Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rocksmith is Totally Pissing Me Off Lately

Don't freak out - I still love it and I still play. But, dammit, I just played Event #40 and there's just no freaking way that this is working right.

Here's the situation:

The Set List (with qualifying scores for this event - all relatively new DLC)

Walk                                       (MQS = 24,900)
Dance Dance                          (MQS = 14,100)
Sugar We're Goin' Down       (MQS = 79,600)
The Best of You                     (MQS = 90,000)


The Velvet Club (that makes no difference at all - just figured I'd set the stage completely)

Minimum RSP

208,660 (not the first time I've played a couple of these)

I had played Sugar We're Goin' Down in Event 39; my MQS for Event 40 was 79,600. The Best of You was an encore in Event 39. It took me a handful of tries to qualify it for Event 40 because the MQS was maxed out at 90k. (See below.) The other two songs I qualified on the first play, so Event 40 was the second time I'd ever played three of the songs.

The event went pretty well. Here's what I recorded in my spreadsheets:

Event Location Velvet Club Notes
Date Played 2/25/2013 Unlocks:   
Song Score Guitar Gibson LP Studio
Walk - Combo 101820 Pedal  
Dance Dance - Combo 34653 Tone  
Sugar We're Goin' Down - Combo 85901 Tone  
The Best of You 106851 Tone  
Roxanne - SN 44971 MM Encore  
Minimum RSP 208600    
Event Score:  374196 Total Score to date: 22,170,967 RSP 

As you can see, I kicked ass on Walk, especially considering I'd only played it once before to qualify it for this event. (I plan to update my Easiest Rocksmith Songs very soon based on my new DLC.) Not bad on Best of You, either. Sugar We're Goin' Down has a little more going on and I had to do a little Riff Repeater work to get that one qualified. Dance Dance was another one and done qualifier - not quite sure what happened on the event, but I at least improved on my qualifying score of 32,014.

So What's the Problem?

That's what I'm saying. What's the freaking problem? I get 158% of the minimum required RSPs for the event, so I get my encore - which I damn sure deserved. But, what does RS throw at me for the encore?

A Master Mode arrangement that I've NEVER PLAYED BEFORE - EVER!

I've checked. I have no record in my notes of ever playing the single note arrangement of Roxanne, but RS shows this song as Mastered in my game save data. I never even mastered the combo arrangement which I HAVE played. So, how the hell is this song "Mastered?" And, how did it end up being a Master Mode Encore?

The only possible explanation I can think of might be that my son played the SN arrangement one night while we were playing multiplayer signed in on my XBox Live account. Or maybe I did. I don't always keep notes when we play multiplayer mode. But I sure as hell don't remember either of us mastering the arrangement (although it's damn easy).

Conclusion: RS's Double Encore Paradigm Just Sucks. Period.

I was already pissed off at RS going into Event 40 because of what happened on Event 39 - another huge rip-off where I didn't get the second encore. Check this out.

I had just bought 10 new DLC songs, and the event included 7 of them. A big set-list! But, because everything was new, the MQS were low and the minimum RSP total for the event was only 99,500. For 7 songs. That's an average MQS of about 12,000 per song. Here's what I actually scored in the event:

Event Location The Mouse Hole Notes
Date Played 2/19/2013 Unlocks:   
Song Score Guitar Vintage Gibson SG Junior
Thnks Fr Th Mmrs - Combo 45512 Pedal  
My Hero - Combo 67593 Tone  
Wheels - Combo 22515 Tone  
Sugar We're Goin' Down - Combo 57211 Tone  
Times Like These - Combo 51076    
I Don't Care - Combo 56615 Actual Event Score 417831
America's Suitehearts - Combo 40835    
The Best of You 76388    
Minimum RSP 99500    
Event Score:  417745 Total Score to date: 21,510,701 RSP

That's right - 343% of the required event minimum. AND, note what I scored on the first encore - 76,388. The first time I had EVER played that song, so probably close to 600% of the MQS on the first encore. What freaking score did I need to get the #$#&^!! second encore????

I don't give a damn about getting the last Secret Squirrel Song - The Star Spangled Banner. I've heard it's not that great, anyway. But, dammit, getting a second encore should be more predictable! Either that or the RS dev's should just come out and say that double encores are a completely random crap shoot - that it doesn't matter how well you play the event or the first encore. Because that's pretty much how it seems to work.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Made it to 11 - I'm a Rocksmith!

I got Rocksmith (and an XBox to play it on) for Christmas in 2011. I'm writing this in February of 2013, having finally attained Level 11, "Rocksmith" - the highest level in the game. I achieved Level 11 after my 37th Event - a three-song setlist including all DLC (Rockstar, Bottoms Up, and Red Barchette). No encore.

I've played a LOT over the past year - 212 hours according to my XBox Live tracker. But, unlike other games, even though I've reached the highest level, there's no end in sight. I've still got many arrangements that I've never played. So, I've definitely gotten my money's worth out of Rocksmith!

Level Score Status Date
11 20,000,000 Rocksmith 2/12/2013
10 15,173,690 Super Elite Guitarist 10/28/2012
9 10,005,994 Elite Guitarist 10/8/2012
8 7,539,304 International Headliner 9/30/2012
7 5,120,927 International Supt Act 9/28/2012
6 3,534,497 National Headliner 9/28/2012
5 2,744,191 Nat'l  Support Act 9/27/2012
4 1,662,269 Local Headliner 9/26/2012
3 1,079,647 Local Support Act 9/26/2012
2 571,961 New Act 9/26/2012
1 0 Amateur 9/26/2012

Plenty of Game Left to Play

The fact that I've reached Level 11 is sort of meaningless. In fact, now I've just got this huge blank progress bar up at the top of my screen where I used to have some orange! I've barely touched the Guitarcade games. And, there's still a ton of DLC (new songs) that I haven't downloaded yet, with more coming out weekly now. Plus, I still have one secret squirrel song to unlock. I've got all of the Technique Challenges to Gold and all over 95k, but a few of them are still shy of being maxed out.

I've still got 9 more guitars to get, so at least nine more events left just to collect all 48 in-game guitars. I've never played a master event, either, so that's something else to work toward eventually. I could probably spend another year mastering the songs in my current library - especially the songs with solos. And, at last count, I've still got 21 guitar tones and 34 bass tones left to unlock! (I haven't quite figured out if any DLC songs include new tones or not.) Even though I've reached the highest level, there's still plenty of "game" left.

The original Rocksmith software came with 51 songs. No bass. I bought the bass add-on for about $30 last Fall and I've still got a long ways to go before I reach Level 11 on my separate bass journey. Since its release in 2011, the developers have released another 117 songs for download, including 3 free Christmas songs in 2011. I've downloaded 45 of them (including the 3 freebies). There are about 30 more songs I'd like to get, and Ubisoft seems to have stepped up their DLC releases to every week this year. So, it looks like there will be plenty of Rocksmith to keep me busy for at least another year. Probably longer.

Then there's the multiplayer feature. . . That probably won't get old for a long, long time. I just wish I could figure out how the singing part works. I bought a USB mic but I can't seem to get that going.

The Restarted Journey

Right around September of 2012, right after I reached Super Elite Guitarist (Level 10) for the first time, I lost all my game save data, ironically while attempting to back up my game save data. So, I had to restart my entire Rocksmith Journey from Amateur (Level 1). On my first journey attempt, I never played an event until I got all the songs on my setlist up to 70,000 points or higher. When I restarted my journey, I just played events as soon as I met the minimum qualifying score for the songs.

Concentrating on events instead of perfecting each song made things move along faster and was a lot less stressful. That's why it only took a few months to get back to where I was. Of course, when I restarted I had already played the songs before and had already worked most of them up to at least 70,000 points. Some of them were obviously much easier to qualify for events the second time around. But, some were just as hard the second time as they were the first time. Solos still kick my ass. Especially Solo 2 from Carol of the Bells.

I back up my game data and DLC every so often now. Both to the cloud and to a flash drive.

I passed on the PC version of Rocksmith because I had already paid for a fair number of DLC songs and they don't transfer from platform to platform. I test-drove the PC demo and it seemed to work pretty well, but I'm sticking with my XBox. So far, so good. Occasionally it'll get a little glitchy during a song, but I can live with it.

A Couple of Complaints

Navigation Design

After a year of playing, my biggest gripe with Rocksmith is that there's no way to go directly from rehearsing a song to working on specific hard spots in Riff Repeater. To me, this path would be a no-brainer. But, the software makes you go back to the main menu, pick "Songs," scroll through the entire song library to get to your song, select the song, and then go to Riff Repeater from within the song options. Oddly, you can go directly from Riff Repeater to playing a whole song - but then you can't go back to Riff Repeater. This should be fixed - but apparently I'm the only person who thinks so. So I live with it. There are other navigation oddities I'd like them to fix (like the Technique Challenges), but not being able to get to Riff Repeater directly after playing a song is the main one.

DLC - No Samples?

A somewhat annoying aspect of Rocksmith DLC is the fact that you can't pre-audition DLC songs in the in-game store. Just yesterday I was shopping in the online RS store and checking out new DLC. "No Rain?" Never heard of it. Also not sure I'd ever heard of Blind Melon. But, turns out, I've heard the song many times and really like it; I just didn't know it by name.

Look, I cannot be the only person out here who doesn't recognize every DLC song by title and artist, and I'm not buying DLC without knowing what I'm getting. Period. I work around this by going to Amazon, searching for DLC songs that I don't recognize by title, and playing the audio sample there. But, what would be so hard about including a little audio preview for DLC in the RS download store? It's not like the idea is totally new; you hear a short sample of every song in the Rocksmith song list. . .

The Amazon workaround actually works for me because I try to buy an MP3 of every RS DLC song that I buy. That way I can listen to my RS songs over and over and really start to memorize them. When I listen to the sample on Amazon, if I like the song, I add it to my Rocksmith DLC Wish List right there on the spot. Still. Samples in the online store would be nice.

Encores, Double Encores, and the Secret Squirrel Songs

Encores and the secret squirrel songs - the hidden songs that you have to unlock by "earning" a double encore - have been one of the most frustrating aspects of Rocksmith for me. I like unlocking the songs. That's cool. My problem is that the criteria for doing it are vague and arbitrary. I've played events where I've scored 105% of the required minimum and gotten an encore. On my 30th event, two songs were below their event qualifying scores, but I still got an encore with a total score of 111%. I've played other events where I've scored 117% and gotten nothing. So, there just doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to encores. Double encores are even worse. In fact, the developers themselves have said that double encores are a 50/50 crap shoot - even if you totally rock the first encore. Very frustrating.

On the upside, you can unlock the secret squirrel songs on bass or guitar - doesn't matter which - and play them on both instruments. I unlocked at least 2 of the secret squirrel songs this way. I wish they'd hide some more songs in the software. I just wish they'd make the unlocking requirements more objective and predictable.

Rocksmith-Induced GAS

I've bought several guitars since I started playing Rocksmith. I had a single Epiphone LP Special II before I started. Then I bought an old Yamaha EG-112. After that the GAS (guitar acquisition syndrome) really kicked in: PRS Tremonti SE, Ibanez ArtCore semi-hollow body, Gretsch Electromatic semi-holloy body, a Yamaha bass, Epiphone LP Junior, and most recently a Fender MIM Telecaster with locking tuners. All used.

I also bought a wireless system to use with Rocksmith. That was a good investment and I highly recommend it! It works like a charm on the XBox version. Can't speak to PS or PC owners. Not having a cord to trip over made playing much more fun. Does use up the 9v batteries, though.

Where Do We Go From Here?

So, now what? Well, as I said, there's still plenty of Rocksmith left after reaching 11 (gotta wonder if Spinal Tap influenced the number of levels in Rocksmith. . . ). But, over the past year I've started doing more and more guitar work without Rocksmith. I've bought a few how-to DVDs (which turned out to be mostly crap) and a couple of tab books. I actually played some (really weak) lead fills at an open mic night recently. But, I never did get my stuff together to play the 3 Christmas DLC songs live per my goal. Mainly I've run across some things in my Rocksmith Journey which have pushed me to consider some lessons. Maybe not traditional lessons but at least spending more time at open mic nights with my guitar and picking up what I can. I REALLY want to learn to play that damn solo from Carol of the Bells! I'm obviously missing something there that Rocksmith isn't teaching me. That's probably not the only thing I'm missing.

Rocksmith may not be "teaching software," but if it does nothing else it gets you playing. My hands have gotten a lot stronger and more nimble in the past year. I've also noticed that I have started picking things up faster than I did a year ago. I can often hear or feel how something should be played without having to look at each and every note on the note highway - it's like the notes go straight from the RSNH to my hands and bypass my brain altogether sometimes.

So, maybe it's time to start weaning myself off of Rocksmith a bit and doing a little work with tabs or something. I'll probably start moving that direction in time and I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Blog-wise, I plan to make a list of RS songs with and without major solos in them. This will take a little time because I'm not going to sit down and go through all 100+ songs that I own in one night. Also, as usual, until RS starts giving me free DLC to blog about, my list will only include the songs I happen to own. But, as always, I'm open to contributions from you - so feel free to contribute to this effort!

For now, I've still got about 80 songs to master and memorize! Plus 9 more virtual guitars and a bunch of tone pedals to earn and a bass journey to catch up on.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Latest Rocksmith Event Progress Charts (Events 31 - 36)

Here are the tables from my last several events, just to compare:

Event Location Palace Hall Notes
Date Played 1/1/2013 Unlocks:   
Song Score Guitar Gibson Reverse Explorer
California Brain - Combo 77785 Pedal  
Angela - Combo 99254 Tone  
Ricochet (Dbl Enc Unlock) 64872 Tone  
Boss (Dbl Enc Unlock) - SN2 46588 Tone  
Barracuda * Combo 103253    
Minimum RSP 370900    
Event Score:  391752 Total Score to date: 17,111,424

This was my last event of "old" songs - before I went on my DLC buying spree. Note the relatively high qualifying scores except for Boss, which is one of the Secret Squirrel Songs.

Event Location 3d Street Lounge Notes
Date Played 1/11/2013 Unlocks:   
Song Score Guitar Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plus Top
Limelight 64823 Pedal  
How You Remind Me 97174 Tone  
Bottoms Up 38128 Tone  
Subdivisions 66079 Tone  
Tom Sawyer 36397    
Minimum RSP 109700    
Event Score:  302601 Total Score to date: Not Recorded

Gotta love that, huh? 243% of the minimum score, a 36k+ on the encore, and no double encore. . .

Event Location Epicenter Notes
Date Played 2/2/2013 Unlocks:   
Song Score Guitar The Log (Gibson)
Limelight 70662 Pedal  
How You Remind Me 91625 Tone  
Tom Sawyer 48364 Tone  
Subdivisions 76383 Tone  
Rockstar 79155    
Red Barchette 28253    
Minimum RSP 367700    
Event Score:  394442 Total Score to date: 18,796,178

Event Location 363 Brannan Notes
Date Played 2/2/2013 Unlocks:   
Song Score Guitar Gibson ES-335 w/Vibrato
Message in a Bottle 38024 Pedal  
Synchronicity II 44090 Tone  
Smooth 41451 Tone  
Oye! Como Va? 35247    
Minimum RSP 62900    
Event Score:  158812 Total Score to date: 19,040,841 RSP

Another event where I scored WELL over the minimum required, kicked ass on the encore and STILL no double encore. WTF?

Event Location Not Recorded Notes
Date Played 2/4/2013 Unlocks:   
Song Score Guitar Gibson Shark Fin
Rockstar 100237 Pedal  
Roxanne 81949 Tone  
Black Magic Woman 47061 Tone  
Smooth 59567 Tone  
Minimum RSP 267100    
Event Score:  288814 Total Score to date: 19,370,044 RSP

Event Location 363 Brennan Notes
Date Played 2/9/2013 Unlocks:   
Song Score Guitar Gibson SG Standard
Oye! Como Va? 48406 Pedal  
Message in a Bottle 44689 Tone  
Synchronicity II 60014 Tone  
Roxanne 98940 Tone  
Black Magic Woman 69395    
Minimum RSP 318400    
Event Score:  321444 Total Score to date: 19,910,598

This one I could have put a little more work on before I played it, but I'm getting impatient lately. Note that after this event I'm less than 90k from making Rocksmith's final level. I guess I figured I might make it with this event. I might have done it if I had worked on these songs a little harder and gotten at least one encore, but I doubt it. Looks like I was darn lucky I even passed the event! Made it by just 3,044 points.

I was a little surprised to realize that I still have 9 more guitars left to unlock. At one guitar for every successful event, apparently there are 46 guitars you can unlock.