, so if you're only interested in our thoughts and overall impressions of gameplay, instruments, and songs, then feel free to skip ahead to the following pages.

Timing Window and Hammer-ons / Pull-offs


The Tool specific venueFirst off, the timing windows seemed quite forgiving more along the lines of GH3 and GHA, allowing you to strum notes noticably early or late without penalty. The hammer-on and pull-off (ho/po) system works very similarly to GHA where there is a timing window under which you must perform the ho/po (in GH3 there was no ho/po timing window). From what we could tell, also like GH3 and GHA, the engine allows you to press any combination of intermediate frets between two ho/po notes without penalty as long as you distinctly hit each note at least once within its ho/po timing window. One interesting thing I noticed while casually playing "Hot For Teacher" on guitar, was that I was able to hit a chord before another chord that came before it and before that first chord even passed the line. So picture this; coming at you is a RO chord quickly followed by a RY chord, you strum shortly before the RO chord but you accidentally hold the RY chord instead, you would think that you would miss the RO chord right? Wrong, it instead hits the RY chord before the RO even passes the line! When this happened to me, I was too surprised by what happened to muster an attempt at that RO chord before it crossed the line, but I imagine that it will be possible to still hit it. Seems like a major oversight to me, but hey, at least dyslexic players finally won't feel ostracized.

Overall engine improvements


One nice improvement in the engine is the capability for Guitar and Bass to have notes charted on top of one another, so you could be holding a sustain down on one note and have to strum, tap, or sustain other notes on different frets at the same time. More will follow on this mechanic throughout our article.

Another "Why didn't they do this sooner?!" feature, unlike previous games, you can now pause the game during a sustain note and not break the sustain if you're holding the fret upon resuming gameplay. Also, in a nod to the casual party player, Neversoft has added a nice 4-count countdown with audible ticks upon unpausing to give you and other bandmates a cue to know when to start playing again. This countdown can be turned off in the options menu (it's on by default) if you want a more hardcore deterrent to pausing.

The Tool specific venue

Scoring mechanics


Scoring is generally similar to what we're accustomed to with previous games in the series. Each non-vocals instrument has a multiplier that starts at 1x and increases every 10 consecutive notes hit until 4x (bass too); vocals increases the multiplier every consecutive phrase until 4x. Single notes and chords both count as a single note towards your multiplier and streak on all non-vocal instruments (drums too). Star Power may be activated to double the multipliers, and there is a band multiplier applied on top of the individual mulitpliers which reflects the number of band members currently using Star Power.

While the basics are similar to previous games, a lot has been added to further enhance the scoring. Most of which holds promise; but as you'll find out, some new mechanics may seem overly extensive to the casual gamer, while others may prove problematic from a hardcore competitive standpoint.




Guitar

Barfo is 1337One unique aspect of the guitar are "slide sections" where the notes visually appear to be connected by a purple string on the screen which will be discussed in more detail on the next page. These parts do not require strumming and can be played with either the normal fret buttons or the GHWT guitar controller's new touchstrip. There is no difference in scoring if you use the normal frets or the touchstrip, and no extra bonuses are awarded for these slide sections.

The base value for each note is 50 points which gets multiplied by your multiplier. Sustain points appear to be calculated the same way as GH3 and GHA, 25 base points per beat, which does not double or triple for 2 or 3-note chord sustains. In other words, holding a single note for one beat results in the same amount of sustain points as holding a chord for one beat. Barfo tested holding and dropping sustains while there (in fact, even got an exact score of 133,337!), and from what little we saw, all of the strange tick rounding behaviour that is present in GH3 and GHA engine is also present here.

However, in testing overlapping sustains we found some very puzzling results. The beginning of Santeria has a yellow-note sustain followed by an overlapping blue-note sustain which both end at the same time. We found that the yellow sustain alone gave 26 sustain points, and the blue sustain by itself gave 24 sustain points. But playing them both at full duration awarded 31 "sustain" points. I'll leave the theories behind that calculation up to you as we didn't have time to extensively test beyond that. One possible thought is that there's a 5-point bonus awarded for playing overlapping notes, but again, we aren't sure - more data is needed. Important to note that the 31 points was consistently applied (we tested it at least 5 times or so and always got exactly that), so it doesn't seem to be a bug or anything that would mess up competitive scoring, it just seems to be a scoring mechanic that is not yet understood by us (and might make the job of estimating base scores from the song charts difficult until we can determine the mechanic).

Bass

Barfo's thoughts on the open note: The open notes, when i first tried to play them, really took me back to the original Guitar Hero days when i first put the game on hard and had to hit the Orange note for the first time. The thing I noticed right away about it was how much the open note actually confuses your hand placement - even for something simple like hitting G-open-O at a low BPM, I'd go to hit the open note and then get confused as to where my hand was on the guitar, and end up missing the Orange note. It was a totally new muscle memory and very fun experience.
The only significant change to the bass is the addition of "open notes", which is displayed by a purple bar that stretches horizontally across the entire fretboard, and is played by strumming without any holding any fret buttons. This took some time for most of us to wrap our minds around but it's a really nice addition that makes playing bass much more fun and interesting.

The open notes abide by the same ho/po rules as any other note. A "ho/po open note" appears as a white line instead of a purple line and you can play the note by simply letting go of all pressed frets within its ho/po window, you can in some cases get long streams of ho/po notes that include open notes in them, specifical. We did not see any open note sustains, so there's a good chance that those don't exist.

As far as scoring, open notes are also worth 50 base points, the multiplier is still capped at 4x, and the same rules for guitar apply to bass. Overlapping sustains, as well as purple line notes also can be placed into bass songs, though our unscientific survey suggests they are less common (especially the purple sections which we only saw maybe two or three of).

Drums

Velocity Sensitive Drum NotesOne interesting thing about the drums is the scoring is different that you might expect compared to the guitar and bass. The green, yellow, and blue pads are worth 50 points as one might expect. The bass pedal is worth 75, and the orange cymbal is worth 60. Accented notes have a little circle that looks like an extra thick halo (the Neversoft guys call them armored notes), and you can earn extra points (and a small cash bonus at the end of the song) by hitting them with extra force. Basically, there are two hit animations for these notes, if you hit them at regular force you see the regular animation and get the regular number of points, whereas if you hit them hard enough then you see the note shatter in a way that is fairly obvious, even in the heat of a fast chart. We were not able to determine the precise amount of extra points, but since it is only a two state system in terms of animations, it seems highly likely that there are just two possible point values to score either the regular amount or the 'hard hit' amount. It seems unlikely that exactly how hard you hit the note is going to lead to different amounts of points.

Also as stated above, GHWT counts multiple drums hit at the same time as just one note in terms of tracking your streak and increasing your mulitplier.

Drum fills are another unique aspect to drumming which, for specified time periods, allow you to freestyle and you can hear the difference between loud and soft hits on every pad, cymbal, and the bass pedal. Regardless of your multiplier, or hard you hit the drums, every hit is worth 1 point. There was mention of max possible scores per fill, but I don't believe anyone experienced reaching a limit; so drums fills may likely become the difference makers for top scores on many songs.

Vocals

Full band, only real good showing of the vocalsScoring works similarly to Rock Band, in that vocals are separated into phrases. For hitting certain amounts of a phrase, points are awarded, up to a predefined maximum per phrase. Those maximums are as follows:
Beginner = 100
Easy = 200
Medium = 300
Hard = 400
Expert = 500

Also similarly to Rock Band, vocal phrases are rated on different scales. Where Rock Band told a player how he or she did by saying words such as "Awesome" or "Messy", Guitar Hero World Tour communicates that information to the player with a flash of light emitted from the pitch indicator on the vocal track. Unlike Rock Band, one does not need an "Awesome" (represented in World Tour as a green flash of light) to increase his or her multiplier, as the next highest rating (a yellow flash of light) also contributes to the vocalist's multiplier. While like Rock Band, the highest rating only requires about 90% of the phrase to be hit, World Tour differs in that every last bit of the phrase contributes toward the band's score. This will lead to more vocal competition, as World Tour's engine demands a stricter level of perfection.

As it is inevitable that there are phrases that can not be charted pitch for pitch, Guitar Hero World Tour also features pitchless "talky" sections, which will accept any input into the mic, regardless of pitch, and offer full points. There is no attempt at syllable detection here: a single held pitch (or scream, if you so prefer) will hit every bit of a talky, so the game will not challenge its players with any "broken" talkies. In addition, setting the game to Beginner mode turns an entire song's vocal chart into talkies, making Beginner mode a great setting for a party with your tone-deaf friends.

There are also freestyle sections, which from our understanding, award points to vocalists who sing in key to the song. These sections display a multiplier and a point value which both respond in realtime increasing independently as you make noise into the mic; some of us saw these multipliers reach 6x and they likely go even higher. It's possible to increase the score value really high and remain at 1x, and it's also possible to increase the multiplier with a lower score. According to a few conversations we had, the best course of action is not to just spout random gibberish. Whether there is a maximum score associated with each freestyle section is unknown at this point.

Another type of freestyle section, indicated by "rock on" gesture ( \m/ ), is simply a section designed to increase the rock meter by saying anything you want (pump up the crowd). These do not have an effect on score.

Multiplayer Features


Star Power

The ways to acquire Star Power (SP) are the same in both solo play and multiplayer. However, we're listing this under multiplayer because the use of Star Power is vastly different between the two, and the multiplayer system requires much more explanation.

As usual, SP is acquired by completing "SP phrases" without missing, and by whammying sustained notes within a SP phrase on Guitar or Bass. Once the Star Power meter has filled up enough, you can activate at any time on any instrument. In single player you generally need half a meter, or two phrases worth of SP in order to activate, and it will continue as the meter drains until it empties.

Star Power phrases no longer "overwrite" one another, meaning you can acquire more Star Power while SP is draining. (This is true in single player as well)

In multiplayer, there's a shared pool of Star Power among all band members. The meter visually appears as six bulbs which fill from left to right. The difference with multiplayer is that each activation only lasts for the duration of a single bulb and then it deactivates, regardless how much is remaining in the meter. The activations are instrument-specific, meaning that multiple instruments can be activated at the same time, each draining one bulb of the meter. It's also possible that an instrument will appear to be able to activate if there's more than one bulb filled in the meter, but if other instruments are already draining most of the available SP (all but less than one bulb's worth), then the activation attempt will fail.

Activating star power on your instrument earns you double points for all notes that you hit and if multiple people all have star power up then the band as a whole also gets an overall multiplier equivalent to the number of people with it up. So if you are in a four person band and everybody is riding a full combo (4x) multiplier then basically the SP / multipliers chart will look liek this table:
# SP up Band multi P1 multi P2 multi P3 multi P4 multi
0 1x 4 4 4 4
1 1x 8 4 4 4
2 2x 16 16 8 8
3 3x 24 24 24 12
4 4x 32 32 32 32


Note that the starting and ending multiplers (at 0 SP and 4 SP up) are identical to Rock Band, but in the middle it is skewed a bit down, so there is acutally MORE of a synergistic bonus to mulitple people having it up at the same time (in rock band your rate of return actually caps out at 2 people having it up at once)

Guitar and Bass activate Star Power by tilting the guitar, or by pressing the "Star Power bar" near the palm of your strumming hand. Drums activate by hitting both cymbals at once except for when both cymbals are charted together as a note in the song. This can be very difficult to do at planned times (read: optimal star power paths) without missing, but it does appear there's a small window afterwards where you won't break combo by missing notes immediately following an activation. Vocals also can activate at any time by either tapping the head of the mic or by pressing "A" on the controller. We found that tapping the mic was very unreliable and most resorted to using the controller which worked just fine.

Having star power affects your individual rock meter, making hit notes worth a lot more, however it does not seem to affect the how much rock meter the other members of your band get for hitting their notes (not 100% certain of this). So if only one player is having a very very tough stretch, then what you may wish to do is forgo using SP offensively for points and instead have that person activate several times in a row, to keep their meter up, so that the whole band does not fail out of the song.

Band Streak Bonus

A band that plays together, stays togetherOne of the more interesting deep under the hood features (and likely controversial ones among purists and casual players) is going to be the band streak system. One of the cool features of GH3 was that the visible note streak counter that you could see. Well GH:WT has taken that launching point and run with it, as well as making a way to tie long streaks in to score bonuses (this is the part that may be controversial).

In terms of the nuts and bolts mechanics here is how it seems to work. Disclaimer: take everything with a grain of salt, we didn't have a huge amount of time to test this and its very possible we have made some errors in terms of understanding this stuff. The game pretty much tracks each persons note streak individually (unfortunately this info is not displayed except in solo play). In multiplayer, any time more than one person gets over a certain point (30-40 notes streak?) what happens is they synergize into a band streak. Visually, each person who is participating in the streak has their icon in the rock meter turn gold, and their fret board gets a golden glow to the sides of it, and a counter shows up on the side of the screen as well as a note above the fret boards that tells you a streak is starting and showing icons of the participating instruments. This counter displays the average note streak for all players who are part of the streak, so if you watch it it can look sort of odd at the rate it goes up (for example if you have three players in a streak, but only one is playing notes then it will only go up one count for every third note hit). As your streak grows past certain thresholds, the game pops up messages telling you the size (we saw 50, 100, 200, etc). If any player who is part of the streak misses a note (or overstrums) then it breaks the overall streak (however its likely that everybody else keeps their individual streaks though we do not know this for sure). At the point when a streak breaks, the game awards the streak bonus points via an on-screen message (more on estimated scoring further down).

The band streak can be fluid, and players can add into the streak as it goes along, and sometimes this can visually lower the streak number (since it is an average). So for example if the bassist and the guitarist are streaking with 80 and 100 notes respectively, the on-screen counter will say 90 (the average streak). If the drummer then builds up a streak to say 30 (exact join-in point unknown), then his icon/fretboard will outline in gold, and he will join the streak, which will now jump down to 70 (30 + 80 + 100). The vocalist can also participate in these streaks (we physically observed gold outline and gold icon), but we did not see enough to figure out how his 'notes' are counted (number of phrases hit would be very low), or even what really constitutes a vocal streak (since you can get a multiplier streak and not be hitting a strict 100% on any given phrase).

In terms of streak bonus the scoring is a bit confusing, but here is our best guess after some observations. The amount of bonus points is based on some function of the final streak number at the point when it was broken, and the number of players in the streak. For a simple two person streak, we saw enough examples to feel somewhat confident saying that it seems to be about the final streak count times 10 with a little bit of an offset (so for example it wouldn't be unusual to see a streak break at 54 and award 580 points). For three person streaks, it gets a lot more complicated, roughly it seems to be the total count multiplied by at least 30, possibly more or a bit less. We observed several 30-50 streaks and these were awarding bonus points in the 1000-1500 range. It gets more complex than that though, it seemed like every time a three person streak broke it would flash two 'streak bonus' messages, one that was high and another much smaller one. One possible explanation is that it is awarding the points for the time that you were a three person streak separately from any points accrued by the first two people in the streak (which would be the second, smaller number flashed). Not enough four person streaks were observed to hazard any guess as to the scoring here but its likely it follows the pattern but with even more points per final point of the final streak. Note that streak bonuses did not seem to be affected by multiplier, nor were they in single player (though single player still keeps a running tab of your notes like GH3).

If you can streak very large streaks, this would perhaps be able to give you a lot of points, however notice that based on the difficulty of getting everybody playing perfectly for a long stretch, overall the bonus points might not be too significant. Note that in rock band for a solo bonus if you get perfect you are awarded 100 points per note, whereas in GHWT if you have two people streaking for 100 note combined streak you are only going to get roughly 10 points of bonus, and that is actually 5 points per note hit since to have a band streak of 100 you must have hit 200 total notes between you. If you are hitting notes under 4x combo, then these notes are going to be worth 200 (400 for chords) each, so the bonus is at best case 2.5%, unless as you get high you get a progressively higher bonus (this was not observed at least over several duo band streak bonuses over the range form 40 up to the low one hundreds). With three players its not really that much better, if you assume the rough estimate of 30 points per point of streak (and keeping in mind that you need to hit three notes to make the streak go up one), you see only a doubling of the note bonus to 10 points per note. Overall, it likely that the bonus points from these streaks will be nice to have, but pretty much dwarfed by the amount of points you will get form just a regular good run on a song and especially the extra points you can get by overlapping multiple SP in order to hunt down those 24x and 32x multipliers.

Rock Meters / Failing Mechanics

For single player, the rock meter behaves in the same way as previous games with Green, Yellow and Red sections, and the fretboard blinks red when you're near failing. In multiplayer it is far more complicated and difficult to follow while playing. The basic idea is that you've got individual rock meters for each instrument, and also a rock meter for the band as a whole. It's not possible for an instrument to fail by itself, and the entire band fails when the band meter drains to nothing.

For explanation purposes, consider each rock meters as a number which indicates the percent that the meter is filled, such that 0 represents empty, and 100 represents full. Based on our tests, it appears as if the band rock meter is nothing more than an average of each individual rock meter. The complicated catch is that each individual rock meter can drain beyond zero into the negative range without any signs of this happening on the screen. Once an instrument's rock meter drains to the point that no red is left in the bar, it's impossible to tell how far below 0 it is.

The tests involved three of us: two playing on Expert (Guitar and Drums) and one on Medium (Bass). To see how things worked, the Bass player did not play any notes for as long as possible before the band was in danger of failing. The individual Bass meter dropped to red and emptied long before the band was near failing. I would estimate about 50-100 notes went by after the Bass rock meter was already empty. Then Bass started playing notes again, and the band's rock meter started to rise, but the Bass meter still appeared empty for the next 50-100 notes before finally filling back up again. That seems to indicate that the game stored internal numbers for individual rock meters which can become negative and at the point we had almost failed, the Bass meter was approaching -200 bringing the average of the three down to zero: band_meter = average_of_individual_meters = (-200 + 100 + 100) / 3 = 0 = FAIL.

That was our take on how the rock meter and failing mechanics worked based on the results of our test, but other explanations are certainly possible.

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