Posted on January 18th, 2013 No comments
Today, less than five years after creating my Xbox Live account, I surpassed the 10000 gamerscore mark. What game was I playing at the time? Well, I will have you know it was Rock Band Blitz. How fitting for a guy (and his blog) that had a major transition 4+ years ago when getting deeply addicted to Rock Band. (The blog had the major transition, not the guy).
In today’s post, I look at rhythm games in general, Rock Band and Harmonix specifically, and my gamerscore. Let’s find out if Rock Band had a major contribution to my gamerscore 10k mark, or if something else got me here.
Gamerscore as of January 18, 2013: 10010
The first game I played with my gamertag, AppleTrak, was Rock Band on April 21, 2008.
Rock Band – Gamerscore: 455
The game was released on November 20, 2007. Friends mentioned to me a game that players can play drums with and it got me interested. As a long-time drummer, and a former obsessive gamer, I decided to jump back into gaming. After five months of hearing about this game and playing it at Best Buy occasionally, I picked up an Xbox 360 and the Rock Band bundle.
Posted on October 29th, 2010 1 comment
This post is long, LONG overdue. It began in January 2009 when I discovered that an electronic drum kit could be used to play Rock Band and Guitar Hero (see Part 1). Then I set out to buy the gear needed (see Part 2), which included a Guitar Hero World Tour drum kit. Once we get the basics setup, we are able to play Rock Band and Guitar Hero with Yamaha and Roland drum kits. Now that Rock Band 3 is out, it’s time to finish up this series with the “pro” setup. How fitting that 21 months ago, I titled this post “pro setup” and Rock Band 3 also calls this “Pro” drums. Great minds think alike, I guess.
First, lets discuss what my current drum kit consists of. A simple Visio picture should speak a thousand words.
I did not purchase a specific drum kit. Instead I leveraged the fact that I owned a very old (but fully capable) drum brain, and purchased my drum kit piecemeal. Most came used from eBay, some new from Guitar Center and J&R. in all, I probably spent about $700 over the past 2 years to get this setup.
There are four drum pads (red PD-7, yellow PD-8, blue PD-8, green PD-8) making up the typical drums on a Rock Band drum kit. I also have three cymbal pads (yellow/blue VH-11, blue CY-8, green CY-8). There is one kick drum pad (Orange KD-8), with a Gibraltar double-kick pedal. For the drum brain, I have a (circa 1994) Yamaha TMX, though any Roland, Yamaha, and some ION brains should do the trick. All of the equipment is mounted on a Roland MDS-10 stand.
This part is a repeat from Part 3, step 6 to help set the scene for the MIDI note mapping. Configure each pad on your e-drum kits brain with the following MIDI value. NOTE: The voice (actual sound) doesn’t matter, what matters is the MIDI value.
RockBand Settings (CREDIT: Doc_SoCal)
RED – MIDI Note 38
YELLOW – MIDI Note 46
BLUE – MIDI Note 48
GREEN – MIDI Note 45
KICK – MIDI Note 36
GHWT Settings are the same, you just add the orange pad at MIDI Note 49.
- I started with the basic Rock Band drum kit setup, 4 pads (RED, YELLOW, BLUE, GREEN) and 1 kick (KICK) pedal. This is all plugged into the Guitar Hero World Tour drum kit’s MIDI port.
- Next I added a single cymbal, which for Rock Band I mapped to GREEN as a crash cymbal.
- I created a second “drum set” in the TMX brain for Guitar Hero, and repeated the MIDI mapping in step 1. For the cymbal, I mapped it to the ORANGE cymbal specifically used in Guitar Hero games. I switch back and forth from my Rock Band “drum set” and Guitar Hero “drum set” depending on which game I use.
- NOTE: For Rock Band 3, I currently use just the Guitar Hero drum kit. Rock Band 3 makes use of the Guitar Hero orange pad by mapping it to a cymbal.
- Next I added the hi-hat. This is a fully functional hi-hat (though only made up of one cymbal) which sits on a real hi-hat stand, and utilizes the stands hi-hat pedal. It has two 1/4″ inputs for open/closed/pedal voices. For my Rock Band “drum set”, I mapped the closed voice to YELLOW, the open voice to BLUE, and the pedal voice also to YELLOW. The reason for this is in Rock Band games, closed hi-hat sounds are sent to YELLOW, the open hi-hat sounds are sent to BLUE.
- Just this week, in preparation for Rock Band 3 Pro Drums mode, I picked up another cymbal pad and mapped it to BLUE. This will give me the third cymbal pad I need for the upcoming Mad Catz MIDI adaptor (coming November 28) for Rock Band 3.
Posted on August 3rd, 2010 3 comments
I’ve got your attention now. I’m focusing on Expert+ drums (specifically Guitar Hero: Van Halen) versus Expert drums in every Rock Band game (prior to Rock Band 3). The 5 lane + double-bass drum configuration of Guitar Hero, easily trumps the 4 lane + single-bass drum in Rock Band. This is focused on the amount of realistic drums mapped, not on the hardware. I believe the stock hardware for all Guitar Hero and Rock Band drum kits is crap.
I’m a Rock Band fanboy, as well as a real world drummer. It’s taken me this long to realize that the GH drum technology beats Rock Band, because I rarely play GH (though typically play RB 10-15 hours per week).
Last night I played GH: Van Halen drums for the first time. I immediately started on Expert+ to get the best feel of the whole experience. Then quickly switched over to RB2 and fired up some of the new Avenged Sevenfold DLC on Expert. Both had copious amounts of double-bass drum in the original tracks, and lot’s of cymbals.
As far as the GH:VH songs go, you get 5-lanes (1 snare, 2 toms, 2 cymbals) plus a bass drum line, charted to include double-bass drums. The separate orange pad for crash/ride cymbal brings some drumming realism, where you don’t reuse the same pads for toms and/or cymbals. Having the yellow pad also dedicated to high-hat/crash is also a plus. That leaves red always for snare, and blue & green always for toms. The one thing I wish the GH layout offered was a third cymbal, so that yellow could remain dedicated as high-hat, like a traditional drum set. For the bass drum, having a song with a double-bass drum part which is actually charted for the double-bass drum is as real as it gets. I played Killswitch Engage’s “The End of Heartache” (yes, in a Van Halen game…which in itself is very odd).
One very obvious thing I noticed is the timing windows in GH:VH is much looser than any Rock Band game. That means you can be a micro-second early/late to a beat but still get credit and not break your streak. I appreciate that loose window, especially as calibration isn’t always perfect, and that wiggle room makes for a less frustrating experience.
Now, for the not so good part of GH drums. The charting overall appears inferior to RB charts, in my opinion. Many times (I’ve noticed in GHWT, GH:M, GH:VH) high-hat notes were under and over-charted, which means there were times where I can hear a high-hat note but it’s not charted; or high-hat notes are charted but there is no corresponding sound in the audio track. That lack of quality control really turned me off on GHWT and GH:Metallica, making me a stronger RB fanboy. Though, the extra orange cymbal and double-bass parts are making me reconsider.
As for Rock Band drums, all current iterations of Rock Band have remained the same, as far as drum charts. The Expert level gives you 4-lanes (1 high-hat/tom/snare, 1 snare/tom/high-hat, 2 tom/cymbals) plus a single bass-drum line. The reuse of the four pads in Rock Band definitely takes away from the realism of a real drum set. Though the implementation of add-on cymbals in Rock Band 2 introduced a level of accuracy. The thing that I continue to be critical of after playing RB for 2+ years is the under-charting of double-bass drum parts. It’s a real pet peeve of mine to hear a bass drum part, but not be able to play it in game. In fact, if you attempt to play a double-bass drum part, in any RB game, you will break your streak and potentially fail the song (if repeated enough).
Most of this is expected to be rectified in RB3 Pro Expert mode, as there will continue to be a 4-lane setup, but special icons will denote when you must hit a cymbal versus a pad. This will officially turn the RB drums into a 7 pad setup (1 snare, 3 toms, 3 cymbals). Though, the double-bass drum part is still unclear. I’ve read blog posts and seen video editorials (RockBandAide and CenasCorner) and still do not have a clear understanding if double-bass drum parts will be in RB3. If they are, I will likely concede that RB has matched (possibly surpassed) GH drums. Though, until then…
To wrap-up, the 5-lane and double-bass drum parts in GH drums brings more realism than the 4-lane and 1 bass drum part in RB. The charting overall in RB is more precise and accurate to the original songs in RB over GH. Both have strengths and weaknesses, though I am coming around to really appreciating the dedicated cymbals and double-bass drum setup in GH…and will be playing more of GH:VH and possibly pick up GH:M (in a bargain bin). As for GH5, I truly dislike the on-disc setlist, and have no interest in purchasing GH DLC.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shawn has been a drummer for 30 years, and a gamer for 25. Rhythm gaming has become a major past-time and passion as it brings his two hobbies together, like chocolate and peanut butter. Shawn currently plays a custom electronic drum set made up of Yamaha (TMX) and Roland (KD8 kick, VH11 hi-hat, PD7 pads, PD9 pads, MDS9 stand) equipment connected via MIDI to a GHWT kit on Xbox 360.
Posted on June 8th, 2010 No comments
FreeStyleGames have officially announced DJ Hero 2 will be released in October 2010, which is no surprise because the game is published by Activision, famous for publishing mostly sequals. Some of the details that accompanied the press announcement:
- Artists include Chemical Brothers, Dr. Dre, Kanye West, Metallica, Lady Gaga and Rihanna (with 85 more to be announced).
- The game will have full microphone support.
- There is a new DJ controller, available in two different bundles.
- The original DJ controller will still work with DJ Hero 2.
- It will contain Social Multiplayer mode and Freestyle mode.
If you own DJ Hero, FreeStyleGames have made available a track from DJ Hero 2 on XBox Live, Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” with DJ Deadmau5 “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff”. The track is available for free until June 14th. With the exception of Lady Gaga and Metallica, all of the artists they have announced thus far were in the first game in one form or another. You may recall that Daft Punk were featured as unlockable, playable characters, so I’m sure we can look forward to something similar. I’m a bit surprised to see Metallica, but there were a lot of contemporary rock songs mixed in with the first game (Third Eye Blind for example).
I’m not sure how the vocals will come into play, whether they will be similar to what we see in Band/Guitar Hero or something new entirely, but I can guess that they will be handled similarly to how the guitar was featured in a small handful of songs in DJ Hero 1, which was actually one of the game’s weakest features. The fact that they are selling a two-turntable-and-a-microphone bundle does lead me to believe that the focus is off of the single player DJ experience and on to something different.
I quite enjoyed DJ Hero, it was surprisingly fun and the variety of music was a major factor in drawing my interest. For once, I could appreciate the pacing that the designers were careful to create, and after several sessions of play I was (as one could expect) much more confident and skilled with the turntable. Usually with most music games I can jump in on Hard / Expert and be able to hold my own; not the case with DJ Hero and the challenge of playing the harder tracks, coupled with playing the easier ones on a harder difficulty really kept the game fresh. I’m looking forward to more announcements about the new game.
Posted on April 27th, 2010 No comments
Hey, Guitar Hero (WT, 5, Metallica, Smash Hits, Band Hero, VH) drummers, how about you get a new drum kit that blows the stock GHWT and Band Hero controllers out of the water? Logitech has made the competitor to Ion’s Drum Rocker. Though Logitech is focused at the Guitar Hero drummer, and the Ion is focused at the Rock Band drummer. At 60% off the regular prices, this drum kit is a must have if you are still using the stock Guitar Hero drum kit.
Here’s everything else you will find in the box:
- Logitech Wireless Drum Controller
- 2 drum sticks
- Quick-start guide
- 2 AA batteries
- 1-year limited hardware warranty
- Game sold separately
Just like the Ion Drum Rocker, it is fully compatible with all Guitar Hero and Rock Band games. Yes, this will work with all Rock Band games on Xbox 360, including Lego: Rock Band, Rock Band 2, and Green Day: Rock Band.
As a Rock Band drummer myself, who has played many hours with Guitar Hero drum controllers, I can tell you the important differences. The yellow pad for Guitar Hero games is always used as a cymbal (hi-hat, ride, crash, etc), whereas in Rock Band games, the yellow pad may be a cymbal or a tom. For Rock Band drummers, there will be a learning curve to get used to hitting a cymbal for toms, but it is doable. I played this way exclusively for several months. The orange pad is only used in Guitar Hero games. This is a huge win for Guitar Hero drummers. Having the orange pad gives you more authenticity of playing a real drum kit, due the the dedicated orange/cymbal pad. For Rock Band drummers, the orange pad is not used. There is no learning curve for the orange pad, since Rock Band just ingnores the orange pad, and Guitar Hero games display an orange lane.
The reviews are mixed, though generally positive. Most of the mediocre reviews are comparing it to the Ion Drum Rocker, and the fact that the two are so close in price. But, at this current price of $91 with FREE shipping, this blows the Drum Rocker pricing out of the water. Take a look at the Amazon deal for the Logitech Xbox 360 Wireless Drum Controller and see if this is for you.
Posted on December 9th, 2009 No comments
So, do we file this under the category of “who cares?” or “sweet, old Van Halen!”? I don’t know. I can say that I have owned GH:VH since it’s pre-release as a free game with the purchase of Guitar Hero 5. I love old Van Halen with David Lee Roth, and I love playing these songs in the game. There are 25 VH songs, and then 19 random songs from random bands. I don’t understand why the GH franchise must throw random songs into a single band game. I got the game because I love VH, not because I want to play Eve 6.
As far as a the game goes, well it’s based on the same game engine as Guitar Hero Metallica. That’s a step better than Guitar Hero World Tour, and step worse than Guitar Hero 5. Overall, the game play and set list is great if you are an old Van Halen fan (i.e. DLR fan, not Sammy Hagar fan).
The story mode is pitiful in comparison to The Beatles Rock Band. First of all, there is no Michael Anthony avatar in the game. If you aren’t aware, he is the bass player for the entire bands career, and you hear his bass notes on every single song in the game. He’s not in the game due to an internal band spat a couple years ago, he left the group. So, in his place in the game, is Eddie Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang. So, you see an avatar of a high-school looking Wolfgang the entire game (never ages, never changes), but you hear Michael Anthony playing every bass note. Pretty sh!tty, if you ask me.
As for Sammy Hagar, it’s as if the man was never part of the band. There are no songs, descriptions, or details of the largest part of VH’s history with Sammy. It’s as if they played in the 70’s and early 80’s with DLR, then broke up until 2008 and reunited. Bizarre, and not cool. Although, I prefer DLR, I’d like to see more realism and factual history in the story.
One odd thing I have noticed (so far), all the characters look as if it’s 2009, aged (excluding Wolfgang) with short hair. I know the trailers for the game, show the band in its cool 70’s and 80’s duds/hair. Though, I’ve played through a good portion of the game, and have yet to see them revert back to the look of their hay-day. I’m hoping the old looks get unlocked at some point.
Also, there is yet to be any announcement of DLC. Please, please, please, if anyone at Neversoft or Activision is reading this, release DLC for this game. Every single VH song that get’s release as DLC, I will buy. BTW, I have never bought any Guitar Hero DLC before, since I generally just buy it for Rock Band. I love old VH that much, that I’d pick up DLC just for this game.
Overall, if you love the music of VH from the 70’s and 80’s, you will like playing this game. If you like the true history of the band, you will be sorely disappointed. It does feel like the game was “phoned in”, but as a VH fan, I love it. For 25 Van Halen songs, I would say the game is worth $30-$40. I recommend, if you didn’t get in on the free pre-release promotion, waiting until the price drops to sub-$40, and pick it up.
Now, with all the said, get yourself over to Xbox Marketplace and pick up the FREE demo.
Posted on October 9th, 2009 4 comments
This is called “Initial Reaction” versus “First Impression” because I have only had the game in my possession for a total of 2 hours, and have given it about 25 minutes of play time. With that, let’s jump in.
I am a HUGE Van Halen fan, the David Lee Roth years. Some of my favorite albums growing up are Fair Warning and Women and Children First. I appreciate the Sammy years, but it took a lot of counseling before I’d admit that in public. The keyboards just never felt right to me. Then Gary Cherone…well, loved him in Extreme, but didn’t belong in VH.
Enter Activisions attempt to keep the band games coming, with GH: Van Halen. Even I said, “Really, they are making a full game about Van Halen? Who knew they were popular enough for it?” I know they are (were) huge, but they aren’t The Beatles.
In typical Guitar Hero fashion, there is a quick play mode and a career mode. Chose career mode and jump right in. But wait…WTF is on my screen. It starts with Eddie Van Halen center stage in an arena playing Eruption. That’s awesome!! But he has short hair, so it’s Eddie today, not 1974. So, I’m guessing it’s not in chronological order. Then the rest of the band appears to finish our the instrumental, and you dive right into Panama. It’s a pretty kick-ass start of a concert, but somethings not right.
Where’s the intro video of the history of the band? Where’s a little personality, versus dive right in? Who the hell is the little kid on bass? Wait, what….it’s Eddie’s son Wolfgang. Ok, that makes sense since the reunited Van Halen does not include 30+ year band bassist Michael Anthony. He chose (supposedly) not to join the VH reunion tour to boycott DLR rejoining the band. As far as chronology goes, I’m ok with the short hair Eddie & Dave, with teenager on bass. Back to the story in a minute.
Game play, for me a drummer, is as fun as it gets. At least for Panama and Ain’t Talking Bout Love (the only two I tried). There’s Expert+ (which typically requires a 2nd bass drum pedal). I don’t have that set up right now, so stayed with Expert. Out of the gate, calibration was off. I was actually able to get the drums calibrated within a few seconds (unlike the awful calibration system on GH5).
Vocals are fun to play too. As far as playability, I’m pretty certain it’s exactly the same game engine as GH: Metallica. I haven’t tried guitar and don’t plan too.
Back to the story. I still have a ways to go but, I know this…when the band goes back in time to look like their early days, DLR has long hair and wears spandex; Eddie has his long curly locks. All as expected, except….that teenager is still on bass guitar. So, even though Michael Anthony actually played the bass on every single VH song in the game, his mug shot got cut from the entire game. THAT’S A FRIGGIN’ DISGRACE! I don’t know who I’m more upset with, VH for allowing this, or Activision/Neversoft for only bringing in the bands current lineup.
From what I have seen so far, this game is going to be amazing to play (if you are an old, old school VH fan). It looks like there is no story or band background (unlike the stellar history lesson you get with The Beatles: Rock Band). Only the current lineup is visualized in the game. What a HUGE missed opportunity to make a history lesson of the Evolution of Van Halen in this game. It would have been incredible to talk about the early years of the band partying, playing at colleges, getting pissed about having brown M&M’s in their dressing room. Then talk about the transition after 1984 to Sammy Hagar, and actually have Sammy in the game. Then maybe even toss in a Cherone song for sh!t’s and giggles. It really is a fun story, and could have been captured so well, with a TON of DLC opportunities.
So, based on my 25 minute experience with the game…..I say, if you are a VH (with DLR) fan, buy it….buy it, play it, and love it. If you are a Sammy fan, curse it, and boycott Activision. If you are a fan of factual depiction, place a hex on anyone involved in the creation of the game…because nothing you see on screen is factual. Nothing!
For me, a drummer, a singer, and a DLR fan……I love it! Time to stop typing and play some more.
Posted on October 9th, 2009 No comments
Major Nelson has updated his blog to announce that the demo for Guitar Hero 5 is now available. The demo is a fully functional ‘Party Mode’ with three songs on an endless loop. The three songs are “A-Punk” by Vampire Weekend, “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down, and finally “Rock Show” by Blink 182. If you are new to the game (and why else would you download the demo) anyone can join in the game at any time, with a seamless drop-in/drop-out feature that doesn’t interrupt people already playing. The demo weighs in at 478 Mb and is available from the XBox Live Marketplace today.
If you missed out on the Van Halen – Amazon deal (because you are Canadian) or decided to purchase The Beatles: Rock Band instead, then I’m afraid that this demo is a poor representation of all of the features available in Guitar Hero 5. I know we don’t write much about this series, but there is no denying that Guitar Hero 5 is the pinnacle of the franchise.
Posted on September 9th, 2009 3 comments
Guitar Hero 5 has only been in stores for 9 days. Hell, The Beatles: Rock Band has only been in stores for (at most) nine hours. Now, we get the box art, pricing , and availability of the next in an onslaught of music games. In comes Band Hero, which really is just the next addition to the Guitar Hero series. It is expected to be the exact same game play as Guitar Hero 5, using the same guitar/drum peripherals, including the new Party Play mode, and other updates. The difference will be a more family friendly set list, and friendlier graphics / avatars.
This November, family and friends will come together to ascend the virtual stage and rock their way to superstardom with Band Hero. Brought to you by the makers of Guitar Hero, one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time, Band Hero features the hottest chart-topping hits from everyone’s favorite acts including Taylor Swift, Lily Allen, The All-American Rejects and Jackson 5. Headlined by some of the biggest names in music as in-game artists and playable characters, Band Hero is the ultimate party game where players of all ages will be able to experience the signature, easy-to-learn but difficult-to-master Guitar Hero gameplay. Band Hero allows fans to create the band they always dreamed of using any combination of guitar or drum controllers and vocals, providing rockers and performers of all ages the chance to experience and interact with their favorite music. Music sensation Taylor Swift joins forces with Band Hero for the ultimate family music gaming experience! Taylor Swift, global music sensation and best selling artist of 2008, will ascend an all-new virtual stage this November in Band Hero. Budding music stars, their families and friends, will all live their musical fantasy on the Band Hero stage, playing as Taylor Swift or alongside the singer/songwriter and guitarist, as she performs her smash-hits “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” from her latest album Fearless as well as “Picture to Burn” from her self-titled debut record. “Anything that encourages people to pick up an instrument and play, I’m fully behind. And, I’m really excited about Band Hero, because not only are fans getting to play my songs, but I’m actually in the game,” said Swift. “There are so many awesome things that go into being in Band Hero, like getting to customize my band to look like my touring band, and it’s so cool for people to feel like they are experiencing one of my concerts. This is one of the closest things out there to going to see me perform!”
Band Hero will be available for every console (Xbox 360, Wii, PS3, PS2) and Nintendo DS. You can pre-order it now through our amazon links, ranging in price from $39.99 – $59.99.
Posted on August 25th, 2009 7 comments
September 1 is coming up fast. That’s the day Activision releases the next addition to the Guitar Hero franchise. This time around, it’s less of a “let’s charge $60 for new songs and last years game technology”, and more pushing the boundaries of what rhythm games can do.
So, have you pre-ordered the game? Are you planning on picking it up next week? What are you excited for?
Some of the new features of GH5, include:
- Software compatible with Guitar Hero World Tour peripherals.
- In the all-new Party Play mode, players can now jump in or drop out of gameplay seamlessly, without interrupting their jam session.
- Play with any in-game instrument combination in any game mode – multiple vocalists, guitarists, bassists and drummers.
- Features new in-game artists and rock legends, including Johnny Cash, Carlos Santana and Shirley Mason from Garbage.
- The entire 85 song set list is available from the beginning of the game.
I’m most excited about the Party Play mode. It’s not something that a hard core player would be focused on, but when you have a get together, and casual players (or non-gamers) show up, the new mode should make for some fun playing.
Don’t forget, Amazon still has the amazing deal, that includes GH5, GH: Van Halen, $10 in MP3s, $10 off your next game, and FREE shipping…all for $59.99 ($49.99 on PS2)
My Gadget, Game & Gizmo Obsession …blogging about mobile stuff, gamer stuff, and other stuff since 2007 (MyGGGo.com)