As one of the most recognizable bands on the planet, the Beatles aren’t easily replicated. But for “The Beatles: Rock Band,” the game developers at Harmonix needed to create digital versions of the Fab Four that could accurately capture the charm and spirit of the group. MTV News spoke with Josh Randall, the creative director behind the game, to understand the challenges of making video game counterparts of John, Paul, George and Ringo.
According to Randall, the challenge was clear from the outset. “We were charged with re-creating four of the most famous people in the world, and everyone knows how they look and how they move and how their hair moves. So there was a lot of back-and-forth between us and Apple and the shareholders [Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison] on sort of getting the look right and getting the motions right and figuring out how we can give unique personality to each one of the four guys.”
Yoko Ono was particularly helpful when working with the 3-D model of John Lennon. “At the time, our version of John was really not there yet,” Randall explained. “We were suffering because of it. We were trying to figure out what we were missing and, sitting with Yoko, she was like, ‘He was such a strong personality. You need to capture his essence, his spirit.’ ”
From there the developers went back to the original footage of the Beatles performing at Shea Stadium. Their in-game model of John looked hunched-over and shy during that performance, but in real life he was apparently much more active. Describing the video, Randall said it was obvious — it just took Ono to point it out. “John is there in front of 50,000 people and he is rocking their faces off. He’s, like, totally confident, his head is tilted back, he has this awesome rock attitude. And I was like, ‘Oh, I get it. This guy needs to look like a hero.’ ”
It wasn’t just Lennon that needed work, though. “Late in the project I was looking at all of our 3-D Beatles up onscreen and I was thinking, ‘These guys look good, but they’re not the Beatles.’ So I went back to all the original footage that we’d been studying for a year and a half to see what was missing. And I realized when these guys play, there’s so much joy that comes out of them. They all have these unique things that they do.”
From there the developers looked closer at each member to see what sort of quirks they could capture. “For instance, John doesn’t really look into the camera. He’s just straight-ahead rocking. But Paul, he looks into the camera a lot. He addresses the audience a lot and has this connection with people when he plays. George kinda acts shy, but every once in a while he’ll look into the camera and smile and it’s really charming — and same thing with Ringo. So we tried to take our cue from that stuff and inject it into the game. I think once we did that we got a lot more personality coming through.”
For more information on “The Beatles: Rock Band,” check out Multiplayer.MTV.com.