Archive for the ‘ Gaming ’ Category

Twitch.tv Streaming

I’d been slaving away on a work project and slowly became really fascinated by twitch.tv. I don’t know why or how people decide to stream or how and why people start watching streams but it’s a really interesting community. I broke down and decided for various reasons to start one up of my own located here: http://www.twitch.tv/avarimkc. Mostly I play WoW but I break things up with League of Legends and other things (lately Borderlands 2). I don’t expect the stream to take off but hopefully if you watch, it is at least entertaining.

TellMeWhen: Mage Priorities

TellMeWhen | Tutorial 1 | Tutorial 2

So for a long while PowerAuras was broken for me. What was interesting about PA was that I used it only to track somewhat minor things, various buffs and debuffs on me or my target. Fed up with PA not being updated, I started seeking out alternatives and stumbled on TellMeWhen. Read the rest of this entry

Rock Band 3 Addendum

Character designing is much better. In the older Rock Band games you would have to create a character and play as them for a while to earn money to get new clothes for them. In RB3 you have a universal closet so anytime you make a new character you have a full wardrobe to choose from. This makes creating new characters much better as they’re fully realized much faster.

I haven’t found a way to delete characters I no longer want though which is strange.

Remember when I complained that people couldn’t choose characters I made, well I found the solution which was logging on as a guest.

Song sorting is so much better. You can easily flip through massive lists of songs with some really nice filters which is appreciated. One bad thing though is when you’re making playlists you have to go all the way to the top to hit finish playlist. On some instruments this isn’t so bad but on others I can’t find the jump menu so finishing a set list when you’re all the way at the bottom of the song list is annoying.

Overshell control is really great. Adjusting options simultaneously and individually is really great. I had heard however that one main player was setup to be master controller of song selection but it appears this isn’t so. So you still have to deal with the frustration of people randomly hitting buttons on their instruments accidentally picking songs and moving the game forward when you didn’t want them to.

Challenges can be completed anywhere not just career. This is TOTALLY AWESOME for me since I mostly play in quickplay mode. So you can constantly be working towards goals even when you’re just practicing songs.

The replay value in Rock Band 3 is kind of amazing as I work towards all these random challenges, some of which I will probably never be able to complete. Vocals are tough but there are a lot of vocal harmony challenges which require multiple people and multiple microphones, so I’ll probably never get those unless maybe I play online.

Do I bump up my original review of RB3 from earlier? A little. I think the flaws are very unfortunate with All Instrument Mode and I’ve played a few more songs from RB3 and other than the songs I expected to like, none of the songs that I’d never heard of were particularly great to me. That’s not such a big deal except a lot of challenges are based on playing songs from RB3 exclusively so I haven’t been playing too much of my DLC. Overall if you really liked Rock Band you’ll love this one and you’ll be playing it for a while.

Rock Band 3 Impressions

Ok I’ve had a full week with Rock Band 3. I really love some things but there are some pretty unfortunate limitations Harmonix had to work around to have some features in, which detract from the overall experience. However my experience isn’t the same as everyone else so I’ll be up front about that.

Jump in/drop out anytime is totally excellent. Unlike previous Rock Band games where you have to quit a song or finish it to add someone in, and then drop out all the way back to band creation screen, you can just hit start after you plug in a controller and jump in. However for this cool aspect there is some unfortunate incompleteness to this. It appears other players who jump in can’t pick from my created characters so they’re stuck with default list of characters. Additionally when you jump in/out mid song your score won’t be ranked which makes sense.

The new single player feels a lot better but really short at the same time. I HATED going from city to city with multiple venues all with increasingly large set lists in the older Rock Band games. The new method works a lot better you still travel from set to set with only 2-3 songs to play each in a 3-5 venue run. It gives much greater control as well because you can pick from a predefined set of songs or a randomized list withing a certain criteria (all RB1 songs, only rock songs, etc.) or a set of your choosing also within a criteria. The integration with your downloaded songs is terrific here though, I’ll talk about it later. However it’s much shorter or it feels certainly shorter. Whereas in RB2 you could spend a whole week or two hammering out the world tour, I feel like you can finish the single player in a weekend.

The goals/achievements section is really neat and adds a lot of replay value as some of the challenges will take time to get. One involves nailing over 50,000 hammer-ons/pull-offs. You can check your status on all of them in the unintuitively named career option. In addition the ease of checking your progress versus your friends is so great. After beating a song you get your ranking among the world and your friends pretty quickly. The scoring screen is pretty excellent as well, something that’s been missing since Guitar Hero 2.

The way the game handles drum rolls and trills (alternating quickly from one note to another) is vastly improved. One horrible aspect of playing the stock drum kit is the level of sensitivity you have to adjust to when playing very rapid notes in succession. It becomes completely unrealistic when you have a drum roll section. However the new setup makes those sections really bold highlights around the note and you can just do a drum roll/trill much more  naturally without fighting the controllers. Your goal isn’t to hit every single bar that flies down the lane, but just do a drum roll. I sort of wish they could retroactively adjust this with the older songs.

The set list actually I feel is a lot weaker with this game. After 2000+ songs in the catalog I guess it gets harder to put together a great batch of songs. Some tracks are so great. But whereas in other Rock Band games I’ll play a song I’ve never heard of and really be surprised at how much I like it, that happened far less frequently in RB3 but I haven’t played all the songs yet. On the plus side I have 405 songs imported/downloaded so I don’t have to stick strictly to the RB3 tracks. Also they let you rate songs and the higher you rate songs the more frequently they show up in random set lists which is a great touch.

I picked up the keyboard instrument and I have to say, it’s tough. Where with the guitar controller I know where all my fingers are relative to the buttons, it’s much different on pro keys. So much of my time is spent looking up and down that I realize what’s most likely playing at expert pro level is that you have the song more or less memorized. I suspect the same will be true for pro guitar as well. This is a much more daunting idea to tackle. When I play with friends my dream is to eventually get them all up on expert level of the regular game. However after 2 years they’re between medium and hard (we just don’t play enough) so to bring in all pro mode instruments (which would cost a billion dollars) probably is out of scope of reality. Regular keys are pretty fun though and still very challenging even though you can have all 5 fingers on all the keys at once.

Ok time to highlight a huge gripe I have with the game which isn’t actually the fault of Harmonix, or maybe it is. The Xbox can only have 4 controllers plugged in, but the game advertises 7 players at once. 3 vocalists (one controller), 1 drummer, 2 guitar players, 1 keyboard player can all play at once, but only in a special mode called All Instrument Mode. This mode does a tricky thing and kicks you offline, doesn’t track your score, and puts the vocalist up top on karaoke mode whose score doesn’t affect the band and isn’t calculated. For people playing for fun, this isn’t a big deal, but I actually do play for score as well and when one instrument is gutted out it kind of sucks. We were playing last week and the vocalists were bummed that they don’t even have a score display so they can’t even see how well/poorly they did post-song.

The other thing that sucks about All Instrument Mode is that it is required even if you want this combination of players: 2 guitars, 1 drummer, 1 keyboard. If you want to avoid the scoreless mode you have to drop either 1 guitar or the keyboard. This restriction makes no sense to me and hopefully it’s patched to fix.

Now, while it’s great they added drop in/drop out anytime one annoying thing occurs, more so for me with 405 tracks than someone playing just Rock Band 3, when playing with a keyboard player and the song lacks a keyboard part, they tend to have to drop out frequently. They were nice actually and allow the keyboard to play the guitar or bass part if a song lacks a key part BUT the game limits instruments to one instrument per part. So if you already have a guitar and bass player the keyboard is forced to sit out. Guitar Hero added in multi-instrument parts so this seems really crummy to have to force someone out. Here’s hoping for this to be added in RB4 (or hopefully via patch!).

So overall, I think if you play Rock Band as a party game and couldn’t care less about score, the game is excellent. The features they’ve added are incredible. If you play like me and care about getting as many people into the game as possible and maxing out your score, you might be kind of sad as it’s a mixed bag. How much you love the whole set list may affect your level of enjoyability. I still love the game but to me it’s B quality only due to the oversights. If they can fix some of this stuff then yes, this is the hallmark of Rock Band games or even all of the music games. I imagine by the time Rock Band 4 hits that we’ll have a totally excellent game and we’ll have these issues hammered out.

For a while there you could download the client and watch replays but they did 2 fast patches which quickly disabled that. Sorry! I imagined they would have left it in so that everyone can sort of get a feel for how well it would play on someone’s computer and get first hand insight to the TOTALLY AWESOME replay system they’ve setup.

Replays will no longer stop working when a new patch hits. What they appear to be doing is creating an old version history folder of the executable and so when you watch a replay, it checks version, then launches the correct version of Starcraft 2 and you’re in. Totally great! Also they did a crazy back to back patch thing last week which is very cool. I’m hoping for good fast responses to various imbalances that crop up. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen two patches released that quickly from Blizzard.

Anyway, I’ve been playing mostly 2v2’s. I’ve got several Platinum level teams and one silver level team. My general playstyle for protoss was 2-3 gateways then tech and respond. However just last night I tried switching up to heavy zealot/sentry with up to 6 warp gates and it’s been kind of great. It’s much more stressful macro-wise because you have to sort of watch when the warp gates come off cooldown to get maximum use out of them. A few losses I tended to micro battles too much and when I needed fast response in unit production I would only have 5-6 units made when I could have had 10-15 at least. Needs some work.

My gut reaction to the sentry though is that force field is crazy powerful and guardian shield I don’t use enough of, but it could be incredible if I did. The damage of the sentry isn’t something notable until you have more than 5 or so focused on one unit. I feel they’re probably due for a nerf. Probably raise in cost and raise in mana cost for force field. I didn’t expect to have as large an army as I did with just one town, but you can get a hefty sum of zealots/sentries and they’re quite effective dealing with air units. For the most part I feel like the stalker lives in the shadow of the sentry now.

The new ladder system does pick some good matches, maybe too good. I do miss the days where I could go on 8+ win streaks fairly effortlessly, every game I play I feel like if I make tiny mistakes I’m very powerfully punished for. It raises the stress level and makes 20 minute games feel so much more taxing when they’re over, win or lose.

I’m kind of amazed at how some of the early strategies have fallen off the map. Reapers and roaches were quite annoying and now I rarely see them or if I do they’re easily fended off now. I still hate mutalisks though but if you can be aggressive on the zerg you can stop them prior to getting their spire. People have lately tried to do protoss offensive towering (all unsuccessful so far) but I have yet to see too much proxy pylon stuff. I should try to add then into the mix now that I use warp gates.

Went 6-1 in 2v2’s. A very abbreviated day due to a busy Thursday night/Friday morning so I didn’t get as many games as I wanted to get in but we did finish qualifying games and we’re in a platinum league. We were ranked 2 for a small bit but since we stopped a few teams have leapfrogged us. Our record is far better than other teams (13-2) but since I say that now I’m sure I’ve jinxed us.

Our only loss was due to playing double terran who rushed fast reapers. I see people constantly talking about how powerful reapers are and to a degree I can understand why. They are indifferent to terrain height so they can enter and exit wherever they want, move at a fast enough speed so that zerglings/zealots can be kited around, and most crazily, do something like 40 damage to buildings for some reason.

Now on the flip side, they’re practically wearing paper armor. If you can get hits on them they drop like flies. My first lesson now playing against terran is that if I’m going to defend my choke, I’ll do it with units/buildings only and I should probably double cannon my mineral line. This game specifically though we lost because as the reapers hit our base our army was midfield en route to their base. We decided to press an attack instead of return and were horrified at the speed by which reapers took down the buildings.

Otherwise the games I played were significantly more intense than yesterdays. I feel like 1 or 2 games went by where I lost my whole town and we had to race to the finish. My playstyle definitely needs work. When I watch replays I notice that I spend my economy primarily on economy/tech and least of all in units. I play in a way where I tend to get upgrades for things that I may only use very sparingly, like getting blink for stalkers when I only have like 4. So I need to focus my style and play with more consolidated units. I suspect this stems from my desire to want to be flexible and flip strategies on a dime which I’m not sure how effective this is realistically.

The league system has no clarification on how it works. From what they’ve said the overall ladder is now split up two ways. One you have your league which ranges from pro, platinum, gold, silver, bronze, copper, and practice.  You play 10 qualifying games to see which of these leagues you should be placed in (so you don’t constantly get destroyed).  Periodically if you start getting better than your league (or worse) you’ll be moved around accordingly. Ok but after that there are divisions in leagues, so there’s not just one huge platinum ladder, there are multiple with a cap on people in each one. I had heard it was going to be 100 people per division, but looking at the beta and how my friends are doing, I suspect it works a little differently.

Ok so all of this is conjecture based on observation. In my league there’s like 10 or so teams. 2 of them have horrible records and are below a qualifying line. Division 1 has like 50 teams but a huge majority of them are below qualifying line and most of those people have good records. So I suspect what happens is each league looks at the overall number of people in the division. Then it partitions each division based on the number of people, so once you qualify for Platinum, you get thrown in division 1, but if division 1 is full it splits off into another division and the divisions are created and balanced in this way.

Your division number is meaningless and you play people in your league but not always in your division which makes it kind of strange to a degree to be racing up a ladder where you play outside of your set division. Overall it seems cool, but at most I’ve seen 3000 people online and it seems like many people are either doing 1v1 or 2v2 random team so the arranged 2v2 ladder isn’t very populated at the moment.

This weekend I’m going to dive in and pour through games like mad. I need to go to the store and pick up more mix1’s though.

I made it into the Starcraft 2 Wings of Liberty beta! My email came in last night at an AGONIZING 10:20PM. For anyone who expects to get in or is very very hopeful I’d recommend going to www.fileshack.com and just downloading the beta client and letting it sit on your computer so when you finally get in you don’t have to wait for the download.

My in game name is Shock.wave if you get in and want to add me.

I played a few skirmish matches against a friend of mine who is a novice and really wants to learn the ins and outs of the game. I am however very bad at teaching people how to play Starcraft. Lately I’ve been thinking very hard about how a person can only really understand how good they are at any one thing if they’re able to teach what and how they do things. For Starcraft I’m a total failure as anyone I teach usually doesn’t end up too much better. In other disciplines I’m very effective.

As a recap I’m a dedicated Protoss player. You start with 6 probes now. Also the hotkey for probe production is now E. This frustrates me incredibly. I played SC1 for over 1000 games and it’s well ingrained in my being, my soul, that making probes should be P so this is going to be very hard to learn. Additionally, making Pylons is also E incidentally. There’s a lot of hotkey stuff I now have to relearn. This was my first stumble.

So back to the skirmishes, I played a few and mostly they were to reacquaint myself with the pace, the build order, the hotkeys, and the units. I was a horrible mess. In the first place 1v1’s are typically not my thing. In the second, I’m simply very rusty in a game that at high levels of play require an incredible amount of physical dexterity or actions per minute (APM). I didn’t lose any of these matches and for some of them, they had some slightly hilarious outcomes.

My first match was on a battle report map Blistering Sands where I was top right and my friend was bottom left. Instead of the usual frontal assault to test the waters, I simply took my first four zealots and went to his secondary ramp, destroyed the rocks, and made my attack from the rear. It was over at that point. There’s a level of diversity in building defense now on maps since many offer a ramp or choke and it seems clear that blocking the ramp is sensible but in my days of SC1, I found that building a tight defense around the base was ultimately better than putting all my eggs in the front defense. I typically walked around those kinds of defense but in SC2 it’s easier to build much more tightly since you have a building grid now as you place buildings.

We played a second match on the same map where I was again on top right and he was bottom left. This time instead of moving too fast I took my time pouring over how they’ve moved things, getting used to where unit upgrades were (I had forgotten which building researches zealot speed and stalker blink for some reason). We both took our natural expansions then I attempted to take high yield several times in the bottom right. I kept trying to take it and eventually expanded in the top center. I kept my opponent distracted enough to think that I only wanted high yield and expanded elsewhere while not letting him expand any more. I tried to play colossus but he flipped to air, vikings specifically. I changed up to dark templar and eventually won by attrition.

In general I looked over those games and they were simply horrible. There’s a new statistic in the score screen that says how many minerals you have saved up (lower is better meaning you’re spending as fast as you can instead of saving up for a rainy day). It’s a depressing stat but so is my APM counter (only viewable in replays). I need to work on speed and consistency. Also when I teach people to play I tend to play defensively which is not an optimal way to win and can certainly lead to surprise losses as you don’t have the right tech to deal with what the opponent throws at you.

Eventually my War3 3v3 partner shows up and we go on to play 7-1 in team games. Our one loss was because the map we played on is a shared base map with one wide ramp entrance. We blocked it off and I thought it would be great to tech to air. Well we were rushed and I had no units so I completely ruined us. We played the exact same team afterwards on Lost Temple and we completely annihilated them. They even started out with a gg (HATE THAT SO MUCH) since they beat us so handily the prior game. It was a sweet victory, also we played them again as our final match that night and I completely destroyed them with an army of colossi units. Overall it’s taking me a bit to get my stride back but also every time a match starts I’m having to look at and examine the map very carefully to see my entrances, roadblocks, expansions. Once I know the maps I’ll be more confident, but right now I have a lot to work on.

Starcraft 2 runs great on my system generally speaking once in a game. It’s maxed out on ultra settings at 1600×1200 in 32bits. What might be very interesting is that the frontend for the game (the Battle.net interface) is written in Flash so it runs kind of horribly. For comparison, Warcraft 3 while idling in b.net chat only takes up less than 20% CPU, possibly much less. SC2 on the other hand is upwards of 70% just idling.

On the topic of the frontend, it’s kind of a disaster to me. It’s too many clicks to get some things done. I want to start a party, that’s easy. I want to do a multiplayer game, it’s not so bad, click the template type and race and hit go. I want to start a custom game, it’s like completely and utterly ridiculous. It’s also possible that because it’s beta some options are disabled so if they were actually enabled it might be easier and less frustrating. I’ll have to remember why it was a headache later.

The fact that the frontend is flash is strange to me. They’re almost trying to mimic the look of the incredibly gorgeous looking website, but it kind of falls flat. In 1600×1200 I feel like I’m looking at something scaled for 800x600 stretched out which looks annoying. It is slightly hard to describe but it feels like everything is overly large. The artwork falls flat for some reason and it doesn’t pull off the website look very well unfortunately. The stat summary screen I was expecting too much from, but the stats are practically basic. I’ll post a screenshot later probably, if you have any requests just comment and I’ll see what I can do.

The lack of chat in battle.net is mildly irritating. On the one hand, I never talked to people when I joined War3 b.net. I’d go into a private channel or the clan channel. It was cool though to show off your icons in chat and now the only place to show that off is on the loading screen of the game which is all too brief. Icons though don’t matter much at the moment since many of them are unlocked for you and there’s no statistical knowledge behind them. In War3 your icon was your volume of win prestige. In SC2 currently your icon is meaningless. If/when they add clans (which would SUCK if they didn’t) I hope to have clan chat.

Some weird/interesting info. Replays and such are stored in the My Documents folder outside of the game directory. Also the beta client evidently does not come with maps. What happens is when you select your template, you download the maps from battle.net. I foresee the intention of this in the future but at the moment it feels a bit silly that every time I want to play I have to get some new map. Also there are multiple variations on the same map. You can get beginner level versions of maps which have destructible rocks blocking you in so you can live a life worry free of rushes, but hilariously it because a vicious game of backdoor dropping.

The game itself is as I remembered it from Blizzcon. I feel like faster may not be as fast as I remember it though. Maybe they toned it down or maybe after playing consecutively I’m now familiar with it. SC2 is the heir to SC1. To me it’s very familiar. The main difference right now is speed. The pacing of the game is much faster and more intense. My games last night ranged from 8-22 minutes or something. I don’t remember games ending in 8 minutes unless we did like a 4 zealot rush and the opponent literally had nothing in SC1. In SC2 after 8 minutes you can have some good tier 1 and tier 2 mixes of units. So far I’m enjoying it, however we haven’t qualified for 2v2 ladder yet (2 games to play) and we’ve primarily only won despite my one silly mistake.  More to come later.

Lost Temple

Lost Temple

Ok so at 2008’s Blizzcon I played a match on this map and it was great because when the game started I didn’t recognize it, but someone over my shoulder said “Hey it’s Lost Temple!” and then I knew exactly what was going on. Now that a large size map image is out I’m able to remember a lot of this great game I played, so it’s helpful to click the link and have it open while reading.

It’s PvP on LT and I’m at the 9 o’clock spot and my opponent is at 12 o’clock. I send out my scout and find his town immediately going clockwise with my scouting path and due to the speed of me finding him, he sends his scout to me. What I usually do with my scouting probes is I send them to a remote starting spot or natural expansion and take over from there in case trouble arises so my scouting probe ends up at 6 o’clock starting spot.

I’m building a pylon on my cliff beside my ramp when I notice an army down there. I have to quickly respond and keep the battle on the ramp since I don’t have nearly the army that’s waiting for me. We exchange blows but the game has become containment and I’m stuck in my base. Several times we’ll exchange blows but each time his army feels larger and larger. I realize he’s taken his natural expansion and I’m still trying to respond to this offensive onslaught.

I’m behind now and I’m unable to go down my ramp, so I have my 6 o’clock probe begin building at that starting spot. I’ve moved into a much more defensive posture and am teching to observers to see what else might be going on, all the while an army lurks just outside of reach below my cliff but outside my expansion, so below the gold expansion between us.

At the time I could have responded multiple ways, but I was in a very BC mindset and decided to go for dark templar. So I’m teching up and I suppose my opponent thinks I’m too quiet, and before I realize it, my 6 o’clock town is under attack. I just just gotten a few probes going down there too but didn’t dedicate enough time to setup defenses. Also since I’m teching I’m trying to make the most of my cash and praying that he didn’t think that I’d have made an escape at any point since I’m practically fully contained. However his scouting saved him at that point. Nowadays I feel really dumb for having let that expansion die out because I could have just had one pylon and warp gates and could have saved it easily.

So I’m back to one base and I have some observers out. I send them out and notice nothing going on at 6 or 3. He does have his natural but he’s also starting to attack the terrain at the gold minerals between us. Dark templar are just inches away now. I desperately search his base and notice no observers. My first pair of DT comes out and I did something incredibly bold and stupid. I send them out to ward off the army so that I can get established at my natural expansion. Two dark templar alone against protoss don’t do too much damage, but it does force him to retreat to his natural with cannons. I’m able to take out a few units as well but now he knows what’s going on and one observer is all it will take to break my game.

I secure my expansion and build stalkers (with blink) and dark templar alone to fight off a mixed army of zealots, stalkers, nullifiers. When he finally gets observers he foolishly rallied them or did something crazy where they moved to the front of battle and I was just waiting with my stalkers for that and picked them off giving my DT more breathing room. The battle continues into his natural which is taken down and the gg occurs.

Probably not as exciting as the recent battle report: http://www.starcraft2.com/features/battlereports/4.xml but seeing the map helped visualize it. Also the map is so classic and they fixed the 12 vs 3 starting spot craziness so it’s cool to remember a lot of memorable games on LT. I remember this crazy reaver drop madness match 2v2 that I played that was totally awesome in SC1. I can’t wait for this thing to finally come out or even beta sheesh!

The Beatles Rock Band Review

Presentation

There’s constant confusion when my friend’s ask me if Rock Band stuff will work with The Beatles or if it can be ported into Rock Band. When I say no, they feel immediately jilted, but after playing The Beatles I can understand why. It would feel really stupid to see John Lennon singing some random emo Rock Band song and likewise seem really stupid to see some emo avatar singing a John Lennon song. It’s probably the same reason Courtney Love is pissed about Guitar Hero right now. It just loses some authenticity to see that kind of stuff happening.

The presentation for the game is truly superb. It’s a nice chronicle of the life of The Beatles but perhaps a bit too abbreviated. You get some very nice animations between each chapter of their career but not much info on what’s going on. Well I take that back I guess, you get that info through the unlockable photos and videos but I’m not one for having a game unlockable that has me sit there and read or see a still. That’s just me though. The ending cinematic is truly incredible (also short) and finishes the game quite nicely.

The one weird thing about the game though is that the facial animation doesn’t seem as good as Rock Band 1 and 2. Their eyes and mouths move but their faces don’t really change which gives kind of a weirdness to their expressions and transitional expressions.

Difficulty

The guitar/bass/drum parts that I’ve played have either gone from easy to tricky with a lot in between. If you’ve been playing since Gutar Hero 1 days and drumming since Rock Band 1 you shouldn’t find anything unplayable at expert level.

This idea of songs being easily passable might turn people off to the game, however since the songs themselves are so great I think it’s easy to look past. Also consider that if you want a genuine level of realism, you’ll have to sing and play at the same time which, to me, is quite a difficult and tricky thing to do not even factoring in the idea of harmonizing.

The achievement list is also nothing to blaze through with specific songs being pointed out that require you to hammer on and pull off every note without strumming or hitting specific note streaks on instrument specific songs can make for a real challenge.

If you’re the type to just play through the game and not look too deeply into the meta game stuff and/or you don’t have that much of a vested appeal in The Beatles, then this game probably isn’t for you.

Tweaks

There have been some nice updates to the Rock Band engine (which I presume is what powers this game however you never know and it might be an all new thing). I love the pause/unpause which doesn’t throw you instantly back into the game. Instead it gives a 3 second countdown to ease you back in.

Additionally, the game now shows you the difficulty of your part on the easy/medium/hard/expert selection screen so you can remind yourself of just how hard that particular song can be.

The game now shows you leaderboard scoring  on song selection so you know which of your friends is really dominating you.

The game menus feel really fast moving from the title screen into the various modes. Maybe that’s just me but it feels really swift now.

Concessions

Some things however seem slightly out of place. The whammy bar does nothing asides from gaining extra Beatlemania on extended notes and there’s no more drum fill sections. When a song ends, if you pluck notes or try drumming no sound comes out (which I would actually put on the tweak section but some people might think otherwise) as opposed to RB1/2. I suspect that these are concessions Harmonix had to make such that the songs not be distorted out of their original version in any way.

Something also slightly unusual about The Beatles is you are occasionally not playing the instrument you think you are. A few songs you’re close (sitar on Within You Without You) but others like I Am The Walrus you’re playing the strings part. I mean I guess that’s close. Anyway, it’s deviant from usual Rock Band games where if a part doesn’t exist they don’t substitute it (like with YYZ) with something else. Well maybe they do, but it seems to happen more frequently here.

Annoyances

They did some really cool stuff with how the songs are presented and the level design, however some songs like Get Back have a lengthy “intro” part that you can’t skip past. It was cool the first time hearing the pre-song chatter, but when you’re practicing or replaying a song to maximize your score, having to go through that part over and over feels like wasted time.

Also one of my favorite songs Within You Without You is some abbreviated version and not the version I remember from the CD. Other songs may also be slightly off than what I remember, but that one especially stands out.

Challenge mode seems like a wasted mode to me. Basically you clump up all the songs from that story chapter and do them back to back with a complete score for the whole session. To me, it felt like I was just being forced into playing the songs in duplicate. Not only that but I think there’s a separate scoreboard for it which slightly irks me in the sense that I will have to play these setlists over and over to maximize scoring status in addition to the regular song scoreboards.

Appreciation

As I commented in the difficulty section, what’s amazing to me about The Beatles is that their parts many times weren’t overly complex, but the combination of all the parts and the vocals (especially harmonies) gives a new sense of appreciation for how talented the band truly was. And as usual songs that you may not have liked before turn into totally great songs to play (for me Helter Skelter and Hey Bulldog).

This 45 song set also gives you really great insight into the growth of the band from their sort of 60’s version boy band songs to the psychedelic and rock songs etc.. How many modern bands can say they stretch across genres like that as successfully as The Beatles have?

The End

In the end, the game is truly phenomenal. I feel bad for the games that have already come out like Guitar Hero Metallica or Rock Band AC/DC which didn’t give them nearly the same treatment as this product. I also feel bad for any upcoming singular band title coming out which now has this game as a reference to how these types of games should be treated. Fans will definitely love this game and I’ve read a few reviews where people went from neutral feelings about The Beatles to true fans.

Impressions

Starcraft 2 still plays great. I had a few matches where the games started lagging like crazy but I later found out that this was caused by the laptops overheating. The section we were playing at had all these Alienware laptops as opposed to the big bad Intel machines in the regular area (we were in the more or less unlimited play community tournament area where you could play DotA/WSG/Starcraft 2). Other than that, the game is actually faster than I remember it last year. Last year I think games played on Fast and now you had the options of Normal, Fast, Faster and I think you could even go to slow and slower, but normal was agonizingly slow. Read the rest of this entry