loopychew: (Default)
So, uh, hi.

Days at work right now are desktop deployment, which means a lot of small gaps of idle time--enough time to jot down a few things that are on my mind, most notably the death of Guitar Hero, as well as the sale of Harmonix. All of it can be found here for your perusal. Again, I figure most of you don't care much, but just in case you're curious as to what's been up with my hobby of choice, there you have it.

Also, I mainlined all of Community to date a couple of months back, and have been following it steadily since. This past week's episode focused on a character with suicidal thoughts, and without turning it into a Very Special Episode (or even mentioning the word "suicide"), managed to write a fantastic episode that explores the situation in-depth. I'd not heard of Scallywag and Vagabond up to now, but after this essay, I'll probably be checking up on them on a regular basis to add to my critical analysis of pop culture TV.

Still reading everyone's posts! Even commenting on them, occasionally. Life just isn't that exciting, even if it's a bit busy right now.
loopychew: (Default)
By the way, if anyone was actually interested in my music gaming blogging, I moved it over to Destructoid. It gets updated once in a while, and of course, it's mostly RB-related (there've been a couple of Power Gig entries as well). It also has a fifty-song wishlist for RB3 (of which a whole two are in the final game! Woo!) and random blathering.
loopychew: (Default)


...on second thought, Guitar Hero 5 has so much potential for wrong that I may have to at least LOOK.
loopychew: (Default)
So the meter that gauges the esteem I hold for the Guitar Hero franchise has had its needle bouncing back and forth repeatedly over the past couple of months with every tidbit of Guitar Hero 5 news I receive. It went up when I found out GH:WT and GH:SH songs would become exportable. It dropped when I came across the word "some" when describing how many tracks would export. (Note that Rock Band, when they announced track export, said "most.") It went up again when I found out GH5 could play WT DLC. It dropped a little when they said it would play all but 6 DLC (presumably the Hendrix tracks). Now, hot on the heels of the announcement that GH5 DLC won't work in GHWT, it's hit rock bottom again.

I suppose it's purely an academic exercise since I think at this point I'm too financially invested in the Rock Band franchise to ever deviate, but goddammit, I WANT COMPETITION! COMPETITION IS GOOD! And as of yet, the only reason the GH franchise has been able to compete is because they've aped most of the gameplay elements from Rock Band, from the Guitar/Bass/Drums/Vox setup in the beginning (which is fine by me, because they aso included drum compatibility of sorts) to their about-face regarding the life meter layouts and live star tracking (both changed after WT), inability to rescue band members, and collective vs. individual Star Power pools (both changed for GH5).

"Advancements and innovations made to the franchise?" PULL THE OTHER ONE. What kind of "advancements and innovations" could possibly be so integral to the game that patching GHWT to ignore that extra data is impossible? The only way I couldn't see a patch working is if they've completely overhauled the core structure of the DLC (and by core, I mean, "we've gone and changed the corresponding MIDI notes for the charts and choreography"--in which case, WHAT KIND OF FUCKED UP STUDIO ARE YOU RUNNING?)

I really, honestly don't get it. Activision isn't nearly as big as Microsoft, so did they really think they could get away with what Microsoft tried with Vista and DirectX 10? Did they not realize that the public opinion of that was that Microsoft had so little faith in their final product they decided to take something that didn't have to be exclusive to the new platform and MAKE it so? That on top of the fact that they're shouting "FREE VAN HALEN WITH PRE-ORDER OF GUITAR HERO 5!" is making them look more desperate with every passing second. I don't know if they're more worried about GH5, GHVH, or both.

Not to mention, this is PAID CONTENT. Has Activision not paid attention to the fact that the DLC (including the shelf presence of the Track Packs) is the Rock Band platform's bread-and-butter? That people playing RB1 this very moment can go ahead and play the same Dropkick Murphys song I got last week is one of the greater strengths. HMX/EA have shown that they believe that 1) the DLC they offer is strong enough to keep the franchise running; they don't NEED to worry about releasing a new core title every year and 2) they figure that eventually the new features of later RB core titles alone offer enough incentive to be worth the purchase (and I don't mean HOPO chords and drum solos, I mean things like category sorting, quick-scrolling, solo World Tour, Tour Challenges, Battle of the Bands, and the like).

Harmonix plays it like they own the place, like a boss, despite the fact that they are, in terms of popularity, the underdog. (They're not nearly the underdog as they were when RB2 came out, despite the RB marketing blitz on VH1/MTV/etc., especially now with the Beatles getting their own game.) (Still disappointed that they slapped the Rock Band name on it despite it not being a Rock Band game, franchise OR core title, but I get why they did it, and it hasn't stopped me from anticipating getting a copy and a Gretsch.) The defining moment for the Guitar Hero franchise was when Bobby Kotick used the word "exploit" when describing what he was looking for in a franchise. Exploit they have, and exploit they continue to do, and at the expense of integrity. Activision feels like the cowardly king trying to justify his crown when another heir apparent is gaining popularity amongst the masses.

I don't want that.

I want Activision to say "THIS IS GUITAR HERO. WE KICK JUST AS MUCH ASS AS THE OTHER GUY, AND WE WILL TREAT YOU WITH THE SAME KIND OF RESPECT THE OTHER GUY DOES." I want them to reinforce their product through quality, not quantity. I want them to give the consumer the same kind of options that Harmonix and EA do. (Know why I refer to "Activision" and not "Neversoft" the way i refer to "Harmonix?" Because anyone who knows their Guitar Hero knows that Beenox was the company working on Smash Hits, and as such is probably the Treyarch to Neversoft's IW.) Every new feature I've seen in GH5 seems to be more gimmicky than fun, and I've already said my piece on digital avatar rock stars (not even digital Shirley Manson can tempt me).

And I sincerely hope that day will come, and soon. That will be the day Guitar Hero becomes, on strengths beyond its franchise name, a viable contender to Rock Band. And if they don't do it soon, there will be more people like me, who have seen RB as the superior product, and will end up pumping so much money into it that they won't WANT to switch franchises because of that.
loopychew: (Default)
You know--is the pattern +1, or x2? Either way, it's kind of crazy.

The GH franchise is basically like that friend you've had since forever that kind of had an "episode" a while back and hasn't been the same since. (In this case, obviously, acquisition by NVS.) GH3 was fun enough, and I had a good amount of fun with it. I enjoyed the spots of GH: Aerosmith I played, although I could never be bothered to pay full price for it (maybe when someone sells it for $20). Anyone who hasn't read my impressions of GH:World Tour should be prepared for screens of text. I haven't played it since, and I don't feel any remorse for not doing so, despite "No Rain" on my hard drive begging to be played over and over again.

The point I'm trying to make here is, ever since Neversoft took over, the GH console iterations have actually gone progressively downhill in my eyes. I've been bitten pretty hard, particularly by World Tour, and I was about to leave them.

Then I saw this trailer.

Honestly, I'm not a huge Metallica fan, and I wonder if this is the coked-out buddy on his knees at my doorstep at 4AM begging me to let him in, he can change, here look at this thing he did that proves it just give him one more chance pleeeeeeease! But the thing is, with a simple gesture--the life bars on the side of the note charts--GH is making me look at it again.

I'm not going into the track list, because 1) the track list organization is still the same as before (not so bad in a track list of under 60) and 2) I'm not a metal guy. However, the game looks that much more playable now. There are still a few interface questions I have (is that a band multiplier now?), and it's now significantly more obvious that they're ripping cues off of Rock Band (what with the five-star counter and progress meter and--again--is that a band multiplier?), but if that's what it takes to make the Guitar Hero franchise competitive again, I'm all for it. And if they manage to properly pack enough bonus material on there to justify a separate game as they're promising, it could be totally worth it.

I really, REALLY want to believe. I love HMX and Rock Band, and I'm a firm believer that Guitar Hero is a shadow of its former self as it is right now. But if they've managed to adjust the attitude and start being friendlier to the player, then I'm willing to forgive it.
loopychew: (Default)
Still slogging my way through it for the moment. Started a tour for vox, guitar, and bass, am still in the process of unlocking tracks, but I think for the most part, I think I can set the tone for any future related GHWT posts I may have. To be short: Not too positive.

The bullet point list. )

Rock Band and GHWT are taking two completely different philosophies to the same subject matter, and clearly my interests align more with the Rock Band school of thinking. Neversoft's "YOU ARE THE ROCK STAR," sophomoric, frat-boy approach loses out significantly to Rock Band's "You're part of a bigger picture" feel in my eyes. Still, in this day and age where DLC is becoming more relevant (a lot of overlap is happening thanks to DLC, including songs like "Love Spreads" and "Dammit") to song selection, I feel that not even finding my "Cliffs of Dover" for GHWT will be enough for me to support the franchise. GHWT's setlist is happening, yes, but I firmly believe that the focus for both developers, in terms of actual releases, should focus more on features and design rather than a song list.

GHWT's interface is clumsy, and for a game that's trying so hard to be accessible to casual players (the concept of an easier-than-easy difficulty, which I think is really cool but I haven't tried out yet), is pretty confusing for a seasoned plastic instrument player to get around. The GH franchise is clearly focusing on the song list (advertising that they have one more on-disc song than RB2, when two of the songs are actually guitar duels). Rock Band's setlist, while not as full of karaoke hits, is strong (and supported by a DLC collection which I'm sure GHWT will eventually match in pace), and matches it with an ambiance that feels, and people know that I don't use this word frequently (unlike the rest of the internet), epic.

Maybe I'll change my mind when I get a four-piece band set going, but I'm more pessimistic about exploring this game further than I was when watching previews of it. I'm straining to keep from doing a complete point-by-point comparison to every single part where RB2 is clearly better (partly because it's totally subjective, partly because I don't like indulging the fanboy side of me, or even acknowledging that it's there) but I'm failing pretty miserably, and it's taking a lot of effort to not just pop RB2 back in and continue tapping away at that instead. I'm going to continue pecking away at GHWT until I've unlocked all the songs, and then we'll see whether or not I've managed to have proper fun by then.

Your mileage may vary; a lot of the people at Dancing Gamers seem to worship the ground GHWT walks on, possibly having been burned by the six-month release delay between RB US and RB EU. Personally, I just don't see it.
loopychew: (Default)
Anyone who harps on about GH3 completely downright sucking, I pity. As stupidly overcharted as a lot of it is, and as much as I want to murder whoever thought "Raining Blood" was a good choice for a song (and overcharting), and as much as I hate the new graphics, and the new timing windows, and the lack of Clive Winston and Eddie Knox, and the hippification of Xavier Stone, and the trampification of Judy Nails, and most of the game, it wins for the charting of, and for introducing me to, "Cliffs of Dover."

That song, out of everything I've played in the Guitar Hero franchise, still stands as the greatest joy to play. Even though GH2 tends to stay in the 360 as the Most Played Game in my collection, "Cliffs" will hold a special place in my heart.

Also fun despite (or maybe even because!) of overcharting, "Mauvais Garçon."

GH4 (aka Potentially Band Hero) and GH:A? Could be fun, and I'm interested in seeing what those installments bring before I judge. I already know RB will be my drug of choice come end of May, and will probably be for some time.

But for those of you hating on the Tony Hawk's Grooving Sound franchise, hold off until it is out, because chances are there'll be at least one thing you'll love about the upcoming installment.
loopychew: (Default)
Happiness is Guitar Hero II, two Les Paul controllers, and a P2.
loopychew: (Default)
Thumbs up: I finally passed Bark at the Moon Expert yesterday.
Thumbs down: The new TMNT movie is only available dubbed in French around here.
loopychew: (Default)
Oh, bah. BAH.

Normally, I like Steven Levy's entertainment articles (granted, I don't think I've picked up a Newsweek regularly in a few years, but I recognize the name on articles I'd read frequently), but this one gets me, right here.

A few points to take down on this one. Firstly, as one poster at Kotaku mentioned, "So playing guitar games makes people not want to play real guitars, but playing shooting games makes people want to shoot real guns. Makes sense to me."

Granted, Steven Levy isn't exactly one of those video game alarmists in general, so he might not stand with that logic. It was just a funny remark that I enjoyed reading.

The real point I'm looking at is the following point of dispute, which does kind of play along the lines of the initial GTA-style argument: "But by bestowing the rewards of virtuosity to those who haven't spent years to earn it, is it dumbing down musicianship? If a teenager can easily become a make-believe guitar hero, does that mean he won't ever bother to master the real thing?"

Say it with me now: OH FOR CHRIST'S SAKE IT'S A GAME. PEOPLE KNOW WHEN THEY'RE PLAYING A GAME.

For the love of God, I've played Guitar Hero, DDR, Donkey Konga, Beatmania IIDX, and lord knows how many of those Time Crisis and Ridge Racer games, all of which provide some sort of instrument to "immerse" you, draw you a degree closer into the game. I've done pretty okay-ish on most of them--lots better on some, actually pretty crappily on others. But I don't use those as an evaluation of how I'd perform equivalent tasks in real life. Sure, I can't Max anymore, but I can still play my share of catas; that doesn't mean I don't realize I look like an idiot on the real dance floor. That's why I go out on the dance floor in the first place: now that I've got my basic sense of rhythm down, I'm going out there to work on actual dance moves. Hell, if DDR WERE just like dancing, we wouldn't have separate competitions for technical and freestyle.

As for Guitar Hero, despite being pretty good at the game, I am well-aware that I'm never going to play at Nassau or the Arena, or even the fucking Usine by five-starring Hangar 18 or Free Bird, even at Expert.

For that, I'm aware that I need real guitar practice.

Sure, I'm probably not going to go through with it, but you know what? Odds are that the people who aren't willing to go on with it are the people who were gonna drop playing guitar within a couple of months of lessons in the first place. You know, the kind of lads whose only endgoal for picking up the guitar is to play Phish, DMB, and Stairway to lure (insert sex-oriented slang term of preference) into their dorm rooms and get the other kind of play. (Guilty as charged, I guess.)

Just as easily, Guitar Hero just might inspire someone to go check out the real thing. And with Guitar Hero, while they may not be able to shred as soon as they pick up, at least they're given some of the basic concepts at work, like hammer-ons/pull-offs and the understanding that the note is determined by the highest fret held down.

The article even kind of collapses on itself with the following sentence: "it's no different from other experiences made virtually accessible by the computer, from being a World War II sniper to playing golf like Tiger Woods."

Because again, those are games. Nobody, not even the author, expects to be able to pick up a mouse, go "BOOM! HEADSHOT! BOOM! HEADSHOT! BOOM! HEADSHOT! BOOM! HEADSHOT!" and then replicate exactly that in real life the first time they wrap thier hands around a rifle; nor does he make any suggestion of lament that there are fewer snipers or Tiger Woods in this world.

All the people at Harmonix (and Konami, and Namco, and Sega, and all those other people who've made arcade cabinets/custom home controllers that simulate actual devices) are doing are optimizing the work/fun ratio so that you can feel like you're doing something that's producing results. And you are--but you don't feel like you're playing the guitar, no more than you would playing air guitar (uh, also guilty as charged).

And despite the fact that, yes, it feels awesome to hit 97% on Bark at the Moon Expert and watch your friends' jaws drop (alas, not guilty as charged), I have this sneaking feeling that it feels nothing like the high you'd get playing to a rousing ovation from your first sold-out audience of 200 (or 200,000--also, unfortunately, not guilty).

But we GH players are well aware of that.

And if we're ambitious enough to go for that kind of high, you bet your ass we'll pick up a real guitar for it.

There are other parts of that article that annoy me, but that's the bulk of the main argument, so I'll leave it there for now.

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