Friday, March 16, 2012

Another Night of Little Progress and Lag Questions

Worked 4 different songs last night: Surf Hell, Run Back to Your Side (chords), Outshined, and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Made virtually NO progress. In fact, I couldn't even match my current high scores. I did manage to bump my Outshined solo from 70% to 76% mastery in the Riff Repeater. That's it. Couldn't even get 100% speed on that in Free Speed.

It's especially frustrating to me that there are guys on the RS Forum playing Surf Hell for the weekly challenge, claiming that they've never played it until this week but getting scores over 230,000. They may be better guitar players in general than I am but I have doubts that they can play this particular song 10% "better" than I play it - as our respective scores seem to reflect. I've been playing this song for weeks and I've got it nailed. Something else is going on here. . .

I'm suspicious of this lag thing that is being actively discussed on the Rocksmith Forum at Ubisoft's website and its effect on scoring. Especially with respect to Early Groove bonuses. The other night when I set my lag adjustment to 15, things started improving. Last night I tweaked my lag adjustment down to 0 just to see. Score on Surf Hell score dropped. Raised my lag adjustment to 30 and other scores dropped. Very hard to say that it's not my playing - could just be another symptom of potential burn-out on my part, but I think there's something to this lag thing that warrants looking into. 

The best theory I've read on the forum is  that the game scores are based on how close you play to the video output from the software. The lag adjustment in the game controls lag between the software's video output and what actually appears on the TV/monitor but your score depends on how close your playing matches the software output - not necessarily what you see. This theory also says that the backing track is unrelated to the video and the scoring - it just plays in the background and isn't part of the scoring algorithm at all. Thus, to get a good score in the game, you've got to hit the notes on your guitar exactly when the software outputs that note to the screen - not necessarily when the note appears to hit the fretboard on your TV screen - and certainly not when it "sounds right" based on the backing track that you hear. Playing by ear (to the backing track) won't work because (again, under this theory) the game isn't taking that track into account at all. Which makes sense. So, you've got to somehow get what you see on the screen to perfectly match what the software is outputting.

Another question that this theory raises is how the hell are you supposed to guage when to hit the notes on a Master Mode performance since there is no visible note highway? You'd have to have your lag adjusted perfectly or just get lucky.

One thing seems to be certain: If your lag adjustment is off, your score will suffer. So, how do you adjust it for a maximum score? Is analog or HDMI video "faster?" If I used analog cables for everything - audio and video, would that help? Or, if the backing track really is a sort of separate entity floating around loose out there with no bearing on your score, would it matter?

When I play with the new in-game adjustment tool, I can't see any difference between 0 and 300. The "click" and the flash appear simultaneous to me at all settings. Clearly my system has some lag and clearly the in-game adjustment does something because small adjustments seem to make a big difference in my scores. But, what? The ultimate question of how to get your lag adjusted perfectly is impossible to answer without understanding what you're actually adjusting. I think that's a question Ubisoft would be best qualified to answer and should answer rather than letting a few dedicated players on the forum attempt to figure it out for themselves.

One thing I will start doing is keeping track of my lag settings any time I adjust them. Maybe over time I can rule out variations in my playing and pin down the effect of adjustments on my specific set-up.

Practice Review
Last night I played Master Mode performances of Surf Hell, Run Back, and God Rest but couldn't raise my score on any of them. After 4 attempts, I did finally manage a 200k+ score on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen but still fell short of my current high score by 5000+/- points.

In order to move Outshined to the next level, Master Mode, I still need to master the solo - something I've been unable to do despite some fairly intense efforts in Riff Repeater. (The other night I ran through it 120 times!) Lag issue? Who knows. I ought to have it nailed by now, but maybe I just suck.

Last night I tried running through this solo in Free Speed. I got the 70% level bumped up to about 99% speed but couldn't get 100%. I tried forcing the mastery level up to 82% in Leveler but that was too much - too many new notes to get my head and fingers around. When I tried to work through the 82% notes in Free Speed, Free Speed just gave me the 70% level notes. Apparently forcing up the mastery level in Leveler doesn't carry over to Free Speed. So, I just went back to the Leveler, reset mastery to 70% and hammered on it until I FINALLY leveled up to 76%. Of course, at that point, I had to keep going for the rest of my remaining 13 or so lives; otherwise I'd lose my progress and revert back to 70% level. But, that's all I could do. I'm now at 76% mastery on the solo and still unable to play that at 100% speed. Very frustrating.

Music Notation and Dynamic Difficulty
Some of the problem I'm having with the Outshined solo (and other things) seems to come from not playing the rhythm just right - which is very hard for me to figure out since I'm not seeing actual music notation. There are no sixteenth notes or rests or anything to tell me exactly what this solo is supposed to "look" like rhythmically. That is complicated by the fact that when I'm only at the 76% mastery level there are lots of blank spaces which will be filled in with other notes eventually (I hope) but are now just black holes between the few notes I'm actually playing. I usually get past this issue by running phrases through Free Speed, but - as I pointed out above - that's not working on this one.

I wonder if RS's programming team couldn't improve on this rhythm issue a bit by, say, using actual notation or some other graphical representation of note duration. Or, perhaps they could insert ALL of the notes right at the start and, instead of leaving out notes at the lower mastery levels and just "ghost" the "advanced" notes - mute them slightly or leave them hollow or color the advanced notes all grey or something. That way, we'd at least have some idea of how many notes are eventually supposed to fit between the ones we're actually playing at the lower mastery levels.

For now my option is to find a CD or an MP3 of the song and listen to it. (If any record label execs are reading this, I probably just unlocked a flood of DLC licensing roadblocks for Rocksmith.)

Other Scoring Issues and Questions
I'd still like to know just exactly what is the maximum possible score you can get on any particular song in Rocksmith. Is it the same for all songs or is the maximum score for one song different than the maximum score for other songs?

What all goes into your total score on a song? I've seen "Early Groove Bonuses" of varying amounts pop up on occasion. What are those, how do you earn them, and why are they different amounts? Are there other bonuses - like when it says "Nice Slide" or "Insane Sustain" do you get extra points?

Does your note streak count toward your overall score or is this just a separate score that RS keeps track of for us? What part does your accuracy percentage play in determining your score?

What counts against your score? If I get a "Late 0.2," does that take points off? What about "Missed Palm Mute?" What if you cut off a sustained note early? Or play extra notes that don't belong in the song?

If you play a C-chord at the open position instead of using a barre chord at the 8th fret, do you get credit or not? (This comes up in the Week 5 Challenge because RS shows some bridge chords in Surf Hell at a very odd location while video of Little Barrie playing this song - his song - appears to show him playing these chords at a different and more logical place on the neck.)

Does it matter? Well, yeah, conceivably it could. When you've got guys scoring upwards of 250,000 on the Weekly Challenge songs, eventually it's possible that a couple of high-speed guitar wizards will max out a song. And then you've got to figure out a way to break a tie between two max scores. Which means you'd need to know everything that goes into the total scores so that you could identify something that isn't already included in the total.


  1. You can set the level to whatever level you want in free speed and accelerator too, not just leveler. I often use accelerator this way. I have also used this with free speed to write out the tab for the riff so I can practice it off-line.

  2. Really? Cool. I need to do that. What I was pointing out was that if you haven't reached a certain level of mastery in Leveler and you force the level up manually Free Speed doesn't automatically use the level you forced to in Leveler. It still uses the level that you have actually earned at that point. Based on what you're saying I could go to Free Speed and force the mastery level up and run through ALL the notes in a phrase (i.e. at the 100% level) as slow as I need to? Good to know. Thanks!

    You're not posting your tabs by any chance, are you?

    1. Regarding your possible burnout - i think i posted in the comments a bit back about, when hitting a wall, just going and playing something else. I think if you pick 5 new songs and work on them for 10 days or so, and have the fun of taking something from 0 to 200K points again, when you come back to these songs you will be refreshed. As you saw with Breed the other night, it really only takes a play or 2 to get the notes back under your fingers. Plus, you might pick up some techniques that will benefit you on these songs.

      It is a game - You are playing music - try to keep it FUN ;-)

    2. Sorry, I'm not posting my tabs, they're just written on paper. I don't actually do many of them, just riffs I want to practice.
      - Rob (The first anonymous guy)

  3. If you're using RS2012, then you can listen to your performance after playing and get an idea of what the computer is hearing. Alternatively, record a video...

    1. Well, when I wrote this post I was using what I now refer to as "ORS" (Original Rocksmith from 2011), but all these issues have been rendered pretty much moot by RS2014 which I now play. All the "early groove" and "late groove" and other complications of the old RS have been pretty much eliminated. I haven't even fiddled with my synch in RS2014 - it seems to align with what I actually hear and is less dependent on the video display for scoring.

      (Sort of looks like the Ubisoft developers might actually read my blog. . . RS2014's new Riff Repeater and chords actually DO mute "extra" notes!)