Interview with Activision’s Dan Amrich (Part 2)

Interview with Activision’s Dan Amrich (Part 2)

Recently I did an interview with Dan Amrich the Social Media Manager for Activision,here is the first part of the interview in case you missed it.

5. What do you think about the recently revealed Rock Band Pro-mode?

I am excited by RB3’s Pro modes. I’ve been a guitarist for 20 years, I sang opera as a kid and fronted a gigging band for five years, I can do some basic real-world drumming, and I am a lapsed keyboard player. So for me, having a MIDI keyboard in the house already, I’m eager to use that with the converter box and reconnect with whatever piano skills I may still have. For kids who are being exposed to music through games for the first time, using that game as a stepping stone to real musicianship is a great and logical opportunity — if you’re going to buy the kid a guitar, why not one that does double duty? But the investment in deluxe or real-world controllers is only half the battle — playing real music requires more effort than playing a game. A few years back a friend was inspired by GH to want to learn real guitar, so I loaned him one of mine, helped him pick songs he wanted to learn, and gave him some pointers. Two weeks later he gave it back and said his fingers hurt.

No game is going to be able to get over the student’s willingness to learn FOR REAL. But it’s a brilliant method for people who seriously will stick with it, and if it brings more people’s inner musicians out, then I’m all for it.

Even if that winds up being a small niche within RB3 owners, the game aspects of RB and GH will continue to be fun as the entertainment experiences they are, and I don’t think there’s any shame in that. I mean, everybody who plays Modern Warfare 2 does not necessarily want to enlist in the armed forces — sometimes, the fantasy is exactly what they are looking for.

6. With all consoles now adopting some form of motion control, what do you think is the next big thing?

I know Sony and Nintendo would like it to be 3D, but I have no interest in replacing my TV set until my existing 40″ screen dies for some reason. I think 3DS is an easier sell because it’s personal and affordable, compared to 3D TV-based gaming. But I’m hesitant to say it’s “the next thing.”

I think user customization is actually on the rise. Avatars were controversial to 360 gamers at first, but now people take pride in dressing them up. PS3 owners can deck out a customized apartment in Home. MMOs are all about making your character reflect your style and values in that virtual world. So I think we’re going to see more and more games finding new and novel ways to let the gamer invest their personal tastes and personality in them. I think identity is gaming’s killer app.

7. If you could invent any form of game accessory, what would it be and why?

Two years ago I would have said “just give me a quality arcade-style joystick at a reasonable price and I will shut up.” SFIV brought with it some serious hardware and I am now almost appeased. I trace my gaming roots back to the arcades, so I miss the games that had unique controls — the spinner knob of Tempest and Discs of Tron, the trackball of Marble Madness and Centipede. I really hope that, as we get more and more classic reissues on modern consoles, we get old-school, arcade-quality controllers to go with them. But if I invented this and brought it to market, I know I would also lose a lot of money.

8. Anything that you would like to plug?

I should plug because that’s my bread and butter right now. My podcast is not just Activision hype; it’s a rational discussion about games with an Activision focus. My co-hosts are my wife and a writer from Robot Chicken, so if you want to hear someone taking the piss out of me, they are both capable of that.

9. Any advice for people who want to start in the industry?

Which industry? If you want to make games, learn to program ASAP. Take those comp-sci classes and learn how machines talk. You will always be able to be of use. If you want to write about games, start writing now even if nobody but a friend or teacher sees it. It’s a skill and it has to be developed. More than anything, that handful of articles that you give to an editor when you ask for a job is what matters the most — what you can do, not where you did it.

10. Are there any plans for Palette Swap Ninja to appear as DLC in Guitar Hero?

Alas, no. Palette-Swap Ninja is a parody/cover band, and we do not have the rights to the song writing. We own our lyrics, and we own our recordings, but we pay a license to use the original song – the melody, the chord progression, all that stuff that falls under “song writing.” So we don’t have the legal right to put out PSwap in any other form. If one of the bands we cover finds it funny and wants to give us permission, that would be the greatest compliment in the world. Until then, we should have some things coming out later this year to keep the PSwap fires burning.

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