Ümloud describes itself as “a night for gamers to get together, rock out and raise money for Child’s Play charity. But really, Ümloud! is the rockingest night of your life. ” This year’s event takes place December 9, 2010, on the main stage of San Francisco’s DNA Lounge.
“Imagine playing Rock Band 3 on stage at one of San Francisco’s hottest music venues, DNA Lounge. Imagine that you’re plugged in to a serious sound system, and that laser lights and fog machines are swirling all about you. Imagine a crowd of screaming fans.”
Multiple performance packages are available: the Headliner (sold out), the Ultimate (sold out), and the Standard (sold at the show). Ultimate Band nets participants some excellent swag along with photos of the performance. The truly extravagant Headliner Band package comes with an extensive number of rock-star trappings, including a custom made “rockumentary” about the band. It’s a $10 donation to get through the door, and all proceeds go to Child’s Play.
Game Rant recently had the chance to sit down with John “Seg” Seggerson, a content programmer for Telltale Games and board member for Ümloud. Seg, a member Ümloud house band Baby Dog Time, spoke about the event’s creation, execution, and plans.
Game Rant: So, John Seggerson.
John Seggerson: “Please, just call me ‘Seg.’ Easy, short, marketable.”
GR: What’s your general background in the game industry and business?
JS: “Jeez, where to start? I work at Telltale Games where I make videogames with computers. I went to college at Emerson College in Boston and am the first recipient of the Bachelor of Fine Arts in New Media.”
“While I was there in Boston, I actually got invited to playtest at Harmonix (they’re in Central Square). One night I go to their office and sign a NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) which I think is OK to break by now and was put in a room and given a plastic guitar. I was to playtest Guitar Hero 1. Played it and I believe one of my comments on the sheet was, ‘this game isn’t about score, it’s all about the performance. It’s about rocking out.’”
“Since then, I always wanted to have an event where it focused on the performance and not on the competition. I found that more exciting to me than a point competition. As a result, it’s a lot more accessible, a lot more entertaining.”
GR: It’s more about having fun as opposed to being concentrated on a score.
JS: “I’m not saying those kinds of events shouldn’t be done, but it was not what I was interested in.”
“Chris [Kohler] and I met up and I pitched him the idea of instead of ‘let’s go to a bar night’ to ‘let’s make an event that focuses on the performance, rent out a proper venue for it, and have these band packages that would excite larger donations.’ The band packages would also serve as advertising in a way where if people put down money ahead of time to do this thing, they’re going to try and get as many people as they know to show off in front of.”
GR: What were the numbers for last year’s event?
JS: “We wrote the check to Child’s Play for $7000.”
GR: Did the event go as planned?
JS: “First, it was really difficult to communicate the concept of the band packages because the first thing people thought was, ‘Oh, it’s a competition?’ And we’re really trying to be clear on that, because when people thing it’s a competition there’s going to be that one guy or gal that is crazy stupid better than I am in this game and there’s no way I can compete with that and then you’ll only get the outlandishly foolish or the outlandishly foolish-good crowd. Who cares about watching people just trying to grab for score? We really had to drive it home that it was about performance and it’s about how you perform on the stage. It’s a different situation than where you’re playing at home because now you actually have to be a rock band with your friends.”
“With Ümloud, we get people to make the show for us. To make the entertainment value. We give them the platform and we hope the people who get on that stage use that platform to their advantage. Thankfully and luckily, we did last year. There are some rules and guidelines, both our own and the venue’s, but we encourage bands to take it from there. Some bands were more engaging than others, but we really didn’t know what was going to happen.”
GR: It’s very like going to a party. You guys are there putting up the place for people to go to and it’s up to them to make it better than what it’s supposed to be.
With Rock Band 3 just released, do you think it will be better for the event with drop-in/drop-out ability and the extra instruments?
JS: “We’ll see how it all plays out in the end. I was very afraid of the Pro Guitar. Because there was instrument switch (in Rock Band 2) for one and that business is atrocious. Like we said before, it’s not a competition, and we don’t people to think they have to play on Pro to be perceived as ‘good,’ whatever that actually means. Initially, I just wanted to take it off the table because it’s too confusing, but we got it in our hands and the instrument switching has seen a big improvement. We’re putting it in, but we don’t know if anyone has chosen to use it.”
GR:I was talking to my friends about it last night and they were wondering if I was going to go for it. I told them that means I have 4 weeks to learn guitar, basically, and if I did, I would want to learn the song on Hard or something.
JS: “With the bands, I always stress to them, go with the difficulty you’re comfortable playing on in front of a live audience. That means, if you usually pick Expert, but you manage to squeak by, pick Hard. No one’s going to care if you do a lower level and perform well, however if you pick a higher difficulty and have trouble with it, that’s not going to read very well on the stage. You don’t have anything to prove by playing it on a hard difficulty.”
“The ‘success’ of playing at Ümloud comes from how much it looks like you guys are a rock band. The idea you’re playing with plastic instruments, if that melts away, you’ve done your job. You’ve completed the goal by making it a rock concert and not just a performance of Rock Band.”