Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Improving Rocksmith 2014: The Learn A Song Menu, Tasks, and Missions

The first Main Menu option when you open Rocksmith 2014 is Learn a Song. Makes perfect sense to me since probably most of us play Rocksmith to learn songs. Clicking on the Learn a Song option takes you to the Song List to pick a song and then to the Learn a Song (LAS) menu to learn that song. So far, this is where I've spent virtually all of my time in Rocksmith 2014.

[Note: The three-letter acronyms (TLAs) in this blog are not official Ubisoft or Rocksmith terms. They're just an occupational hazard of working around the military for too many years. That and sheer laziness. It's easier to type "LAS" than "Learn a Song."]

After you choose a song from the Song List, your song title appears at the top of the LAS menu page. By clicking your A button, you can jump right into playing the song. Or, you can use your D-pad to choose one of the other learning options further down on the LAS Menu.

The Learning Tasks - AKA "Rocksmith Recommends" Activities

Directly under the song title (and a few statistics like Play Count, song duration, etc.) on the LAS Menu is a section that I call the Learning Tasks. I think the actual menu heading is "Rocksmith Recommends," but that's sort of confusing for old RS players - it sounds like the songs in randomly generated set-lists from the original Rocksmith. This section is a seemingly random list of three - always 3 - little tasks that are intended to help you learn your chosen song. It's a feature that I think Rocksmith 2014 could have done much better.

Tasks might include working on a phrase in Riff Repeater, reviewing bends or some other technique, or getting a 5-note streak while playing through the song. The tasks are linked to the appropriate action; clicking on the task takes you where you need to go to complete it. When you attempt a task, a green checkmark appears in its box. When you have attempted all three tasks in a set, three new tasks pop up.

There doesn't seem to be any end to the tasks. No matter how many times you play a song in LAS mode, and no matter how well you've mastered it, it appears that there will be three tasks for you to do. Obviously there are only so many tasks, so when you have done them all once the same ones start reappearing. Some tasks increase in difficulty; for example, instead of 72% mastery a task might require you to achieve 80% mastery the next time around. 

Sometimes the tasks are a little wonky. I have played songs that have no chords in the lead arrangement but a task popped up telling me to Review Chords (Lesson) 101. Doesn't hurt to review Chords 101, I guess, but it doesn't exactly apply if the song has no chords in it. . .

You don't have to actually complete the tasks to get credit. You just have to attempt them. Once you click on a task's link, you can go straight back to the LAS Menu and you'll get the green checkmark.

All that is fine. My beef isn't with the tasks themselves or the way they're presented or even a couple of "bugs" in the algorithm. I just don't find them useful. Or fun.

A Better Approach - Replace Learning Tasks with Menu of Learning Tools

I complete many of the learning tasks unintentionally by simply playing through the song. The rest I generally ignore in favor of using Riff Repeater to hammer through difficult song phrases. But, that's just me. Beginners might like being able to link to the Lessons from here. Others may like using Technique Guides. Problem is, if one of those doesn't happen to be one of your three randomly assigned learning tasks, you have to access those learning tools from someplace else. You can't count on being able to access any specific feature from the Learning Task list. It's random.

In my opinion, it would be far more useful for everybody if the tasks were replaced with a simple fixed Learning Tools menu. Instead of showing three links to random tasks, why not just have a permanent list of links to Lessons, Technique Guides, Riff Repeater, and possibly the Chord Book?

(There is a link to Lessons on the Main Menu. I'm not suggesting that the Main Menu link to Lessons be removed. Just that a link to Lessons be added to the LAS menu.)

I appreciate that the tasks try to be meaningful and relevant to each player and their progress on each song. But, I know if I'm having trouble with a phrase that I need to go to Riff Repeater. I know if I'm jacking up slides that I need to review the lesson on slides or maybe spend some time playing Temple of Slides or whatever it's called. I'd much rather just have consistent access to those tools from the Learn a Song menu.

But, what about all those semi-cool Learning Tasks that inspire you to improve? Easy. Convert tasks like "Play a 5-Note Streak," "Play Scale Runner," or "Get 97% accuracy on this song" into Missions - instead of having an endless list of missions that involve screwing with tone pedals.

Missions - Fun Stuff Wanted. NOT TONE PEDAL SWAPPING!

I haven't even attempted a Mission in two weeks or more. There are guitar pick icons all over my main menu page.

In case you haven't caught onto this, Rocksmith 2014 uses a guitar pick icon as a breadcrumb to lead you through your Missions. Just follow the guitar picks and do whatever it is they lead you to. When you accomplish each mission, the guitar pick which led you to it will disappear - to be immediately replaced by another one.

So, if it's so easy to do the Missions, why haven't I? Well, I'm glad you asked. Since 90% of the missions involve screwing with tone pedals, the new guitar pick will likely appear exactly where the previous one was - next to the Tone Designer link on the Main Menu. I figure since there will always be a guitar pick icon next to the Tone Designer link on my Main Menu page anyway, why bother following it? It'll just be replaced with another one taking me right back to the Tone Designer. . . 

I'm fed up with being led back to the Tone Designer all the time. I never messed with tones in the original RS. I'm not interested in messing with them now. And, even if I were really, really into swapping pedals around, swapping out one pedal for another isn't much of a "mission." Once you've swapped a pedal, you've pretty much swapped them all - the process is the same. If we're going to have tone-oriented missions, they should be more specific - like "Use an Phaser Pedal to Replicate the Boston Guitar Sound." Something like that. Otherwise, one or two trips to the Tone Designer is enough. If I ever do want to go in there, I know how to get there and swap the pedals around. I got it the first time. Enough.

I really like the Mission concept, especially since mission points can be traded in for DLC. But, the current missions are little more than a navigation tutorial - with wayyyy too much focus on navigating the freaking Tone Designer. (Tired of reading "Tone Designer" yet? Yeah. Me too.)

My 2014 Christmas Wish List for Ubisoft

So, here are my first two suggestions to improve the newly released Rocksmith 2014:

Replace the Learn a Song tasks with a fixed menu linking to Riff Repeater, Lessons, Technique Guides, and the Chord Book.

And. . .

Replace all the pedal-swapping missions (except maybe ONE) with some of the currently random Learning Tasks.

Holiday Songs, Please!

Oh, and reissue the Holiday Song Pack! Or maybe even issue a Holiday Song Pack II. . . I checked and it appears that the original Holiday Song Pack from 2011 is NOT available as DLC in the RS2014 Store. I mean, really - it IS Christmastime. The coding is already done. Gi'z some Christmas music, Ubisoft!


  1. Catching up on your blog here.
    The pedal swaps didn't bug me too much. They're tedious, but very quick.

    But all the Session Mode missions drove me crazy. Play with this genre band, practice this scale progression, and tweak the settings weren't bad. But all the Play in Session mode for 10/20/30 minutes were insane. I'd rather play the songs than noodle around for 30 minutes with a fake band.

  2. Replies
    1. I'm not absolutely sure whether >-< is a good face or a bad face. . . but I'm guessing the rock n' roll horns mean it's all good! If so, thanks.