Knowledge Stream about Knowledge Games

November 18, 2013, 20:00 lecture


On November 18th, the Digital October Center hosted a live link-up lecture with Nicholas Bonardi, lead sound designer for Ubisoft San Francisco, which, as we speak, is in the process of producing the next edition of Rocksmith, the inimitable ‘rock guitarist simulator.’

Using this innovation as an example, Nicholas showed how video games have the potential to become fundamental tools in the independent acquisition of useful life skills.

Two years ago, his team came out with a real innovation: unlike the immensely popular Guitar Hero series, which used push-button, model musical instruments, their development not only gave players the chance to feel as if they were on the stage with rock legends ranging from the Rolling Stones to Muse, but to play their parts on a real guitar.

The game had two unique features:

First of all, it taught people how to play music without memorization. Whereas before, fledgling guitarists had to memorize whole sequences of sheet music or tabs to recreate their favorite riff, melody, or solo for the first time, now they could start to play right away, even if it was only a little bit at a time. At first, the system would have the player pick out individual notes and chords throughout the course of the song, and then, once he got the hang of it, the system would increase the level of complexity.

Secondly, all you had to do to get started was to hook up your instrument to an Xbox or PlayStation. The guitar cable included with the installation disk would convert the instrument’s signal into a midi-format that the program could then read. In 2012, PC users got the chance to play Rocksmith on Windows.

Although Rock Band 3 (2010) could boast of supporting midi-use and offering partial instrumental lessons before Rocksmith, it was Bonardi and his colleagues who elevated the genre to a whole new level.

It’s no coincidence that Ubisoft was singled out by Gibson, the world-renowned electric guitar company – and that you’ll be able to buy an instrument from its daughter company, Epiphone, along with the third version of the simulator.

In addition, thanks to the simulated guitar amps and effects built into the game, users can learn to set up sound the way their idols do. Bondardi himself was responsible for perfecting the audio effects.

Nicholas has been working on Rocksmith since the project started. Specifically, he came to Ubisoft together with the technology that provided the basis for a new generation of simulators: the never-released game Guitar Rising, which he prepared from 2007-2009 in the bowels of GameTank, in the capacity of head designer and co-creator.


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