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Malik (3/25/08)

I was out in Yakima this weekend (up through yesterday). So, like I said on Friday, no post yesterday.

I don't have too much to say, so this will be short and bitter sweet.

Well, the first part of this is not so sweet. Tonight is Jericho's final episode. Hopefully it's just the final one on CBS, but it's most likely the final episode ever. I hope another network picks up the show. It would be an ideal show to put on SciFi or even a premium channel. However, the cost of the show is a little high for non-premium cable, and the show is not quite the type found on a premium network. Either way, it would be nice. I guess it's time for Jericho fans to go to the store and buy some nuts again.

If you never saw Jericho, all I can say is that it's now a good time to boost the public perception (as seen from various networks) by buying the DVD of the first season. Don't forget the second season when it finally comes out many months from now.

For the more happy side of things, the Boston pack for Rock Band comes out today. This is the first pack since January that I'll buy without previewing the tracks on youtube. Let's face it, we're talking about Boston here. The band that gave one awesome song on Guitar Hero (More Than a Feeling...which is in this pack), and an awesome two-in-one song (Foreplay/Long Time) on RB. With a track record this sweet with Harmonix, and with a library of music so much in tune with the nature of Rock Band, I have no reason to have any doubt in my mind to the awesomeness of this pack.

Hopefully Harmonix keeps up this trend of alternating weeks of niche rock one week and old school classics the next. It's a good blend that offers the most potential for sales and for fan satisfaction.


Malik (3/26/08)

Played all of the Boston songs on expert guitar and a couple ( of Mind) on medium drums yesterday. I have a few quick decisions on these songs.

First off, they all seem to offer a nice level of challenge without being overly technical...with one exception. Yes, the solo to Hitching a Ride is not easy by any means, but it's not too bitchy if you're prepared (read: keep some star power at the ready for when the wall of Skittles appears). In fact, all but one song will allow you to work a fair bit, but also you'll be able to do well enough to rock out and have that good old classic rock vibe pumping through your soul.

The exception? Smokin'. This song is listed at part of the next to last tier (level 8 on guitar). That, my friends, is bull shit to the highest degree. Let's just say that this song is more reminiscent of Flirting With Disaster than anything else. The solo is not quite as crazy, but it's definitely far more advanced, solo and normal song, than anything found in the regular game for tier 8. It's harder and more technical than Train Kept a Rollin' any day of the week. It's fast, frantic, and filled with some quick changes from single notes to chords and back again. Smokin' has a quick beat, a lot of notes, and no time to gather your composure if you start to lose it.

Beyond Flirting, this is the first song I'll have to hit the practice mode for. I don't count Green Grass in this grouping since it's just about rhythm and not about discovering the proper way to think about entire passages. My best so far (out of about six attempts) has been around 45% done on solo expert guitar (100% through first time on hard...but that even made me work damned hard for a four star rating). This is now my new bane since it's also a hell of an awesome classic rock song that I really want to be able to rock out to with a band setting.

In the end, if you don't count Smokin', the Boston Pack is a lot of fun. There are a lot of subtle tricks thrown in to keep you on your toes, but enough simplicity to keep you feeling like you can control these songs.

As for Piece of Mind on drums...well, if you can pass medium solo career, then you can beat it. However, you can also expect to be thrown for a loop a few times as the bass and red seem to be added in some unusual positions. I don't think I'll be seeing hard on these Boston songs any time soon...except when I do my band sessions and watch the drummer show me why I'm the string man.

Still, for $10, the entire pack is worth the price. For $12 buying each track individually, it is still worth it. This is some classic rock that you either know or damned well should know.

My other project for last night was to watch Jericho's finale. Since I have been running off of too little sleep and it was put on at 10PM for its final season, I didn't get this done. At least I have it on DVR and it should be on CBS HD On Demand...and there's probably a CBS web cast of the show as well. So, this will be my mission for tonight.

On a final note for the day...a really final note...I want to delve back into Rock Band.

The Wii version has been detailed to some extent. I have to say I'm rather disappointed in how Harmonix is dealing with this final port of Rock Band. I can see them wanting to play it safe with some functions (especially online play since the Wii is not really too tested with this feature outside of Smash), but this is overkill.

The Wii may not have a giant hard drive to handle massive amounts of downloads, but it also doesn't exclude DLC just by having a half gig of storage. On one hand, Harmonix could be pioneers in this field by trying to incorporate SD memory on a game for the first real time. On the other hand, they could limit the number of songs available at a given time (you could easily fit about 15 or more DLC tracks on the built in memory) and use one simple fact to their advantage; you can re-download things on the Wii for free as long as you've downloaded and paid for it once before.

The largest feature failure in this port, however, has to be the lack of character creation and what it entails for the rest of the game. If you don't have any characters, then there's no use in in-game money. Without in-game money, then there's no use for beating songs (besides to unlock the next tier and for bragging rights) and no use for band world tour mode. While BWT has not been fully addressed, as of now, this mode is almost certainly out due to the lack of character creation/customization. Hell, they could even keep it simple (and silly to a point) by using Mii's as in game characters for the Wii version of RB.

In short, the lack of features from the Wii version of RB is putting it on equal footing with the PS2 version...which was also gimped beyond reason. DLC is excusable to keep out. It's lame to toss it aside, but it can be excused (although pushing the limits by opening up SD card usage would make Harmonix into heroes in the Wii development world). Character creation, or even customization of pre-built characters (like in Guitar Hero), should be in the game. There is no reason to ignore this feature when it's not a memory intensive feature and the Wii's basic infrastructure could handle the animations involved.

It would be good for Harmonix to open their eyes and see that they will be essentially on equal footing with GH3 in the Wii world because of this short change of features. Yes, it will have drums and vocals, but GH3 on the Wii already has character customization (buying new axes and outfits) and a far larger audience once June 22nd rolls around.

I just feel bad for Wii owners (those who are only owning a Wii and not a PS3 or 360) and European gamers. Both are getting jerked around by Harmonix on this game and there's really no reason for it. The European version should be out already and the Wii version should be the same engine as the 360/PS3 version.

At least I have a 360 and can rock out Boston right now.


Malik (3/27/08)

Last night I decided to lay some songs to rest in Rock Band that always gave me problems. For example, I Get By was always my stopping point on expert guitar. It's not that the song is that hard, but I always had some issues with the quick "bass -> chord" progressions in that song. So, I picked up the axe and gave it a shot to see if I've improved since I last tried it solo (about a month or two ago).

That was simple enough. That left me with Outside from Tribe, which I always had trouble with even in a two person (bass and myself on guitar) band. Something about the opening HO/PO sections and then the weird chord to MO part in the middle always blocked me from doing well. That soon went down. Before I knew it, I had passed each song that remained (including Timmy) without a single retry or problem. I may not have gotten a good score on some (Timmy), but I still rocked them out.

I think my favorite part of Rock Band has to be how well one could advance their skills in the game and how the improvements can be so obvious. There is nothing like finishing a song that always gave you issues with no more than a little hesitation.

I'm still stuck with the same final three left for my expert guitar solo career. If it wasn't for the solos, I could lay Highway Star, Green Grass, and Flirting to rest. I think I may need to actually crack out practice mode for these and Smokin' (Boston Pack), but at least I'm progressing. It may take a while, but I'm determined to get through the rest of expert matter the effort required.

I'm also tempted to pick up the old GH games again. I never got beyond medium on any of them. Afterall, I didn't have the great reward system of RB (I think of how you can be saved twice in band mode before you're really out as a reward for trying to push oneself) until after I put all the GH games down. I'm now wanting to see if I have improved on these games and if I can maybe hone some more skills in this alternate arena. It's just too sad that the RB Strat cannot be carried over with me (still my favorite guitar controller).

Anyway, I don't have much to really say, so I'll add one final thought...snow! I could have sworn it was spring, but the weather is telling me differently. The Seattle area doesn't get snow often. We may even go without snow for an entire year. In the last five months, Seattle (and it's outlying cities) has seen more snow that we typically get in several years. It's nice, since I'm a snow lover, but I really could use it on a more seasonal and appropriate schedule.

A final bonus thought beyond the snow talk...the final Jericho, which I didn't see on Tuesday, sadly disappointed me. The series had such promise and the final episode just didn't seem to deliver what could have been. It felt more like a season finale with a cheesy final two minutes than a real ending for a show that brought so many cool plot ideas to TV. I just hope someone (SciFi, I'm looking at you) can bring this show back from the dead.


Malik (3/28/08)

Last night I considered my warm up to tonight. With tonight being the usual Rock Band night. So, I got in some time in my other band with the higher fans and far lower predictability on when we'll be playing. On the bright side, I have to say I am seeing a few nice things. The first being about 2 million more fans than when we started yesterday.

I'm also seeing a lot more gold stars on songs. Not just in band mode (where our songs total for gold stars is now two), but also in solo career...where I've finally stopped missing the really easy notes and started to bump up my rankings a fair bit. I've even made some efforts to boost my scores for individual songs enough to be of a respectable rank on the leader boards.

However, the big change I'm seeing is that the patch did indeed seem to fix the issue of song variety. By this I mean that the game did not pick on band to beat us to death with. For example, Full Metal Hemorrhoids (let's say FMH since I hate typing all of that...that's my not so regular in schedule band...with well over 29 million fans) likes the random sets. It's the most challenge and it really offers the most potential for growth and development of skills (since you cannot setting up a slow song after a really fast one, so you may have two blistering songs in a row to deal with).

However, we also would learn to hate the randoms because the game would pick Metallica (usually Blackened), and we would fail. Then we'd go back to the map and reselect the same random event to get a better song list...and then we'd get Metallica (usually ...And Justice For All). We'd get to the solo and then everything would go to shit. Then back to the world map and we'd do the same random...and get Metallica (Ride The Lightning this time), and fail once that solo was upon us. Then back to the map, and before hitting that same random we would go and grab another beer and bitch and moan about how much the game hates us. Then we'd get through the random since the only Metallica left, which the game would throw our way, would be Enter Sandman.

I've also seen this with other bands I'm in with different artists. Sometimes it's Queens of The Stone Age (not too bad until Sick, Sick, Sick comes your way). One time it was Iron Maiden (luckily there's only two songs to pick from there...but they are both not songs for the faint of heart). No matter the band, the game would become obsessed with one artist...and then you'd eaither face boredom ("not songs in a row is enough already") or complete hell (Metallica).

Last night, the first time I've done some random since the patch was released, I saw no Metallica. I saw no artist being repeated, and I saw no real problems. Ok, the game did love to hand out a lot of tier 9 guitar and bass songs (the only two instruments in FMH), but it wasn't like they were all the same band over and over. In fact, I don't think I saw a single repeat artist from a random setlist the entire night.

I don't know if the vocals are any better, since I never asked the vocalist for the Friday night gig, but at least the random fix is one important fix for this game.

Since I have so little to talk about today, I figured I could at least round this post out with some thoughts on the DLC announcement due out today. Well, instead it's a bunch of nothing. Not that nothing is coming out next week, but rather that the announcement is not coming until Monday.

Considering how Harmonix swapped over to Fridays for their DLC announcements, I would think that they would actually come out on Fridays. Instead, since we've gone to Friday announcements, it seems that it's delayed until Monday more times that one should expect. In other words, why doesn't Harmonix just stick to Monday announcements and get it over with? If it's going to be delayed so often, it would be easier to go back to the old ways (Mondays) and that could keep the hype engine from going insane and then getting disappointed a few days earlier.

I just hope that it's another week of good stuff. Sadly, I know that the March OXM songs are still not completed in being released, and there was nothing else in that set that attracted me. In fact, nothing in that set made me feel anything short of dread. If the rest of those packs are going to be released, I just hope it's along side another pack on the same week...something to keep me spending money on Rock Band like an addict with an incurable addiction. Maybe even give us Who's Next already.


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