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Meet the Rock Band 4 Team

Hey folks,

I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself as well as some of the other people on the Rock Band 4 development team. My name is Daniel Sussman and I’m the Product Manager for Rock Band 4 (more on what that actually means below).

Daniel Sussman
Daniel Sussman

I’ve been at Harmonix for a good chunk of my adult life. My career has been a fairytale – I’ve worked on amazingly fun games with great people, people that have had a tremendous impact on me. The culture at Harmonix is best defined as “passion driven.” This is a function of the people that have worked on the games we’ve developed over the years, from the underground titles (FreQuency and EyeToy: AntiGrav) to the smash successes of the Rock Band and Dance Central series. The team we’ve assembled for Rock Band 4 is made up of some of my dearest friends, people I’ve worked with for 10+ years, as well as a collection of new faces that bring an infusion of energy and bold, new perspective to the project.

Our organization has seen a lot of changes since its inception in 1995, including some dramatic shifts in the last few years. One of those changes is that every project currently in development has a three-headed leadership team (a Creative Lead, a Development Lead and a Product Manager) that manages the dynamic tension of: creative, logistics, and business (or put another way: design, production, and publishing). The idea here is that each of these different elements is critically important to the success of the project and needs an unabashed champion. This group of 3 needs to be adept at solving hard problems, as our commitment has always been to developing quality experiences on time and on budget that appeal to tons of people. Those are our marching orders and we take them seriously.

The leadership of the Rock Band 4 team is an incredibly high-functioning group. Heading up the creative is Greg LoPiccolo.

Greg LoPiccolo
Greg LoPiccolo

Greg is one of the old guard Harmonix vets. He got his start at Looking Glass and has held a leadership role in all of our greatest games. He’s been a great mentor to me – he was the project lead on the first Guitar Hero (where I served as Lead Producer) and put me in a position to take the reins on Guitar Hero II (still one of my favorite PlayStation 2 games of all time). Greg pioneered many of the elements of Rock Band gameplay, working with his creative team to develop band gameplay and, bringing his own musical experience as the bass player from the touring band Tribe, ensured that Rock Band was loaded with authenticity both in the graphic presentation and also in the quality of the musical simulation.

One of my favorite things about Greg is his tireless pursuit of innovation. He’s a staunch believer in the creative process and, with Rock Band 4, has us breaking the mold so that we can rebuild it in ways that double down on the elements of Rock Band that made it so fun in the first place. We’re not just looking to port Rock Band to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – we’re trying to improve it along every axis we can think of, most importantly looking at the gameplay itself. While we believe in the core game (it’s fun, well tuned, and, well, super fun), Greg has a lot of new ideas that he and the team are working on that we think will re-energize the category and open people’s minds about what you can do in a music game. Greg is a critical piece of the puzzle and is one of the few folks on the planet that I would trust to bring the Rock Band franchise back.

Speaking of trust, we have John Veneron heading up the production staff as the Development Lead.

John Veneron
John Veneron

John has a great story at Harmonix as well. He started in QA on the originalRock Band, moved to the community team and then over to production as we ramped up our DLC program. John has a great pedigree in the industry and has become a master of process. He brings a wealth of experience on current gen as well as critical RB experience having managed the DLC pipeline over the years. Given the logistical hurdles we’re taking on to rebuild a library of THOUSANDS of songs and honor as many of our players’ original purchases as possible, he’s absolutely the right guy for the job.

Up and down the team, you have folks that, in true Harmonix fashion, are incredibly interesting people:

  • Designer Alli Thresher is an actor and musician, performing in just about every format you could imagine.
  • Audio Lead Eric Brosius is a guitar player with unconscious ability. He plays in a bunch of bands, including a band called “Eddie Japan” that won the illustrious local Boston rock contest ROCK ‘N’ ROLL RUMBLE last year.
  • Artist Jeff Hesser (aka Heff) was an award-winning teacher of sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design.

I’m singling these folks out as I’m on a plane flying over Utah on my way back from GDC; they’re the first names that flew into my head. The whole team is made up of incredibly interesting people who are bringing the weight of their passion and talent to this project. It makes going to the office an absolute joy.

Rock Band 4 Development Team
The Rock Band 4 Team

It’s been really fun so far and I’m SO psyched to finally be able to talk about it.

In addition to the dev team, we’ve got an amazing group of guys and gals who are working with me on the publishing and business side to get the word out. A lot of these people are from the original Rock Band Community Team (folks who you probably know) and are now on the Harmonix Publishing Team.

Now, a quick word about this . . . Harmonix is (historically speaking) a developer – we generally make games that Publishers (like EA or MTV Games) then distribute and market. This time around, we are publishing Rock Band 4 OURSELVES (actually, we’re teaming up with Mad Catz, which is amazing and will be the subject of another post).

Rock Band 4 Publishing Team
Criss Bürki, Nick Chester, Aaron Trites, Christine Kayser, Daniel Sussman, Rebecca Potter, Eric Pope, and Matt Kristek

We have an awesome team of smart people working on this:

  • Eric Pope – Eric is my co-Product Manager – my right hand man and the guy that runs the show while I’m flying the world talking to retailers, press, and fans trying to get the word out.
  • Nick Chester – Nick handles PR for all of Harmonix and is one of the most connected guys in the games industry that I’ve ever met. It’s ridiculous being on the road with him – he’s basically a celebrity. He’s also the most kick-ass karaoke singer I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
  • Rebecca Potter – Rebecca is managing the marketing campaign for RB4. She’s a Harmonix veteran in her own right, having managed merchandising, packaging, and general marketing responsibilities for the studio going back to 2008.
  • Aaron Trites – Many of you reading this know Aaron as HMXHenry. He’s been our primary community manager and the voice of our social networks. Aaron is the man.
  • Christine Kayser – Christine manages our website and online presence. Her organizational skills are one of the things that make me confident that we will pull this off. She’s also one of the driving forces behind our livestream, newsletters, and podcasts – the tools we use to keep people in the loop about what’s happening at the studio.
  • Cheryl Gehbauer – Cheryl is our head of music strategy. She is tasked with bringing us the great music that we’ve put in our games and is a veteran of the music world having worked in the industry for over 15 years.

Publishing this game on our own is one of the crazy things that only Harmonix would try to do. We’re doing it this way because we want to bring the best, most unadulterated, purest Rock Band EVER to market. Quality drives this industry and we believe that our integrity, passion and business savvy-ness will make RB4 the best in the series.

Here’s where you come in. While I have the faith that our development team is going to make a great game, we’re going to need all of the support we can get from YOU, our supporters and fans. Please sign up to be alerted when pre-orders go live! Please tell your friends how awesome Rock Band is and how great Rock Band 4 will be!

I’m looking forward to introducing you all to more of the development team. In fact, I can’t wait to share more about what we’re up to, it’s gonna be awesome.

Aaron, Frank Turner, and Pope
HMXHenry, Frank Turner, and Pope

I want to close with lyrics from the Frank Turner song “I Still Believe” which for me, speaks eloquently to the reasons we’re doing this in the first place:

And I still believe in the need,
For guitars and drums and desperate poetry.

And I still believe that everyone,
Can find a song for every time they've lost and every time they've won.

So just remember folks we're not just saving lives, we're saving souls,
And we're having fun.

And I still believe.

Now who'd have thought that after all,
Something as simple as rock 'n' roll would save us all.

Yours in rock and roll,