And you thought Dhani was crazy

January 9, 2010

Do you remember when Dhani Harrison said that he’d love to develop a guitar controller that could teach you how to ACTUALLY play the guitar? Well, this is happening. I mean right now. Currently.

I won’t even spoil the surprise by giving you an overview of it. Suffice to say that I think this is pure genius and a HUGE step in the RIGHT direction.

Aaahhh… so many possibilites!!! The future for the gamer/wannabe-musician is looking very bright indeed, my friends.

Going into studio

December 16, 2009

Hey again folks, I’m back with another idea for future music simulation games (*cough* RB3 *cough).

You know what is generally a really boring part of every music simulation games? PRACTICE MODE. Right? I have talked to a bunch of friends and most of them don’t ever, EVER go into practice mode to learn how to nail that hard solo or get used to that tricky riff. I rarely go there myself, the last time I’ve used it was to learn the solo for “I Wanna Be Your Man”, I think. It’s useful, but just not a lot of fun.

So I was thinking… about how to make the Practice Mode idea blend in a more fun way with the game? Well, and here’s my solution: RECORDING ALBUMS.

Alright so here’s the deal, everybody knows that when an artist goes into studio, he may repeat sections of the song over and over again, until he gets it right, right? Well, that sounds a LOT like the Practice Mode. Why not give the players optional “missions” to go into the studio and record songs, and let them repeat the sections over and over until they get, I don’t know, maybe a 95% minimum accuracy or Gold Stars or whatever?

Each section could be played individually, and the progress would be saved every time, until the overall score reached a certain threshold, at which point the song would be considered good enough to go into the album. Playing each section individually wouldn’t give players the option to use star power in that part, though. This would be cool because bands who went into the studio and recorded everything in one take would benefit more than those who had to redo the sections over and over, giving players the stimulus to get better at the song for real. And it also makes sense, because a more natural, organic performance generally sounds better than a technical, “let me try to nail this” one. In this case, the “natural” feeling would be coming from the star power. Clever, eh?

Give the players the option to maybe choose the name of the album, its cover, and let them choose how many tracks it will have (from 6 to 10, for example). Or let them release singles as well. Or give them the option to release it in the Internet individually, after all, it’s almost 2010 already.

This could also be blended with other ideas I’ve discussed here in the past. The player could decide to make a videoclip of one of the songs contained in the album. And once the album was released, there could also be reviews of it by magazine critics. Depending on the band’s performance, some special venues could become available, such as getting invited to TV shows or playing at a big music awards event.

As usual, I feel that adding storytelling elements is an awesome reward on its own, and enough to make players try to get better and overcome challenges. It’s certainly more fun than receiving a piece a lame guitar that you could eventually manage to buy anyway, that’s for sure. And it adds depth and fun to the game as well, of course. Who could have thought that practice mode could eventually be so exciting, huh?

Green Day Rock Band: my thoughts

December 16, 2009

Hey fellas. It’s almost Christmas and frankly, I’ve been incredibly lazy with the updates. Sorry for that, but I have an explanation. I simmultaneously downloaded 13 new songs for Rock Band 2 and started playing Dragon Age: Origins, so that and I also work and also random life problems, shopping for presents, so I’ve been away for a bit.

But I couldn’t ignore the news on the new Rock Band game that’s coming out. Green Day Rock Band has been announced at the Spike Video Game Awards by Harmonix and, to be completely honest with you, I’m excited.

During my teens I was a Green Day fan. It was, how can I say it… my punk phase? I don’t know, but anyway, there was a time when I listened to a lot of punk rock, to bands like Green Day, Offpsring and Rancid, and I had a bunch of Green Day albums. So the prospect of playing songs from Kerplunk, Dookie and Insomniac is pretty darn sweet. I also like Nimrod a lot.

So now everybody’s comparing this release to The Beatles Rock Band, and saying “how can you compare The Beatles to Green Day”? Well, fellas, first of all, what did you expect? That only classic legendary acts such as Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin and The Beach Boys would get the “Rock Band treatment”? I, for one, think this is a great move from Harmonix, and let me tell you why: because ALL THE SONGS ARE EXPORTABLE. That’s right, and that alone makes this offering even more attractive than the Beatles Rock Band.

Now, don’t curse me yet. I have explained why I think this way in detail in this post here. For me, the very idea of thinking “ok, I’m in the Beatles mood today so I guess I’ll just play a TON of Beatles song in a row” is a completely alien concept. I hate having to switch CDs in order to play a couple of Beatles songs, and I hate not being able to play a Beatles song in the middle of a crazy setlist. So what’s gonna happen when I buy the Green Day Rock Band? Simple: I am going to export all the freaking songs and probably won’t even bother with the game itself. For me, it will work like the AC/DC track pack, which was awesome.

Also, as I’ve explained before, I don’t wanna play as Billie Joe, or Mike or Tre Cool. This very idea is just so completely unappealing to me. I wanna play as the cool rock star that I created in Rock Band 2, so thank you export feature!

So while we all wait for news on Rock Band 3, the announcement of a new game with a modern, popular band as protagonist doesn’t seem bad at all. But that’s only because it will serve as a major buff to the already awesome Rock Band 2, giving us players a ton of new songs to play while we wait for the worthy successor of Harmonix’s main franchise.

Turning your living room into a stage!

December 8, 2009

This is so freaking funny! People never cease to amaze me. Check out this new gadget from Rock Gear Inc., called HexoLight. Basically what it does is… it captures the beat of your game (actually any sound source) and pulses its lights accordingly, thus creating a “concert lighting” effect in your living room!

Now, I’m not sure if this product is for everyone, but damn it would be a great little plus for Rock Band parties, wouldn’t it? Come on, confess!

10 ideas for Rock Band 3 by jebr0nie

December 7, 2009

jebr0nie over at his blog offers 10 great ideas for Rock Band 3. I give all his ideas a big THUMBS UP:

  • More Sorting Features:  Sort by purchase/download date would be one awesome addition for sorting, especially for downloaded songs.  And with the ever-increasing amount of songs in Rock Band’s Store, this feature is becoming a must.
  • Personal Rating System:  Having the ability to personally rate each song in the setlist and sorting by that rating would be very cool for “Rock Band parties.”
  • User-Created Family Safe Mode:  The Rock Band franchise can be easily made family-friendly by allowing users to rate songs as family-friendly or not family-friendly.  Don’t be mistaken, LEGO Rock Band IS much-more family friendly than Rock Band 1 & 2, but what one family considers appropriate is not necessarily the same as another family’s opinion.  Allow the user to decide.
  • SAVED User-Created Setlists/Playlists:  In Quick Play or for Make Your Own Setlists in Tour, we should have the option to save the setlist.  Saved User-Created Setlists/Playlists would be a nice feature to help impress your friends and make chosing the right song(s) quicker at Rock Band parties.
  • Ability to Easily Change Instruments Without Logging Out and Logging Back In:  Why haven’t Guitar Hero and Rock Band done this already?  If more than one profile is logged in, having a profile change instruments is a pain.  There needs to be a way to change instruments in an easier manner.
  • A (Balanced) Veto System For Mystery Setlists and Possibly Also Cities:  Ever get into a mystery setlist and come up against a song that was impossible to beat on the difficulty setting you chose?  A 1-song-veto option per mystery setlist would be much appreciated.  Again, you only get to veto 1 song per mystery setlist.  The same idea could be implemented for a city.  You get to veto one song per city and swap it out with a song of equal difficulty of your choice.  This was songs like “Visions” can be avoided by those of us who despise playing it.
  • Replace the Failing System With Something Else That Makes More Sense:  “Failing” out of a song is so “last-gen”.  Something else that makes sense should be used.  Failing out doesn’t make sense anyway for playing a gig… If one can only beat a song with 2 stars, so be it, but they should LOSE fans and be docked in pay because of it.  That is just one idea that could make sense.  If a user does very poorly on x number of songs in a venue, they could be banned from it, but with a way to earn access back into that venue (maybe by doing better at another… just a thought).
  • Allow the Ability of a One User to Control What Songs Are Chosen:  Ever play with someone who can’t help but to wail on the drums when you’re helplessly trying to choose what songs you’re going to play in a setlist?  How annoying.  If there was a way to only have one user’s input control what songs are being chosen, then that crazy wailing drummer could whack their drums as much as they want.
  • Make Sure Easy Mode Isn’t Too Hard:  While most of us who have played Rock Band for quite some time are likely used to playing on Hard or Expert, making sure Easy mode isn’t too hard for beginners is a must, especially for drums.  We don’t think people playing on Easy will ever complain that it’s too easy, because when they start to feel that way, they move to Medium.
  • Adaptive Difficulty Mode:  Here’s an idea… allow for an adaptive difficulty mode to be turned on/off.  The user chooses the difficulty level to start with and then as the song progresses, the difficulty level gets easier or harder depending on how well the person does in the song.

  • Science, Pleasure and Rock Band

    November 26, 2009

    Now this is interesting. Since I got my Master’s Degree in Consumer Behavior and had to study the concept of Flow, I am really glad to have found this little article in the news. Apparently researchers studying the Flow phenomenon used Rock Band in their experiments and found some interesting results.

    For those interested in what the Flow concept means, the article itself provides a wonderful definition:

    Flow is a state of mind that occurs when people become totally immersed in what they are doing and lose all sense of time. It’s an intrinsically motivating state, which means that people are engaged in the task for the pure enjoyment of performing the task and not for some extrinsic reward.

    The article is cool in itself, but it also provides some food for thought regarding the difficulty of music simulation games. Remember that old talk about button mashing we had in this blog a long time ago? Well, here’s what the scientists say about challenge and pleasure with the experience:

    “For those students who have a moderate level of skill at Rock Band, the song has to be moderately challenging and match his or her skill level for optimal enjoyment to occur,” Fullagar said. “That has broad implications for teaching. It means that if we want students to enjoy or get a lot of satisfaction out of classes, we need to assign them challenging tasks but make sure that they have the skills necessary to meet the challenges of those tasks.”

    According to Clive Fullagar, “most people achieve flow with work that is neither too easy nor too hard but just right.”

    Conclusion: I’m glad the hardest song that Rock Band 2 requires you to play to complete the game and the Impossible Challenges is Painkiller and not Visions. Right on the spot. Yeah, include those insane songs so people can FC them and post them on Youtube, but a music game centered on the challenge alone is a BAD IDEA.

    And by the way… one of the researchers asks himself in the end what is the effect of a failing band member on the flow of the other bandmates. You know, I actually LIKE when that happens. It is fun to have to try and help your bandmate with star power as quickly as possible, specially if you’re out of power.🙂

    DJ Hero reviewed by actual DJs

    November 26, 2009

    Normally I wouldn’t even care about posting this interview here. But what really caught my attention was that at some point the interviewer asks the DJs about their IDEAS for the game. And the responses are really interesting, since they focus on SECONDARY aspects of the game… the ones I always insist are the most important ones to create an immersive experience.

    For example:

    Tina: You could have a bonus girl, maybe a drunk girl at the club come up to you and hand you a request and if you decide to take the request and you pull it off right, then you get a thousand bonus points. You know what I mean? So you can have little people coming and bothering you to make a request and if you’re able to when you’re playing the game and you want to take that request, you get bonus points.

    R.O.B.: Or the go-go girls will come up behind the booth and give you shots, and you start messing up and then you lose all the points.

    Ikon: It gets all slow motion, you get belligerent and your vision gets blurry or something like that.

    R.O.B.: And then all the crowd would leave the floor and the game would shut down.

    Toast: They start throwing glow sticks at you … It would be really funny if you’d stink, if you mess up really bad, you lose your hotel room and you have to sleep on the promoter’s couch.

    So it’s a good interview. As I always say: developers should invest more time in secondary, storytelling aspects of music simulation games. They’re the bits that add flavour and colour to the games.