Is Downloadable Content the Best Way for the Future for Rock Band?

So, I just bought and downloaded Bulls On Parade by Rage Against The Machine as DLC for Rock Band 2.  This got me thinking:  Is releasing songs through downloadable content the future of music games?  Is it better than releasing a new game on disk with 80 songs or so every year or 2?

The advantage of downloadable content is the user gets to pay for only the songs they want.  They don’t have to download songs from The Pixies if they don’t want to (no offense to The Pixies).  But there are disadvantages.  If you want to play online with friends (up to 3 friends plus you), then each friend has to have downloaded and paid for the same song you did if you want to play it online with them.  Also, in World Tour, downloadable songs are limited to Make a Setlist and Mystery Setlists.  They can possibly show up in the Challenges too or in Battle of the Bands setlists.  They do not show up in Endless Setlists or as single songs in venues in World Tour.

The advantage to releasing new games (on disk) with songs is your friends who are into Rock Band (or Guitar Hero) will buy the game anyway if they want to play online with you.  You don’t have to worry about them downloading the same song(s) as you did and as your other online friends.  If they bought the game, they get those new songs that came on the disk.

I find it rare that the songs I download are downloaded by the friends I play Rock Band with online.  Usually those downloaded songs are limited to being played only in local multiplayer at home.

Maybe I’m overthinking this or overlooking a piece to this discussion.  What do you think?  Sound off below in the comments section.

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Spike TV’s Video Game Awards (VGA) Winners and Trailers

Spike TV’s Video Game Awards 2009 was held Saturday evening, Dec. 12.  Although the winners of each category may be controversial to some, some of the trailers and/or announcements made at the conference were quite exciting.

One of these announcements was that Green Day: Rock Band is in the works for 2010.  The best part is that the entire track list from this stand alone game will be exportable (for a $ fee, we’re sure) to play in Rock Band 2 for xbox 360 or PS3 owners (sorry Wii owners).  Here’s hoping they’ll include their Dookie album in the game…

The new Halo: Reach trailer was revealed, showing off multiple spartans, including female ones, and one spartan with a skull painted on his helmet.  You can view the trailer below:

Some of the winners from SpikeTV’s 2009 VGA’s were as follows:

  • Best Action Adventure:  Assassin’s Creed 2
  • Studio of the Year:  Rocksteady Studios (who did Batman Asylum)
  • Best Team Sports Game:  NHL 10
  • Best Individual Sports Game:  UFC 2009 Undisputed
  • Most Anticipated Game:  God of War 3
  • Best DLC:  Ballad of Gay Tony (for GTA IV)
  • Best Downloadable Game:  Shadow Complex
  • Best RPG:  Dragon Age Origins
  • Best Shooter:  Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  • Best Mulitplayer:  Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  • Best Handheld:  GTA China Town Wars
  • Best Fighter:  Street Fighter IV
  • Best Driving Game:  Forza 3
  • Best Original Score:  Halo 3: ODST
  • Best Soundtrack:  DJ Hero
  • Best Music Game:  The Beatles: Rock Band
  • Best PC Game:  Dragon Age Origins
  • Best Wii Game:  Super Mario Bros Wii
  • Best PS3 Game:  Unchartered 2: Among Thieves
  • Best Xbox360 Game:  Left 4 Dead 2
  • Best Graphics:  Unchartered 2: Among Thieves
  • Game of the Year:  Unchartered 2: Among Thieves

We were happy with Marty from Bungie getting recognized for best original score for Halo 3: ODST and happy that CoD: Modern Warfare 2 earned two awards.  They deserved that.  But we have to wonder about the best Xbox 360 game winner.  And where was Trials HD?  Why weren’t they even nominated for Best Downloadable Game???  That’s not right.  Dana White from the UFC must be very happy with his organization’s win.  We can’t help to wonder if the people who vote for the games in a video game awards show on Spike TV would be biased towards voting for a game that has a show on that station (UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter)… hmm.

Earlier in the week before the VGA’s, a new Transformers game was announced.  The game is called Transformers: War For Cybertron.  The game is based on the war(s) between the Autobots and Decepticons before they traveled to Earth.  So, the vehicle modes will be cybertronian, not Earth-based, and you won’t be seeing any humans.  Will this game be coinciding with the new Transformers cartoon that will eventually be showing up on Discovery-Hasbro’s new channel?  No one really knows but rumors will likely be around the interwebs.  You can see the teaser trailer below:

Are you excited about any of the new trailers?  Any winners from the VGA’s that surprised you?  Let your voice be heard below in the comments section.

What I’ve Learned From Completing the Endless Setlist 2 (in Rock Band 2)

Taking on the Endless Setlist 2 in Rock Band 2 in one night is no small deal.  What I’ve learned from completing this task is as follows:

  • Do I have a life?  I just spent 6 consecutive hours + 10-15 minutes singing to a video game.
  • Doing it on expert vocals.  IF you can sing, this is the way to do it.  Let me just say that when you get to last 10-15 songs, you’ll be thankful you’re singing on expert instead of playing guitar or drums on expert.
  • I should have practiced singing “Shackler’s Revenge” before I started this.  I consider myself a pretty good “Rock Band” vocals guy, but the verses on Guns N’ Roses’ “Shackler’s Revenge” are darn near impossible to figure out, especially without practice.  The chorus and pre-chorus (if you call it that) aren’t that bad, but that first verse is what made me fail — the only song I failed during my 6 + hours of doing the endless setlist 2.  The under-rated 3 star rating Rock Band gives the vocals on that song really means that’s how many stars you’ll end up scoring on the song.  I should mention I 4 or 5 starred every song in the endless setlist 2 except for Shackler’s Revenge.  The song prevented me from getting the “Bladder of Steel” achievement.  By the way, if there are songs you are unfamiliar in singing, you should really try them out in Free Play BEFORE doing the endless setlist 2 on expert vocals.
  • It’s not cheating… It’s called “working smarter, not harder”.  Tricks I learned that worked for me:  First of all, singing the words is unnecessary.  Singing “La La” on the correct notes seemed to be more effective (although annoying if you’re going to do this with someone else playing an instrument).  Holding out a pitch instead of singing the words on songs like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “Where Did You Go?” was WAY easier.  Another trick is to put the volume of your vocals up and/or the sensitivity of it up and then put the microphone in front of your speakers for the rap/talking/screaming songs.  It actually works.  You’ll get a Gold Star on those songs without having to do it yourself.  Why should you want to do that?  To get a BATHROOM break!  (The songs are “So What’cha Want”, “Give It Away”, “Testify”, and “Visions” — and they’re nicely spaced out between the 84 songs.
  • Cowbell and tamborine parts, where you tap the mic (or hit the “A” button) can be other times to get a food and drink break or hit the bathroom.  Just make sure you choose the times that are long (Hint, if each tap of the mic only gives you 1% or if it takes two taps to get 1%, then you know you can dash off for a minute break — “Bodhisattva” and “The Trees” are a few of these songs).
  • If you’re going for the “Bladder of Steel” acheivement by yourself, then you have to do it on vocals.  I’ll be doing this again on medium next time (to be safe from failing), since “Shacker’s Revenge” cost me from getting it the first time.
  • Don’t do this on vocals the night before or after you have/had to talk or sing a lot.  I could have planned better.  My vocal chords felt like they were swelling.
  • Singing the octave (or 2) lower is key.  Don’t kill your voice.  If you have the skills to do it, drop your singing down an octave (or 2) on the parts that you can.
  • Make sure no one else is wanting to use the TV or xbox for a long time when you plan to do the endless setlist 2, or you’ll make some enemies real quick.
  • Set your profile’s online status to “appear offline”.  Otherwise your friends will wonder why you aren’t responding to their party invites.  You see, your xboxlive status does NOT show them that you’re playing the endless setlist 2.  It just shows them what song you’re playing.
  • “Painkiller” should be renamed “The Song That Shall Never End” (even though you wish it would).  It’s the very last song in the 84 song setlist.  By then you’re tired of singing the songs that you really don’t care for, and you’re ready for the setlist to end.  I must warn you, there are many times you feel Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” is going to end, but it doesn’t.  It’s like an annoying little 8 year old girl who won’t stop singing.  You’ll almost wish you took a few painkillers before doing the song.

The good news is that after you’ve finally beat the endless setlist 2, and see your achievements pop up at the bottom of your screen, you’ll feel like you actually accomplished something… just don’t try convincing your wife that it was worth it.

Things That Would Rock in Rock Band 3

We appreciate the improvements Rock Band 2 had over Rock Band 1, better drums, wireless instruments, getting rid of the band leader requirement, including drum trainer, and the improved sorting abilities (which Rock Band’s store has had).  With rumors of Rock Band 3 being in the works, we’ve compiled a list of things that would “rock” in Rock Band 3.

  1. More Sorting Features:  Sort by purchase/download date would be one awesome addition for sorting, especially for downloaded songs.  And with the ever-increasing amount of songs in Rock Band’s Store, this feature is becoming a must.
  2. Personal Rating System:  Having the ability to personally rate each song in the setlist and sorting by that rating would be very cool for “Rock Band parties.”
  3. User-Created Family Safe Mode:  The Rock Band franchise can be easily made family-friendly by allowing users to rate songs as family-friendly or not family-friendly.  Don’t be mistaken, LEGO Rock Band IS much-more family friendly than Rock Band 1 & 2, but what one family considers appropriate is not necessarily the same as another family’s opinion.  Allow the user to decide.
  4. SAVED User-Created Setlists/Playlists:  In Quick Play or for Make Your Own Setlists in Tour, we should have the option to save the setlist.  Saved User-Created Setlists/Playlists would be a nice feature to help impress your friends and make chosing the right song(s) quicker at Rock Band parties.
  5. Ability to Easily Change Instruments Without Logging Out and Logging Back In:  Why haven’t Guitar Hero and Rock Band done this already?  If more than one profile is logged in, having a profile change instruments is a pain.  There needs to be a way to change instruments in an easier manner.
  6. A (Balanced) Veto System For Mystery Setlists and Possibly Also Cities:  Ever get into a mystery setlist and come up against a song that was impossible to beat on the difficulty setting you chose?  A 1-song-veto option per mystery setlist would be much appreciated.  Again, you only get to veto 1 song per mystery setlist.  The same idea could be implemented for a city.  You get to veto one song per city and swap it out with a song of equal difficulty of your choice.  This was songs like “Visions” can be avoided by those of us who despise playing it.
  7. Replace the Failing System With Something Else That Makes More Sense:  “Failing” out of a song is so “last-gen”.  Something else that makes sense should be used.  Failing out doesn’t make sense anyway for playing a gig… If one can only beat a song with 2 stars, so be it, but they should LOSE fans and be docked in pay because of it.  That is just one idea that could make sense.  If a user does very poorly on x number of songs in a venue, they could be banned from it, but with a way to earn access back into that venue (maybe by doing better at another… just a thought).
  8. Allow the Ability of a One User to Control What Songs Are Chosen:  Ever play with someone who can’t help but to wail on the drums when you’re helplessly trying to choose what songs you’re going to play in a setlist?  How annoying.  If there was a way to only have one user’s input control what songs are being chosen, then that crazy wailing drummer could whack their drums as much as they want.
  9. Make Sure Easy Mode Isn’t Too Hard:  While most of us who have played Rock Band for quite some time are likely used to playing on Hard or Expert, making sure Easy mode isn’t too hard for beginners is a must, especially for drums.  We don’t think people playing on Easy will ever complain that it’s too easy, because when they start to feel that way, they move to Medium.
  10. Adaptive Difficulty Mode:  Here’s an idea… allow for an adaptive difficulty mode to be turned on/off.  The user chooses the difficulty level to start with and then as the song progresses, the difficulty level gets easier or harder depending on how well the person does in the song.

 Love or hate any of these ideas?  Sound off in the comments section below.

Paula Abdul no longer on American Idol

Paula AbdulIt appears that Paula Abdul will not be on American Idol.  She put out a tweet from her twitter page saying she’s decided not to come back.

FOX has confirmed it, making it sound like they are “saddened” to see her go.

So, do you believe that she really decided on her own to leave?  or was she fired or “encouraged” to leave?

Go figure, after we finally had a season of American Idol where her comments were coherent, now she’s not coming back.

At least we still have Simon and Randy.

 

source:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090805/ap_on_en_ot/us_tv_american_idol_abdul

Amazon.com (w/ Myspace) Music vs. itunes Store

ipodclassic120

iPods are all the rage, and I have to admit that my wife and I now have one too. We took the plunge — a 120 GB size plunge — hey, if you’re going to do, you do it right! Anyway, I’ve had experiences with downloading music (legally, as in actually buying it) online for the iPod. You have to use the iTunes program to get music from the computer to the ipod. I, however, do not HAVE to use iTunes store — that’s where this post comes in to play.

You see I’ve downloaded music from Amazon.com and I’ve downloaded music from iTunes Store as well. Here’s my take on the experience of using both:

itunes logo

iTunes Store

PROS:  The iTunes Store is easy to search.  What is also nice is that you can easily see which songs are the most popular for a band — which is handy if you know the name of the band, but can’t remember the song’s name but do know that it’s one of the band’s biggest hits.  If you search for a song, you can often find multiple versions of that song (like remix, dance version, album version, etc…).

CONS:  When you download a song from iTunes, it is in the iTunes format, which is not an mp3.  Why should I care?  It is only playable in iTunes and in your iPod.  Again… why should I care?  I have another mp3 player called by Rio that will not play these iTunes downloads.  Also, my xbox 360 can wirelessly access songs from my laptop computer — but only if they’re wma’s or mp3’s.  Songs in the iTunes format can not be wirelessly played from my computer to my xbox 360.  (Now… I can hook up my iPod to my 360 to eliminate this problem — unless my wife is using the iPod.)  Lastly, iTunes songs are mostly in 128 kbps.  More and more songs on iTunes are available at 256 kbps (which is CD quality), but you have to pay $1.29 instead of $0.99.  Many people tell me they can’t tell a difference between 128 kbps and 256 kbps, but I swear that I can (for some songs), and why have 128 kbps if you can have 256 kbps?  It’s like settling for 720p on your TV instead of 1080p.

 

amazon.com logoamazon.com Store

PROS:  All of their songs are at 256 kbps and for $0.99, beating iTunes price.  After you download the song, the amazon download program will automatically put the song into your iTunes collection, just like iTunes store does.  The songs are in mp3 format, which means they can be played in any mp3 player (including the iPod, of course) and can be wirelessly shared from your computer to an xbox 360.

CONS:  amazon.com searching is probably not as fluid as iTunes store, however it’s not hard.  We’ll still give the advantage in this category to iTunes Store.  Furthermore, using Amazon.com, you have to install its downloader, which might be a turn-off for some people (who already have more programs on their computer then what they want/need).  So, we’ll put that in the “cons” list too.

Amazon + Myspace Music trumps iTunes Store?

Places like music.myspace.com allow you to listen to entire songs by an artist, not just a 30 second clip.  I love the ability to do this — something that iTunes does not offer.  Listening to a full song can really help me decide if I want to purchase it.  I also recently found out that if you’re checking out an artist on Myspace Music, you can click on Albums in the myspace music player and be taken to a list of the artist’s CDs.  Click on one and you’re taken to a page with all the songs on that album and pictures/links on the side for the other albums of that artist.  What I love about this page is the ability to see how many “plays” each song has had by myspace users AND there’s a link next to each song to purchase it (if you like it, of course) from Amazon.comClick on this link (Paramore’s “Riot” album on Myspace) to see an example of what I’m talking about.  Of course you can listen to the WHOLE SONG before purchasing — something that (again) iTunes Store does not do (only allowing 30 second clips).

 

Conclusion:

iTunes store wins for easy searching, but Amazon.com w/ Myspace music wins for everything else.  Naturally, this is just my humble opinion, and I will always leave open the possibility that I haven’t done “my homework” into as much as I could have — making it possible that other people may have valid points to add to this discussion.