String Theory: Ubisoft Announce Rocksmith

By Quintin Smith on March 16th, 2011 at 12:56 pm.

I'd have called it ROCK ON, SMITH, but the compliment's still welcome.

So it turns out Ubisoft’s Rocksmith will be (1) coming to PC, (2) the first music game named after me personally and my remarkable reputation as a devil-may-care rock god, and (3) The first music game to work with real-life guitars. My feelings on this could be summarised succinctly, but I’ll spare you, just because I don’t think anybody wants to read the sentence “YES!” quite that many times. Details and first few trailers after the jump. Thanks to reader Lars “Teddible” Westergren for sending this in.

Look at this guy learning to play Slow Hands!

And here’s a girl learning to play When I’m With You by Best Coast!

And here’s a musician being a musician.

I’m hugely excited about this. But then I would be- I’m a massive amateur at guitar and this sounds like the most entertaining way to practice imaginable, not least because Ubisoft say that while the game has score-based elements, you can happily ignore them and simply improvise over the song, and simply use the game as video tablature.

But that’s just the start. Did you hear that bit in the third video about an amp mode? And this Rolling Stone article says that once you’ve properly ballsed up one section of a song, the game will offer a practice mode for that part specifically. Also, during career mode you’ll unlock guitars, amps, and effects pedals with dials.

Me? I’m excited. This is me being excited. Ubisoft say Rocksmith is hitting in Autumn this year, and I can’t wait.

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86 Comments »

  1. tomeoftom says:

    YES!

    • tomeoftom says:

      From my hugely limited knowledge, MIDI-ifying the lower strings on a real guitar (so you can run them through synths and whatnot) is usually unreliable, because with a low frequency there’s less wavefronts per second, and thus less chances for the software to find an even frequency to estimate a note from – so this seems like quite the technological achievement. DOPE.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      It’s true! And the finished game could still potentially feature a lot of smoke and mirrors. Fingers crossed, eh.

    • tomeoftom says:

      I am so keening out right no-OHMYGOD EVERYONE. DO NOT SCROLL PAST THIS TEXT.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JGiwGx6aQw

    • gorgol says:

      What about those of us with acoustic guitars? D: No play for us? :(

      EDIT: cool, you can play with a pickup!

    • Muzman says:

      Wow, everyone elses light show now officially sucks.

      (Safety note: Kids, in case you don’t know, that’s not lightning. So don’t get one like that and stand on a mountain or building in a storm or anything. Unless you’re planning on rocking that Nickelback song book you just bought. In which case, go right ahead)

    • adonf says:

      “MIDI-ifying the lower strings on a real guitar is usually unreliable”

      I think the problem is more that it takes a long time, like several 10th of a second. And it’s not a matter of CPU processing time but a problem of having enough information to detect the current note. So it’s not a practical solution if you want to control a sampler from your guitar.

      Here I guess they do two things with the signal from the guitar:
      1. amplify it and apply guitar effects to it
      2. analyse it to check if the correct note is being played

      It doesn’t really matter if part 2 is not immediate, you’ll get notified of errors maybe 1/2 second after they occur but if they have an error gauge or something that smooths your score then no one will notice it.

    • Starky says:

      Number 1 takes almost no CPU time whatsoever, seriously you can run full guitar amp/effect virtual rigs on an Iphone (see Amplitude iRig) – So that isn’t really an issue either.

  2. GeForceFX says:

    Wait wait. This is gonna be on PC? Oh man. I SO CANT WAIT!

  3. Novotny says:

    I can’t sort ASIO with a Xonar D2. I’d hate to try it with onboard. Will watch with interest though.

    • Starky says:

      I use ASIO on my onboard realtek (laptop) with no problem what so ever.

      Asio4all works flawlessly and easily – and I get 15ms with it no problem.

      Windows 7 audio stack is really quite good, and those companies that have taken the time to code properly for it (Cakewalk and Ableton only really) can achieve good results, using MME/DirectX on Ableton Live I can get down to 20ms input latency at 48000 kHz – could probably even push it lower and live with a rare sound artefact (pop or crackle) in live usage.

  4. Lars Westergren says:

    Wow, two links in one week posted to the front page. I’m on a roll.

  5. DanPryce says:

    So long as the tracks aren’t really torrents, I’m in.

  6. evilbobthebob says:

    Rock Band 3 has kinda got here first with its Pro Mode…but that’s on the console toys so we can’t mention it.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      True, but my understanding is it requires a special (and rather expensive) guitar which apart from the strings has 150 plastic buttons on the neck underneath the strings, one for each note. With Rocksmith, I could borrow a guitar from one of my friends with failed rock star dreams. In fact, I’m planning to do so.
      :)

      Though Rock Band had the keyboard too, that’s an advantage.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      Rock Band 3′s pro mode still sees you pressing buttons instead of fretting strings.

      Unless, that is, you buy the Fender Squier guitar for $280 plus $40 midi adapter! Don’t think it’s available outside of America, either, so you can add shipping to that.

    • The_B says:

      Just as I’m an awful pedant Quinns: I’ve been looking into the Squier’s availability in the UK myself and though I’ve been met with only stony silence from Fender themselves, apparently it seems that some Guitar shops are getting them over here by the end of April.

      I believe it’s Fender themselves, rather than any games related company, distributing them, so I’m going to assume that if people ask their local music shop emporishopping establishment they may be able to see about getting them direct from Fender as they do any other guitar. But as you say, you still need the £34.99 MIDI thingymabob before you can use it mind.

    • hexapodium says:

      If the Squier is just a MIDI-output guitar, there are conversion kits floating around for normal guitars and basses as well (Bill Bailey uses one as a guitar synth for the Hillbilly Zeppelin bit of one of his old shows), but nothing as low-priced as the Rock Band one. It’s actually an attractive option for non-gamer guitarists who want a controller on the cheap.

    • Nick says:

      You can just stick a midi pickup on any guitar without much effort, yeah. Although I think the special strats fretboard can light up.. unless I’m remembering it wrong.

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      @Quintin Smith & The_B:

      Fender’s Squier brand guitars have been available in the UK for yonks. A friend of mind at Uni had a Squier Telecaster, a really gorgeous one at that too.

      http://www.dolphinmusic.co.uk/brand/squier-by-fender/

      Fender’s Squier range aren’t cheap, but they’re certainly far less expensive than a standard Fender strat or telecaster. And a damned sight less expensive than a Gretsch.

      Hope that helps, apologies if I’ve misunderstood the discussion ‘cos I read it in a bit of a hurry!

      Unfortunately I never had the coordination to be able to play blistering guitar solos, and so took up programming music instead. It’s one of the beautiful things about having a PC: you can write and mix music, create artworks, websites, program it, even play games on the thing.

  7. Scythe says:

    My enthusiasm is tempered by the fact that it would be nearly impossible to accurately pick up chords via a single audio channel out of a guitar. Many chords don’t require precise fingering to sound good, but it’s exceedingly difficult for a computer to work out what “sound good” means without it making sweeping assumptions. These videos showed single notes being played in a progression. A bit naff.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      I’m fine with a database of animated tablature, plus a more accurate rhythm-action learning tool for solos.

    • Scythe says:

      Odds are good that the price and selection of the songs will turn me off this application. There are plenty of free tab sites out there.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Yeah what would be need for this to be actually ace would be an itunes-store sized repository of songs to choose, and for a sensible price, not £2.50 as they were for Guitar Hero on the Wii. You’d need some clever software to essentially auto-generate the tablature, but that can’t be harder than getting a console to make sense of an analogy guitar signal.

      The idea of have a selection of corporate radio rock to play is not that compelling.

    • JFS says:

      They really just play single notes… Ubisoft had better call this “Rocksmith: Bass Bastards”, but then again, real bass players don’t only play single notes all the time. Not even them.

    • Nick says:

      “I’m fine with a database of animated tablature, plus a more accurate rhythm-action learning tool for solos.”

      May I suggest guitar pro or the freeware but still decent powertab? Or, if you can find it, Littlebigstar. With Guitar Pro at least you can loop and slow down whatever sections of a tab you want (as much as you want) as well as set them to speed up every time the loop has played once.. plus the net is full of guitar pro/powertab tabs for free.

  8. AWS260 says:

    Power Gig for consoles uses a real guitar as the controller. It is apparently terrible.

  9. Talorc says:

    This a very expensive troll of Bobby Kotick after cancelling those other plastic mantoy games. Thumbs up Ubisoft!

  10. Mr Fossy says:

    Sounds cool! A version for electric bass would be tops, they could do all sorts of cool stuff with improvised jazz basslines.

    Where does the instrument lead go on the pc/xbox, though? Is it a sort of USB external sound card?

  11. skyturnedred says:

    Judged by all three videos it looks like you just pick one string at a time, all the time? That’s not how you rock, you need POWER CHORDS!!

    • Zenicetus says:

      Just guessing here, but I doubt it can do power chords. Or any chords; just single note lines. I’ve dabbled with Midi and hex pickup guitars for years (currently using guitars with RMC pickups and Axon AX100 Midi conversion). You still need individual pickups on each string, and six signals coming out of the guitar, to do pitch-to-digital conversion where chords work. The technology isn’t quite here yet, to smoothly separate stacked notes from a monophonic audio signal.

      So, this looks very limited. On the other hand, it could be a decent trainer to get things like pentatonic scales under your fingers. Once you have that, you can ditch the thing and move on with more traditional guitar instruction, or just using your ears.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      The technology isn’t quite here yet, to smoothly separate stacked notes from a monophonic audio signal.

      On the contrary! Direct Note Access does exactly that and more. It’s a somewhat simpler, hopefully-not-patented problem if you’re just trying to detect notes in a chord rather than modify them.

      Whether or not an Xbox 360 has enough horsepower to do it in real-time is another question.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Right, I’m familiar with Melodyne. However, that and similar software like Chordino are aimed at detecting notes in pre-recorded material, as far as I know. I don’t think they operate fast enough for real-time use while you’re playing. If they can do this now, it’s VERY interesting.

      If they can’t do that yet, then we’re still stuck with hex pickups for “chord recognition,” using something like a Roland guitar synth, or Axon Midi converter where the latency is low enough not to screw up your playing. it doesn’t take much latency before it starts to feel like you’re a little disconnected from your touch on the strings.

  12. Miresnare says:

    I wonder if this is what happened to “Guitar Rising”?

    http://www.guitarrising.com/

  13. edit says:

    Finally! This is what guitar hero should have been all about… Actually learning to play the guitar.
    Personally, I’m a musician but I’ve barely touched guitars despite having some interest.. If this hits steam (c’mon! PC gamers are getting screwed out of many releases lately… looking at you Double Fine) and has at least a couple of tracks I like I’ll grab it for sure. I’ve been looking for an excuse to practice, but it’s hard to find time between learning to code, creating music apps, trying to launch a band, making ends meet, learning Japanese, yada yada. I always somehow find time to relax and hit up some games though. Games which educate (and aren’t crap) FTW.

  14. Lilliput King says:

    Snoop Doggy Dog esquire actually uses guitars?

  15. MeestaNob says:

    This will probably be full of pirated music.

  16. Dodoman says:

    Is this only for guitars? What about bass guitars? I really want to learn the bass and if this offers tablatures for it as well I’m definitely picking it up (along with a bass).

  17. kyrieee says:

    There are already programs with play-along tablature. I don’t like the idea of a game telling you whether or not you hit the right note, it’s like a tuner but much worse. Playing instruments is as much about listening as it is dexterity. At least this one might let you hear your guitar, unlike rockband which just plays pre-recorded notes (which is utterly useless).

    I just think that if you want to learn then do it properly. There isn’t a magic shortcut.

  18. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    That’s an expensive peripheral.

    • Carra says:

      Depends on what guitar you buy. Plus you can just go outside and play with your guitar.

    • Nick says:

      You can get a not very good guitar for around £60, which isn’t a huge amount, twice that can get you an excellent one.

    • Starky says:

      Ten times that you can buy an amazing one, that if you look after will still be worth 400 or more in 10 years time.

      If you get lucky it may actually be worth more than you paid for it.

  19. tanith says:

    Looks interesting. Might look into it.

    What bothered me is that this game may lack in the teaching aspect.
    From what it looks like none of these guys knows what alternate picking is. :|

  20. ShaunCG says:

    Potentially very rad indeed. And I am happy that one of the three vids you’ve embedded is of a Best Coast song!

  21. Saul says:

    Yeah! This could get me back into guitar. There is even an electric lying around at my parents’ place.

  22. Hoaxfish says:

    Now they need to combine it with DRM.

  23. Eddusty says:

    Anyone know what level you need to be to play for the Black Eyed Peas?

  24. Nick says:

    Wii sports.

  25. bascule42 says:

    This sounds amazing. No, astounding. No absolutely fucking \m/. A few questions though. What kind of interface will we need to use the PC version. Are we talking plugging into the sound card? Or would, for example a Line 6 Pod xxxx be compatable? I’m sure anyone who has tried to record guitar work on a PC knows, latency is the BIG issue. If they can sort that out this would be great littel toy for players. I can’t really call it a game, it seems like a graphical practice tool. And on that point, are we restricted to the songs that come with it? Will it be able to import MP3′s for example? That would be the selling point for me.

    But hey, at last, something that might get kids begging parents for a guitar instead of a plastic piece of junk with brightly coloured buttons on it.

  26. Fumarole says:

    Is playing shooters with real guns next? I don’t think my monitor can take much more of that.

  27. Krimson says:

    Actually, there’s a piece of software called Offbeat Guitarist that already does all of this. It’s currently in beta, but it’s also free* to download.

    I’ve not played it yet, as I don’t have a guitar to USB cable, but it looks like you can also import normal tabs and your music library into it, so you’re not limited to the songs that the developers say you can play.

    Anyway, it looks pretty cool. I’m planning to buy a guitar to USB cable and check it out.

    Here’s a link: http://JamOrigin.com

    *Technically, you have to register in the forums, but that’s not too big a hurdle.

  28. Navagon says:

    An interesting concept. Your guitar has to be permanently connected to the internet in order for you to be able to play it.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Also you have to link your guitar to a unique online account. And they can take away access to you guitar if you spam their message boards.

    • Navagon says:

      If you happen to slag Ubisoft off while spamming their message boards then it should be noted that your guitar will continuously play country and western songs non stop for 72hrs*.

      *So long as you remain permanently connected to the Ubiservers. If connection is lost then your punishment will be discontinued.

      Sounds a bit like playing Hawx 2…

    • bascule42 says:

      A small mercy the Ubi are not Evil then eh?

  29. Eukatheude says:

    I don’t like this. When i want to play GH/RB/FoF/whatnot, i play them. When i want to strum on my bass, i strum on my bass.
    Besides, lots of people are learning to play using only tablatures, and believe me it’s an awful method to learn, a total waste of time. I know better, i think i’ve spent around five years playing like that. And this looks like an even tougher simplification.
    Meh. Why can’t they keep the two things separate?

  30. MessyPenguin says:

    I want this… That is all

  31. satsui says:

    I’ve wanted a game like this for a long time. I hope it offers something will challenge me like Arch Enemy or something. I’ve been playing guitar (seriously) for a year and I have a lot to learn, but these examples make it seem too easy.

  32. Pantsman says:

    Learning to play Guitar is something I’ve been meaning to do once I graduate from Uni and have more spare time. This might be a great way to start. I wonder if it will work on its own, or function better as a complement to traditional instruction and practice.

  33. Crescend says:

    Oh god, that makes me want to buy an electric guitar so bad.. Those things ain’t cheap :/

    • Krimson says:

      Actually, a decent entry level electric guitar complete with amp and straps may only cost £80. That still isn’t cheap, per say, but it’s still pretty good.

    • Nick says:

      can also check charity shops/cash converters/pawn shops for a cheap one.

    • Eukatheude says:

      I advise to avoid starter packs, they usually have really really bad guitars and amps. For the same price you can buy both separately and have a much better quality.

  34. freepower says:

    I think this game is trying to simulate an experience where the video game is irrelevant. Strikes me as pretty awkward to be honest.

    All the features they’re talking about can be accessed for free with the slightest effort. If you have a guitar -

    Tabs are everywhere online and pretty good nowadays.
    Play-along with midi versions with Tuxguitar (open source tab program)
    And as for getting to play along with the actual song… just play it off the CD and play along. Hell, just use youtube or spotify and you don’t even have to buy the CD.

    What am I paying for except for a screen with flashing lights exactly? :S

    Anyway, as a guitar tutor, anything that gets people playing in time and learning their first few riffs is cool. Although it sounds as if MIDI latency and chord detection will mean I’ll have to re-teach it all. :(

  35. Anton says:

    Will this really be released to the PC? The videos and the main site is saying otherwise. I don’t see a “PC” symbol.

    I really hope this will be on PC. It has been my dream to learn but I keep putting it off. This will surely get me to learn. I do see some problems with latency, so I kinda also hope they will provide an external sound card (ASIO) solution to coincide with the PC release. I won’t mind the extra money for the interface.

  36. Lajcik says:

    The only problem I have with this are the trailers themselves. They’re pure marketing babble – trying to tap the viewers emotions and desire to be guitarist – but don’t show how the software works at all. It’s all about “Hey I learned a song in 3 days” or “Hey I played for snoop dogg and i totally dig this shit”. I’m more interested if it’ll tell me how to hold the instrument and the strings right, teach me some basics, etc. RB3 seems to deliver in this regard (tho us europeans have to wait for the squier 6 more weeks T_T) Now, i’m not saying rocksmith will suck, it might not – but I’ll refrain from exciting myself unconscious for now.

  37. dogsolitude_uk says:

    Wow, I would have loved this years ago, when I was learning to play the guitar. I’ve still got my guitars, but I doubt I’ll be playing Comfortably Numb any time soon.

    It would be cool if they did something similar for MIDI keyboards, perhaps starting with Gary Numan and maybe with Bach as a musical-equivalent-of-an-end-of-level-Boss-guy.

    …And if you could put VST effects in it, like delay, chorus, flanger etc… :)

    Will Ubisoft be uploading the music we make to use as a soundtrack in their next game?

  38. skalpadda says:

    Having tried Guitar Hero once and being appalled at how far removed it was from playing a real instrument, this at least looks interesting. If you want to learn to play an instrument though, I’m pretty sure that paying for some lessons with an actual teacher would be a better investment and give you the basics you need to keep learning on your own. Looking at the videos neither the first guy nor the girl knows how to hold a pick and their left hand technique is pretty bad, both things that you’ll want to (and can) learn as soon as possible.

    Potentially a fun toy, but with the risk of just being a way to learn reading guitar tablatures a vista, and unless the tech is a lot cleverer than it looks it won’t be able to do harmony well and I’m not sure it can teach you what actually sounds good or not. There’s a lot more to music than hitting the right note at the right time. Marketing it as a learning tool rather than just entertainment might be a bit dodgy.

  39. enderwiggum says:

    Ubisoft, Please stop.

    I thought that it couldn’t get any worse than “guitar shaped game controllers”. I was wrong.

    And lo, the video game guitarists of the world did become legion, and they did make a lot of racket, with wal-mart guitars played through crappy speakers.

    This will end badly.

  40. vexis58 says:

    I’ve been waiting for things like this to appear for a long time. Teaching actual skills through the medium of rhythm games, rather than skills that are only useful in that game. I played DDR back in the day because it was good exercise, but I skipped the whole Guitar Hero thing because I didn’t really see the point in learning how to play a fake guitar.

    Though not having any interest in learning the guitar, I’m still waiting for someone to make a version for keyboard. Though these things could exist already; I don’t tend to search for them all that often.

  41. bill says:

    Anyone remember a REALLY old pc music game/software that came with a special pick? You could pick anything with it and it registered the strokes. Kind of like n ancient compact guitar hero with no guitar.

  42. adonf says:

    FREE BIRD !!!!

  43. wonkavision says:

    I hope this comes with the ability to add your own songs, or at least is moddable enough that someone will hack together a way to do it. This looks like a fun way to teach yourself ridiculous songs through rote practice without having to learn guitar that well.

    Anybody remember the piano overlay for the Commodore 64 keyboard? I don’t see why those aren’t still available today. Everybody’s got a keyboard; add $10 worth of plastic and you have a MIDI piano.

  44. Ragnar says:

    This sounds great, I hope it can deliver. Rock Band 3 had the Squire controller you could buy for it, but that guitar is seriously compromised as a guitar. Plastic fretboard, terrible tuners that are both hard to turn and don’t stay in tune, and sounds bad through an amp. For the $280 ($320 w/ midi adapter?) price of the RB3 Squire, you could buy Rocksmith and a much better real guitar. For those of us with a guitar already, it’s a reason not to drop the money on the RB3 one. Let’s hope the game turns out good.

  45. OzLefty says:

    “The first music game to work with real-life guitars.”

    There’s already one on iPhone that works with a real guitar through your headphones called RockProdigy.

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