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  • Rock Band DLC for week of 10.28.2008

    Posted on October 28th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    Today’s DLC for Rock Band is up and rocking.  Check the details below, and if you want to take a free listen, head over to our store.  You can also pick up the MP3’s to throw on your iPhone too, for cheap money.

    From RockBand.com forums:

    October 23, 2008 – MTV and Harmonix today announced that Souxsie & the Banshees along with Blink-182, Psychedelic Furs and Silversun Pickups are bringing a total of seven tracks to the Rock Band catalog on October 28 on Xbox Live and October 30 on PlayStation Network.

    Siouxsie & the Banshees is bringing “Hong Kong Garden,” “Kiss Them For Me,” and “The Killing Jar” while Blink-182 adds “Dammit.” Silversun Pickups has two songs: “Melatonin” and “Well Thought Out Twinkles” and Psychedelic Furs comes with “Pretty in Pink.”

    Each song is available for 160 Microsoft Points ($1.99 on PlayStation Network) or 440 Microsoft Points ($5.49 on PlayStation Network) for the three Siouxsie & the Banshees songs.

    For me, I will definitely pick-up Dammit.  It’s a favorite of mine (and my wife).  Other than that, I’ll have to take a listen to see what else.  How about you?

    Don’t forget, we now have our MP3 store up.  You can listen to all the recent and upcoming DLC, then buy the MP3’s for as low as 89¢.

  • The Storm is Closing in, and Things are Getting Bold

    Posted on October 27th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    Well, lookee here.  The internets are ablaze with BlackBerry release date announcements.  Before I drop some knowledge on ya, just a quick recap.

    I’ve rocked a Treo 650 since 2004.  Then a Treo 700p until a couple months ago.  I had to go back to the the old 650 due to a headphone jack snafu on the 700p.

    Looked at the iPhone and iPhone 3G, was just missing too much for me…primarily A2DP (Stereo Bluetooth).  Been eyeing lot’s of Windows Mobile devices, AT&T Tilt, Treo 800w, Treo Pro, and a couple others.  The new employer quickly narrowed my scope, by telling me it’s BlackBerry or no access to corporate email and resources.

    So, BlackBerry is it.  I was about to pull the trigger on a Curve (which never excited much), then heard about the Bold.  The Bold changed everything for me.  I was going to leave Verizon for AT&T and be the first on my block with a Bold…and it being my first BB device, I was really looking forward to it.

    Then delay, after delay, after delay (hint: I live in the U.S.)  Then enters the Storm (aka Thunder).  Other than a qwerty keyboard and WiFi the thing looks to be a gem.  So, fast forward to now.  Both Bold and Storm are upon us…and I’ve got to say, I am definitely going Storm.

    Now, here are the release dates as we know them (thanks to many sources, including CrackBerry).

    AT&T BlackBerry Bold – available November 4th
    Rogers BlackBerry Pearl 8220 – Ships Oct. 29, in stock for Halloween
    Verizon BlackBerry Storm – Corporate Stores Nov. 15th, Best Buy, 16th, Everywhere 17th. As stated earlier on CrackBerry, stores should be opening an hour earlier on the opening week in anticipation
    Vodafone BlackBerry Storm – November 11th ?
    Bell BlackBerry Storm – currently slated to launch Nov. 21

    19 days to go for the Storm.  Can’t wait to retire the Palm (sad to see you go, to be honest), and rock the Storm.  How’s about you?  Any BB changes in the future for you?

  • Guitar Hero World Tour Review

    Posted on October 27th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    The review is in.  This comes from one of our favorite rockers (and occasional commenter) better known as ‘dawho1’ who has joined me in the Rock Band 30+ forums.  So, without further ado, the review from dawho1:

    GH:WT Review

    Alright…I’ve been wondering which of the forums I frequent I’d be posting my review of GHWT on, and it looks like you guys are the winners (or losers, if I do a really poor job, lol). My brother picked this up and I’ve spent a pretty good chunk of time over the last 2 days playing it with him and a buddy visiting from out of town.

    So…let’s start with the hardware.

    Guitar: It’s a little bit larger, which is a good thing for me. I can no longer stand the normal GH guitars, I feel cramped after using the spacious Strat controllers from RB/RB2. The new GHWT guitar is slightly larger…not a ton, but enough so that I don’t feel like it’s uncomfortable.

    The whammy bar is much longer, which I actually liked.

    The touchpad/slide area is neat, but a bit…what’s another word for “worthless” that doesn’t sound as mean? Gimmicky. That’s what I’ll go with. I found it very difficult to use for the slide solos because it was very tough to tell by feel where you were on the slide. It DOES light up the entire column of the color you’re pressing, so with practice I’m sure I’d get better (if not good) at it, but…it’s just one of those things I doubt I’d use regularly. I did have some fun by slapping the touchpad instead of strumming (still have to hold down the proper fret keys), and that makes some of the transitions easier (you don’t have to immediately move your hand back to the strum bar after a slide section, you can tap the touch area until you get a good opportunity to move back and not kill streaks). The touchpad is more responsive than I thought it might be, and looks reasonably heavy duty, so hopefully it won’t just stop working properly after a couple of months.
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    The strumbar is much larger than it was previously, which I think I like. It’s also loud and clicky as hell, which I don’t like. I want to hear the music, not the sound of the controllers. I like the RB2 drums much more than the RB1 drums for exactly the same reason: they’re quieter (not to mention just flat out better, lol)

    Fret keys: Same old same old. Nothing to note here besides the fact that I vastly prefer the Fender fret keys. They’re inlayed in the frets on the Fender, which make it much easier, imo, to move/slide around on the fretboard. You’ve got to press the GHWT keys quite a bit harder to depress them also, which I don’t see the point of. They keys are also smaller than the RB guitar keys, so overall, I really don’t like the fret key setup of the new guitar, although it hasn’t really changed. For people who prefer to play RB with an older GH2/3 guitar, you’ll probably love this thing.

    Overall grade for the guitar: A. It’s a pretty solid piece of hardware, and the things I don’t like about it are merely personal preferences, not hardware deficiencies. I still prefer my Fender by a large margin, but it’s not inherently a poor piece of equipment.

    Mic: Seriously? It’s a USB mic. Wait for LIPS to come out or something and buy the wireless mic if you want a mic (and have lots of batteries, :p ). Nothing special here.

    Drum Kit: Okay, I’m sorta torn on this one. If you’re reading this, you probably already know the physical differences between the drum kits of GHWT and RB. 3 pads instead of 4, 2 raised cymbals. The drums FEEL very solid from the pad frame standpoint. The problem I have with them is with the actual stand itself. It’s wobbly. Much more so than the RB drums. The horizontal brace is up off of the floor which means that:
    1) it’s easier to put the pedal wherever you want it
    2) it’s less stable at the vertical base of the unit

    Overall, these things just move a lot more than my RB kit does. Not necessarily good or bad, just something I noticed. Also, the kick is…well, awful. It’s not a magnetic kick like the RB kick is. It relies on noise/physical contact to make it work. It seems on par hardware wise with the RB1 pedal, but with dumber guts running the insides. Compared to the RB2 pedal, it’s crap. Compared to anyone with a Roland kick or something comparable, it’s absolute crap. And it’s got velcro on the bottom, which is nice if you’re on certain types of carpet, really annoying if you’re on hardwood or cement or linoleum, etc, and EXTRA annoying when you pick up your kit to move it and the pedal sticks to the floor and yanks the connection out of the kit, lol.

    So…our yellow cymbal has to be absolutely RAILED to register a hit. Yellow was used much more than orange, so we swapped the cymbal pads and just changed the colored knobs, and yellow STILL was inconsistent and needed to be hit hard, while orange worked normally. No idea what the deal is there, since the physical pad is what seems to have the sensor in it, and we moved it, but…well, dunno. Faulty insides, bad wiring, dunno. Probably not a widespread epidemic, but we were annoyed with how hard we needed to hit it to make it work out of the box. Even just in the freestyle/make music mode, it wouldn’t play unless it was hit with an extraordinary amount of force.

    Overall grade for the drums: C. They’re alright, and would probably get a higher rating from me if they weren’t so dang wobbly and the cymbal wasn’t so annoying. The drum pads themselves seem great, fairly quiet, good amount of bounce, reasonable response.

    The Game:
    Short Version: I didn’t care for it, won’t buy it, and probably won’t play it unless I’m at a friend’s place and they don’t have RB.

    Long Version: Oh, where to start? How about on the positive stuff:

    I love some of the new additions. I think the open note on the bass (just an open strum, holding no fret keys. Purple line across the whole highway, like a kick note) is fun as hell. It makes bass more exciting to play. It’s not any harder, necessarily, but you do have to pay slightly more attention, if that makes sense. It’s a slight retraining that comes pretty easily and makes the bass playing seem more fun to me. If you use the new guitar, you can likely play the whole thing without strumming at all, just slap the touchpad instead. Slightly more amusing if you place the guitar on the floor like an upright bass and slap out the song from Sting (Demolition Man), lol.

    I love some of the songs. I also can’t stand some of the songs. There are a fair amount of duplicates though. All in all, there weren’t enough songs on GHWT that I wanted to play again to make me want the game. The last thing I want to do while gaming is go “hey! I wanna play Spiderwebs by No Doubt! The bass was fun as hell in that song!” , and then swap game discs, reboot, possibly grab new controllers, play a few songs, and then go: “huh, guess it’s time to put RB back in.”

    The customization of your character was neat, but about the furthest thing I consider from necessary. It’s cool as heck that I can make a very, very custom guitar, and make it look pretty much just how I want to, but it’s also almost useless, because I never really see it, and it doesn’t enhance my gameplay.

    Ok, now I think we’re getting into the “things I didn’t like” area.

    The entire interface. Yep, the UI is driving me mad. I dunno what happened to me…I never minded the interface on GH1/2/3 very much, the campiness was there, sure, but it never seemed so annoying.

    Now I’ve got menu options on fire, a TERRIBLE band feedback interface, and everything looks…I don’t know…overdone.

    Let’s start with things that matter. Because as much as I may not care for the menus, or the band member join screens, they don’t ultimately matter that much.

    Surprise of the day? The note charts seem easier in GHWT than in RB2. RB took a lot of flak for being “too easy”, and maybe it was, but either RB2 got a lot harder, or GHWT got easier, and I’m leaning towards the latter. Go play Ramblin’ Man on GHWT. It’s f’in cake compared to RB2. It’s…it’s not even close. Even Livin’ On a Prayer is notably easier (during the solo, the rest of the song seems pretty much identical). I was very surprised to find that I thought GHWT was easier than RB2, and that it was seemingly borne out by some of the tracks that are shared between the two games.

    While playing the game: Very difficult to tell how the hell you’re doing. The multiplier is off to the right side of each highway, and it is flat out HARDER to see than it is in RB. It’s harder to look there without missing something. The feedback meter for the band is awful. Underneath the standard GH rock meter thing, there are 4 columns (one for each instrument, dig it). They’re tiny. They’re hard to see, and they’re so small that it’s difficult to tell how much impact something is actually having until it’s too late. The best way I can describe this is:

    Picture a column 1 inch long. Then picture a column a foot long. Split them up into 100 pieces each. Lets say that when you miss a note, your column is shrunk by 1 piece; your bar gets smaller.

    Well, when your entire bar is small, you have a much less clear idea of how you’re doing, because by the time you notice you’re not doing well, you might not be able to do a lot about it. It’s just a very bad feedback system, imo.

    Star power: everyone in the band feeds into a common star power pool. And anyone can use it at any time. Now, I actually like that part. I like that the vox and drums can activate starpower any time they want to. That being said, the starpower ONLY applies to the person that activated it. If the drums are struggling, THEY need to do starpower (and hope that someone else hasn’t already emptied out the common star power pool). If the bassist does starpower, it doesn’t help anyone, it doesn’t raise anyone’s meters but his own. If someone fails, the band is kicked off of the stage. You can’t bring people back. I don’t really like that method, even though now that I think about it I don’t often play with people that need to be brought back anyways, but I do like the option. In RockBand, I like the collaborative option of band multipliers and coordinated star power, I like the fact that I can fend for myself and save starpower for a place I know I’ll need it and I don’t need to worry about some guy taking the starpower I’ve earned and using it, while the entire band fails because there was none left at a crucial point. Now, that’s obviously less of a concern for people who play together often, but it’s still a mechanic that I don’t really care for.

    Music creator: Wow, if they were counting on this thing to be a differentiator, then RB fans have nothing to worry about. It’s just downright awful, in my opinion. It’s kludgy, the instruments don’t sound very good overall, and the previously reported but unforgivable lack of vocals is just…well, bad. We played with it FAR more than we should have bothered with, and still couldn’t really be impressed by it. All you really have to do is go and look at the best stuff that the Neversoft team themselves could come up with. After hearing that, you know that this will probably never be anything you use with any frequency, and it will probably never yield any content worth playing unless the whole system is overhauled. It needs to mature drastically before it should be considered anything more than a place where you can just “make your own noise”. Incidentally, I think this may be how Visions was recorded Razz

    The game/tour: Well…very linear progression, with absolutely no reason for me to every play in the tour mode again. Ever. Once the songs are open, you may as well just play in Quickplay all of the time. It’s easier to find the songs you want, and the benefits are identical, because there aren’t any.

    There’s no driving force. No fans to earn, , no little bonuses (bus, plane, music video, etc). There’s just…well, nothing to make you want to do it again. The only semi-neat thing was that a few gigs you had to earn enough money to “buy” them before you could play them. At least that gave you a reason to get some money, you know?

    Overall, I just felt very underwhelmed by the game. Although, that may be a good thing, now I don’t have to worry about which platform to buy DLC on.

    I think hardcore guitar hero fans will probably look favorably at the game, but be VERY disappointed with the fact that it seems EASIER. I think people that are looking for this to replace RB as a fun, party game with friends won’t like it as much as they like RB.

    I’ll probably add some more comments as I think of them/encounter them, but here’s the reality:
    I grabbed my Guitar Hero 2, 3, and Aerosmith games, and my GH guitars, and sold them at Gamestop this morning. After seeing GHWT, I’m pretty convinced that I’ll be on the RB platform exclusively for some time to come. It would take something pretty big to get me into something else, especially with the DLC RB has, and how much of it I’ve already got, lol.

    Overall grade for the game: C
    _________________
    Gamertag: dawho1
    Band: Ollie North and the Iran ContraBand

  • Konami Really Screwed the Pooch

    Posted on October 27th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    How could the makers of DrumMania and GuitarFreaks, have screwed up so bad in the American console market, to let Rock Band and Guitar Hero take over?

    Did you know that Konami made an arcade game called, GuitarFreaks in 1998.  WHAT!!! 1998!!  Yes, 10 years ago there was an arcade version of Guitar Hero, called GuitarFreaks.  It was a big Japanese arcade game and led the path for what Harmonix and others would go on to do with Guitar Hero on consoles six years later.

    Not to stop there, Konami also made a game called DrumMania, which was a full drum game (like we see today on Rock Band and Guitar Hero World Tour).  DrumMania came to Japanese arcades on 1999.  WHAT!!! 1999!! Yes, nine years ago.  Look at the photo above.  The hardware looks quite solid too.

    Konami took it one step further and linked GuitarFreaks and DrumMania into a single gaming experience.  So, drums, guitar, and bass all on one arcade system.  They didn’t capitalize on the U.S. arcade market (expect in some niche arcades) and never did anything on consoles until 2008 with Rock Revolution.

    With Rock Revolution, it basically is the home version of GuitarFreaks and DrumMania.  They offer a full drum kit like you see with Rock Band and Guitar Hero World Tour.  We are looking to review the Rock Revolution kit, since it is very oddly shaped, and has many extra drum pads than the other games.

    Rock Revolution didn’t build new guitars for the home game.  They figure with all the Guitar Hero, Rock Band and 3rd party guitars, there are plenty out there.  We agree with that.

    Konami also stayed true to their arcade games by not including vocals.  I see how they wanted to stay true, but we don’t agree there.  Vocals are intricate to rhythm games these days.

    The game play for Rock Revolution is getting so-so reviews.  Definitely looking to be sub-par with Rock Band 2, and still awaiting word on Guitar Hero World Tour.  Plus all but 2 songs on Rock Revolution are covers.  Only Linkin Park and one other band submitted masters to the game.  Though, covers aside, the set list is quite good.  I digress.

    This post is not a review of Rock Revolution.  It’s is the realization that Konami really owned this category pre-Y2K and just blew it.  They handed it over to Guitar Hero and then Rock Band (of course, there were some law suits in the years).  Now Konami enters the console world years late and with a non-Earth shattering release.

    It’s just too bad, and poor planning on Konami’s part.  That said, I’m hoping we can get a review out to you soon on the game and possibly the drums too.  On a good note, the game is priced more than $10 less than Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World tour.  So, I guess it’s a steal.

  • New Xbox Experience Beta Program

    Posted on October 27th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    Well, I’m not a happy camper today, I must admit.  I have been quietly monitoring the interwebs about a small beta program for the upcoming New Xbox Experience (NXE) which is scheduled for official worldwide release on Xbox 360 November 19. Why am I not happy? I didn’t get into the beta.

    I had been monitoring some chatter about how to get a preview of this beta, which was to be posted at www.majornelson.com sometime last week. So, with that, I made that site my home page for the week. Every couple hours I’d refresh the page to see if an announcement was made. Nothing, nothing, and more nothing.
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    Then on Friday, I had a lot of actual work to do, so wasn’t sitting at my desk like usual. Low and behold at 3:00 PM, www.majornelson.com updated with the instructions on how to get into the beta program.

    Unfortunately, I was not at my desk for most of the afternoon. Plus, being a Friday, I was working on heading home earlier, rather than later. It wasn’t until Saturday morning from home that I noticed the link had been posted. By then, the beta program was closed.

    So, I’m sad to say that I won’t be able to preview the NXE as hoped. I’m just hoping one of our writers/readers did get in and will be able to give us the scoop.

  • Netflix On-Demand Coming to Xbox 360, November 19

    Posted on October 24th, 2008 Shawn 1 comment

    The date is announced for The New Xbox Experience (NXE), which has lot’s of goodness for the Xbox 360 users out there. For me, the biggest item is that Netflix On-Demand service (currently available to Netflix subscribers), which was previously only available on computers, will now be able to

    stream movies, TV and Starz programs right to your Xbox 360 (i.e. to your T.V.). Very cool, I know.

    Most of us reading this already know this great news. Now, we get some more detailed screen shots, thanks to an announcement from Major Nelson from Xbox Live.

  • Video: BlackBerry Storm vs. Bold vs. iPhone 3G!

    Posted on October 23rd, 2008 Shawn 1 comment

    Very relevant to what we talk about here. Thanks to our friends at CrackBerry, we have the first throw down between iPhone 3G, BlackBerry Bold, and BlackBerry Storm. Check it out below.

    Come back here soon as our writers plan to do our own iPhone 3G vs. Storm Smackdown in the month of November!

  • Election Day Rock Band DLC Announced

    Posted on October 23rd, 2008 Shawn No comments

    Wow, there is no shortage of news on the rhythm game front. We just got word that on November 4th (that’s voting day kids), we will receive Rock Band DLC from none other than Presidents of the United States of America (known by fans as Pot Usa).

    We hear it will initially be exclusive to Xbox Live (though will likely be available on PSN within two days of release). It will consist of a three-pack of Pot Usa’s songs, featuring “Dune Buggy”, “Ladybug” and “Feather Pluckn”.

    Pretty cool, I guess.

    As always, we have their MP3’s available NOW in our store.

    UPDATE: This is still just rumormill.  Harmonix has not made the official announcement, but the band has posted it on their website.  We’d link to their site, but our Info Security guys are telling us their site has been hacked.  Hmmm…

  • Stream Media from Desktop to Windows Mobile or Palm OS

    Posted on October 23rd, 2008 Shawn No comments

    You may (or may not) have heard of Kinoma. They make Kinoma Play for Windows Mobile and Kinoma Player EX for Palm OS. It’s a media player, for music, video, photos, podcasts, YouTube, etc.

    The recent update includes ORB support which is a Windows desktop application that streams your media (all media, not just music) from your desktop to your mobile device. So, you could stream a movie from your desktop to your Treo using ORB and Kinoma.

    The cool thing is, Kinoma Player is now free for Palm OS.

    No more need to sync your device to your desktop for loading music, photos, and video. Pretty cool. Check it out at Kinoma’s site.  Check out the ORB site too. Ooooo…ORB is also compatible with the big gaming consoles too, Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3.

  • Lips coming in November, with FREE DLC

    Posted on October 23rd, 2008 Shawn No comments


    UPDATE: Lips just got a heck of a lot better. If you pre-order Lips from our NEW store, you will receive one free downloadable track per week for two months. See the details when you add Lips to your shopping cart. Well, what are you waiting for? Game, 2 wireless mics (which work with RB2 and GHWT), 40 on-disc tracks, ability to play any song from your Zune or streaming music library, two months of FREE DLC….all for $69.99. Sweet!

    Microsoft’s move into the Rhythm Game genre will appear on November 14 for Xbox 360. The singing, shaking, dancing game that looks quite *fruity*, has some really big potential. 1) The 40 song track list looks decent. 2) Comes with two USB mics, for use with all singing games. 3) It’s priced at $69.99.

    If singing ain’t your thing, you can use a standard game controller and press buttons to play some music. Of course, the first thing I think about is using Rock Band drums instead. You can have a total of four controllers making noise, and two mics. 6 in total, cool.

    So, for $70 you get the game, 40 songs, and 2 mics. It’s actually a good deal. Oh, as previously mentioned, they are wireless mics. So, we are talking comparatively $220 worth of gear for $70, since wireless mics for Xbox 360 are pre-ordering for about $80 right now.

    We have been promised regular release of DLC for this too, plus you can plug in your Zune and rock to the music on your player.

    I’m seriously considering this game for the mics, and the song list looks pretty cool.

    If you are feeling this Lips thing, you can pre-order your copy NOW in our store:

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