Tag: Rock Band

Age 30; Day Two.

It’s my second day in my thirties, and my back’s killing me.  I know, I’m old.  But I have a good reason.

Last night was the party to celebrate my 30th birthday, and we did it in style. With the things we love. Movies (well, a movie theater), Rock Band, and pizza. Oh, and friends and family were in attendance, as well.

As any big event in our lives, the wife and I like to do something big. So we (read: she) rented a private screening room at Coolidge Corner Theater.  Seating for 45, and a huge screen.

We packed up our XBox 360, Rock Band 2, The Beatles: Rock Band, our plastic instruments and headed to the theater around 6:30 to set up.  My back’s killing me is because I lugged a ton of that stuff a whole buttload of blocks since we had to park farther away than we should have.

Anyway, aside from back hurting, I feel pretty good today.  We had an awesome time last night.  A bunch of people from work, and past jobs, and family showed up to celebrate.  We played Rock Band for a whole bunch of hours, and people that had never gotten to play before got to play. And from the talk this morning, they enjoyed it.  It really is a game that everyone likes.  It’s impossible to not like the game, really. I challenge you!

Getting older is a weird thing.  Obviously I know I’ve turned 30, but I don’t feel any different. I honestly don’t think I’ve noticed my age at all since I turned 18. I don’t feel any older, I just feel like.  Obviously I can’t do all the things I used to be able to do, physically, but it’s not like I’m in a wheel chair or anything, so that’s good.

So far, 30 hasn’t been at all bad.  I rung in my new year with friends, family and gaming. What more could I want?  It was a great night.

Mac Pro day is rapidly approaching.  I was going to get it yesterday, but waited.  I asked for Apple gift cards for my birthday, so I wanted to wait till I got those, so I didn’t spend any extra money when I could have used gift cards.  So Mac Pro day has been pushed back to (I believe) October 9th, which should be enough time to allow for getting paid for the month of September, and the check clearing.  I’m super psyched, and will post before and after photos once I have everything set up.

Big thanks to everyone who came last night and celebrated, and for all the generous gifts everyone gave.  We’re definitely going to rent the theater again in the near future, and host another Rock Band night, since it was such a hit.  Next time we won’t use Facebook to invite people though, since that seems to be uber-ineffecient.

RockBand 2 Mad Catz Cymbals Review

Update 12/16/2008: UPS just dropped a package from Mad Catz.   They didn’t fix my broken cymbal, they sent me an entirely new package, cymbal, mounting hardware and all.

No note included saying what was wrong, or anything, just a new cymbal.   It looks like it’s been handled, which probably means that someone tested it out to make sure it worked right, before they sent it to me (or that it’s a refurbished.)

I tried it out, and all seems well.   Kudos to Mad Catz for the excellent customer service.   Their site says 4 to 6 weeks, and it only took 12 days from drop off, to return.   I’m psyched.

Update: After playing for an hour or so this afternoon, it’s evident that one of my cymbals is defective.   It’s sometimes registering two hits, instead of one.   I called Mad Catz, and the guy I got was super friendly, extremely understanding, and set me up with an RMA.   He said the website suggested 4-6 weeks, but realistically, it’s more like 2 to 3.   I’ll update again when I get the new cymbal to see if it’s working properly.   I’m glad I didn’t just try returning it to Amazon to get another, they appear to be completely sold out everywhere I’ve checked today.   Glad I pre-ordered mine 3 months ago.

My Cymbals finally arrived last night, and I was psyched to get them.   Ever since they were announced, I’ve been excited about them.   The way I assumed they worked, was actually different than how they do work.   More on that later.

First, some images, to show how freaking cool they look:

The whole kitHi-Hat CymbalRide Cymbal

The cymbals certainly give the drums the look of a real drumkit (okay, at least a real electronic drumkit,) but how do they play?

They take some getting used to, that’s for sure.   I just got them last night, so I’m still in the adjusting phase. But right from the get go, my wife said “You look like you’re having more fun.”   Which I totally was.   It felt like I was playing more realistically than I had without the cymbals.

When I first bought the cymbals, I assumed that they would just act as extenders of their respective colors.   So when you’d hit the blue, it made whatever sound the blue one should at that specific point in time. As Rock Banders know, the drums pretty much all double as cymbals or drums, depending on the part of the song.   I was pleasantly surprised that the new cymbal pads are dedicated as cymbals.   So, if you hit the “ride” cymbal, it makes the ride cymbal no matter what.   Same for the hi-hat, and crash cymbals.

It may throw your brain off, when you hit the cymbal when it’s a tom-tom in the game, and you hear the wrong sound, but it won’t break your streak, or count against your overall score.   As long as you hit the right color, the sound that the game makes doesn’t matter.

My favorite thing about the other game, you know, that one I returned already, was that there were dedicated cymbal pads with their drumkit.   The Rock Band 2 drumkit, with the add-on cymbal pack (a measly $29.99) is 100% totally, absolutely better than GHWT’s, hands down.

The game is more fun when playing drums, with the cymbals.   It’s more realistic, and more creative.   I especially dig that during the “Overdrive fills”, you can be a lot more musical with the drums, with dedicated toms/cymbals.   If you’re a die hard drummer for a Rock Band band, you absolutely need to spend the $29.99 to get these cymbals, pronto.

Wii Fit Update, Again

I woke up early this morning, and made myself get out of bed when the alarm went off, with the sole intention of doing my half hour Wii Fit workout, which according to the Wii Fit software, hadn’t been done in 24 days.

It also informed me that we’ve had it for 39 days, meaning I have only my half hour workout roughly a dozen or so times, including the couple days I took off, when I was “serious” about losing weight.

Needless to say, I’m not bringing lunch to work anymore, and I’m eating just as much fast food as I was before I started dieting.   However, the half a dozen cans of Coke I would drink during the day, and with meals, I’m no longer drinking.   I’ve been drinking water at my desk at work, and Coke Zero at home (and also when we go out to lunch, if they have Coke Zero, which most places don’t.)

So, when it came time to do my “body test” this morning, I was scared that it’d be like “you’re fat, stop being so fat, stupid American. With your cupcakes and ho-hos. Fat. Fat. Fat.”

To my surprise, quite the opposite.   Since 24 days ago, I’ve lost 5.6 pounds, and rougly 1 on the body mass fat index portion.

I haven’t changed my diet in any way, really, aside from not drinking Coke a zillion times a week anymore.

I suppose I’ve been working out a bit, if you can call Rock Band and Rock Band 2 drumming on Expert for a few hours a week, a workout.

I think the reason I never really try hard to lose weight is because I don’t see any immediate effect, and that discourages me.   However, this nearly 6 pounds down, and having Wii Fit tell me I’ve only got 12.5 more pounds to lose, to make my “goal”, is encouraging.

I’m going to get up early every day during the week, and do a half an hour work out. And try to squeeze it in on the weekends for an hour, and see what happens.   I’m optimistic at this point.

Rock Band 2 – The Greatest Game Ever Made

So, as you may know, my wife recently got a job working at Harmonix, the company that makes Rock Band (and now, Rock Band 2.)   That meant something awesome for me, a free copy of Rock Band 2.     Jealous? You should be.

The problem, however, is that I couldn’t wait for her to get her free copy, and went out Friday afternoon, and bought the game, the new guitar, and the new drums.   Sadly, the bundle won’t be out for another month or so, so it ended up costing me about $40 more than the bundle would have.   I don’t mind, I’m not cheap.

Anyway, I let Christine know, and she was pretty psyched. Even having worked there for a few weeks now, she still hadn’t gotten to play the game, since they’re all so insanely busy with getting things ready for the launch, and the new website they’re working on.

So, Friday night, we get home, throw together a quick dinner, and shove it down our pieholes.   Well, I shove mine down my piehole, and Christine eats at her usual pace. So, while she’s eating, I began feverishly ripping through boxes, and putting things together.

From the very beginning, opening the new wireless drum kit, I knew it was going to be much better than the Rock Band 1 drumkit.   (To be fair, I’m pretty sure I got a bad drumkit for the first game, because the majority of the hits didn’t register.     Although, according to a lot of people, they had the same problem, so maybe it was just a bad drumkit, who knows.)

I unpacked the kit, and immediately thought “hey, this isn’t a toy!”, while the first drumkit I took it out of the box and thought “wow, a toy. Great.”   The new kit is much sturdier, the pads are a little bit bigger (I didn’t measure the new ones compared to the old ones, because I’d already put the old one in the closet before Christine got home from work.)   They give you “real” drumsticks this time, made by Ludwig, but they were still pretty cheap, and I got a splinter after half a song.   I switched back to my trusty Vic Firth sticks.

I think my favorite part about the new drum kit, is that you can pick the entire thing up, and it doesn’t fall apart, nor does the kick pedal flop off and drop to the ground, stretching the wire that connects it to the kit.   It all stays together nicely, and is sturdy.

Playing the new kit, it’s obvious that the folks at Harmonix listened to everyone complain about the old drums.   They’re sturdier, quieter, and more accurate.   Oh, and the drum trainer on the game is awesome.   I’m still amazed at how more accurately the drums are.   I stare at the screen while playing, and hit a whole bunch of notes in succession, and the game registers all of them. That’s something I could never do with the old game/drums.

Aesthetically, the new guitar is much nicer. It’s got a great sunburst finish on it, which looks more classy.   It put together the same way I remember putting the other guitar together, for Rock Band 1.   The difference is that this new guitar is wireless.

No clickity clack of the fret keys on this new guitar, and so far, the strum bar hasn’t given out like our last one did.

Other than that, it’s pretty much the same as the previous guitar.   The frets look nicer, in the woodgrain, they look more realistic, and the colors for the buttons are on the sides of the neck, similar to fret markers on a real guitar, which is cool.

Little known fact, but awesome fact: If you plug in the old drum pedal to the little port on the side of the new guitar, you can activate Overdrive by stomping on the pedal, like a stompbox!

The game is infinitely better than Rock Band 1.   I was most impressed, right off the bat (and so was Christine), that the downloadable content just worked.   There was no voodoo, or magic needed. They were just there, and just worked.   We eventually paid the 5 bucks for a license to move the RB1 content into RB2, as well, and that was extremely simple.   And, totally worth $5.00 worth of Microsoft points.

While the actual gameplay is very similar to the original Rock Band, it’s the small things that were improved, that I’m the most impressed with.

  • When picking a setlist, you can now see the previous songs you’d selected in the top left corner of the screen.
  • The difficulty of the song you’re considering playing is now shown onscreen, where the previous game only showed you difficulty when you drilled down into a song’s details, before downloading it (I believe.)
  • The graphics that show your name/Xbox username when you start playing for the day, are much cooler.
  • The challenges are new, and very cool.
  • The drum trainer is awesome for those that don’t know what they’re doing. And for those that do, it’s just downright fun.
  • The online tournaments (I think that’s what they’re called), are pretty cool.   You get to play a short set, with various “Required instruments” (for some of them), and then compare your score, or star rating, to other bands on Xbox live (and presumably the Playstation Network, too.)   You get to see your ranking, and it tells you how much better you need to do, to be in the Top 100.
  • You can play any instrument you want with the same character. You don’t have to create a new person if you want to sing one day, and play the drums the next.   Your band player is uber-talented, and can play anything you want.
  • There’s now staff you can hire throughout the game, based on how many stars you have acquired.
  • You can play benefits, film videos, and get reviewed by critics. (At one point, we got reviewed, and the reviewer said we relied too much on Overdrive. So the next time he came to review us, they challenged us to play the set without using Overdrive. We agreed, and they didn’t even give us the opportunity to use Overdrive, because there were no Overdrive notes. Brilliant!)
  • Each band member maintains their own money.   I don’t know how this gets figured out, and didn’t realize it, until Christine and I went to spend money in the rock store.

All the great stuff in the game vastly outweigh the negative, of which, unfortunately, there are a few.

  • The solo tour is gone.   While I don’t care about this, (I mean really, the game is about playing with friends) others online are a bit unhappy.
  • The songs – there’s some great songs in the game, but it starts off really slowly.   A lot of the beginning songs are either pretty lame, or really obscure.     The “fix” for that, is to import your Rock Band tracks first, so those “random” setlists, and created setlists will at least have some songs you know, and like playing.

I’m sure there’s more good points, and more bad points, but it’s early, it’s Monday, and we haven’t gone through the entire game yet.

I’m absolutely, 100% glad I didn’t wait for the Harmonix folks to give my wife her copy, and that I went out and bought it.   It’s totally worth it, and is absolutely a huge improvement, and ton of fun.   I can’t wait to play again.   I’m going to gather up some of the guys from work and organize a Rock Band 2 party.

My suggestions, to improve even more (which is my wish list, and shouldn’t be taken as any indication that Harmonix is, or will be working on any of this, in the near future):

  • A possible 5th band member, which would be a second guitar player.   I know there’s songs in the game that have two guitars in them, but if you’ve got two guitars plugged in, you can only have a guitar player and a bass player.   A “lead” and “rhythm” would be awesome, and is something that Harmonix did back in the days when they made that other game.
  • While we’re on it, a few tracks with two drummers would be friggen awesome.   Some Allman Brothers, Adam and The Ants, Pink Floyd, Yes, ..and you will know us by the trail of dead, or The Outlaws.   A dual drummer version of Green Grass and High Tides? I can see it now!
  • The game shows your high score for a track, but how about a historical score keeper, so you can see how much you’ve improved at a song over time?
  • While we’re on scores, it’d be awesome at the end of a track, if you beat your high score, that you got some sort of notification about it.   Just a quick “You F’n rocked a new high score!” would suffice.
  • More Dream Theater – while I don’t think anyone will ever beat Panic Attack on Expert on any instrument, so what. Dream Theater rules.

I think that’s it for suggestions.   I love the game, and guarantee you will too.   Go buy it, you’ll thank me later.   I know, I know, it’s expensive.   Stop being a cheapass, and spend the money.   Seriously. Go. Now.   Rock Band 2 rules, thank you, again, Harmonix.   You’ve made a lifetime customer out of me. I’ll pretty much buy anything you put out, ever.   Even when the Rock Band Hanson version comes out.   (That’s a joke, there is no Hanson version. That’s not inside information, stop thinking you got the scoop.)

The Endless Setlist Finished

So, we carved out 5 hours of our Labor Day weekend to play the Endless Setlist for Rock Band.

What’s the endless setlist, you ask?   58 songs in a row.   I guessed it would take us about 6 hours to complete.   Luckily, it only took 4 hours 45 minutes.   I thought I was going to die.

It rocked though, we 5 starred 55 of the 58 songs, which was an accomplishment. Christine 100%’d 25 songs, which was kickass.

I was pretty pissed though, at the end.   There’s an accomplishment for XBox260 that’s “Platnium Artist”, which you get when you finish the Endless Setlist on Expert, which I did.   I didn’t get the award.   Apparently, you only get the award of the person playing the lowest difficulty in your band.   Since Christine was playing on Medium, I only got the medium award, which angered me.

Since Christine now works at Harmonix (starting on Monday), she’s going to have fix it, and give me my damned award!   Or, I could go back and carve out another 5 hours of my time, and do it again.   Or could i?

Thank You Harmonix

I’ve been waiting for the day that Harmonix would realize that releasing a Dream Theater song for Rock Band is a good idea.   That day came yesterday, via downloadable content (not to mention that there’ll be a Dream Theater song on the disc for Rock Band 2, according to the website.)

As any good Dream Theater fan would (I’ve got 30+ of their CDs), I immediately turned on the XBox 360 when I got home from work last night, and began feverishly downloading the new track pack (as I do most every Tuesday.)

My cockiness got the best of me: “I can do this on Expert, no problem.”   After all, John Petrucci’s only one of the best guitar players on the planet. No problem.

Saved by the wife.
Fail again.
“I can’t friggen do this, I gotta practice it.”

Dream Theater – Constant Motion is not for the faint of heart.   If you download it, good luck.   If you’re not a full time Rock Band pro, don’t bother trying expert on any instrument.   It’s not happening.

Why did Harmonix make some of the new downloadable songs so difficult? Simple.   Because they can.   Making songs that are extremely difficult, that don’t impact the outcome of the actual “career” mode of the game, make people strive to be better without making the game impossible to beat.

Well done, Harmonix.   I look forward to Rock Band 2.   Oh, and please hire my wife for the Production Assistant job she interviewed for.   Thanks.

Guitar Hero – Weak-o-smith

I’m not a huge Aerosmith fan, but I gladly bought the new Guitar Hero – Aerosmith game.   Mainly because I dig Guitar Hero, and think it’s fun.

I promptly started the game Sunday night, when I got it (the day it came out), and named my band cleverly: HtimsoreA (Aerosmith, backwards).

I began my expert career, thinking, like the other GH games, it’d start easy, and ramp up to difficult. (See Slayer, GH 3).   I was sadly mistaken.   I blew through the entire game, with only one small failure, that I attribute to the over-sensitive star power activating itself before the solo, to get me through a tough part.   It’s my own fault, really, I hold the guitar like a real guitar, and not horizontal.   I wish Activision would give you a different way to activate star power.

Anyway, 22.5 hours later, and only two sessions, I finished the game.   I thought maybe I just got better at the game.   So I went back and played Rock Band on Expert, and GH 3 on Expert, failing the same songs that I’ve been stuck on for weeks/months (Green Grass and High Tides, and Slayer).

I’m utterly disappointed in the first band-branded version of GH being so easy.   Just getting through the game on Expert gets you almost 500 gamer points, which in today’s day and age, is weak.

Also, in looking at XBox.com, beating the game on Expert also gives you the gamer points for beating it on the easier levels, which is cool, I guess.

It looks like I’ve unlocked most everything.   The awards left are stupid ones, like buy all the stuff from the store, and earn money, play online and win, etc.

The ones I’ll go back and try to get:

* Score Hero – Score “325,000” or more on the song “Train Kept a Rollin'” (Which was one of the hardest songs in the game)
* I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing – Earn a gold star rating on a song on Medium or harder difficulty (Local only)
* Ain’t That a B***h – Earn a gold star rating on a song (I guess that means 100%?   Christine and I got a 100% on co-op on the first song we tried. I guess that wasn’t good enough)

I hope the next band-branded version of the game is someone uber-difficult; Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold, Led Zeppelin, Slayer, Disturbed, Dream Theater, etc.   Make it tough. If we’re gonna shell out another $60 for the game (or $90 with the controller), make it worth our while, Activision.   Oh, and Activision, if you’re listening, fix the stupid star power activation.   No one plays the guitar horizontally.   Gimme someone to press on the guitar, to activate it.   Or a footpedal or something.   Please?