Posts Tagged ‘Rock Band’
I viewed the task of changing strings with mild trepidation, but it was a bear. All the “how to change string” videos I saw were for guitars where the string goes through the body, which makes pushing it through the anchor easy. Here you have to string it under the anchor, the thread it using a plastic doodad to catch the string and pull it through the anchor. Ugh. And I’m off to Amazon to buy a string winding tool.
Hopefully I didn’t mess it up much (I know I did, a little). Not that the strings are that expensive, but the time…
On the rocksmith front, downloaded Space Oddity, which has all the chords. (Well, all the majors, anyway, a few minors, some weird ones, and multiple variants of C, G and A). And, as I noted on Twitter, I can kinda-sorta do a simplified (much simplified) but recognizable Clapton Riff. Which, according to my theological studies, makes me some kind of Cherub.
As you now doubt recall, I got the Rock Band Pro Guitar earlier this year. Well, for the holidays I also got Rocksmith, a new ‘learn to play guitar for XBox’ game. So, early thoughts.
The game works by a 1/4″ jack to USB converter. So, the XBox actually listens to you playing the guitar. That this actually works (with the caveat that it’s sometimes a bit touchy), but overall it’s a dancing bear.
Look, this teaches you to play the guitar, and all the reviews I’ve read said “Hey, this isn’t really a fun game.” So I knew that going in. What I didn’t know is how crappy everything else about the game is.
Let’s go through it. You play a song. The user interface for showing what notes to hit is not as clean as Rock Band. It does kind of work, but when notes comes quickly it’s basically a two dimensional square (with high to low to show the string, and left to right to show the fret). The notes rotate from one orientation to another to give a sense of timing, but when there are lots of notes, I sometimes can’t tell which one is coming first. But, hey, it’s difficult to show this.
So you play a song! Yea. Of course, you can’t set the difficulty. As you get a better score, the next time you play the song it gets harder. Now the game suggests you do some technique training.
Go to technique training. Wait for it to load.
Strum each string so the game can tell if your guitar is still tuned.
Now load the training…that was the tuning load.
Now a video on the technique. Skip it.
Now a one minute practice. Maybe two.
Now you should practice this chord (say).
Now you are ready for some songs.
So, my complaints:
- You should only have to tune your guitar once a session. Given that it takes 30-45 seconds for each tuning, it’s a nightmare. (To be fair, if you play a set you only tune once, so I suspect I’ll mainly be doing that).
- If you’ve watched the video for some technique, chord, whatever, it still shows it the next time unless you skip.
- The chord library is a bunch of videos and practices, there’s no “Just show me the hand positions for all the chords” (or even “All the chords in this song.”) So if you don’t know it, it’s 5 minutes to gain one screen of information.
- Despite the constant tuning, there are a few times where it misreads the notes. This doesn’t bother me, since it’s complaining that the dancing bear sometimes misses a step.
On a practical level, you can’t practice guitar while people around you play rock band. That may matter. And, of course, you only need any old electric guitar, not a special rock band guitar. And it is nice that you can then watch the song and hear the notes you actually played. That’s good feedback for learning.
Given that this is an XBox game, there’s a chance that Ubisoft is listening to reviews and will patch the game (it should be fine to skip the tuning, and a simple fix).
But what I’m really hoping is that Rock Band buys the “Guitar to XBox” technology.
As a pedagogical tool, this is pretty cheap motivation. I get 50 new songs (which are much more obscure than I’d hoped) and even if just use the ‘play song section’ then I’ll get a fair amount of practice. If you do use this as a learning tool, get a chord book and a book on technique, and just use this for songs. (There are also some “guitarcade” games that may be useful, but I haven’t spent much time there).
Annoying — I’m getting to the point where I can play a passable version of Space Oddity (using the sheet music as a guide); but I’m nowhere close to beating Space Oddity on Rock Band in hard. (Partially because they are using Barre chords for the famous riff and I’m not). I can do every song on Medium (with a bit of time to watch it), but I’m nowhere near advancing on Hard.
Guitar is hard, let’s go shopping at My Geeklist.
I’ve finished Medium. Even the “Nightmare/Impossible” songs aren’t much harder, although your hand moves around the fretboard for the melody. Yoshimi (and King George) were much harder, since you had chords.
I’ve tried all of the “Hard” warmup songs — power chords now use three strings and … the pinky. That took a bit of work, but wasn’t bad. (Ironic Archer — “Hooray!”) Hard also introduces Barre chords, and I can’t do those at speed at all, so I’m unlikely to finish the set anytime soon. Actually, I’m having a really tough time doing those at all. (A Barre chord, in case you haven’t played the guitar, involves putting your first finger across most/all of the strings and pressing them down, then playing 2-3 notes with other fingers. It’s amazingly easy to not press one string, say if it falls in the crook of a knuckle. And needless to say, it’s a whole new world of callus generation. My finger hurts, again).
I’m actually practicing the guitar. I’m paying (vague) attention to the TaoLing’s newly started guitar lessons, and I’ve ordered a book on finger exercises. May help, couldn’t hurt. That’s the point, so far. After defeating a hard song, I plugged my guitar into the amp and played the chord structure. Still missing notes, but it’s a zeroeth order approximation of the song.
Beating a song in Rock Band only means that I’m hitting 60-90% of the strings semi-cleanly. Training mode indicates that the controller can be strict and accurate with regards to hitting a string outside of the intended fret. That’s really easy to do on a Barre chord and for a while I thought the trainer was wrong but when I plugged into the amp and tried the chord, I realized I was only pressing down on 4 strings (crook of the knuckle). In medium the game will let it slide if you accidentally hit a 3rd string, or are close to the right fret, I’ve noticed. Hard seems stricter, and the trainer is very strict. If I’m not imagining it, a nice touch.
How many people play pro guitar? Not many. At my current score I’m in the Top ~7% of bands. There’s a big gap between the actual guitarists and the learners, of course. I doubt I’ll ever get in past the top 3%. (For comparison, beating almost all keyboard songs on hard barely got me in the Top 10%).
Let’s see …
- I’m fairly close to finishing Portal 2’s single player campaign. I’m not going to lie to you Marge, it’s been awesome and whenever I’ve gotten stuck I’ve kicked myself when I finally got the answer. (Either through figuring it out or via a walk-through). TaoLing and I have been playing the co-ope, and it’s pretty good as well. (Although I think it would be frustrating playing online without voice, it’s possible). If I was rushing I could have finished in a day or two, but the kids enjoy back seat driving, which reminds me why doctors have such precise words for directions (“Move up, then turn left, then down! No … the other other down!” Aim for that panel near that thing!”)
- I’ve finished the Moderate (“3 dot”) Pro Guitar on medium, then for good measure defeated two songs on the next set on the first try. Medium is almost entirely melody + power chords with rare regular (G/C/D) chords. Just for giggles, I tried Crazy Train (on Medium) and while I couldn’t do it, I didn’t see anything in the first few stanzas beyond power chords + a faster melody. I also beat I Love Rock and Roll on expert (despite missing every note of the solo).
- Now that the Dominion Cornucopia list is out, color me mildly disappointed. I’ll get a copy, but I didn’t bother to get one this weekend for full retail.
- I”m mildly intrigued by Star Trek Expeditions and the LotR Co-op LCG. In their honor I’ve tossed the Knizia LotR game back into the bag. That’s the extent of my involvement, so far. But I’d like to try them.
- Mrs. Tao, who was at some gaming convention, called to verify that we had 7 Wonders. Then asked again during the next phone call. So I guess she liked it, or I’m not very trustworthy. Or both. Here ends my convention report — Portal 2 wins Game of the Convention for me. And for you?
- Surprisingly I’ve seen little to no coverage … I assume that the hotel’s lack of internet played a big part of that. No doubt the GeekLists will be popping up over the next day or so.
- Archer Season 2 — Truly one of the great seasons of any comedy I’ve watched. That’ll do, Pigly.
So for the last day or two I’ve noticed a disturbing trend where my Squier pro-Guitar just stops sending information to Rock Band. I figured that my MIDI cable was just coming loose when I tried to invoke star power (by tilting the guitar), but today the truth was revealed. After failing out of a song when my notes stopped being recorded, I pulled the MIDI connect out … but the connector detached from the cable! (Thankfully I could get it out of the guitar easily). Given that I’ve only had the cable for two weeks, I suspect I just got a barely functional cable. (This was the one included with the guitar).
It’s under warranty, technically, but I suspect that the hoops I’d have to jump through to replace it aren’t worth it. (Looking at the Squier website isn’t much help).
At least I beat King George first.
A few more Rock Band thoughts:
- Now that I’ve played for a week I see two potential bad habits. First, relying on the TV to provide feedback on where your hands are. Second, treating it is a videogame (which it is) and doing a-musical things to win. Right now I’m still powering through songs by RockBand skill more than guitar skill (although I can get to a G, C or D chord setup …slowly). I rationalize this by saying I’m practicing basic muscle memory.
- The minimum percentage to pass (3 star) a song is at least 15% lower than on regular guitar. I’m ‘beating’ songs by hitting 60% of the notes (sometimes a bit less). I’ve finished the warmup and apprentice set (each one having one song that takes me ~30 minutes of practice) and I knocked out half of the solid songs on the first or second try. Right now, a song is hard if it has lots of (non-power) chords.
- So, for those who asked it took me under a week to beat 1/2 of the solid medium songs. (Just for kicks I tried I Love Rock and Roll on expert … I didn’t fail, although I only got 2 stars).
- Thanks to Dennis for pointing out Ultimate Guitar.
In non-RB news:
- Portal 2 comes out next week. I’m in.
- That’s a nice looking redesign, but I’m happy with my copy of Glory to Rome. I won’t say it’s garishness has grown on me, but …
- I read the review of 20th Century with interest, and it highlights my big worry … samey-ness. That’s why I got rid of Dungeon Lords. Still, I’ll try it. Still, could be worse. For example, when I picked up (game name redacted) I almost burst out laughing. I’m not sure anyone could have designed an image more likely to make me drop the box back on the shelf. I couldn’t bring myself to read the text.
- Still playing Dominion with the TaoLing. He wins about 20% of the games, now. We’ve also added Air Baron to the mix. And we still like shooting up some zombies. Who doesn’t?
- I realize now that Super Scrabble really needs to separate the tiles into two sets (A and B). They can be the same (or not), but with the greater mix it’s much easier to draw an unplayable rack (all vowels, consonants, or something like three Vs).
So, open thread it is.
So, I got my Squier Fendercaster Friday night (late). I’ve been playing off and on all weekend (off and on because I don’t have calluses, so my fingers hurt. I just did an 8 song set). Some thoughts –
- I find the interface relatively intuitive. Then again, I’ve played a lot of rock band, and have barely touched a real guitar. Your root note is shown via fret number, and the rest of the notes are shown via ‘shape’ (So if the frets are 5-7-7 you’ll see a “5” then it will curve up ‘2 steps’ for the next two notes). The chord name will also be there,which may help others, or help you learn the chord). Compared to the keyboard, where I see the notes and wonder “What chord is that” and can’t hit the keys. It may be the my lack of training helps. Or it may be that it’s much easier to do with 2 notes, and that didn’t bother me in keyboards either.
- On easy, you don’t have chords. I suspect I can beat all of the songs on easy after one time through (to get a vague idea of where my hands will have to be). [I tested that by picking a random song on Impossible ... I didn't fail, got 3 stars, but the program said it was unsatisfactory. I later discovered that's a known bug]
- I’m still going through the easy songs, mainly to get a feel for moving my hand around the fretboard and so I can tell which string I’m on without looking. I suspect most real guitar players spend a long time looking at their frets while learning, which is not a luxury you have when playing the game.
- Medium adds chords. I’m working through I wanna be sedated, which is easy but fast; you have to move up and down 2 frets quickly, and I can’t do that yet. I suspect I can do several of the other “apprentice” songs, but they add the occasional real (3+ note) chord. Still, gotta start somewhere.
- My fingers still hurt.
- I’m already thinking about what sheet music I want once I become a guitar god. (Or vaguely proficient).
- It’s not a midlife crisis if you buy your first electric guitar and amp at 40 to play a video game. Just so we’re clear.
- (I like that … to the bat-twitter!)
- I suspect that what this will really do is let me power through the first hundred hours of “Man I Suck” relatively painlessly and provide some incentive to practice. Can’t argue with that.
- The Younger TaoLing will start guitar lessons next month (schedule permitting). Despite all the money I’ve spent (Guitar, Controller, Amp, Cords, misc accessories), it will pale in comparison to a live teacher. If this gets him to practice, its worth it on a strict monetary basis, and any enjoyment I get out of it is a bonus.
- He has tried it, but it’s huge. (A friend said the fret spacing was slightly bigger than his normal guitar). I mean, he can barely reach the first fret unless his arm is totally straight. And it’s heavy, of course. So I don’t think this is for pre-teens. I’m told the Mad Catz guitars are much smaller (and cheaper, of course). So buy the Young’un one of those and a “My First Guitar” set.
- When I was buying my amp, I saw an 8 year old girl wailing on a drum set with a complex syncopated rhythm. After she left, I stayed well away from the drums, lest a comparison be drawn.
- I’m sure I’m picking up all sorts of bad habits, but I’m learning this for my own enjoyment, so why the hell not?
and other notes…
This week saw my 50th game of Glory to Rome. Rarified air for any title. We’re pulling this out less often, but it’s a reasonable mid-length filler.
Meanwhile, Agricola remains the game of choice for us. I don’t know how many levels of expertise it has, but I’m one ahead of the local crowd. (Which I suppose is fair, since I’ve played a dozen more games).
[Incidentally, I'm tempted to organize a 'shark game' of Agricola by email and have the players comment on it. Do any sharks have an interest in such a thing? I'm mainly curious because it would give me an idea how much distance there is between myself and said sharks.]
Played a few games of Race with the expansion homeworlds. Soon, my precious.
[Picked up Tribune, based on general clucking. One of my rare 'purchase before play' in the last few years. Earlier it was common enough, though]
I really like this essay by Nassim Taleb called “The fourth quadrant.” Not gaming, but general thought about probability, skepticism, and the limits of knowledge.
Rock Band 2 has greatly impacted our game night; we’ve lost 3-4 souls for the near future. I continue to curse the Wii, but at least I’ve got Rock Band (albeit a neutered one). I assume that enterprising souls are planning to bring a copy with a projection screen to BGG Con. Aren’t they? (If so, I may even attend).
Just a note to indicate that I finally got past Suffragette City (Hard) on Rock Band. Needless to say, the next 10 songs were all beaten on the first try. Enter Sandman and that Smashing Pumpkins song are the new stumbling blocks.
Boom Blox? Never heard of it. Enjoy the 4th.