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BandFuse review

I obtained bandfuse-logo[1]BandFuse this Christmas and was eager to review it.
As with any new title, there will be pros and cons. First off, the pros.
The UI is slick and stylish. Menus slide in and out with a pleasant smoothness and click sound, and they are easy to navigate.  I particularly liked that the game gives you a difficulty rating for the songs. This allows a person to focus on songs of their skill level.

Now the cons.  There isn’t an easy way to restart a song. I find that annoying especially when my cable isn’t responding.

Most of the training videos, as nifty as they are, are nothing more than little interviews. The chord training video is also a bit misplaced in the introductory section, not giving you a chance to study the chord as it flies by. This is rather disconcerting to a beginner.

Another issue I have is that, whereas songs technically have five levels, not all of them actually have five levels, with 2nd and 4th often missing.  This is particularly annoying as I find that my skill level falls between the 2nd and 3rd levels.  I can often 5 star the songs on 2nd level, but only 3 star on the 3rd level.   When a song lacks a 2nd level, it makes the learning curve all that much steeper.

Want to learn how to progress up from level to the next?  You are on your own.  The only training for songs, is training for the Pro (5th) level only.  Want to play the solo?  From what I hear…  level 5 only.

I was going to try out the vocals for this game, however I ran into an issue.  I use SingStar microphones and BandFuse failed to recognize them.  They work fine for Rockband and Guitar Hero.  I looked up this issue and apparently it is due to the fact that it uses two channels instead of one.  So unfortunately I am unable to test this function for this game.  C’est la vie.  So if you plan to sing on the game, keep this in mind.

Then there is the delay of the  first batch of DLC due January 28th.  Why so long to release the DLC?  When is the next batch schedule to come out?  One of the great appeals of Rockband was the regular weekly schedule of DLC.  I suppose the issue isn’t just the song, but the video that comes along with the song itself.  The videos are a nice touch, and in this day and age where MTV stopped playing music videos, it is nice to get a chance to see the actual videos as I don’t actively seek them out.

Finally…  Would I recommend this game to someone?  Depends who you are.  If you are an experienced player, sure.  Are you a beginner looking to learn?  No.

To put this into perspective.  Rocksmith was designed by guitar beginners, and from the perspective of beginners learning how to play guitar.  BandFuse on the other hand was designed by guitar experts with the perspective of old school way of learning guitar.

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The Most Annoying Thing About GranTurismo 5 Revisited and Resolved

GRAN-TURISMO-5-LOGO-gran-turismo-23503325-1280-720[1]Hi folks!  For those who have not read my previous post about the most annoying thing about GT5 you can find it here. http://wp.me/p33okr-9q

Now recently by sheer accident…  well, actually, more out of desperation, I have found a solution to the problem.

First a quick explanation of this discovery.

One night I came home shortly past midnight.  Very disappointed to know that if I were to log in GT5 now I would only get 9 museum cards losing out on a total of 11.  10 for the missed day and 1 for the downgrade.  In the past I tried changing the time clock on my PS3 to try and fool it, after all I was only behind by an hour.  Turning back the clock did not help, as the game checks an Internet clock and informs you that your clock is wrong and adjusts itself.

That night, I had an idea.  Why not say I am in a different time zone.  It can’t say that someone in the CST time zone is past midnight, even though the people in the EST have just passed it.  So I switched the settings and loaded the game.  Plink! I got my 10 cards.  Shortly afterward, the CST time zone hits midnight.  I reloaded the game.  Plink!  Got my next 10 cards.

Well, I was tired so I went to bed. Then came the question.  What about MST?  They haven’t hit midnight yet. I’d have to answer that question in the morning.

Next morning I selected a time zone that went past midnight, and reloaded the game.  Plink!  Got another 10 cards!  Eureka!  I tried another time zone that was also after midnight but later than the previous time zone.  Nothing.  Ah well, you can’t win them all.  Still this was a major discovery.  I then set my time zone to one that was just before midnight and waited it to go past midnight and sure enough, I got another 10.

I then looked over the various time zones.  At first thought one could theoretically get 24 in a day, but then I also noticed that there were some missing hours.  GMT +11, and GMT -2 due to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  On the plus side though, there were timezones that went on the half hour from GMT, such as GMT+5:45 Kathmandu which more than compensated for the missing time zones with an additional 6 more time zones, you had a total of 28.

But wait!  That is not all.  What about Daylight Savings time?  For those few who may not know what this is, some places adjust the clocks twice a year an hour forward during the Summer half of the year.  You can look it up for more details.  Just keep in mind, turning it on it pushes the hour ahead an hour.  What does this mean?  Well it means you can then make The Sydney timezone to go from GMT+10 to GMT+11…  the missing time zone!  Does this work with the half hour time zones?  Yes!  This nets yet another 5 more time zones, bringing our total to 33.

So in conclusion, one can theoretically get a months worth of cards in a day, but we all have to sleep and work and lives to live, so typically this number would be much smaller, but regardless this will be a major boon for anyone seeking to complete their collection.  I have been faithfully logging in for about a year and frustrated that I was missing over 100 museum cards.  After discovering this, that number has been quickly diminishing.

Good luck.  As I see it, GT6 is on the horizon so I can’t see them making too much a fuss about this…  Of course I could be wrong.  I hope not.  🙂

Bandfuse and Its Various (5) Levels

So, here I go again, doing a little more research on BandFuse, and I find this little gem of a video, posted oh…  4 months ago. 

Great!  Level 1…  E and A strings, and about frets 1-5…  Nice and easy enough.  I think most people can handle level 1 without any problem.  Hmmm…  levels 2-5 coming soon…  It has been 4 months…  Program is due to launch in a couple of months.  Seriously?

Marketing fail.

If there is one thing that Realta is failing miserably at is marketing.  This half ass marketing is not helping in inspiring potential buyers.

The Most Annoying Thing About GranTurismo 5

GRAN-TURISMO-5-LOGO-gran-turismo-23503325-1280-720[1]GT5 is a great game without a doubt.  It has its flaws of course, but some of those flaws are a good thing such as sacrificing realism for the sake of fun.  If the game was truly realistic, slam your car in the wall of the track would usually mean the end of the race for you, and that wouldn’t be very fun.  As they like to say though, GT5 is a DRIVING simulator, not a crash simulator.  But that is not the most annoying bit about GT5.

I’ve heard a professional driver say that driving these games are actually harder than the driving the real cars.  In the real cars, you get to experience the actual G forces, drive by the seat of your pants, easily glance around to see where the other cars are.  On the simulator, you are usually stuck looking forward and forced to rely on what you see or hear but not feel.  But that too is not the most annoying bit about GT5.

There are the tests.  Getting gold on all the tests is extremely difficult.  Annoying, yes, but not the most annoying.

The most annoying bit for GT5, and I’m sure anyone who is OCD would pretty much agree with me.  It is the collection section.  You collect paint chips, helmets, driving suits, museum cards and horns.  For the most part these are ignorable, but the one thing that can get the collection desire started is the Colorful trophy, as well as the Car Collector trophy.  With the Car Collector trophy, you get a little conscientious of choice what car you get.  Sure, you could go and buy the cheapest car, over and over, but that isn’t fun, and since there are well over 1000 different cars in the game, it is more fun to collect different ones.  Then you start making your purchase decisions based on what colors you have and don’t have and since money becomes a non-issue after a certain point of the game.

Collecting the colors seem quite doable as you have a limited control on obtaining colors.  Unlike helmets, driving suits and horns, you can find colors in cars being sold in the various car dealers.  Helmets, driving suits and horns are pretty much only obtained by chance, and they aren’t tied to any trophy so it is easily to ignore them.

The initial collecting of colors is pretty entertaining for the most part, but as you progress, you start to notice some problems.  First you realize that each car maker has different colors, despite having the same name.  Black and White easily come to mind.  In other words, Black for a Nissan car is not the same color for Honda.  Then you run into the problem that even within the same manufacture, there might be multiple different color chips that have the same name, for instance there are four different color chips for Alfa Romeo’s Rosso Alfa color.  And THEN there are duplicates for no other reason, other than the color chips you win on a race will not be the same as one you buy from a used car.

The museum cards aren’t as frustrating as the color chips, but still annoying.  The only way to normally obtaining the museum cards is to log in daily at a maximum of 10.  I like the museum cards as they are nice pictures with a nice description.  It would be nice to actually view them all.  Unfortunately this is not the case, as you can imagine, as time goes on, the chance of you getting a card you didn’t already have, slowly drops.  There are 1451 different museum cards, so when you get down to the last few, you will average less than 1% in getting a new card.

All this was of course to encourage you to trade your cards/chips/items…  But they limit you to 5 trades a day per type of item.  I have 85% of all the museum cards, which means I have 210 cards left to get…  If I found someone who had the cards I am missing, it would take 42 days!  The obvious solution is to find multiple people to trade.  This is still, very annoying and I wouldn’t want to burden someone with something so trivial.

What would be nice is that if they offered a DLC to unlock items.  It would be so much more preferable than to have to put in my game disk every day, for 5 mins just to get my daily chips and museum cards.  I love the game, but I also have other things to do.

GameSpot BandFuse E3 Video Analysis

Well, here I have found a BandFuse video by GameSpot from E3 posted about 3 months ago.  This is probably one of the best displays of the game play I have found as well as interviews with the Realta CEO Steve Gomes.  This is a display of game play on the “Hard” setting.

Here are my Impressions and analysis of the UI and game play: The screen is in multi-player mode and very chaotic.  I’m sure after several rounds of playing, players will get used to it and know what it going on.

Watching the game play closely, it appears that Steve has the top runway, John the bassist is on the middle runway and Marcus. the lead guitarist, is on the bottom.  I also, notice that the lead guitarist’s notes are coming along much faster, at a three second runway speed and far more complex notes.  Steve and John’s runway speed is at five seconds.

The multiplier for the players show just above and to the left of the strum bar.  On the right side, you see the score, five star rating, and a couple of icons I am not sure about.  My best guess is controller/instrument number, and then level. Steve, John, and Darren were playing on level three, while Marcus was playing on level five.  So, to make an educated guess on the levels would be; Level 1 Easy, Level 2 Medium, Level 3 Hard, Level 4 Expert and Level 5 Pro or Master.

Analyzing the interview:  In  the interview, Steve mentions that the color coding matches the Guitar Hero/Rock Band controller color scheme.  He also name- drops Harmonix, as they helped them with the skill levels.  He mentions that there are 2000 instructional modules, which sounds great.

Reading between the lines, the apparent close working relationship Realta has with Harmonix, leads me to believe that this might have been one reason why Harmonix  stopped making new DLC for Rockband.  Licensing for songs is tough enough as it is.  Multiple companies fighting over licensing rights only makes things more complicated, and fighting over the thinning wallets of customers makes less and less sense.

So in conclusion, I firmly believe the  five difficulty settings will be a hindrance on learning songs.  The rigidity of the five difficulty tier will make the learning curve too steep.  Solos in songs are often significantly far more difficult than the rest of the song and would benefit from having more than five difficulty settings.  The game itself has lots of educational potential.  The instruction modules will undoubtedly be invaluable to any newcomer, and with the assistance of Harmonix, the DLC library has huge potential.

I will certainly be looking forward for the instruction modules to truly take me to the next level, however I believe I will favor a more dynamic difficulty structure readily available on another game title.

Old, Old School, Doctor Who

Back in the 80’s, I encountered Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Jon Pertwee, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy.  Yes, in that order.  Like many of my old school Doctor Who class, Tom Baker was the first Doctor, and he instantly hooked us with his wit and charm.  We didn’t care that the effects weren’t all that great.  We understood that this was the BBC and with limited television budgets, this was adequate.  It wasn’t Star Wars, or Star Trek…  but it was science fiction!  Where the FX were lacking, we compensated with our imaginations and love for the show. After all, the story and the characters were the important parts.

Every weekend, Saturday night at 10 pm, I plopped myself in front of the television to enjoy an hour and a half of commercial free science fiction story.  An HOUR AND HALF!  NO COMMERCIALS!  Many thanks to my PBS station. In the days prior to  DVRs and the advent of VCRs, this was a major blessing.  I believe the first story I saw was “Ark in Space,” basically missing the premiere Tom Baker story.  Then the story, “Talons of Weng-Chiang” came along.  Two hours and fifteen minutes!  I remember constantly looking at the clock wondering when it would end after it passed the 90 minute mark.

As the weeks went by, every week there was a new story, and not one repeat.  I became very irritable if there was a chance that I would miss a week.  Even when we had the VCR, I never truly trusted the VCR.  What happens if there was a power outage?  Back then, VCRs didn’t have persistent memories.  If it lost power, it lost all the programming and had to be reprogrammed.  Then there was the occasional time shift.  Was the show delayed?  It may not record.  Miss an episode, and you may never have a chance to see it, ever.  Which of course turned out to be untrue, but that was the fear.

Then, since this was being shown on a PBS station, there were the pledge drives.  The pledge drives often interrupted the continuous long show, but it was forgiven as it allowed me to see that I was not alone in my love of the show.  During the pledge drives I was able to see, for the first time, fellow Whovians.  It was also evident that the program manager of the station loved the show, and despite the fact that Doctor Who was probably the most expensive show that the PBS station had in its lineup, it often drew in more money.

As any good fan, I started to collect any Doctor Who items I could find.  Top of my most prized possessions were the Doctor Who Programme Guides

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and the Doctor Who sound track.Image

Which finally brings me to the point of this blog entry, which is of course, the missing episodes.  The old-old school Doctor Who.  The Hartnell and Troughton years.  Thanks to the Programme Guide, in this pre-Internet age, I was able to read a synopsis of the missing (and some not missing) episodes to help fill in the history of the show.  Here I learned that each story was actually four and occasionally six episodes stitched together.  Also I imagined what it would have been like if they were to have put the Dalek Master Plan together…  the infamously long 12 episode story.  Unfortunately most of those episodes, along with a good chunk of other season 3 episodes are gone.

Anyhow, fast forward to the present day, and thanks to the Internet, I am able to finally view these older episodes.  The lost episodes were reconstructed with the audio, the only part of the  episodes to survive the wipe, and with telesnaps of the episodes.  I attempted to watch these reconstructed episodes, but I found them rather dry and hard to pay attention to  Perhaps my teenaged self would’ve watched them with undivided attention, however my now middle aged self has far less patience.

On the plus side, I have found that these videos also have bonus material, interviews and mini documentaries.  I found watching these videos easier  and they helped to get through the various reconstructed stories in an abbreviated form.

So while I am glad that the reconstructed stories are available, until someone finds a way to “reanimate” the episodes rather than reconstruct them,  we can still only wish for the lost episodes and give Loose Cannon  credit for a good try that ultimately doesn’t really work.  I recommend just listening to the audio unless you have more patience than I was willing to give.

BandFuse and RockSmith 2014

It is now mid September, and we are waiting for the release of the big games to come out in time for this Christmas season. Today I will discuss rival titles, Bandfuse: Rock Legends (BF) and RockSmith 2014 (RS14), both educational games targeting the task of teaching how to play the guitar and bass instruments, two popular instruments that are difficult to master due to the necessity of requiring a lot of boring practice, not to mention the various creative techniques that have been developed over the years by many masters.  The main goal for these titles is to eliminate the boredom by turning practice into a fun game.  These games are the obvious evolutionary steps to emerge from the decline of the rhythm games such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero.  The success of these games was obviously from the many people who have grown up playing air guitar and always had the desire to learn to play guitar.  These players balked at learning due to the cost required for lessons, time to practice, and the cost of the equipment.  BF and RS openthe doors to such players, including myself so that following these games is a particular interest to me.

ImageBandFuse: Rock Legends, wrought with delays, finally has a North American release date on November 19th, and is to be launched in Europe and Japan at a later date yet to be announced.  BF is a title being published by Realta Entertainment Group, and BF will be their first major software release.  One major benefit BF promises will be guitar tutorials from famous guitar legends such as Slash, Bootsy Collins, Zakk Wylde, George Lynch, and Five Finger Death Punch. It has also been announced that , the game will have 55 songs from artists such as Slash, Maroon 5, Rush, The Strokes, Heart, and Pearl Jam.  Here is their current announced song list:  http://bandfuse.com/song-list

ImageRockSmith 2014  is the sophomore release from Ubisoft.  It has a scheduled release date of October 22nd.  RS14 will have 50 songs from various artists such as Aerosmith, Muse, Bob Dylan, Slayers, and The Kinks to name a few.  A current list of announced songs and artists can be found here.  http://rocksmith.ubi.com/rocksmith/en-US/music/index.aspx.

Now that we have got the introductions out of the way, I will go into my impressions and comparisons.  I may have a slight bias since I have been playing the original RockSmith, but I think I have a fair idea of what is going on.

One problem with BF is the decided lack of promotional material.  Realta seems to be holding their cards close to their chest, not willing to show much about game play.  The UI from the little I have seen, seem to have a similar idea to what was presented in RockBand 3, essentially tablature, using numbers to represent which frets to place your fingers on on the appropriate strings.  On paper this seems like a good idea.  Someone trying to learn a song can study on a note by note basis, where to position your fingers and play the notes and chords.  The problem, which what I experienced playing Rockband 3 is time.  A person has to look at the numbers, compute the meaning of them, reposition your hands to the desired locations, then strum.  When playing on the fly, you do not have this luxury.  By the time you figured all that out, four notes would have passed and you will have to figure out the changes.  RockSmith on the other hand has an innovative approach, showing a 3D representation of the fretboard as well as a graphic representation of the finger positioning.  The advantage to this  is that you are given a visual relative transition between notes.  Instead of trying to mentally compute going from fret 7 to fret 12, you get a picture on how much to move your hand.  You still of course need to find fret 12, but you have less mental processing to do.  This may not be too much of an issue for experienced guitar players, but for newbies it can be a major stumbling block until they can get up to speed.

Then there is the fact that since RockSmith 2014 is the updated offering of RockSmith, it has the added benefit of two years of feedback from its customers.  In recent promotional material, there have been several improvements over the original RockSmith.  Things such as the fret board UI itself, where you can see how much to actually bend a string, how fast to move your hands on a slide, and how fast to vibrate the string when doing tremolos.  One problem I had with the original RS was the master mode.  You went from seeing all the notes, to become totally blind.  RS14 resolves this issue by gradually fading the notes away, so as you begin to memorize the song, you get less and less dependent on the notes on the screen, and you actually start to learn the song, and when you start to slip, it will darken the notes again.

The last RockSmith 2014 improvement is the introduction of the Session Mode.  This is where RS supplies you with virtual band mates who you can jam with.  They take your lead and play along with you.  Now apparently BandFuse has something similar like this.  How it will compare will remain to be seen.  I have seen demos for RS14, but not for BF.

As for difficulty.  From the little I know about BandFuse there seems to be 4 or 5 different difficulty levels, and it appears for the whole song, not too much different from RockBand and Guitar Hero.  Here is another place where RockSmith shines.  Instead of setting a difficulty for the entire song, RockSmith assigns difficulty for sections or riffs, and the number of levels per riff can vary, depending on how complex the riff is.

So how do they compare?  Unfortunately for BandFuse, it is stuck with the problem of being the newbie.  RockSmith has had time to mature and improve, while BandFuse is still waiting to get out of the gate.  Also, since BF is due out later than RS14, they will be hard pressed to find buyers in the Christmas season.  The lack of promotional material doesn’t help matters either.  Things just do not look good for BandFuse.  Don’t get me wrong,  I will still have an interest in BandFuse for the tutorial videos and the soundtrack.  I am always interested in more songs.  However, I fear BandFuse is destined to be in the bargain bin fairly quickly.