Frets on Fire Confirms I Am Better at Compiling Than Playing Guitar

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 08, 2009

Late last year I broke down and picked up Rock Band for the resident game console, a Nintendo Wii. From this statement, astute readers can safely make the assumption that neither I, nor other members of my household, are big into gaming. I am, however, better with balance boards and nunchuks than I am any musical instrument, be it a stylized controller or the real deal.

Given the humbling experience Rock Band (continues) to be for me, I wasn't exactly eager to try out the open source rhythm game, Frets on Fire. However, the open source aspect and the advantages that brings to the game's genre, the Guitar Hero-esque focus on one instrument, and the project being chosen as SourceForge's March Project of the Month, I figured my ego might benefit from a slight bruising.

My fingertips aren't raw, but this confirms I won't be joining a band, real or virtual, any time soon. Frets on Fire on an easy setting makes me long for the simplicity of kernel recompiles and the soft whir of a rebooting system.

Frets on Fire is undoubtedly a bit more challenging thanks to the keyboard controls (which can be mapped according to handedness or individual preferences). The developers suggest using a second keyboard for play (especially on laptops), because picking up and holding the keyboard close feels a little more natural.

Frets on Fire is able to import songs from the Guitar Hero games, but has also seen a uniquely open source advantage -- the community, users, and fans have contributed new songs and tablatures to the game. Songs supplied with (or downloaded for) Frets on Fire feature a few different experience settings, but not all songs offer game play in all user levels.

Frets on Fire, out of the box, can accomodate two players. It's been modified, however, to do some rather interesting things, such as supporting Guitar Hero controllers from multiple console platforms, integrating other instruments, and even allowing users with various disabilities to take part in the fun.

Fun -- yes, Frets on Fire is fun, even if it is in a slightly humiliating sort of way. The open nature makes it (almost) limitless (I'd be remiss if I didn't say that some songs, of course, have licenses that restrict this sort of redistribution). It is cross platform, running on Windows, Linux, or Mac systems with at least 128 MB of RAM and a capable 3D graphics accelerator. And of course, unless you play like I do, a sound card and good speakers make it a lot more fun.