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SingStar PS3 UK Interview

It might have a slightly heftier price tag than any of us would necessarily like but, in other ways, Sony's determined to make sure the PlayStation 3 is going for a song. Specifically, with the impending arrival of the next-gen version of SCEE's hugely popular karaoke franchise SingStar.

As the SingStar team readies the game for release later this year, IGN caught up with SingStar's senior producer Paulina Bozek to peel back the curtain of secrecy that's shrouded the title up to this point.

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JIN KAZAMA3749d ago

the interview on this site please. i'd like to know more about this game. I cant view that page at work.

Ray J3749d ago

SingStar PS3 UK Interview
Paulina Bozek, executive producer on SCEE's massive karaoke series steps up to the mic.
by Matt Wales, IGN UK

UK, January 23, 2007 - It might have a slightly heftier price tag than any of us would necessarily like but, in other ways, Sony's determined to make sure the PlayStation 3 is going for a song. Specifically, with the impending arrival of the next-gen version of SCEE's hugely popular karaoke franchise SingStar. While the game is still finding its feet in the US, Europe has already enjoyed a wealth of content expansions ranging from axe-wielding hair-whippers in SingStar Rocks! to glitter-tossing anthems so camp, even Graham Norton would blush.

Now though, with plenty to prove in the online stakes, Sony is poised to push its new PlayStation Network into the very heart of SingStar PS3, with an ever-expanding selection of downloadable tracks available from the SingStore, guaranteeing a constant stream of fresh content for karaoke afficiandos. What's more, SingStar PS3 also boasts the My SingStar community service, enabling users to upload and share their personal warbling highlights, both in audio and visual form.

As the SingStar team readies the game for release later this year, we caught up with SingStar's senior producer Paulina Bozek to peel back the curtain of secrecy that's shrouded the title up to this point. What's more, you can also follow the team's progress on SingStar PS3 over at IGN's brand new official SingStar PS3 blog.

IGN: Despite massive success in Europe, SingStar has yet to find a significant following in the US. What do you attribute this to, both in terms of the games market and gamers in general, and how do you hope SingStar PS3 will rectify this?

Paulina Bozek: SingStar has just as much potential for success and audience attraction in the US as it does in Europe. The gameplay and experience is universal: we've seen it appeal to everyone from young kids to cool kids, to college kids and parents, all across Europe and Australia. We've been enjoying SingStar for a little longer here in Europe, since 2004, and we're expecting the interest and momentum to build over time in the US as it did in Europe. It's not your typical kind of videogame - it's simple and social and mainstream and really needs to be played to experience its full potential.

Since the US release, in November 2006, SingStar Rocks! has already done really well. Building a fan base in the US is a new challenge for us and we're excited for audiences to hear about it, try it and hopefully love it!

IGN: Much has been made of Nintendo's commitment to 'non-gamers' with the DS and Wii. However, SingStar has been targeting this audience since its inception. How important do you think this sector really is to a company like Sony and what's the key to creating a game which can successfully appeal to a massive, perhaps non-traditional, audience?

Paulina Bozek: It's hugely important. Engaging the non-gamer audience has many positive points. For one, it opens up the gaming landscape, new gameplay and experiences are created, which adds variety and diversity to what we know as gaming. It gives us game developers new ideas for creativity. Then there is the obvious economic advantage of expanding the audience base. Making games an entertainment option for mainstream audiences adds to the growth potential of our industry. SingStar has been a huge success with non-gamers and it's something we're going to continue exploring.

In terms of what is key to appeal to a massive, non-traditional audience - I would say there are several things that help - make sure your core theme is something that the audience can relate to and understand. Creating a social experience that can be shared taps into natural socializing dynamics such as hanging out with friends, parties, events, family gatherings and so on. And creating gameplay that is simple and quick to engage draws people in quickly. Mainstream audiences have pre-conceptions about video games, they think they are complicated, will take up a lot of your time and are not fulfilling in any significant way - challenge those assumptions and surprise them!

IGN: What are the most significant gameplay and technology improvements we can expect from SingStar PS3? How has the PS3's increased power helped to refine the existing SingStar voice recognition engine?

Paulina Bozek: The key technology improvements for SingStar on PlayStation 3 is the addition of the SingStore™ and My SingStar™ Online. The SingStore will enable players to create their own SingStar play-list by downloading the songs of their choice. My SingStar Online is a community platform that will enable players to share their best, funniest and most memorable moments with friends. It's a little bit like iTunes meets MySpace.

For SingStar on PlayStation 3 we really wanted to focus on two main elements - choice and customisation, as we feel these two fundamental themes really enhance the SingStar experience. Whenever a new SingStar disc is released, everybody always comments on the song list and has their own ideas of what songs they would pick, so we are going to give audiences what they really want - a choice in the song list for the first time! The gameplay will be the same simple and social gameplay that everybody knows and loves with SingStar. Although we've got ideas and plans to start delivering something new there too.

As for the pitch detection system, this is already very accurate. We've actually deliberately made Easy quite forgiving but if you try it on Hard you will see the detection system at its most accurate. At the moment, the detection system measures you on your pitch and timing. We could potentially include word recognition, but this would actually make the game extremely hard, therefore we prefer to stick to pitch and timing for singing. However, we are working on our rap feature and will be enhancing this in the future.

IGN: We already know that online functionality plays a major part in SingStar PlayStation 3 in terms of delivering content. That being the case, how will the game likely be distributed and how important is it to deliver a disc version that ships with a core selection of music?

Paulina Bozek: Online is a natural step for SingStar - it makes sense to deliver music this way as this is how more and more people are accessing their music. Plus it's available at any time, so next time you're with friends and somebody asks "Do they have that song?" or "Remember that song…", you can simply download it and have it as part of your SingStar collection.

We are very excited about the SingStore and delivering content digitally, but we will still be distributing a disc version. We do recognize that not everybody will be online right away so we want the normal disc experience to still be enjoyable. And in order to reach the most amount of people with the SingStar PlayStation 3 launch release, we still believe we need to distribute on disc, through shops and so on. In terms of the song selection for this launch disc, we're still going to deliver the best compilation we can, but we hope that users will start using the SingStore to customize their collection.

IGN: What are your plans for downloadable music tracks at present? Will the song roster be limited to tracks licensed for previous SingStar releases? How will the track database grow over time and how will new songs be selected?

Paulina Bozek: We are going to launch the SingStore with the SingStar back-catalogue and new songs that have never appeared in the series. We'll be launching with 350 songs and this will certainly grow over time. Initially we'll be updating the store monthly and will update more frequently after the first couple months. The song selection is going to be broad. We want to host a wide variety of songs from the latest chart hits to classics. You'll be able to get your Bob Dylan and your Beyonce.

IGN: If SingStar PlayStation 3 becomes popular enough, how likely is it that third-parties will be able to license SingStar technology, having full autonomy to release their own additions to the SingStar library? What possibilities have you considered as far as enabling users to upload and share their own self-created musical content for public consumption - similar to sites like MySpace?

Paulina Bozek: Licensing the technology to third parties is not something we are considering at this stage. My SingStar Online is going to be a platform for users to upload and share their audio and video performances. We are going to build all kinds of community features, but ultimately, we think it will be the creativity of the users that will really make it take off. And if there was somebody really good contributing to My SingStar Online, we'd definitely want to hear what their original recordings might be like. We're launching the platform with a suite of features but have plans to enhance and expand this over time.

IGN: What sort of payment models are in place for downloadable music content in SingStar PlayStation 3? How difficult is it to hit the 'sweet spot' when establishing a pricing system and what price points are you currently looking at for downloadable content?

Paulina Bozek: At launch, you'll be able to purchase individual songs, as well as song compilations. The SingStore will be linked to the PlayStation Network and the store itself will be fully integrated into the game, so you don't have to leave the game to buy new songs or just browse. I can't disclose the price points just yet, but we have been doing a lot of research and analysis to find that 'sweet spot.'

IGN: At E3, much was made of the video-based community features in the PlayStation 3 version of SingStar. How does this work in its present form and how do you hope to expand the community features of the game further down the line?

Paulina Bozek: My SingStar Online is also fully integrated into the game. While you are playing SingStar, you can capture video and audio recordings as well as photos and upload them to your space on My SingStar Online. You can create your profile, link to your friends' spaces, rate videos, check out the highest rated videos and most recent uploads. All of these features will be available at launch and My SingStar will continue to evolve and expand over time. We're already working on new features that will go live shortly after launch.

It is a platform for sharing with friends and also with the world. Just looking at the popularity of shows like American Idol and the craze of lip-synch videos online, singing contests and performances are timeless - and putting it online is like hosting the 21st century Talent Show! It's an exciting space to design for and we're expecting that the users will inspire new ideas as much as we will. We do think it is important to keep the community platform active and have a long-term plan to do that.

IGN: In terms of multiplayer, will the number of simultaneous warblers still be capped at two in face-to-face scenarios? What plans are in place to allow for competitive and co-operatively wailing online and how many participants can participate at the same time?

Paulina Bozek: At the moment, it is still all about two people battling it out on the mic. Online singing contests and competitions is something we're really excited about - stay tuned...

IGN: After the original SingStar's release, follow-up games have been themed around a particular genre. What are the challenges of collating a successful song roster and how do you envisage the PS3's potentially unrestricted track listing either helping or hindering this process?

Paulina Bozek: Some people might think it is super easy to compile a SingStar playlist, as if we just pick our favourite songs! But, in fact, there is a lot of research, evaluation and balancing that goes into it. First of all we start with the target audience and genre for that particular release. Then we build an extensive list of all songs that fit the audience/genre brief. We often start with a list of two hundred or more. We then test every song according to a set of criteria which includes looking at the musical structure of the vocals, evaluating if it is hard or easy to sing, looking at its popularity and profile across Europe or the US and, of course, analysing whether it would be fun to sing.

When it comes to the PlayStation 3 release and the SingStore, we're going to relax this criteria a little bit. We will no longer have the space restrictions of the disc, we no longer have to find the perfect 30 songs which tick every single box on the brief and criteria. Seeing as we're moving to a digital space, we can offer much, much more and let the user be the critic or editor of the song list. Although every single song will still be tested according to the design criteria to make sure certain "essentials" are met - i.e. it has lyrics! You'd be surprised the number of times people ask for songs which have the same lyric repeated over and over, or very few at all!

IGN: With the current success of instrument-based games like Red Octane's Guitar Hero, how easy might it be to marry SingStar voice technology with other peripherals in the future to make for a complete 'band' package? How likely is it that we'll see the SingStar franchise expand in this direction? Also, can you chuck in some dance mat support too, just so you haven't left anything out?

Paulina Bozek: It's difficult to say whether it is easy or hard. It is possible from a technology point of view, but first we have to test out the gameplay experience. I think it would be quite cool to combine SingStar with Guitar Hero. I woudn't throw in the dance mat though, not that many people are so supremely coordinated! The band concept is interesting although I think it would take a lot of practice to make it sound/look good - but it would be fun to try.