Did you hear that? That was the sound of an embargo expiring. That means I can tell you every damn thing I know about Green Day: Rock Band. Now, you already know the full set list details from the story that ran on Friday. But of course there’s a lot more to the game than that…and I’m sure you’re just as curious about some of the set list details as I was when I first saw it.
THE SET LIST
First of all, although I said Dookie was on the disc “from start to finish,” that wasn’t quite accurate. In point of fact, “All By Myself,” the goofy hidden track at the end of “F.O.D.,” won’t be included.
But of course, the bigger deal is the fact that we don’t get anything before that breakout album. While visiting Harmonix during PAX, I asked project lead Chris Foster about the omission. “That’s just access to [master recordings],” he said. “We wanted to get something from 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours and something from Kerplunk!, but we just couldn’t get those. And we didn’t want to do live versions. We decided the studio stuff was what was important.” I pushed him a little about it — lookit me, I’m a journalist! — and he said, “That’s all I can really say about it. Basically it was just access to masters. I think the multi-tracks were just different in that era; I have no idea what it was even recorded on.”
Now, it’s conceivable that this comes as a result of some legal wrangling between Green Day and Lookout! Records, who originally released the band’s early stuff. But as far as I (and Wikipedia) know, that was resolved a couple years ago, with the albums having been re-released on the band’s current label. Whatever the reason, I’m pretty seriously bummed not to be able to play “Christie Road,” “One for the Razorbacks,” or “80.”
Of course, when I thought about it a little more, my thoughts immediately turned to DLC possibilities. But no dice, says Foster. “We decided we were going to make DLC just about finishing 21st Century Breakdown, using the DLC that was already out,” he told me. “That created a great three-album game, and also let us give each of those [six DLC tracks] unique assets, more than we could easily pack into a DLC pack. It also let us build spaces in the ‘meta-game,’ have collectible photos and prize videos specifically tied to it.” So, just to be perfectly clear: No hope for Kerplunk! then? “Kerplunk! would not show up in this game,” Foster said. “Like I was saying before, we didn’t have access to masters — so you never say never, but the game is sort of sealed off.”
The inclusion of three mostly-complete albums means the game is pretty naturally divided up into three main segments, each one highlighting a specific album and time in the band’s career.
Starting things off is “The Warehouse,” a fictional venue designed to capture the feel of the band’s early days playing in basements and small clubs like the legendary 924 Gilman Street. This is where you’ll be playing Dookie…which is why you’re not actually playing at Gilman Street.
“We considered Gilman Street,” Foster said, “but because you’d be playing Dookie — they were sort of exiled because they’d been signed to a major label at that point, so we didn’t even want to go there. It wouldn’t make sense. So we created this other place that’s sort of spiritually aligned with that whole time.”
Next up is the Milton Keynes National Bowl, site of the live American Idiot performances seen and heard on the Bullet in a Bible album and DVD (and site of all the screenshots released up until now). That’s where you’ll be playing American Idiot, naturally, as well as the songs from Insomniac, Nimrod, and Warning.
Finally, we have the Fox Theater in Oakland, California, one of the places Green Day debuted 21st Century Breakdown in its entirety. Guess what you’ll be playing there? As a special added bonus, this venue features actual video assets the band used in their show, projected on a skyline-shaped backdrop.
Foster also commented on some of the venues not chosen for use in the game. “For Dookie, we talked about a bunch of different options,” he said. “We considered Woodstock [’94] — that was one that was high up on our list — but daytime venues are much harder to pull off convincingly in these engines; they don’t look as good, which is why you always see things at dusk or night, or an interior. So that took that one off the table. We considered the Hatch Shell in Boston, where there was a riot when they played in ’94, but only people in Boston know what the Hatch Shell is, and there was a riot. So it wasn’t the best karma to use that. And then we considered Madison Square Garden, where Billie Joe played a song naked. But as appealing as that was, that’s not an interesting place to play.”
Green Day: Rock Band is built on the technology of The Beatles: Rock Band, so it’s no surprise that the game includes a ton of archival material for unlocking — over 100 photos and images, and over 40 minutes of video. But the structure isn’t identical; here you can start wherever you want in the band’s career.
“Each ‘tour’ is kind of its own progression of set-list-type chapters,” Foster said. “You can jump to whichever album you’re most interested in, whichever tour. You can start on any one of those, and as you play we do the same sort of thing we did in Beatles, where as you beat songs and master songs and play the challenges, you’re unlocking collectibles and prizes.”
As popular as The Beatles were, though, they rose to popularity in an age before the kind of ubiquitous media penetration we have today. So for Green Day, the designers got access to absurd amounts of archival material. “We went to Warner Bros. Records for their archives and all the photos they had,” said Foster. “They pulled out full sets of contact sheets and slides; we found stuff that we thought was pretty cool, and rare. Got a Mild Blood rating in the ESRB based on one of them! There’s one staged like a crime scene, which apparently the band thinks is hilarious.”
Video access was even better. “[Working with] a band that came up in the era of MTV is huge for us. Because MTV literally gave us — ‘Here’s 20 hours of footage we have of Green Day! Raw, unreviewed footage, like full concerts we haven’t rebroadcast in years! Whaddya think?’ And we just went and grabbed the best bits. We have some outtakes from when they were on 120 Minutes and they hadn’t slept in two days and just went off the rails at one point. We have their first interview in the Bookmobile (which makes a cameo in our first venue), where they were just incredibly young. There’s a song that they played in sound check for one of their concerts in ’94 that hadn’t even been recorded yet. It’s a really rich collection of material.”
I’ll be putting up a post in a bit featuring my Q&A with Chris Foster in its entirety, and you’ll be able to find a few more details about the game there. [EDIT: By which I mean here.] But I wanted to mention just a couple other things that I don’t think were widely known before today: First, the game features an introductory cinematic created by MK12, the folks who did the venue intros in The Beatles: Rock Band. The intro is short but packs in a ton of references to the band’s career, delivered in a style similar to that seen in The Beatles — with much more of a punk edge, naturally.
And second, it doesn’t look like you Wii owners will be able to export Green Day tracks to your Rock Band and Rock Band 2. A press release from Harmonix says this:
“The full track list will be fully exportable, giving players the opportunity to play the songs in Rock Band™ and Rock Band 2™ on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 system, as well as Rock Band 3™ coming this holiday.”
But don’t lose all hope, Wii fans. Note the syntax there: Harmonix seems to be implying that you’ll be able to export to Rock Band 3 — or at least leaving the possibility open.
Now, keep an eye out for that Q&A in just a bit. In the meantime, got any questions about the game you haven’t seen answered here? Let me know in comments and I’ll do my best to answer.