‘Guitar Hero: Metallica’ Designer Discusses Old Bassist, Dangerous Slayer Lyrics, More

We recently met with the lead designer of “Guitar Hero: Metallica,” and he told us what Slayer track didn’t make the cut, why Cliff Burton isn’t in it, what it was like to mo-cap Robert Trujillo’s braids and more.


I saw “Guitar Hero: Metallica” at a demo in New York earlier this month, and I just filed a story at MTVNews.com that explains the new details. However, lead designer Alan Flores also revealed a few extra tidbits that both Metallica and “Guitar Hero” fans would appreciate…

MTV Multiplayer: Is bassist Cliff Burton [who was killed in a tragic bus accident in 1986] in the game?

Alan Flores, lead designer: I think I can definitely say no. That was actually kind of sensitive thing with the guys in Metallica. We asked them about that and they never said no. They just went, “Ehhh.” They didn’t want to make [current bassist] Rob Trujillo feel like he wasn’t as important a part of the band as he is. So there’s no Cliff Burton in the game, but there’s Cliff Burton in spirit. You get to play his basslines. We talk about him in the Metalli-facts [trivia] as well.

MTV Multiplayer: How much mo-cap did the band come in and do?

Flores: They did a bunch. At first, they did six songs… and then James and Lars came back multiple times to do tons of stuff. It was really cool. And when we did the motion-capture stuff, we put motion capture on Robert’s braids. It was funny because we were sitting there in the motion-capture thing, and there’s four of us holding up his braids. Because, otherwise, they get all tangled up, you don’t know where the braid is on the motion-capture and you don’t know where you’re going to animate it to.

MTV Multiplayer: Did you have a hard time getting Slayer into the game because of their lyrics?

Flores: The Slayer story was interesting. We’ve had Slayer in [a “Guitar Hero” game] before. But now, you can sing their lyrics. It’s a totally different ball of wax. We had the song “Angel of Death” cleared. Anybody that knows Slayer knows that that song is not about, “Hey, it’s good to go out there and do these terrible things.” They did a song about a really bad guy and it’s obvious that they didn’t put any commentary into the song, but some people interpreted it the incorrect way.

And that controversy probably blew over 10, 15 years ago, right? Everybody knows that, but it’s going to show up in a video game and some parents might see it. We couldn’t get that song cleared, and we had to take it off. Which personally killed me because Slayer was my absolute favorite band when I was in high school. And Lars was like, “We have to get Slayer, we have to get Slayer, we have to get Slayer.”

Then we got “War Ensemble” cleared, but it’s after we’ve gone down the line and got all our songs done. Lars really wanted it in the game. I really wanted it in the game. But I didn’t want to be the guy who broke the bad news to everybody and says to the people on the team, “Hey, you know what? You all need to stay late and do extra work because Lars wants a song in the game.” But he was really adamant that it needed to be in the game.

So we sucked it up, we did the extra amount of effort to put the song into the game at the last minute. But it’s Slayer. It just makes the game so much better. That song puts the high-end difficulty in there; it’s harder than anything else in the game, and it’s even hard on bass. And you can imagine what it’s like on drums with double bass pedals. It’s insane. It took a lot of extra work on our part. In the end, I’m glad we did it, and I appreciate everybody that had to pull together to try and get it done.

MTV Multiplayer: Did any Metallica songs have to be re-recorded for the game?

Flores: No, nothing had to be re-recorded. Though there was one point where they couldn’t find the masters for Kill ’Em All. They were like, “Hey man, ask so-and-so in Copenhagen.” “No, I called him, he doesn’t have them.” “What about that guy in New York?” “No man, he doesn’t have ’em either.”

At first, we thought they were just telling us they couldn’t find them, but they really couldn’t find those tapes! But then they magically materialized. I don’t know whose basement they were in, but they actually found them and it was pretty cool.

Some bands are willing to go back into the studio and re-record songs [when they can’t find the masters]. And that really works well for some bands and doesn’t for others. I’m glad Metallica didn’t have to do that because they’ve changed so much over the years, like [James Hetfield’s] voice is much different. He had a much higher voice then. I think they would’ve done a great version, it just would’ve been different, and you want to capture that magic of them being like 17 years-old.

MTV Multiplayer: Metallica songs are generally hard to play. Did you do anything to scale the difficulty? The songs in “Guitar Hero: Aerosmith” seemed easier.

Flores: There was a lot of flack after “Guitar Hero 3” came out that things were too hard. We were accused of over-tracking and adding notes, and it’s funny people say that because they don’t really understand what over-tracking is. I’ll tell you: the note trackers don’t add notes. Those guys sit there with headphones on listening to those stems, plopping every single note down. They’re going into minute detail, but the average person might not hear every note in the game they’re tracking.

So we sort of stepped that back and tried to do just an easier ramp once we got to “Aerosmith.” And I think we did a better job of making the songs not be punishingly hard all of sudden. That’s the same philosophy we had for “World Tour” and now with “Metallica.” We wanted the difficulty to have a nice, smooth ramp and be accessible to easy players and to expert players. But that being said, I think the end point of expert is really hard in this game. Slayer, the last few Metallica songs are really hard for the expert players and even expert-plus.

MTV Multiplayer: Is the music creation the same as in “Guitar Hero: World Tour”?

Flores: It’s the same as “World Tour.” The only change that we made to it is we re-sampled the guitar and the bass. They weren’t that great last time, so we sampled the ESP Truckster model that James Hetfield plays and the bass that [Slayer’s] Tom Araya plays.

GHTunes works across both. So if you wrote something on GH Tunes in “World Tour” and you want to hear how it sounds with the Metallica samples, if you have the Metallica game, you can download the song and you’ll hear it there.

MTV Multiplayer: Is there any way to export songs from “World Tour” to “Metallica” or vice versa?

Flores: We didn’t do that. I’m sure [licensing] would be a part of it. We’d have to negotiate that, but that wasn’t something we were exploring. And then you get Metallica — part of it, they wanted it to be their band playing their songs.

MTV Multiplayer: Obviously some of these songs have appeared in other games or as DLC, but is there anything exclusive to this title?

Flores: I don’t really know that we have an exclusive deal other than Metallica appearing in our game. Maybe someone’s going to make another Metallica game right after this. [laughs] I think that would be unlikely, but you never know. There’s more songs to play.

MTV Multiplayer: Will this game come out with a bundle?

Flores: Right now this is slated to come out as a standalone. And you can buy the second bass pedal separately.

MTV Multiplayer: Are there any plans for Metallica-specific peripherals?

Flores: We’ll probably do faceplates. But Metallica drums and guitars are not the plan right now. Just decorative things.


“Guitar Hero: Metallica” will be in stores on March 29 as a standalone disc, with a second bass pedal sold separately. For more details, check out my story on MTVNews.com.

[James Hetfield photo by Joey Foley/FilmMagic, Tom Araya photo by Dave Etheridge-Barnes/Getty Images]

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