Monday, October 29, 2012

Finally Back to Rocksmith Super Elite Guitarist

Pretty quiet weekend on the Rocksmith front. With Hallowe'en coming up, there's a lot going on at our house and I didn't play as much as I might have wanted to this weekend. Still, I managed to squeeze in one bass event and one guitar event.

I also manged to get down to the local GC to hang out for a while Saturday and ended up putting a nice little MIM Telecaster (white) on layaway. . . More, to include pics, when I pick it up. On that note, anybody want to buy some guitars? I'm starting to get overstocked!

Been a while since I pulled out the bass so I decided to play a little bass first. In fact, I finally got around to putting new strings on the used Yamaha bass we bought back in July. The strings were a little grungy and rusty when we bought it and they hadn't gotten any better since then. It was long past time to change them out. I've had a new set lying around for weeks - just too lazy to put them on. While I had the old strings off, I had a good opportunity to clean the fretboard. I used lemon oil furniture treatment, a T-shirt, and a fairly old piece of Scotch-brite pad. I wouldn't normally use the Scotch-brite, but this fretboard looked like it hadn't been cleaned ever, and it's a pretty old bass. I needed that extra cleaning power to scrub all the gunk off. Plus, it cleaned the fretwires themselves pretty nicely. I cleaned up the bridge and body while I was at it and overall it came out looking pretty good. To be honest, it sounded about the same to me but the strings felt better.

Event Location 3d St. Lounge Notes
Date Played 10/27/2012 Unlocks:   
Song Score Guitar Epiphone Rumblekat
The Spider and the Fly  96615 Pedal Degrader
Slow Hands  22697 Tone Relentless Bass (Panic Switch)
Panic Switch  107186 Tone  
Number Thirteen  57339 Tone  
Step Out of the Car  57009    
High and Dry  65470    
Minimum RSP 178700    
Event Score:  406316 Total Score to date: appprox 4,500,000

I qualified and performed a five-song set at 3d Street Lounge. It went well. I qualified every song on the first play except for Spider and the Fly which I missed by about 1000 points on my first try. On my second play, I blew away the 64,700 MQS by scoring 90,896. I improved all of my scores during the actual event. In fact, my score on Panic Switch jumped from my pre-event qualifying score of 58,936 to a blistering 107,186! I got a first encore, High and Dry, and scored 65,470 on that. But, no double encore despite achieving well over 200% of the event minimum.

I am REALLY, really starting to dislike the random nature of the double encore! Looking back over my first 5 events on the bass restart, I've had 4 double encores. Can't complain too much about that, I guess. But, there just doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to this. On my first four events I scored 300%, 335%, 197% and 2384% of the event minimums. That's WAYYYYY above the presumed 120% requirement, so getting the first encore was easy. And, on each of my first encore songs I scored over 90k. No question about the second encores, either. On Event 5 I got 191% of the event minimum score but I only scored 65470 on my encore. Apparently, even though that's the first time I've seen that song on this journey, that's not good enough. Of course, the dev's have said that 120% of event minimum and 95% (of something) on the first encore just gives you a free spin - a 50/50 shot - at getting a second encore, so I guess after 4 in a row I was just due for a miss. Still sucks. At the very least, I'd like a better explanation of what the 95% is supposed to be on the first encore song.

My guitar events are getting harder and harder and I'm frequently accepting reduced qualifying scores after 4-5 failed attempts. Event 28 last week was horrible. 3 out of 4 songs reduced and failed to make the MQS on 2 songs during the event. Fortunately, I exceeded EMS on two songs and passed the event - barely. I've noticed that when I accept reduced qualifying scores on songs, RS is not showing a reduced event minimum. But, the EMS is reduced. Otherwise I would not have passed this event.

Event Location Symphony Hall Notes
Date Played 10/24/2012 Unlocks:   
Song Score Guitar Vintage Gibson L-5 CES
When I'm Gone - Combo 59043 Pedal none
Jessica * 48258 Tone none
Loser - Combo 67783 Tone  
Carol of the Bells - Single Note* 81996 Tone  
Minimum RSP 243836 Reduced from  265,200 (does not show reduction in game)
Event Score:  257080 Total Score to date: not recorded

A horrible event that I just wanted to get through and put behind me. The guitar event from this weekend was much better than that one, but in the end I was pissed off by RS's refusal to give me a double encore! In 29 guitar events, I've only gotten 3 double encores.

I only reduced the MQS on one song - Kryptonite, but then I ended up exceeding the original MQS anyway. In fact, I bested all my qualifying scores in this event except for the encore song. Got one encore - Step Out of the Car - which I had played before and apparently kicked butt on in Event 22. I got 100768 on it in that event but only 87350 this time. Still, that's 130% of the event minimum. Gotta be close to 95% accuracy on the encore. And, 3 out of 29 is nowhere near 50/50 odds. In fact, that's closer to 1:10. So, what gives? I'd like to know.

Event Location Liberty's Notes
Date Played 10/28/2012 Unlocks:   
Song Score Guitar Gibson Les Paul Recording
Spider and the Fly, The - Combo2 71367 Pedal Square Mod
Burnished - Combo 62313 Tone Machine Operator (Spider & Fly)
We Share the Same Skies - Combo 50395 Tone  
Kryptonite 69045 Tone  
My Sharona 66724    
Freebird - Combo* 58313    
    Level 10 reached  
Step Out of the Car - Sgl Note 87350    
Minimum RSP 291774 Reduced from 297800 original EMS
Event Score:  465507 Total Score to date: 15,000,000+

Whatever. I made it back to Level 10 on guitar - "Super Elite Guitarist" - which is where I was before I had to restart my journey due to loss of my game save data.

Kryptonite is a great example of where RS needs to add chord IDs to the RSNH. The intro and most of the song is an arppegio based on the Bmin, G, and A chord progression. But, RS doesn't tell you that at any point. So, you're scrambling around trying to hit these individual notes which seem completely random. Once I stopped to see what chords might actually work, things got much easier in a hurry. So, FYI, if you want to play Kryptonite by Three Doors Down, use the chord shapes for B-minor, open G, and open A. Those are the chords you're picking on.

Also, I've started working Scale Runner again as an exercise. Last night I worked the Blues scale a few times until I got up to 5 million. Took about 6 tries. I've noticed that there's a new bug in the RS software so now your Scale Runner scores are not saved. Every time I pull up Scale Runner, everything is back to 0.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rocksmith Loser! An Impossible Intro

Trying to qualify the song Loser (3 Doors Down) for a second event last night made me feel like a total loser. What is up with that intro?! I'm at 45% mastery and it took me about 60 lives to work my way to 100% speed in Riff Repeater. I had a peek at 100% mastery (by manually forcing the mastery up) and that's looking nearly impossible to me at this point.

This intro appears to be mainly a breakdown of an open D chord with an augmented 5th or something thrown in for variation. Or, maybe it switches from a D to a G? Really not sure. Can't seem to figure it out. (If it switches from chord to chord, it moves VERY fast.) This is another one of those cases where RS needs to display the chord ID instead of just throwing individual notes down the RSNH.

Might have just been an off night because this wasn't the only song that gave me a little trouble. Out of 4 songs on my next set list, I accepted a reduction in MQS on 3 songs. (On one song, I ended up exceeding the original MQS after I agreed to let RS reduce the qualifying score.)

The really sad part is that one of the songs on my current set list is Carol of the Bells - a song I've been working on pretty hard for the past several months in preparation for the holidays. It took me several attempts plus some RR work to get this song back to where I had it before my restart. It's fully leveled again except for the second part of the solo. (If I play the song live, I plan to just cut that part.) But, it's still not clean. I've got a lot of work to do on that one.

By the time I got every thing qualified last night, I didn't feel like playing the event. I really felt like throwing my guitar through the TV - and it's been a long time since I felt that way.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rocksmith Bass - You Don't Need a Bass to Get Started

A loyal reader reminded me that I have never really talked about some of the most basic aspects of the Rocksmith Bass Expansion. For example, that it's really a whole, separate game and you don't need a real bass to play it.
My son and I had been talking about learning bass even before Rocksmith mentioned a possible bass expansion. So, as soon as it sounded like Ubi/RS was serious about releasing the bass expansion, we started looking at basses to buy. We found an old Yamaha for $99 one weekend at the local GC. I took an instant liking to this particular bass and bought it on the spot. I think about a week later we found a very nice used Fender Rumble bass amp for a good price. My son twiddled around on the bass a little but we really didn't do much with the bass until the expansion release in August (2012).
So, we had a bass guitar before the Rocksmith bass expansion was ever released. As soon as we downloaded the expansion we started playing bass. But, you don't need a bass to play the bass half of the game.
I say "bass half" because the bass and guitar parts of Rocksmith are really like two separate games. When you first start Rocksmith, the first thing you'll see (after all the intro screens and Brian playing the RS song) is a screen where you click on either Guitar or Bass. Once you click on Bass, you go to the bass side of RS. Doesn't matter if you play on a real bass or use your guitar as a simulated bass - your score is kept on the bass side. (RS doesn't keep simulated bass scores separate from real bass scores, either.)
So, you could try playing bass using your regular guitar as a "simulated bass," see if it's something you're interested in, buy a bass, and just carry on from there. When you start playing a real bass, all the RSPs you earned on simulated bass will count and your journey will just continue from there. No change as far as your score or progress is concerned.
NOTE: You have to tell Rocksmith whether you're playing a real bass or using your guitar as a bass. If you use a real bass and Rocksmith thinks you're still using a regular guitar as a simulated bass, you get some really weird sounds!
I have tried playing simulated bass on my guitar and I didn't like it much. It's just not the same. I doubt you could really pluck the strings like you would on a real bass, so you'll probably have to use a pick. But, the simulated bass option will at least let you see what bass parts are like.
Generally speaking, bass parts are almost always much easier to play.  Playing bass probably won't help your guitar playing much in terms of speed. Musically, however, I think any instrument you learn to play is helpful to every other instrument you play. Playing bass has definitely helped a bit with my left-hand finger reach and strength. I've noticed when I go from playing bass back to playing guitar the guitar feels physically easier.

I love playing bass and might try to find some gigs playing bass IRL. It would be a very natural middle ground for me between drums and guitar. Bass is really under-rated in terms of "coolness." Really listen some time to your favorite rock songs and you'll almost always discover that the bass is what really drives things. Without the bass, songs would really lose that heart-pounding feel that makes good rock really rock. Plus, not having to move drums would be a huge plus for me!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wireless Rocksmith! This Rocks

The other day I was browsing the Ubi/RS forum and got into a discussion about the RealTone cable and how to protect it from damage.

A couple of people said they plug their RealTone cable into the OUT side of a pedal and leave the pedal clean. Then they plug their guitar into the IN side of the pedal. This seems to work and saves wear and tear on their RealTone cable. The RealTone cable can stay plugged into the pedal and be hidden safely out of the way. This also reduces the risk of damage from, say, sitting on the couch and bending the cable sharply.

For a while I've had a similar idea but never thought about using a pedal for that purpose. I was going to use a 1/4"F to 1/4"F extension adapter. Then I got to wondering whether I could do this same sort of thing using a wireless (cordless) transmitter/receiver.

Well, I can! And, I have. You can, too.

Yesterday I was hanging out at the local GC and spent quite a long time talking myself out of buying a couple of used amps that I don't need but really wanted. I was in a buying mood and had to find something to take home. That's when I remembered that I've been wanting to try using a wireless system with Rocksmith just to see if it would work. As luck would have it, they had a nice basic system on sale for $79.99. So, I bought one of those.

They also have guitar cords on sale this weekend - 2 for $10.00! Ironically, although I was buying a cordless transmitter, I couldn't pass up cords at that price. I bought two cords while I was at it.

Set up was a piece of cake. Really just plug-and-play. I plugged a power adapter in and hooked it to the receiver. Plugged the RealTone cable into the receiver (the other end was already in my XBox USB port). Pulled up the antennae and set them at an aesthetically pleasing angle, and that was it on the receiver side. The transmitter (guitar side) requires a 9v battery, not included. Fortunately, I had one lying around. The battery goes in easily - the battery cover doesn't screw in place or anything and the battery itself just sits in the compartment. None of those old 9v battery connectors to deal with. There's a battery saver selector switch inside the battery compartment area which you can probably just leave in the factory position until you feel like reading the directions later. Put the cover back on the transmitter battery compartment, turn on the unit, slip the clamp over your belt or strap, plug the 1/4" plug into the guitar, and you're rockin'.

The transmitter power switch has three positions: OFF, LO, and HI. I had to use HI to make things work. Also, there's an output level adjustment on the back of the receiver which you may need to adjust. I started out with that knob turned all the way up to the highest output. RS didn't really like that; a message came up and said I was a little "hot" and that I should turn down the volume on my guitar.

The results were not necessarily ideal. It seems like it's a little harder to hear my guitar over the backing track. However, I have not tried adjusting the backing track volume in RS yet. That might cure the problem. And, it's not a huge problem as it is now. I could hear myself but just not quite as well as I could hear myself before.

The freedom of not having that damn cord under foot all evening was great! I've gotten so accustomed to dancing around a cord that I caught myself still swinging my leg around wildly a few times before I moved from one spot to another.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Kicking Rocksmith Bass - Journey v.2 Starts for Real

I got busy on my restarted bass journey last night. Really busy. I played 3 events and a total of 21 songs, plus 7 technique challenges. Got a lot of catching up to do! Plus, it was going pretty well so it was hard to quit.

Even better: In three events, I got THREE - count 'em, 3 - double encores.

I jumped from Level 2 to Level 6 after playing a total of 4 events. Currently at 4,086,811 RSP. That's just playing songs once each to qualify them and then playing the events. True, I had played all the songs on bass before I had to restart my journey, but it's not like I mastered them all. I'm really thinking bass is just that much easier than guitar. I've qualified every song on my restart on the first play with an accuracy of 90% or better (with one or two exceptions where I got 88-89%).

How Do You Get a Double Encore, Really?

This casts further doubt on the 50/50 aspect of double encores. "They" told us you get a 50/50 chance at a double encore if you get 120% of the minimum event score and meet some vague accuracy limit on the first encore song. I was getting 300%-400% of the minimum event scores last night and I got 3 doubles in three events. Seems like getting really, really good scores increases your odds of getting the second encore significantly. Anybody got any insight on this?  

Unlocking The Star Spangled Banner - Impossible on Bass?

Unfortunately, from what I could see, it looks like I'll have to unlock my last locked song, The Star Spangled Banner, on guitar. On my first double encore I unlocked Boss. But, I didn't get the unlocked song notification for SSB at the end of my second event. I didn't get an unlocked song notification after my third event, either. I got the double encores - just no unlocked song.

The Star Spangled Banner has no bass part so I'm assuming you can't unlock The Star Spangled Banner when playing bass - even if you get a double encore. Even if you get TWO double encores. I predict I will never unlock this song. Oh, well. I've unlocked 5 out of 6 and, as I've said before, I didn't buy RS for these 6 songs and didn't even know they were included when I bought RS. Plus, I've heard that SSB kinda sucks and is a song I'd probably never be able to play anyway. (Sour grapes.)

Somebody did post on the RS Forum that they may have unlocked SSB without getting a notification. They said it just showed up in their song list one day. So, there may be a bug where SSB doesn't generate a "congratulations you unlocked a song" message. I'll check my song list tonight, but I'll be surprised if I find SSB there.

The idea that I may have run out of locked songs reinforces my hope that Rocksmith will insert MORE unlockable content in the future. Once you've unlocked the first 6 SSC songs, there's no reward for getting additional double encores. Even if I did unlock SSB on my second event last night, I got another double encore after that but it wasn't quite as much fun without the unlock reward. The double encore unlocks are already in the game. They should go ahead and expand on that - in spite of all the bitching and moaning the locked songs have evoked.

Unlocking Other Stuff - Techniques and Games 

Guess I never thought about it, but I've suddenly realized that I have no idea how to unlock Technique Challenges and Games. It takes a score of 70k to unlock a tone and an encore during an event to unlock pedals. Just playing an event will get you a guitar. But, when it comes to the Technique Challenges and Games, there doesn't seem to be any specific criteria. In fact, pretty much just clicking on "Bass" when I booted up RS was enough to unlock the Bass Bassics challenge.

I unlocked Shifting and Sustains with a score of just 40,558 on Where is My Mind - the first song I played on my restarted bass journey. That was well above the qualifying score of 4,500. So, maybe qualifying a song unlocks techniques used in that song? I unlocked Syncopation and Bends after qualifying Vasoline. I unlocked Slides during Event 1, I'm guessing because I met the qualifying score for one of my encore songs, either Chimney or Islands, but there's no qualifying score posted for encore songs so who knows what happened there? Playing Space Ostrich in Multiplayer Mode was enough to unlock Palm Mutes. No qualifying there. . .

Ducks and Superducks games unlocked for me after qualifying Where is My Mind and Breed.

I got a 100% accuracy the first time I played Where is My Mind. I don't think 100% accuracy is a criteria for any unlocks but it'd be nice if the RS dev's would throw in some little prizes for that. Just an idea.

Increasing Qualifying Scores and Initial Difficulty Level

My first two songs on the restarted journey had really low qualifying scores. They've gone up since then, but I'm curious how this works. Here's my qualifying scores for the first 4 events:

1- 4,500 and 1,900.
2 - 44,600, 77,600, 62,000, and 17,500
3 - 35,700, 19,200, 72,500, 15,000, and 18,400.
4 - 13,700, 26,300, 21,500, 25,300, 32,000, and 37,800

Generally the MQS's have increased, but they haven't gone up across the board. Event 2 had the highest MQS's and even though I got a double encore on that event my MQS's for Event 3 went down. It seems to depend on the song. The harder the song, the lower the MQS - at least starting out. If that's how it works, then RS would almost have to have means of rating the difficulty of songs built into the software.

I'd also be curious how the MQS relates to song mastery levels. What determines how many notes a player is going to see the first time they play a song? How does this change from when we play our very first song to the day we play the last on-disc song for the very first time?

I'm sure a lot of that is proprietary information - closely guarded by the RS development team. I don't want to know specifically how it works, but I'd love to have general description. Or an admission that this is all totally random - which I doubt is the case.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

100th Rocksmith Blog Post! Moving On from the PC Release

This is my 100th post on this blog. Seems like a good opportunity to move forward and leave the whole DLC debacle behind us. Now we can move on to other debacles!

PC Release - I'm Not Getting It

I'll also be leaving the whole PC release behind. Not to say I'll never talk about it because I will definitely keep up with developments and improvements there. But, I made an economic decision to stick with the XBox platform and my current library of DLC songs. So, I won't own a copy of the full PC version and won't be able to comment on it. I tried the demo and it seems fine - although there have been some issues. It just doesn't seem to be that much better than Rocksmith on XBox. Not worth the cost of switching platforms for me.

Also, I'm not a techie. I have no interest in overclocking my video card for optimum performance or any of that. I don't know anything about that stuff and I'm not really interested. I'll post any significant milestones or discoveries that I hear about on the PC platform but that's about as far as I'll go with the PC side of things. For now.

Secret Squirrel Club - Buy Your Way In, Earn Your Way In, Or Just Let it Go!

The latest DLC releases have brought the whole Secret Squirrel Club song collection back to the fore. Now instead of unlocking these songs by getting a double encore, you can simply buy them. And, it's a pretty good price - $4.99 US for 6 songs? That's the sort of discount I'd like to have seen for the other "discounted" song bundles. (Dammit - I regressed back into talking about the DLC. . . ) Still, you've got people saying that they shouldn't have to pay anything for these songs.

I look at it this way: I'm not going to get my shorts in a knot over 6 songs that I've never heard of, didn't know I was getting, and unlocked very easily using my bass. I didn't buy Rocksmith because it had 6 Secret Squirrel Club songs buried deep within the bowels of event encores. I didn't even know there were 6 locked songs in the game when I bought it. I had never even heard of any of these songs (except of course the Star Spangled Banner, but I don't even think Rocksmith's SSB is the Jimi Hendrix version). I just don't see what the big deal is.

Apparently there are some high speed guitar players out there who unlocked all the SSC songs using their guitars before the bass expansion was available and now they cannot play the SSC songs on their basses. This is known as "The Bass Bug." Yeah, this is a bona fide flaw in the software, but again, so what? You didn't even know there was going to be a bass expansion when you bought Rocksmith, so you damn sure didn't buy Rocksmith to get the SSC songs for bass. You can still play them on your guitar, right? There you go. If you really, really just gotta have these songs for bass, set up an alternate bass-playing profile and unlock everything again. Or, pony up $5 and buy the unlocks.

I think I'll leave that issue behind, too, at least until Ubi/RS developers implement some significant changes to the double encore algorithm or fix the bass bug.

Moving Along: Event 24 - A Tough One

Event Location Atlantic Coliseum Notes
Date Played 10/16/2012 Unlocks:   
Song Score Guitar Vintage Gibson Les Paul Jr. 
Bohemian Rhapsody - Combo 74116 Pedal  
Run Back to Your Side - SN 63689 Tone  
We Three Kings* 78041 Tone  
Sweet Home Alabama - Combo 42762 Tone  
House of the Rising Sun - Combo 1 70752    
no encore      
Minimum RSP 281,600    
Event Score:  329360 Total Score to date: 12,956,067

Check out this set list. Five songs and the easiest one was the Eric Clapton one? I got Run Back to Your Side qualified on the first try. It took a while to qualify everything else for this event.

I actually only played Bohemian Rhapsody 5 times to qualify, but that's because I worked the phrases up in Riff Repeater. I did that on this song because there's so much non-playing time between phrases. I got some phrases maxed pretty easily. Solo1 took 58 lives to max. I'll be stoked if I ever get this song to MM level.

We Three Kings took 7 plays to qualify at 81,000. No riff repeater work. Just ran through it until I got the score I needed.

Sweet Home Alabama. . . Whew! MQS was only 39,000 and it took 8 plays through the song to get there with no room to spare. I worked the intro riff, chorus, and interlude each in RR. After 30 lives, I only got these phrases up to the 80% mastery levels. Lots of work left to do on this one.

House of the Rising Sun only took 5 tries and no RR work. Plus, I got a 370 NS just before I qualified it. This song is MUCH easier when you realize that your picking chords. It would be nice if Rocksmith would include a chord ID above the RSNH on stuff like this.

I dropped the ball on We Three Kings and House of the Rising Sun during the event. Both performance scores were below their individual MQS. This may be why I got no encore even though my cumulative event score was 117% higher than the minimum.  Starting to look like a cumulative event score is good enough to get you through the event but maybe you've got to get the MQS on each song to get an encore.

On Event 19, I only had 105% of the EMS but I got an encore. However, my score on each song was higher than the MQS. (In one case my qualifying score was even reduced.) Pretty much the same story on Event 20. Only got 107% of the EMS and still got an encore; all songs scores were above the qualifying scores. On the other hand, I got 114% of the EMS on Event 21 and all songs had better-than-qualifying event scores, but no encore on that one.

I'm starting to think the first encore is a 50/50 crap-shoot, too, just like the double encore.