Monday, April 9, 2012

A Rock 'n Roll Multi-Player Easter Weekend

Did a lot of playing this weekend including quite a bit of multi-player with my son. My son and daughter did quite a bit of multi-player playing, too.

Ubisoft Forums & Weekly Challenge Song
I haven't been able to log into the Ubisoft/Rocksmith forums since at least Friday night. Not sure if it's just me or what. Seems like new comments are still being posted by a few people but not many. Perhaps their website is down? At any rate, I can't log in, so I can't post anything there. Which means I couldn't post a final high score for the weekly challenge song, Smoke on the Water. I worked on this one Friday night and managed to bump my score up to 99782 (90/85). Best score but, again, far from best playing if accuracy and streaks mean anything. My accuracy has only gotten slightly better - up to 92% at best. But, last Thursday I had a streak of 309 which is FAR better than my high score streak of 85.

Rehearsing Smoke
I played Smoke 5 times Friday night. Strangely, I started right off with an improved score. Thursday I ended with a 93161. This was not my best for Thursday night. My final play through on Thursday had actually dropped off from a high score of 94386. Friday my first go netted a 93487. And, my scores improved continuously for five straight play-throughs.

93487 (88/75)
93845 (90/177)
97414 (91/89)
99549 (92/112)
99782 (90/85)

I still find it strange that my scores often improve as my accuracy and streaks go down. I know this is partly (if not totally) due to the dynamic difficulty feature. As you level up phrases, you get more points. Fine. It doesn't keep me up at night, but it just strikes me as odd that my scores improve while, in a way, my playing gets worse.

Killer Carol (of the Bells)
Since I couldn't post new scores to the Weekly Challenge thread on the Rocksmith forums, I focused my real rehearsal time for the rest of the weekend on Carol of the Bells. This one is coming along, but it is testing both my skills and my patience.

The main riff is simple and easy to play although I do sometimes still get what I consider an erroneous "Palm Mute Missed" message, which seems to cut my streaks short. Another issue I have is that a couple of phrases require quite a bit of finger stretch and I end up bending strings where there's not supposed to be a bend. This invokes the Yellow Arrows of Death - which also appear to cut off a streak. Haven't quite determined if the dreaded chevrons actually end a streak or not, but it seems that a "Streak Over" message generally follows the appearance of the sharp/flat arrows.

The biggest issue with this song, for me at least, is simply the shear speed. It MOVES. Especially the Outro. So, I have spent some time in Accelerator on the Riff Repeater. That's not really helping. Back in the 70s there was a book called The Peter Principle. Basically it said that managers are always promoted to their lowest level of incompetence. In other words, if they do something well, they'll be promoted until they reach a level in the company where they are no longer competent. Then they won't get any more promotions - they'll just stay in a job that they can't really do. That's how the Accelerator works. I'll start out around 85% speed and without really trying to do so I'll quickly find myself getting "promoted" to 92% and then to 100% - which I cannot play.

To get around this, I have started simply playing the troublesome licks on my acoustic guitar. I have them memorized and I can play as slowly as I want for as long as I want. And, I think the thicker strings and slightly higher action on my acoustic is probably building a lot of strength in my left hand. (Eventually I fear I'll look like a deformed Popeye with a bulging left forearm but a relatively scrawny right one.)

I've also used Free Speed to work the solo. I forced the phrase level to 100% and managed to get the solo up to 96.2% speed.

 Progress has been slow and hard. I had ended Friday night with a new all-time high score of 75,319 (91/94). Not bad. Saturday night I started off very slowly with a couple of runs topping out in the low 60s. I should probably warm up with something a little less challenging. When I finally found my groove, I moved from a 70970 (85/92) to a 73475 (89/63) in 8 plays. This was around 2:00 AM Sunday morning and I was pissed. I could not seem to improve but I was damned if I was going to quit with a 71k. Eventually I settled for the 73 and packed it in for the night.

Sunday evening followed my usual pattern. Scores dropped (started with a 69274) initially and then picked up fairly steadily with one bad play in the middle. I worked the chorus in Free Speed to get the transition into the solo figured out; I managed to bump up to 95.7% speed at 100% difficulty with a high speed of 99.1%. (NOTE: I don't really like the way Free Speed saves your last effort rather than your best effort, but it's probably a good idea to keep it as is.)

Solo Success
I also worked the solo in Leveler with amazingly good results. I started out at 35% mastery and, including a stretch where I leveled up 5 times in a row (!), I leveled up to 80% mastery within 30 lives.

Dialling in the solo probably contributed heavily to my new high score of 75,940 (89/94). This also represents new highs for both percentage and streak. That seemed like a good place to stop on Carol.

Multi-Player with Kids
Friday evening and Sunday afternoon my son and I played a few songs together. For him it's a total all-out competition. If I outscore him, he gets mad. If he outscores me, he doesn't exactly gloat but you can tell he's keeping score. It's a genetic character flaw which he's unlikely to outgrow completely, I'm afraid.

Still, despite some minor moping (on my son's part), we had some fun playing some oldies from back in my day. It's really cool that my son has some appreciation for the music I grew up with. He seems particularly fond of Boston's More than a Feeling. We ran through that one a few times and he is definitely playing this one at a higher level than I am. Next we had a couple of runs through Heart's Barracuda which I think is just one of the most fun songs in the whole RS playlist.

For some bizarre reason, my son is a fan of Unnatural Selection - probably one of my least favorite songs in the whole RS repertoire, but we ran through that one together once. Since I've had very little success at mastering the combo arrangement, I played the single note version. Can't say I've missed playing either arrangement.

Sunday we did some more time travel and played Smoke on the Water, another old, old, oldie that my son has taken a real liking to. (Keep in mind, he's 11.) An unfortunate side-effect of his competitive nature is that he sometimes turns multi-player playing into a race. Something about Smoke on the Water makes him want to play faster than I, so I opted to play the single note part. Can't say we sounded very good on this one but we had fun. The solo tripped him up, but right up to that point in the song he our scores were almost identical. We had another few runs at Barracuda before dinner. This may be the next song I master; I had a few more goes at it Sunday evening at the end of my regular practice session and got up to 97k without even really trying very hard.  (I need a song like that after working my ass off on Carol of the Bells.)

Not sure what my son and daughter played over the weekend. They've all but stopped keeping track of their progress. My son did have an event over the weekend and advanced to Level 5. My daughter makes some progress when she plays, but she just really doesn't care that much about it. She has decided that she likes playing my new LP Junior more than her Washburn Lyon even though the Lyon is MUCH lighter.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Revisited
It had been a week or so since I'd played this one but I was already starting to forget the solo when I tried playing it from memory on my acoustic. I wanted to be sure I didn't forget it, so I pulled it up Saturday night for a few quick runs. Got a new high score of 209,238 (94/56) using my Epi LP Special II, which I think really needs fresh strings. Makes me wonder what I might get if I played this one again on my EG112. Since I was in the mode, I decided to have another go at the other single note arrangement of this one. The alternate arrangement is quite a lot different from the other one and I haven't quite got the feel for it yet. Still, I moved from 37878 to a new high score of 56407.

Next Level
It looks like I'm just about 150,000 RSP from promotion to Level 8. I have played the entire Level 7 without doing a single event. My original strategy was to spend all this "non-touring" time getting more songs Mastered. But, I haven't mastered a song since March 20/21 (Surf Hell single note and Go with the Flow combo - and Surf Hell doesn't even really count since I had already mastered the combo version of that one). Not that long ago, really, but it feels like forever since I've had that feeling of accomplishment.

I was also planning to avoid playing any new songs so I could focus on mastering ones I'd already played, but I was really getting tired of playing the same stuff over and over. So, I started Smoke on the Water which ended up being the Weekly Challenge song anyway, and I started a few others that my son wanted to play when we did multi-player. Still, I have not done any Rocksmith Recommends numbers and have put my Journey on hold. Now I have 5 events lined up waiting to be played.

Now I'm debating whether to carry on with my Journey when I make Level 8. Or, should I stick with my goal of mastering more of the songs I've already played from previous events (plus the songs I've picked up on the side)? In a way, the Journey gives me some sense of direction. Without it, I feel like I'm floundering around without anything to propel me forward. When I first broke off the Journey to concentrate on mastering songs, I was pretty focused and motivated, but as I encounter solo after solo that I just can't seem to ace my motivation seems to fade away. Now I feel like I'm digressing into random jamming, with the exception of my still rather determined work on mastering the three Christmas DLCs. Perhaps I just need to go ahead and master Barracuda to give myself a little shot of motivation.

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