Jay's Internet Log

Tag: Rock Band

Initial Impressions – Kinect, Kinect Adventures, Dance Central

by on Nov.05, 2010, under Gaming, General

I’m lumping these three together because they all arrived together (along with my sweet new 27″ monitor, but that’s not really pertinent here) and go together.  Kinect is Microsoft’s answer to the question “Why is Nintendo making so much money?” and it’s quite impressive.  There are two reasons that I preordered it; first is that the technology to use yourself as a controller in a 3 dimensional space intrigued me, and secondly, Heather wanted the dancing game.  Kinect uses I believe two cameras, an RGB one as well as an IR one to find you in the room.  It also uses four microphones for voice commands and aural placement recognition.  You place this little sensor near your TV as you would the Wii sensor, but this thing is much more advanced.  It has a small motor in it to track up and down, and one of the cameras contains a hexogonal red light array which, when you look right at it, resembles a Terminator’s eye looking back at you, and that’s very cool.

It took about 30 minutes to set up the sensor, then push my whole living room back a few feet.  Upon starting up the xbox, it recognized the kinect and updated the dashboard.  It then walked me through a tutorial which was basically useless.  A problem I had was when I walked out of view and kinect forgot about me, which was annoying, but after learning the ropes, I started up Kinect Adventures.  

This game is just a set of minigames, just like Wii Sports is.  I played a few of them and Heather jumped in and played co-op with me.  It’s cool that somebody can just walk into the area you’re in and start playing along with you.  The game takes pictures of you at certain intervals and you can then upload them to a Microsoft website to view.  It’s really cool and I wish more games would have websites associated with them like this.  After about an hour of this game, it was time for a break, so we had dinner.

After dinner we booted up Dance Central, a dancing game created by Harmonix, and let me tell you, it’s not easy, even on Easy difficulty!  Heather and I switched back and forth between songs, dancing to them, and learning the moves in them.  The best we could do on Day 1 was to get 3 out of 5 stars on 4 of the songs.  Even here, the game could tell us apart and switched the dancers from male to female when we switched up.  The game has 32 songs and the four we played were difficult, so this game looks to be both tough and a good workout!

All in all, kinect is very cool, though currently reminds me of when I bought my first Nintendo DS when they launched.  It’s a cool piece of technology that hasn’t really come into its prime yet as far as software support.  Everything seems like a tech demo, but I have faith in Microsoft to create new, fun games for it, and maybe even non-gaming applications.  I would also like to see it able to be used in conjunction with controller-based games, but the problem there is that you have to be standing as well as far away from the TV, so it may be difficult to pull off.  Rock Band with kinect support however is an idea that I’ve had in my head since seeing this thing in action the first time so many months ago and I hope that someday we’ll see an entry in the series use this device.

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Initial Impressions – Rock Band 3

by on Oct.27, 2010, under Gaming, General

A few days ago I read a review saying that Rock Band 3 is the best rhythm game that’s ever been created.  After spending just about an hour with the game, I’m agreeing so far.  Sure, this basically looks a lot like the other games in the series, but Harmonix has tweaked many aspects of it, all for the better.  The only thing that’s gotten me upset is that I earned a 4 point achievement, and when I earn achievements that don’t end in 0 or 5, I get Incredible-Hulk-Angry.

Anyways, last night I installed three cymbals onto my Rock Band drums and booted the game up.  I tried for a little while to import all of my other Rock Band songs, but couldn’t get it to work, so I’m still puzzled as to how to do that.  I went into a freeform drum room to make sure that the cymbals worked and was pleasantly surprised when not only did they work, but now it seems like I’ve got a fairly full drumset here.  

The 4 original pads and kick pedal all play different drum sounds, and each of the cymbals plays a different sound as well.  It’s quite impressive.  I played through the first setlist consisting of 6 songs, then Llama once, all on Pro mode Medium.  When playing Pro mode, in addition to hitting the notes as they come down the course, you have to hit the correct cymbals as well, which has made Medium level drums fun again for me.  It really takes a lot more attention to play this way and with the exception of Llama, I played all real easy songs.

I tried uploading a video but was getting an error, so I’ll try again tonight.  That’s all I really have to say about the game right now since I’ve only put about an hour into it and half that time was creating Sir Awesome again.  It would be nice if Harmonix allowed you to bring over avatars from their previous games so I don’t have to do it each time, but it’s not a huge deal.  I look forward to putting a few hours into it tonight, and eventually with friends, as this game is full of win.

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PAX East 2010

by on Mar.31, 2010, under Gaming, General

PAX East was this past weekend in Boston.  Living near Boston and being both a Penny Arcade and gaming fan, I was there.  Back in 2007, Matt Goetz (twitter @3rr0r) and I travelled out to Seattle to experience the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX).  It was a strange time for me as far as gaming is concerned.  I had recently been talked into buying an Xbox 360, and being a lifelong Nintendo fanboy, it felt a bit weird.  Going to PAX that year showed me that other people liked this platform as well.  Two and a half years has passed since then and this past weekend, Matt and I went all the way into Boston for the inaugural PAX East held at the Hynes Convention Center.  I checked into our hotel in the afternoon.   I had packed up my 360 in case I ran into some situation where I needed it, but wasn’t planning on even unpacking it…until I got to the room and saw a 32″ LCD TV with an open HDMI port.  So of course the first thing I did was hook up the 360 and test it out.  It worked wonderfully, which surprised me to be honest as hotels don’t generally want you hooking anything up to their televisions.  I then walked over the sky bridge to the Prudential Center Mall which is what was between our hotel and the convention center.  I walked around this mall for a few hours, met up with Cheeko (twitter @cheek0), and we had some pizza.  We met up with Curt (twitter @JhnnyCrwsh) and a few friends that Matt and I originally met in 2007 who flew up from VA.  We walked over to the Fenway area where Rockstar Games was having a party for their upcoming game Red Dead Redemption, which is like Grand Theft Auto but set in old western times.  On the way we stopped at Boston Beer Works, had a few beers, then at the party we had vodka and more beers.  The party was cool.   I didn’t get any handouts there but a few of the guys got some hats and keychains.  They were playing a video loop from the game on big screens, sourced from a PS3 that was zippy-tied on the ceiling.  It was amusing to see.  We then grabbed a train to head back to our hotel area, which is a bit foggy for me.  Luckily, I took pictures.  We had some more beer and then Matt and I went back to our room and played some drunken Burnout Paradise.  The next morning was difficult to handle, but I powered through it.  We all met up outside the convention center and stood in the snow for an hour before being let inside to stand there for another 5 hours.  As soon as we were allowed inside, we headed straight for the main theater to wait yet again for the Wil Wheaton keynote speech.  We were in the fifth row center and had great seats.  I had to get up to use the restroom, and on the way back I noticed that the main doors were closed.  A bouncer wouldn’t let me back in because the fire marshal cut things off.  I wasn’t too pleased, but after a few minutes and other people coming back in the same situation as I, he let us all back in.  The rest of the day consisted of walking the show floor and then attending the twitter panel that Robert Bowling was a part of.  One of my goals for PAX East was to give Rob my statistics-in-progress for Modern Warfare 2, and after the panel I darted up and gave them to him.  He gave me a button with his name on it, which in turn gave me a free map pack for MW2.  Awesome.  Matt and I walked around the concert area and then did some more exploring.  We found a room that was filled with old classic arcade machines, including pinball!  Another goal of mine was to find pinball, and here it was.  We also met up with a bunch of our other college buddies and played old-school games.  On Saturday, I got up early and headed over to the convention center, which was still closed.   I stood in line at Au Bon Pain and bought a croissant.  A few seconds later I checked my twitter feed and saw that Joystiq was having a Saturday morning blueberry muffin thing inside the convention center and I had to find “a guy in a red hoodie at the bottom of the escalator”….easy enough.  I walked over to the main escalators and saw a guy hunched over wearing a red hoodie.  After asking him if he was the guy who was giving out wristbands, he said “yeah” and hooked me up.  So now I’m in an hour early!  The room that they were having the get-together had about 150 people in it already and they were handing out workout armbands, muffin cereal, and milk.  Also, there was a big Rock Band stage and TV’s in the corners where you could play the upcoming racing game Split/Second.   It looks really fun from what I saw.  When the main floor opened, I darted to the Red Dead Redemption line and waited there.  I had to leave the line to go place last in the MW2 tournament (I played poorly) and when I got back, I was second to get in.  Red Dead Redemption looks and plays great, and unless I’m inundated with games in mid May, it will be a no brainer to buy on release day.  I got a tweet that Major Nelson was shooting some film outside the convention center, and the last thing I wanted to get out of PAX was to meet him, which happened out on the street shortly thereafter.  He is a really nice and genuine guy.  Matt and I saw custom card tables and even cooler, a custom Axis & Allies table.  I sat in on Major Nelson’s podcast which was a lot of fun.  Matt and I got hungry and ate at P.F. Chang’s and had a few beers, then went to the concerts at night after taking some Chang Sauce back for our fridge (a story for another post perhaps).   Before the concerts, Gabe and Tycho from Penny Arcade came on stage and the finalists in the Omegathon (PAX tournament of sorts) came up on stage to play Rock Band in front of about 500 screaming people.  It was easily the best Rock Band stage setup I’ve ever seen.  I missed the last concert because I got tired and went back to the room and played Bioshock 2 for an hour.  Sunday morning consisted of us packing our stuff up and heading to the convention center for a few hours.  I sat in on the Xbox Enforcement panel, and then met up with Matt. We walked the floor again and then headed to the car.  Upon getting into the car, Matt tried to start it but alas, he had left an interior light on a few days prior, so the battery was toast.   I pushed it in reverse while Matt tried to kick start it all while cars were driving up the ramp past us.  It was comical.  We got to the bottom of the ramp and the car wasn’t started, so we talked to a maintenance guy who came over, hooked a battery up, and got us on our way.  We had a blast at PAX East.  I was a bit annoyed at how big the crowd was, but I guess next year they will have it at the huge convention center over on the wharf, and I’m already planning on being there.
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Initial Impressions – The Beatles Rock Band

by on Sep.10, 2009, under Gaming, General

This is a game that I was skeptical about, mostly because I wouldn’t call myself a huge Beatles fan, but knowing how Harmonix has come through with previous projects, I knew it would be great. I’ve been somewhat on the fence about this one, mainly because it lacks what I believe is the best feature of other Rock Band projects: the ability to import all of my songs from previous games into the new one. This is a standalone game, and it consists of 100% Beatles material, and the subsequent DLC for this title will always be Beatles material. The game also differs from other Rock Band titles in the way the “Career Mode” is set up. Usually, you’ll travel around the world, stopping in different cities, and gaining fans to unlock more cities and build your band up. In this game, you follow The Beatles, from when they were just starting out, then eventually coming to America, and finally setting up shop in the Abbey Road studios. It is extremely linear, to the point where it can’t get much more linear. Each area is a chapter, and within each chapter, is about 5 songs that you can play in any order. To get to the next chapter, you need to play all of the songs, so you might as well just go in order. As of this morning, I have gotten up to the first session in Abbey Road, and it was pretty spectacular. Being a complete Beatles noob, the game teaches you Beatles history as you play, and the band members change appearances as they did in real life as they grew up. As you proceed, you unlock rare photos of The Beatles, which is pretty cool, though I haven’t really had a look at them yet. At the end of their career, The Beatles stopped touring, so the game creates what they call Dreamscapes, otherwise known as trippy cartoony visions of what Harmonix thinks the songs represent, and they seem to have done a great job with them. I’ve only played the first one; Yellow Submarine. As the song starts, the band is playing in the studio, and after about 30 seconds, bubbles start rising on the screen and the band is whooshed away under the water, the submarine starts moving around, and the Dreamscape begins. It’s very cool, and a feature that I hope is implemented in Rock Band 3 whenever that gets released (my prediction is in about 1 year from now). This game has a very cel-shaded style to it, very much unlike Rock Band 2’s hard neon feel. I’ve seen only two real issues with it, one as a drummer, and one as a crazy observer. First off, the drum solo portions have been taken out, most likely to keep the songs as pristine as possible. Overdrive, or Beatlemania as it’s called in this game is still initiated in the same way, but without the drum fill to start it off. The other nitpick I have is more minor. I notice that when the score is presented onscreen, there is a strange space after the comma. I know that when writing, a space is necessary after commas, like the ones in this sentence right here. When showing a number however, I did not know that this was the case, and at least to me, it looks weird when my score is 83, 450 and not 83,450. I’ve only noticed this once, but I’m going to keep my eye out for it to see if it was just that once or if it happens in the whole game or only on certain songs. The game introduces harmonic vocals as well, so those of you who have multiple microphones can get in on the singing action. I can only play the drums really, but might try out some other instruments on easier settings, as I can’t figure out the want to play on more difficult settings in this game. You don’t earn fans, so other than to make it more difficult, why would you play on a higher difficulty? This is something that I need to research a bit more. The game is much shorter than Rock Band usually is, coming in at just about 45 songs total, but they are mostly very good songs. The Astro A40’s perform incredibly with this game, making the whole experience all the better. Overall, this is a high quality game, and I’m really looking forward to getting more into it!

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Rock Band Stage Kit – Initial Impressions

by on Dec.18, 2008, under General

HAHAHAHAHAHA This thing is awesome.  When I first heard of the stage kit, I thought it would be a gimmicky yet expensive addition to Rock Band.  Who would pay $100 for a cheesy light/smoke machine?  After seeing a few videos of it last week, I decided that it might be fun to try out and also might get me back into playing Rock Band.  I was SO correct on both ends.  The stage kit consists of two main units; a smoke machine and a light machine with xbox 360 controls on it.  You plug them together, into the wall for power, and into a USB port on the xbox.  Now I haven’t tried the smoke part of it out yet, but the light show is incredible.  I played about 8 different random songs last night, and this thing just rules.  You can adjust the size of the light show with a little magnifying glass-like thing, and I got it to be taller than my back sliding glass door.  The smoke machine part also has a strobe light in it that sets off right at the right time.  It was truly amazing, and this weekend I hope to try the smoke machine out.

[update 12-19-08] – Well, last night I played about 7 songs with the stage kit aimed up in the center of the tv, up over on the back wall/ceiling….man is this thing awesome!  I still haven’t fired up the fawg.

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