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Malik (6/09/08)

First off, this weekend started really lame. While the 360 has an extended warrantee to cover red ring of doom situations, it is the only part of the warrantee to be extended. So, when my DVD drive stopped spinning (leading to errors with "Unreadable Disk" involved), I had no choice but to drop my economic stimulus check on a new 360. At least that's now out of the way, but Microsoft certainly didn't make any fans in my home with this situation.

I spent much of my weekend doing the same old thing (some Rock Band, some guitar, and some miscellaneous stuff). The one new thing for me was trying D&D 4th Edition.

D&D4 doesn't exactly leave me excited. After playing for about 4 or 5 hours yesterday, I think I see one good thing about the game; it has a decent and fasty paced combat engine. However, where 2nd Edition had problems, 4th has the opposite issues. 2nd was extremely role play centered, with a very poorly conceived combat engine. Meanwhile, it looks, so far, like 4th is a solid combat engine with no real thought given to role play situations.

In fact, 4th makes me think of a pencil and paper (or laptop) version of WoW. Every class is designed to be ready to fight, and combat is highly stressed. However, the non-fighting moments are compressed down to a nearly intangible moment in time.

With how abilities (like spells, warlock invocations, etc.) are all focused on how you can use them in combat, you end up with very few abilities that seem to be needed or utilized exclusively out of combat. This also limits the ways one can use potential abilities in combat or out of combat when they were designed with the opposite scenario in mind.

For example, in 2nd, I once played a druid. We were in a situation where enemy ships were coming in to board our vessel. The DM put us in a situation that looked like a definite battle would be started. Instead of accepting this fate, I started to take advantage of the druid's abilities to alter wood and nature to take out one ship immediately with some wood warping action (hit a wooden ship a few times with this type of magic and down it shall go). I just don't see this type of scenario playing out in 4th.

In fact, I can see why a good amount of classes are not found in the PHB (Player's Handbook). The bard, for example, is too focused on his abilities outside of combat and is not a damage dealer. Meanwhile, anything in 4th, so far, is entirely based on dealing damage in one way or another. True, some classes have alternative abilities (like the Warlord's ability to boost the party), but these are not the main actions you will be using on a regular basis. Instead these abilities are merely the ones you use once or twice in a quest and instead you will focus on powerful hits or large AoE spells/abilities.

To explain why this gets to me so much, let's just say that my favorite classes in D&D (3.5) were the beguiler (all about illusion, enchantment, and interactions), the 3.5 warlock (a lot of powers that worked best while exploring and maybe while intimidating someone outside of combat), and ninja/rogue (all about exploring). These roles are now nearly obsolete as you are focused on fighting and killing.

While I can't say that I don't like 4th, I can say that it is not even right to compare 4th to 3.5. They are not related like how 3.0 was related to 2nd by being far more refined. Beyond using the same base stats (strength, dexterity, etc.) and some similar terminology ("feats", "skills"), the only similarities are how they use the same types of dice. Beyond that, 3.5/3.0 and 4th are not even feeling like the same game. It feels like 3.5 (or 3.0) is designed to be the whole package for those who love role playing but also like some combat, while 4th is WoW on paper (all about grinding levels).

I do know that when I do my rare DM sessions, I will be keeping with the 3.5 rule set. 4th just doesn't match my desire to give an important option; do you fight or do you try to avoid it? In other words, I like to give the freedom to chose role playing to reward players who like to get more from the story side of the game than the combat side. I think my time playing as a PC will be entirely based, now on, around 4th. 4th is what my regular DM is using and it's what a lot of my fellow gamers are enjoying. However, I can understand the numerous companies who make modules and optional rule sets for the d20 (3.5) system...the people who are refusing to make the change.

Like I said; I don't feel 4th is inferior to 3.5, but I don't feel that they are related. 4th doesn't feel like it was created through refining the 3.5 system (which is how 3.0 felt coming from 2nd and 3.5 felt coming from 3.0), instead it is a completely separate system. In terms of family trees, one might say the original D&D spawned AD&D, which gave birth to AD&D 2nd Edition, which gave birth to 3.0, which had a child named 3.5. Meanwhile, 3.5 adopted 4th into the family. They are all related to an extent, but the genetics are not the same in 4th. They are just not something one could compare. Instead it's more of a question; do you like combat (4th), role playing (2nd), or do you like both of these elements to be important (3.5)? I like them both.


Malik (6/11/08)

Yesterday, mostly out of boredom, I checked out the youtube expert guitar videos for the new songs for this week. In the end, I liked what I saw and heard enough to buy the MTV2 Pack. As for the single (Girls Who Play Guitar or something like that), it just didn't look like it would be worth $2 for a song of constant chord shifts.

First off, the MTV2 Pack is definitely only worth it because it's cheap. If it was $2 per song, then I'd have skipped this pack without any hesitation. However, the songs just might be worth paying $1 each for.

Each song does offer something fun for guitar players on expert. However, they are more of training and warm up songs than anything else.

The first song (alphabetically) starts with "A" and I can't remember anything else of the title. I honestly don't care about the song enough to remember the title. However, it does offer a good fast rhythm with changing tempos and some not too hard of chords. If you like the feel of a song like Main Offender (but the fast chord section), then this is a rhythm you can dig.

Bullets and Guns, the second song, has a fun rhythm to it. The guitar goes from chord heavy sections in the chorus, to a really interesting red and blue section of single notes on the main verses. This is a fun song, and the sound is at least unique versus most of the other songs in Rock Band. The only real complaint I have is that the lyrics are beyond cheesy and the singer has some annoying vocal habits (like his self imposed echo effect at the end of the song).

Moving to Seattle, the final of the three songs, is actually a lot of fun. It's not hard (none of these songs are beyond tier four on any instrument), but it's pretty fun. It also offers a cool hammer-on pull-off practice area at the end of the song. You have a G->O->B with an occasional G->B->O->B part that lasts long enough that you can really get some HO practice and a chance to look cool by removing your right hand from the equation.

Like I said, all of the songs are easy. The only real challenge is in the first song which has an occasional tempo that will break a lot of combos (you won't fail the song, but you won't expect much beyond three stars) the first couple of times you try the song. Still, these are all worth the $1 price in my eyes.

I also got a chance to finally take down my white whale. I love Complete Control and it's, without a doubt, my favorite song on this game (both to listen to and to play expert guitar to). However, the shifts had left me just shy of gold stars for so damned long. After what looked like one of my worst starts on the song, I somehow got the elusive gold stars. That just felt so good, and now I can play the song just to have fun and not to fight some mythical gold star based personal challenge.


Malik (6/12/08)

Quick post today since I have little to talk about. So, I'll do my usual thing of guessing the DLC that will be announced tomorrow.

Since we just got some alternative modern music this week, I'll bet on something a bit older and a bit heavier in sound. Maybe the Rolling Stones or something of that era. Maybe even some more 80's action with the Devo song that was hinted at last month. However, whatever it is will probably not be from this current decade (hit twice in a row with MTV2 Pack and Disturbed Pack), and it will be heavier sounding, but not nearly as hard, in sound, as the Disturbed stuff was. Maybe even something from the 90's grunge type of scene.

I don't see Doolittle coming along quite yet. In fact, Doolittle is what I see for the last Tuesday of this month. I think Harmonix is milking the albums by keeping them spaced for the end of the month to keep people excited. However, I also see the next couple of albums being revealed before Doolittle comes out to help keep the anticipation level high at all times.


Malik (6/13/08)

Once again, I was pretty right about my DLC prediction for Rock Band. I say that since I specifically expected the next album to be at the end of the month...instead, Doolittle comes in two weeks...which would be the end of the month in terms of DLC days (the 30th is the following Monday and that ends the month of June).

Now I just want to see something to help build upon the whole album idea in BWT mode. I think we need a new update to increase how venues can be selected, or maybe adding some new venues. That way you could have the option of a create a set list that is just whole album sized. Afterall, it's just not as fun trying to put on a pseudo-Cars concert (or Pixies, or Judas Priest, or whatever the future holds) when you can only select up to five songs in a row at a time. I mean we even have 8 song random sets, but no create a set list options beyond 5 (Ultimate Set List or the larger RAWK-AID).

As for next Tuesday, we are looking at a mixed bag of heavier songs. Which is to say that I was right in the thought that it would be heavier in sound, but wrong on almost all other accounts.

Basically, we're getting brand new music in the form of Hammerhead (Offspring...although it does sound a lot like good old school Offspring), Afterlife and Critical Acclaim (both Avenged Sevenfold), and Rock N Roll Dream (Crooked X). All the tracks are going for 160MP/$2 except for the Crooked X song is priced at 80MP/$1.

Overall, I do like the selection, since I'm both a A7X and Offspring fan. In fact, I have really grown to like Offspring again, after years of stagnation, due to Hammerhead. As for the A7X songs, I do like that this band is getting some play on Rock Band. I mean it's some of the heaviest drumming I can think of for Rock Band, but I definitely would have preferred to see something more along Strength of The World, MIA, or even The Beast and The Harlot. Still, I can't complain since I think A7X does offer something that's been needed for Rock Band.

I would comment on Crooked X, but I know none of their work outside of the one bonus song already on Rock Band. However, that was not a bad song in the least. This may be one of those surprise hits for me next week...or it may just be another case of what happened when got more Mother Hips songs (which didn't sound anything like the bonus song they already had in the game). I guess Tuesday and some youtube charts from Npeaen (the best and most reliable charter of expert guitar on youtube) will help me decide.


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