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Malik (4/7/08)

Not much to say for today. Rock Band is offering nothing new this week, no important new games are up on the radar at this time, and I'm getting over being sick. So, essentially, this week is looking pretty bland.

I felt the need to post, since I've skipped too many Mondays and it makes it harder for me to archive the last week of posts when I don't have a dated Monday post. So, this is not worth you time to read today and I've posted primarily for my own damned laziness to remain intact. Hopefully there will be something more interesting tomorrow.


Malik (4/8/08)

It's now being guessed that if this Take Two buyout happens (the one which EA is trying to secure), it would delay GTA4...Really? I don't see it.

For one thing, this buyout offer is still just that; an offer. It's not solid, guaranteed, or even overly likely at this point. The main thing being "at this point". These offers are usually slow to happen when one side is so damned opposed to the deal. With how strongly Take Two is trying to reject this offer, it will not happen anytime soon.

On top of that, if the offer is taken, there's more time involved. It has to be cleared by many channels. These go for both ends of the spectrum; companies and investors involved and the government itself. The SEC would have to approve of such a large transaction, and they are notorious for slowing down almost anything that could raise an eyebrow or two.

If, for some reason, the Take Two shareholders accepted this offer today, the final deal is still many months away from being completed. By that time, GTA4 will have been out for at least a month. This offer simply cannot happen at the drop of a hat, and this is the sole reason we can accept the obvious; this attempt of EA to buy a rival is not going to delay the most precious GTA4.

The only thing that could be delayed by this deal is the potential future DLC for the game. If Rock Star is moved around into a new location (in terms of businesses, not physical location), then this could delay future work, including DLC. However, the base game is set to drop this month and I see no reason to even think it would not see this release date. A lot of content is out on the details of the game (well, content means, in this case, the fake commercials for businesses in GTA4 that are filling youtube and TVs). There will be no more delays.

Sorry, but I cannot take too many things said by supposed analysts too seriously. There have been a lot of speculation in the game world by analysts in the past, and that track record is not all that good. That's not even to say the track record of one Michael Pachter...who seems to have one hell of a cool job. Afterall, all he does is ramble about the latest crazy thought in his head and he gets paid for it. Not only does he get paid, he even gets air time for his crazy thoughts.

Anyway, the sky is not falling. Hell, the sky is in the same damned place it was and it's not going anywhere. Despite what Pachter may say.

Before I end things for today, there's some news for Rock Band awaiting Europeans. The news is that you're going to get hosed...and then some. The 360 version does come out on May 23rd...which is good. The rest of the news goes downhill quickly.

For one thing, the PS2, PS3, and Wii versions are all due out at a later date. Probably sometime in the middle of the summer. So, if you don't have a 360 and you want RB and live in Europe, be prepared to do more of what you're probably fed up with doing; waiting.

Secondly, the price is pathetic, at best. It's 169 euros for the special edition package...minus the game. Yes, you pay more (euros are worth a lot more than US dollars), and you get less. To round it out, you'll have to pay another 69.99 euros to get the game itself. So, you take two financial hits and it far surpasses the financial hit of the American price. Then, if you want a second (wireless) guitar, there goes another 79.99 euros. It just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it?

At least the base game will have all the American release songs and eight additional tracks (including some Muse, Oasis, and Blur). Europe will also have all of the American DLC available at launch...well, actually shortly after on May 27th. Of course, the game will probably require steeper prices for DLC than in the US, since EA seems to be giving a big middle finger to Europe on this one.

Of course, the good news in this, beyond any date being set, is for American Rock Band fiends. The news is that around the end of May, the eight European "exclusive" tracks will hit the Live Marketplace in the US for $2 each.

I would say it sucks to be in Europe...but this isn't some national bragging rights thing. Rock is a universal thing and it should never come down to one region getting to rock better than another. This is weak all across the board, and I hope that price drops come soon and swiftly for the unjustly slammed European rockers out there.


Malik (4/9/08)

Last night I picked up Guitar Hero 3 for the first time since November. After five months, I had the need to go back to this game. Why? Well, I just wanted to play something other than the songs I have on Rock Band, but I still wanted to do some guitar rocking. Also, I quit playing GH3 when I was still loving the four button action of medium. So, it felt natural to try out some of the GH3 songs with the full fledged orange action and with hitting every note, like you find only with expert.

First off, I need to say one thing; I will never play GH3 again. Never. There is no exception to this. I had not had so little fun with a rhythm game since I was last playing DDR while shit-faced drunk (which leads to feeling like you need to "release" some of your alcoholic fun). I just had absolutely no fun.

It was bad enough to go back to the Xplorer (my GH3 controller was not good to go since the battery pack had drained over the last five months) controller after five months of using the Strat. The Strat feels more like a real guitar (as much as a five buttoned toy could), is the right size, and has some damned smooth frets. Also, the Strat is so much more enjoyable since it isn't yelling at you every note...yelling its battle cry of "CLICK!"

That was only minor compared to what GH3 gave me (and what it didn't give me) in the actual game. First off, the note charts are retarded. Yes, some people like GH3 because it's harder than Rock Band. These people are the same type who like to get achievements and high scores instead of feeling the music. It's one thing when the notes are simply dumb and are bumped up in challenge, it's another thing when the challenge is obviously forced.

By forced, I mean the abundance of three note chords when the actual guitarist in the real song is playing power chords (two to three frets being held...but very simple chords even a guitar novice could use with some skill). That is just not called for. It's also uncalled for when you play notes that simply don't exist.

I don't like RB making the guitarist play some keyboard/piano/organ notes, but at least these are real sounds. There are too many cases in GH3 when you play a note and nothing is making any sound. This isn't playing a rhythm game...this is just playing a game of hitting random freakin' buttons while some music plays in the background. This also applies to held chords that require you to change buttons despite the held note not being changed in the real guitar. For example, look at When You Were Young on both RB and GH3. You should see the differences quickly enough if you play on expert.

To make it even worse, the old layout of the game was intolerable. Once you learn to live with little rectangles, the giant Skittles of GH cannot be enjoyed again. They are too big and too primitive.

On top of the challenge being faked, I think the largest "fake" effect that's different is the lack of an audience. Yes, in GH games you hear the audience...but only when you move from red <-> yellow <-> green on the rock meter. Meanwhile, on RB I have the audience singing along with me. I have them, on RB, booing when I'm doing bad, cheering when I'm rocking. I have the feel that I'm actually rocking out and not going for some damned high score.

Ultimately, I think that's what it comes down to. GH3 feels like it's a game for elitists. It's a game to get a high score on. As the old saying goes, RB wants you to have fun...while GH3 just doesn't care if you're having fun or not. F#@$ that. I play games for only one reason. I don't play to be the best, to get the best score, or anything like that. I play games to have fun (and if you're not doing the same, maybe you've missed the difference between the terms "game" and "work").

So, with that, and after playing the Dropkick Murphy songs, I'm done with GH3. I'm done with any GH game that is not Harmonix developed. I am almost done with those as well, but at least Harmonix showed the attention to detail to ensure the note charts were as realistic as possible...not just some torture-fest of finger mashing pain.


Malik (4/10/08)

Rock Band on the Wii apparently needs a hard drive for DLC. Bullshit. I cannot buy that line so easily.

First off, when you look at the big picture, how big is a DLC song or pack? It's on a scale of megs, not gigs. This means that a Wii running with the latest batch of SD cards, which are very cheap, you can have plenty of room for DLC. In fact, SD cards are now running in the 8GB range without hassle (read: cheap versus a HDD attachment and easy to find). You can even expect the size of SD memory to increase to well beyond the 360 standard HDD (20GB) in the next year. If memory serves me right, 32GB SD cards are in the pipeline.

Well, then there's the standard complaint one could expect to counter SD cards; piracy. Why not do the easy thing and tie in new downloads to either the console (it would be a little less portable than 360 DLC...but not much) or somehow tie it in to a Mii (making it portable since Miis can go on a wiimote). It would be just like how the songs are done on the 360, in which they are tied to a gamer profile and a console.

The other option is for Harmonix to make their own HDD for the Wii. Afterall, they say it's needed for DLC for Rock Band, and there is plenty of USB space (RB, in bundle form, comes with a 4 port USB hub). Of course, this would be more expensive than a SD card and definitely slower. However, it wouldn't be the first time a game studio forced a HDD on a console (Final Fantasy XI for the PS2 comes to mind). True, a good amount of gamer would hate the extra cost, but then again...doesn't DLC cost money? So, this would be for the hardcore gamers, while the casuals can stick with no DLC (like some do on the 360 or PS3 versions of RB).

The other part I cannot swallow is that there cannot be a Band World Tour mode on either the PS2 (too late to change that) or the Wii. Yes, you cannot alter characters since the animations are a lot to handle when you're adding all the different possible colors, stickers, tatoos, and so forth. However, I find the BWT to be much more fulfilling than just because of character editing. It's a whole new level of accomplishments.

So, my simple question; why no BWT mode, but without working to unlock money. Make it more based around just getting to new places and finding new fans. You could even have the fans visible via a leader board, since the Wii does have online...even if Harmonix doesn't want it for actual matches.

Lastly, on this day of Rock Band ramblings, I think RB needs a major update in the next six months. What type of update? Well, I aim to go into what I think would be an awesome idea tomorrow (I'm too damned tired to type much more today). However, with GH4 due in the fall, GH: Aerosmith due in June, and another GH game due sometime in between...not to mention the lame idea of the GH DS game...

Harmonix is going to have a position in which they look like they have nothing new. Meanwhile, Neversoft will be looking good with no new competition, beyond new DLC (which isn't enough of competition). So, I think Harmonix should ready a major update...more likely a full on downloadable expansion pack. It wouldn't have songs, but rather some new in game content. I'll go into my thoughts more tomorrow (don't have time now...and I probably will have nothing to talk about tomorrow so I need something to fall back on)...but I will say that online BWT is the furthest thing from my mind on this.


Malik (4/11/08)

It is Friday, and I can taste the freedom of a weekend upon me. Viva Friday!

Without much introduction (since that was yesterdays post), here's the rest of my thinking from yesterday. My thought on what Harmonix should do with battling Guitar Hero and Neversoft is simple. Since Rock Band is not something that is supposed to have constant new versions, unlike the whoring of GH that Neversoft is doing, an update will be needed.

I mean, the main focus for many gamers is Band World Tour mode. This is where you can feel like you're accomplishing something. However, BWT is getting stale, if it's not stale already. There are only so many cities and only so many venues. Once you've beat everything on expert, there's nowhere else to go. Yes, you do have more to do than GH has offered with solo careers (and the lame co-op career of GH3). However, if we're expected to still be happy with this and some DLC after a year, or more, than Harmonix is only deceiving themselves.

I think a paid update is in order. No...not an update. A downloadable expansion. What I see is a two fold expansion that would offer limitless growth of the game and also offer a good source of extra revenue for Harmonix.

First off, we need more venues. If the Rock Shop could be added to the game, then more venues shouldn't be too hard. These venues can be based more on DLC. For example, we could flesh out the one venue locations (like Moscow, Tokyo, Sydney, etc.) by offering a full three (or more) venues. We could also find some more cities appearing. Why no Portland, Miami (or another Florida location), Huston (or other Texas), etc? There are a lot of untapped places that had some rock influences on the world. It may be easy to forget, but there are some major places that are not in Rock Band that offered a lot to the world of rock.

With these new venues, we'd need content to fill it. Now this is where it would get more complicated, but also why I feel this would be a good expansion to spend money on.

One of two ways could fill these venues. The first is to have a constant database online of what content is out and where it would fit in. Then these new venues could be propagated with a quick check of "Rock Central". If you have all the DLC that would fit in a certain place (let's say a new place in Boston is programmed to look for Boston songs), then that venue appears and is unlocked. This would encourage players to download DLC and would help to push the game forward. In other words, it would be good for both players and the people at EA/Harmonix.

New venues, under this plan, could be constantly updated as new DLC is released. If you don't have the songs for a venue, then you simply don't get access to it. It might feel cheap to not have certain venues at your home that some friends may talk about, but that's only because you would have different musical tastes. You get something if you pay, and you don't really miss out if you don't want to pay for DLC. It would, basically, be a bonus for DLC fans.

The other option is a series of not-quite-random set lists. For example, a new venue may be made in Moscow (I only use this as an example since it's lacking two possible venues). One set in this new Moscow venues would be a Southern Rock Marathon. However, unlike the one that's in the base game and offers Flirting, Green Grass, and Mississippi Queen, it would be a set list of three random Southern Rock songs. Maybe you have downloaded all the DLC, so this venue may give you, when you play it, Hard to Handle, Gimme Three Steps, and Flirting. It would be random set lists, but the genre would be set in stone.

Other uses would be to take certain artists who get a lot of Rock Band attention (Boston, Police, Grateful Dead, and in the future Metallica, The Who, and Nirvana) via DLC. You could have a set called something like Rocking Boston. It would give you somewhere between three and six Boston songs, at random. Maybe another type would be decade randoms. "Rocking The 70's" would have a few random songs but all would be from the 1970's. Afterall, the genre and release year tags are on the songs, so why not use them? It would feel less chaotic than a pure random, and it would allow for players with DLC to get some real use out of the DLC in BWT mode.

A final idea would be to have new venues with the option to use your manager. I am partly stealing this from a cool post I saw at (not a link to the actual post). Someone there mentioned the idea of a manager who could change set lists. Instead, I think it should be new venues that are the largest in a city (larger than the third venue in cities with three venues). In this one, you can make your own set lists, but only under certain conditions.

For one thing, you would need to have unlocked the manager in BWT (one of the first major accomplishments). Then you would have to pay for the songs in your list. You would pay the "manager" to create sets of your desire. Afterall, your manager would need to work a little harder to hype these shows. Maybe you'd need the PR agency as well since you'd need someone to help in hyping such shows to the public. Then you'd pay the two bodies (manager and PR firm) a cut of your potential earnings to get the word out. It would be like a create a set list venue, but it would become permanent (what songs you pick), until you're willing to pay the two bodies again to change them. Semi-permanent "create a set list" events.

This one would require a certain degree of challenge, however. You would have requirements for given sets. For example, a given set may have to be songs that fall under a certain genre, decade, band, or whatever, and it would have to total a certain difficulty. For example, maybe a set has to be 1980's songs with a total difficulty of 12 in three songs. So you'd have to pick three songs with an average of being in the 4th tier (aiming higher is not penalized), and all three are from the 80's.

For one thing, this would allow your pseudo-band to exert the fact that they have a core set of songs they are proud to play. Afterall, if I was in the shoes of Malek (my Rock Band character...since "Malik" is not classy), I know I'd be damned sick of certain songs, like Green Grass, Last Train to Claskville, Train Kept Rollin', and Say It Ain't So and I'd refuse to play them.

Also, all of these options would allow for the potential of albums to be in BWT. Yes, you can do random or create a set lists right now to do part of an album. However, I want the option to do all songs on an album in one run. Like I'm the band who did the album and I'm promoting it to the crowd.

Since all of these options would require some additional work, beyond a patch, for Harmonix, I would be willing to pay for such an expansion. This would add to the replay value of the game, and it would give me more incentive to keep playing after all the standard venues are laid to rest. Depending on how it's done, it could even offer an extra 250 GP, like many expansions do on the 360, for completing new cities.

So, that's my rambled idea. I like it...well, I should say "I like them". It's several ideas, but all of them would just add so much more to Rock Band. Plus, this shouldn't tax the abilities of the systems or the online, like Online Band World Tour could possible do.

To end my posting today, like I do every Friday, I have some thoughts on the new batch of DLC ...which is due on Tuesday, of course.

I am glad that there is something new and Harmonix is not taking a defensive stance towards how the Playstation store is still offline (but due back next week). However, I wish they would have taken a different stance. Namely, they should have released something big (Who's Next) to make up for two weeks of blah. It's not like they didn't have time for something big (Who's Next) to be in the works. Maybe even an album (Who's Next) that was due out on the first month (Who's Next) of the games life. adding something different with Blondie (Call Me) is a nice touch. It adds some more 1980's stuff, and hits a slightly different sound than what we normally get. On the other hand, Skynard (Simple Man) has already hit the DLC scene. I won't even get started with how much overkill Harmonix has done with The Police (Message in a Bottle) and how they have been in a few too many weeks of DLC as it stands. I'm not dissing The Police, since I have plenty of friends who like them, but I am wanting either some variety (read: something new, like Blondie...maybe Don't Drag Me Down from Social D), or an album.

On the bright side, all of these are masters. On the not so bright side, after two weeks of crap (or next to crap), it would have been nice to be seeing something big and long overdue (Who's Next).

The songs are the usual $2 per song or $5.50 for the Classic Rock Pack. I do find it funny that these songs are packed together and have so little in common besides coming from the same general time in history. Whatever.


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