This post is the first in a series I am doing on Frets on Fire/Guitar Hero.

Last year, Sami Kyöstilä, Tommi Inkilä and Joonas Kerttula released a free, open source app called Frets on Fire that provides a Guitar Hero-like experience on a PC. It was created as an entry “to the Assembly 2006 Game Development Competition by Unreal Voodoo. It placed first in the competition.”

The main interface for FoF is a PC keyboard. The 5 frets from Guitar Hero are mapped to function keys 1-5. Strumming is done with the “Enter” key. Not exactly as easy-to-use as the console experience of GH which uses a plastic guitar, but it is still an interesting idea.

With the release of the XBOX 360 version of Guitar Hero II and its USB guitar, FoF users could now have a similar experience to the console for the price of a GHII guitar.

Earlier this week, I download and installed Frets of Fire on one of my Windows machines and installed my XBOX 360 guitar. The results were pretty impressive.

What you’ll need:

* If you want to get your rock on and you’re on a tighter budget, you can use a small keyboard. Multi-function or media keyboards with a lot of extra buttons at the top don’t work well. You need to be able to comfortably access the function keys while supporting the keyboard with the same hand.

Setting it up:

The setup process is pretty straightforward.

1. Download the Frets on Fire app from SoundForge and install it

Nothing fancy here. Click “Next” a few times and you’re all set.

2. Plug your XBOX 360 guitar into your PC’s USB port

Windows will recognize the guitar as an XBOX 360 controller and install the appropriate drivers.

Your guitar will show up as “XBOX 360 Controller for Windows” in Control Panel

3. Open Frets on Fire and select Settings>Key Mappings

This is where you will map the buttons of your XBOX 360 guitar to the frets in the game. Simply select each fret # then press the corresponding key on the guitar. Very easy to do.

This is the screen where you map your GHII guitar buttons.

4. Return to the FoF menu and select a song to play

Frets on Fire comes with 3 sample tracks that you can experiment with and there are hundreds more available on FoF fan forums (Look for a post on importing songs later in the week).

Bottom line

Frets on Fire isn’t going to replace Guitar Hero for diehard fans of that franchise; however, it is a nice introduction for those who haven’t played any GH games.

For those, like myself, who are completely addicted to anything and everything Guitar Hero, it is a nice way to play around with songs that aren’t included in any of the GH games through the game’s built-in song editor (Look for a post on creating your own FoF songs later in the week).

So if you wanna get your rock on, definitely give Frets on Fire a try. It provides a really nice set of features and it won’t cost you anything to give it a shot.

Are you a Guitar Hero or Frets on Fire junkie? If so, post your comments.